Many thanks to D.J. Tice for sharing David Pence’s thoughtful essay on John Kerry’s 2004 run for the presidency (“A worthy reprint for a distinctive thinker,” June 11). It is awkward to dispute Pence’s opinions when he is no longer with us to advance his argument against mine; however, I must disagree with his assertion that the left resisted the Vietnam War effort because it questioned the reality of the Cold War. The “mystical communism” quote from Kerry’s shattering 1971 Senate testimony on the war fairly summed up the fundamental nature of the conflict between North and South Vietnam as a civil war and was not intended as an analysis of East-West relations.
The vilification of American soldiers returning from Vietnam was a stain on our history. I rely on Pence’s assessment that antiwar rhetoric was cynically exploited by politicians and activists; however, Kerry’s testimony was not of this nature. His description of the war as futile has long been among the standard analyses of the conflict. More importantly, Kerry revealed truths about the terrible psychological toll of combat in Vietnam on our troops. Many of these effects, such as suicide and post-traumatic stress, considered shocking and disbelieved in 1971, are now widely recognized as the inevitable cost of committing our citizens to war — any war.
While lurid television images and reports of atrocities galvanized the left’s resistance to the war, the left eventually came to join the center and the right in questioning the wisdom of bleeding out our treasure and young men’s lives on an Indochinese civil war when these might have been needed in other, more vital, arenas of our underlying conflict with the Soviet Union. Waste was a more effective criticism of the war. In addition to its view that the war in Vietnam was immoral, the left also came to criticize the war as a strategic blunder of historic proportions. Especially after it became clear that the government was lying to the public.
Hindsight that Pence could not have had in February 2004 has since confirmed that the government also lied to us regarding Al-Qaeda’s connection to Iraq as well as Iraqi stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction. This knocked the props out from under the government’s public rationale for the invasion of Iraq and justified Kerry’s eventual opposition to the Iraq War.
Differences of opinion aside, I deeply regret Pence’s passing. We need more thoughtful voices like his. The honesty to reconsider long-held beliefs, even those to which there are strong personal attachments, and the courage to admit error where one finds it, are in short supply these days.
Martin Cooney, Golden Valley
Continued learning is not elitist
In a June 12 letter (“Combine, and value, all higher education”), a writer offers an interesting proposal for the future coordination of postsecondary collegiate education, combining branches of our educational system.
However, the writer seriously misrepresents what I said in my original essay. I would never say college education is necessary for the preservation of democracy. I did make the following two points: 1) “Four years of college is not for everyone, because we all learn differently. ... Some are drawn to abstract concepts, others to working in the physical world.” 2) “In order to preserve our democratic system, we need to have tools to understand modern life and to understand ourselves. The study of ideas and thought advances this process.”
All forms of continued learning, professional study or vocational training are valuable, both for the individual and for our common society. And that is not an elitist stance.
Judith Koll Healey, Minneapolis
Not every critique is rooted in bias
A recent letter (“The hypocrites smear Ilhan Omar,” June 11) encompasses two key pitfalls that are plaguing American politics today: the bigotry of low expectations and identity politics. In three sentences, the writer exonerates U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of any criticism for her anti-Semitic comments and suggests that those who criticize Omar are Islamophobic.
The first claim, that “the intended smear will be there” regarding “her choice of words surrounding Israel” dismisses Omar’s offensive statement about Jewish dual loyalty, a claim rooted in anti-Semitism that has affected Jewry since before the creation of Israel. The assumption that she does not know any better, or that it was simply a mistaken choice of words, encapsulates the bigotry of low expectations and is offensive both to Jews and Omar.
The second claim, that “the real purpose for the attack” is that “she is a strong, intelligent woman” who is Muslim, implies that any criticism of Omar is fueled by sexism and anti-Muslim bigotry. Just like we can, and should, criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic, we can criticize Omar without being Islamophobic. To suggest that she is above criticism because of her identity does not benefit anyone, and only deepens the divisive political climate in America today.
This is not a partisan issue; it is about bettering ourselves so that we are aware of statements that are offensive, and about avoiding personal, divisive and bigoted attacks.
Zachary Levy, Hopkins
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The Star Tribune Editorial Board’s coverage of Omar has not met journalism’s high purpose of informing the citizens of our democracy with full and unbiased reporting (“Omar’s credibility takes another hit,” June 20). Omar has corrected the “missteps” identified by the Campaign Finance Board. Absurd charges brought by right-wing Minnesota State Rep. Steve Drazkowski were determined to be unfounded. Drazkowski should know well the pain of having one’s family and private life scrutinized in public. What makes him a good source for the stories he has generated?
It is past time for the Star Tribune to begin reporting on Omar’s commitment to her district, to speaking up for the silenced, and to our now-threatened democracy itself. How about a story on her packed event “Community Conversation: Environmental Justice” last month, on her sponsorship of a bill helping trailer park residents purchase the land they live on to achieve some degree of housing security, on her work on behalf of students with enormous college debt, union members and the LGBT community?
Omar is a person of integrity. She cares deeply about making people’s lives better. She cares about bread and roses, too. That is why we were proud to elect her and why we will do so again.
Kate Wittenstein, Minneapolis
The writer is treasurer of Omar’s Principal Campaign Committee.
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Since Omar’s Fifth District is noncompetitive, the DFL leadership holds most of the responsibility for this person. Therefore, they should be taking the lead in admonishing her for the embarrassment she’s causing to the party. By now, they should be saying that it will be hard to consider supporting, let alone endorsing her in future elections. Saying nothing gives the impression that their only goal is to get the maximum number of Democratic candidates elected, regardless of their quality.
Ray Rossberg, Eden Prairie
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How many “missteps” by Omar are enough? They continue on a regular basis. I, for one, long ago had enough. I demand an ethics investigation at a very minimum.
Al Franken, if you are reading this, please run against Omar in the next election!
Kathy Peterson, Edina
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