ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, I REGRET to say, will probably not accommodate T.A. Frank by battering me (“Left Out,” February 7). There would be no honor in it at any rate; I’m a small man who never laid claim to any particular prowess at pugilism. I never needed it in my military career. For several centuries now, we Army guys have been using guns to impose our will on others. Speaking of history, I might as well reiterate the very statement that set Frank off in the first place: Nothing ever gets accomplished by elections. What he seems to be mad about is that, by implication, Democrats are not the answer to Republicans, which is utterly true as even a cursory glance at history will show. Politicians tail social movements, they don’t lead them. We disrupt shit; then they get nervous and codify change.
Raleigh, North Carolina
I ATTENDED THE RALLY DESCRIBED IN “Left Out,” and I am extremely offended by the cynicism, intimidation, red-baiting, and out-and-out slander that Frank espouses. First, it is inaccurate to label the people and groups at that meeting—the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Military Families Speak Out (mfso), and DC Antiwar Network—as the “ideological fringe of the losing side.” The ISO, of which I am member, does not represent or endorse John Kerry or the Democratic Party. Nor did the majority of the people at that meeting. Second, in recent weeks, the ISO and other organizations have been working closely with mfso and Iraq Veterans Against the War (ivaw) to help them organize a tour of Boston to spread their message. While mfso and ivaw have no official position on the resistance, they do share our belief in the right of the Iraqi people to self-determination and freedom from U.S. military occupation and would never confuse such statements as supporting terrorism. No one involved in the antiwar movement supports suicide bombings, kidnappings, or attacks on Iraqi civilians. But the occupation is the reason there is violence. Also, there was no organized resistance to speak of in Iraq until soldiers started firing on peaceful demonstrators. It’s hard to imagine that the number of deaths attributable to the resistance even approaches those caused by U.S. bombing. Lastly, Frank’s article distorts not only what was said by the speakers, but also the atmosphere of the meeting. Stan Goff and Shujaa Graham spoke with compassion about the plight that has befallen not only Iraqis, but also Americans as a result of the war. People at that meeting shed tears. They hugged and shook hands afterward, and, if Frank was not moved by the power and humanity he saw in that “low-budget church,” I feel sorry for him.
I ENJOYED FRANK’S AMUSING ARTICLE about the counter-inaugural event held by the ISO in Washington in January. And I completely sympathize with his urge to join whatever side the extremists in front of him were not on. I’m sure he can also understand the urge that fills me whenever I’m stuck listening to Grover Norquist unleash yet another rant comparing progressive taxation to fascism or cannibalism or some other awful ism. Suddenly, I’m overcome by an impulse to round him up along with all his co-believers and chain them all to the “wheel of pain” (as seen in Conan the Barbarian). They can spend all day grinding grain into flour that will be distributed free to homeless drug addicts, while an endless loop of “Share The Land” by The Guess Who plays in the background. Maybe then a 38.5 percent top tax bracket won’t look so unreasonable!
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
T.A. FRANK RESPONDS:
I’m glad to hear from Stan Goff that Arnold has ignored my ideas—so have many people, often to everyone’s advantage. But I think if Goff were to check out the Conservative Political Action Conference, he’d see how his counterparts on the radical right have learned to game the system and win. Meanwhile, Goff and company “disrupt shit” and go home to Bush on television. As for Ian Fletcher, I’m aware that the ISO is not a branch of the Democratic Party. Nor does it have meaningful institutional ties to MFSO or IVAW, despite its attempts to cozy up to them. Fletcher may think poorly of the insurgents, but I refer him to the Socialist Worker of January 21, in which columnist Sharon Smith explains “why you should support the Iraqi resistance.” The ISO prides itself on championing freedom of speech, equal rights for women, and abolition of the death penalty. Too bad Iraqis who espouse such ideals are being mowed down by the insurgents that the ISO and Arundhati Roy tell us to support. Aaron Berkowitz’s wheel-of-pain suggestion is compelling, and I support most of his proposals. Since I consider myself a moderate, though, I have to recommend that flour allocations go first to any homeless drug addicts who choose to participate in a sensitively calibrated workfare program.
This article appeared in the March 21, 2005 issue of the magazine.