Soap Box

The Trump way of war

To the editor,

Notice how similar the Trump administration’s interactions with Iran and North Korea are? The pattern in both cases is dangerous, ill-informed and bound to fail. U.S. adversaries by now understand the pattern; Trump is predictable:

• Trump disparages U.S. policy in the Obama administration, determines to reverse it.

• Trump authorizes a program of escalating sanctions designed to destabilize the adversary’s government.

• Trump advisers make demands of the adversary, whom it quickly denounces.

• Trump threatens the adversary with total destruction unless U.S. demands are met, and deploys forces to the conflict area. The adversary responds with threats of its own.

• Trump ignores concerns about war powers expressed by members of Congress. Says he doesn’t want war, (falsely) claiming humanitarian concerns.

• Trump shifts gears, now says he is willing to talk directly with the adversary’s leader. Tells about the prosperous life his country will have if it gives in to U.S. demands.

• Trump plays good cop: positions himself as a dove and his top national security advisers as bad cops whom he must restrain. (“These people want to push us into war, and it’s so disgusting” he recently said, referring to his “inner circle.”) He shifts again and asserts sanctions designed to create pressure for regime change will remain until the adversary yields.

• The adversary declares it will not yield under threat, says negotiations must include easing of sanctions. The two sides trade personal insults.

• Trump, with advisers concurring, escalates sanctions and threats, says he will talk “without preconditions.” In fact, he has a major precondition: the adversary’s agreement to surrender in advance its main bargaining asset (such as its actual or potential nuclear weapons). The adversary responds with taunts and further acts of defiance. Thus do crises persist, with Trump alternating between stoking war talk and playing the anti-war leader. Truth is, he doesn’t want full-out war but doesn’t want to make concessions in negotiations either. He wants
to win on the cheap – the same ambition he had in his business life. It’s called brinkmanship: the “art” of getting to the brink without going over. We see it being practiced in the trade war with China, the tariffs on Mexico, the rift with Venezuela and the threat to withdraw from alliances. He plays the same game with the deportation of migrant families and even the payouts to keep women silent.

Brinkmanship, Trump style, is always accompanied by bullying: threats of terrible things to come, punishing sanctions (aka economic warfare) and the coordinated pressure of willing partners. Problem is, what happens when the adversary doesn’t cave and in fact resists even more strongly?

– Mel Gurtov, professor of political science, Portland State University, for PeaceVoice

Health should be bottom line

To the editor,

A new Harris Poll found that only 16 percent of U.S. residents believe health insurance corporations put patients before profits. Pharmaceutical companies (9 percent), hospitals (23 percent) and doctors (36 percent) also came up on the wrong end of the patients-first question.

Despite the Affordable Care Act, the cost of health insurance and pharmaceuticals keeps rising as patients are forced to pay more through co-pays and deductibles. And, still, coverage is often denied.

Dr. Sanjeev Sriram, a pediatrician and health policy advisor, wrote that he once believed the insurance industry would become better partners through the ACA’s reasonable guidelines. Not anymore.

“I have lost faith and accepted the insurance corporations for what they are: machines of unappeasable greed, accountable only to shareholders, never my patients,” he said. Sriram pointed out that, in 2018, as millions of Americans borrowed $88 billion to pay for health care, 62 CEOs of health care companies raked in a combined $1.1 billion in salaries.

“When it comes to our current health-care system’s priorities,” Sriram concluded, “patients are no match for profits.”

In order to restore faith in the system, the “bottom line” needs to be health. If health care is a human right, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights championed by Eleanor Roosevelt and signed in 1948, then it cannot also be a commodity. The two are incompatible.

Improved Medicare for All, a publicly funded system, will be a first step in restoring the trust and health of our people.

– Jan Phillips, Durango


From the southwest, the long gray- bellied lines
move overhead and past me.
Journeying swiftly northeasterly,
they bully what is blue, pushing toward tomorrow,
never at rest, never motionless.
The cycle, massive and careless
parades its morphing molecules, always
ready to destroy or heal, like abeyant gods
under the great tangents of light.
They wait for no one.
We too, journey through the endless cycle,
at times hollow or full, passing swiftly in and out
of the warm or cold drifts of our narrow actions.
Yes, the long gray- bellied line above
moves over and past, ephemeral yet constant
in its configurations.
It’s capricious blossoms of white and gold build
above the terrifying darkening
and I, so far below,
witness, once again,
the foundations of a limitless firmament.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Stop Iranian oil tanker attacks

To the editor,

After two more oil tankers were attacked in the Middle East, Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump stated Iran was responsible for the attacks. This brings to six the number of oil tankers attacked by Iran.

Iran is attempting to get the United States to lift its crippling economic sanctions which have severely restricted its oil shipments. Iran is trying to interdict oil 

shipments from competing countries in the region and could be trying to drive up world oil prices, but this strategy runs the risk of the United States and other countries taking military action against Iran.

We, and other impacted countries, should put an end to the Iranian attacks on the oil tankers by conducting mine sweeping operations in the Gulf of Oman, Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Impacted countries should provide naval escorts to the tankers. If necessary, Iranian naval forces should be neutralized, and while at it, we could take out Iran’s strategic weapons systems.

– Donald Moskowitz, Londonderry, N.H., via e-mail

Independence from meat products

To the editor,

What ever happened to the good old days when the worst things we had to fear on the 4th of July were traffic jams and wayward fireworks?

According to the USDA’s Meat & Poultry Hotline, this year’s top threat is food poisoning by nasty E. coli and Salmonella bugs lurking in hamburgers and hot dogs at backyard barbecues. The hotline’s advice is to grill them longer and hotter. They don’t bother to mention that high-temperature grilling of meat products also forms lots of cancer-causing compounds. And, who knows what they really put into those hot dog casings in the first place?

Luckily, a bunch of enterprising U.S. food manufacturers and processors have met this challenge head-on by developing a great variety of healthful, delicious and convenient veggie burgers and soy dogs. These plant-based foods don’t harbor nasty pathogens or cancer-causing compounds. They don’t even carry cholesterol, saturated fats, drugs or pesticides. And, they are waiting for us in the frozen food section of our supermarket.

This 4th of July offers a great opportunity to declare our independence from the meat industry and to share wholesome veggie burgers and soy dogs with our family and friends.

– Diego Horvath, Durango