Dear Reader,

Your coverage of local issues is unparalleled in its excellence–when I want to know if those plucky community activists have succeeded in thwarting the plans of those evil capitalists to build a Home Depot on the swamp, I know just which free weekly to pick up. However, as Kitry Krause’s March 7 cover story demonstrates [“War: What It’s Good For”], your coverage of the world beyond Portage Park is lacking a bit of depth and background.

I don’t dispute any statements made by Scott Portman. However, I can’t dispute them because I have read all of the facts cited in the article a hundred times already, in the pages of the New Republic, Newsweek, Samantha Power’s book A Problem From Hell, and even the Chicago Tribune. No one has lost sight of the fact that Saddam is a brutal tyrant, not human rights activists (myself included) who have expressed ambivalence about the coming war because of their desire to see an end to the suffering of the Iraqis, and certainly not the good folks in the Bush administration, who seem to end every other sentence with “this man has killed his own people” when they appear on Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday.

I’m overjoyed that Ms. Krause and the Reader editorial staff have become so sensitive to human rights abuses not committed by Chicago zoning officials, but I encourage them to do a bit more research before they make the self-serving claim that all of their readership is unaware of the human rights situation in Iraq. I would also recommend that they pay closer attention to the dismal human rights record of our allies, including Colombia, Russia, China, ad infinitum, before they start advancing the argument that military action should always be America’s first response when we learn about repression within another country’s borders.

Paul N. Moulton


Kitry Krause replies:

My article says that human rights abuses in Iraq are a peripheral concern for many, not that no one knows about them. Nowhere does it state or imply that force should be “America’s first response” to repression. Human rights abuses in Iraq have been going on for more than two decades now, and the UN Security Council’s Resolution 688, passed in 1991, explicitly demands that Iraq end the repression “immediately.” Iraq has flouted the UN’s will on this point for 12 years, as the members of the council are well aware, however unwilling they’ve been to do anything about it. Force ought to be contemplated only as a last resort, after determining that several criteria have been met–among them that the abuses are widespread, that there’s no likelihood change can happen from within, that in the end intervening is likely to be better for the citizens than not intervening, that the majority of the citizens would want it, and that intervening is feasible. Iraq meets all the criteria; Colombia, Russia, and China do not.