Letters from our readers
Austin American-Statesman

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Freedom isn't problem

Scott Swearingen suggests that modifying American (mis)behavior is the key to defusing world anger against us. He cites our installing the Shah of Iran in 1954, and our supporting him until 1979, as sources of anti-American feeling.  If we are still being blamed for the actions of our parents and grandparents, how can we ever reverse the hatred some feel for us?

He also cites our culture's tolerance of behavior that some consider "decadent", such as rock 'n' roll music and equality for women. Another word for this tolerance is "freedom", our most valuable trait.

As for our support for Israel, Swearingen conveniently forgets that President Clinton's proposal for a Palestinian state was rejected not by Israel, but by the Palestinian leadership and the suicide bombers they unleashed.

We do have policies that need rethinking. Freedom, and our support for the Middle East's only democracy, are not among them.


Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Texas at Austin

Rethinking history

Scott Swearingen's Sept. 22 guest column reminds me of Robert Frost's comment that a liberal is someone who won't take his own side in an argument.

Swearingen either ignorantly or willfully misinformed his students about Iran. The government in Iran was a regime backed by the Soviet Union which did threaten the oil supply of the West. This was not a trivial concern. The Soviets had attempted to take over Greece, had succeeded in this all over eastern Europe and President Truman believed he had to have a friendly government in the Persian Gulf.

Dangerous times require tough choices. We can leave it to the informed historians to say whether, two generations ago, the Iranians would have been better off under Communism than the shah. Meanwhile, Swearingen might talk to some of the older citizens in the Baltic region, Hungary, or Poland to improve his perspective.



Sad state of affairs

It is a sad comment on secondary education in this country if, as Scott Swearingen stated in his Sept. 22 commentary, none of the young adult students in his university class knew anything about the subjects he broached on U.S. covert operations around the globe, the globalization of the U.S. economy and the public practice of Western morality.

While I appreciate his point to some extent, radical oversimplification notwithstanding, I was horrified by his summary statement that "I think we pretty much all agreed that the act of terrorism was not a valid way to solve this conflict."

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying here, but really, Mr. Swearingen, one would at least hope that after our shared tragedy, the unanimous and definite denouncement of terrorism as a means to an end would resound in your classroom, rather than ". . . we pretty much all agreed . . ."



Shah's good side

The Sept. 22 commentary by Scott Swearingen has numerous errors of fact as well as a decided liberal bias, particularly in the portion that refers to Iran. His students can find a more balanced view at http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0858893.html.

During two assignments in Iran, I observed conditions much different from the view Swearingen presents of the shah. Far from being "our puppet", he was an ardent nationalist and very much his own man.

The shah's programs brought health care, literacy programs, public works construction and land reform to a nation still mired in the 19th century. Brutality, torture and oppression under the Khomeini government reached extremes that made the shah's rule appear benign.

Perhaps Swearingen should examine more closely the counterrevolution emerging in Iran, as well as the fate of the people of Afghanistan under the rule of Islamic fundamentalists.



U.S. lifestyle

Scott Swearingen reminds us that our CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran to protect U.S. interests when the Iranian government nationalized British oil fields.

If we believe in democracy, we must allow it in other nations, even when we disagree with how they choose to manage their resources.

We have overthrown democracies across Latin America that tried to reclaim their lands from foreign ownership. This is what breeds hatred.

We must ask ourselves whether our interest is really served by attempting to control Middle Eastern oil fields. Will we be less angry when terrorists target "military" targets such as our refineries and power plants and water supplies, as we have in Iraq? We can get by with less and more expensive gasoline, or we can enter a war that will affect our lifestyles more tragically and drastically than having to drive Geos instead of Suburbans.