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Airing it out.

Erik Gustafson, the executive director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, paid me a visit on March 15.

I've known Erik for more than a decade now. He's a Gulf War vet, and he was living here in Madison for a few years afterwards, gradually becoming more outspoken. I remember interviewing him on the radio and being impressed with his commitment to peace and his concern for the Iraqi people.

After Erik moved to Washington, D.C., he helped establish EPIC, and he was a reliable critic of the economic sanctions that were taking such a toll on Iraqi civilians.

We've stayed in touch, on and off, since then, and so when he called to tell me he was coming back to town and needed to see me, I was happy to get together.

He said he was in a difficult position. While he had opposed Bush's Iraq War, he had come to the conclusion-unpopular on the left--that it would be disastrous if the United States left Iraq precipitously. He wanted The Progressive to consider his side of the argument.

This month we let him expound his view. On the other side, we give you the perspective of Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

I'm not neutral on this question at all. Solomon's views mirror my own. I feel strongly that the United States must get out of Iraq by the end of the year; the costs are already too high, Bush's motives too low. But some others on the editorial staff, concerned about what might happen to innocent people in Iraq if the United States just up and left, lean toward Gustafson's view, so we wanted to air it out.

This is the age of rightwing fundamentalism. You have Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Wahhabi strain of Islam, and the Shiite mullahs in Iran with their own brand. You have James Dobson, Tom DeLay, and George Bush, and their blend of primitive capitalism and Christian Social Darwinism. You have Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza who claim holy parchment as a deed. You have fundamentalist Hindus in Gujarat, India, who went on a rampage against Muslims a few years back. And you have Mel Gibson, Antonin Scalia, and now Pope Benedict XVI, who cloak the Catholic Church in the most confining garbs.

Pope Benedict XVI, just twenty-four hours before his anointment, delivered a homily that condemned Marxism, atheism, and liberalism itself. He even scorned the "winds of teaching."

Along with rightwing fundamentalism, nationalism is one of the most pernicious forces at play in the world today, so I'm thrilled to have Howard Zinn's piece this month. And it brought to mind a favorite quote from Emma Goldman: "Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves better, nobler, grander, mote intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others."

When Saul Bellow died, I was struck by the hagiography that accompanied him graveside. We turned to Anne-Marie Cusac, our investigative reporter and a published poet, to assess Bellows work judiciously.

I highly recommend her essay to you. It's right on the mark, and the trajectory is beautiful.
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Title Annotation:Editor's Note
Author:Rothschild, Matthew
Publication:The Progressive
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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