George Szamuely's "Proudto be Un-American" ("Top Drawer," 6/23) was as pathetically sillyand sad as it was ludicrously argued. Szamuely's targetsmarket democracy andAmerican foreign policyare topics worthy of intelligent attack. But by latchingonto the Russians as the liberating heroes of the next Cold War, he abandon sreasoned critique for sophomoric provocation. To start with, the Russian"seizure" (from whom was Pristina airport "seized" exactly?)wasn't much of an armed conflict with the West, as evidenced by British troopsresupplying the thirsty Russian soldiers with bottled water a few days later.If Szamuely really wants to argue that Russia is upholding "civilized norms,"then Ludicrous George slept through the bloody Chechen conflicta civil warthat bears some ugly parallels to Serbian atrocities in the Kosovo crisis. Asodious as the NATO bombing of civilian targets in Serbia was, Szamuely vitiateshis argument against NATO by ignoring the Russian artillery bombardment of Grozny(how many Chechens died in the that conflict, 20,000-40,000?). Sure, many Chineseharbor some degree of animus and mistrust toward the U.S. (exacerbated by theembassy bombing, of course), but our national relationship is more nuanced thandefined by outright nationalistic hatred. Few Chinese students are applyingfor graduate school in Moscow, but Chinese applicants to American schools arelegion. Why is that, if Russia is truly offering a credible alternative to theWest? Furthermore, Soviet Russiansdid not give up their empire "naively," believing the "otherpowers would not take advantage of their weakness." They collapsed intoa vortex of paranoia and conspiracy theory. Bruce Clark's An Empire's NewClothes and David Remnick's Lenin's Tomb might correct Szamuely'sgrave misconceptions. Beyond simple misconceptions,Szamuely's assertion that the new Russia represents the true global defenderof "freedom and self-determination" is simply asinine. If Russia hassuch a sterling global reputation, then why did Poland, the Czech Republic andSzamuely's native Hungary, opt to join the NATO alliance instead of a retooledWarsaw Pact? If America is alone in promoting "market democracy,"what exactly is Russia selling? A mutated variant of market democracy that is in truth a Mafia oligarchy headed by a drunken wannabe czar? What a fine modelfor the rest of the world to emulate. Where Russia once advanced its Sovietsystem as a modular form of government easily transplantable to the Third World,there are now few foreign takers for a uniquely Russian style of criminal-bureaucraticoligarchy. Moreover, Szamuely compounds his many blunders by lumping together,in opposition to American foreign policy, the syncretic allies "Russia,China, India and much of Asia and Latin America." (Yeah, right, China andIndia, Vietnam and Taiwan, now there's a concinnous mix.) So George, what exactlyis Russia offering the rest of the world? What is its alternative to "marketdemocracy"? Do you have an alternative, George? Yes, we've all heard mediatales of "Russian nationalists, crazy generals, xenophobes, anti-Semites,former Communists and religious fanatics" (George forgot the Russian Mafia),but is Szamuely claiming these people don't exist? Galina Starovoitova is dead,George, and any short-term dreams of Russia's defending freedom and advancingprogressive alternatives to capitalist democracy probably died with her. Themany problems of market democracy and American foreign policy require thoughtfulcritique. But in lieu of answers or the semblance of analysis, Szamuely canonly cough up callow ravings and half-baked screeds.
Alan Koenig, Brooklyn
Romania Fever George Szamuely states inhis article "Proud To Be Un-American": "Back in August 1968,ignoring previous pledges of noninterference in the internal affairs of theirneighbors, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria marched into Czechoslovakia alongsidethe Red Army. (Significantly, Yugoslavia was the only country in the regionthat condemned the Soviet invasion.)" For the sake of accuracyI would like to state that Romania also condemned this aggression and did not participate in it in any manner.
Dr. George F. Rosala, University of Bradford, UK
The No-Gore Bloc MUGGER: I just tuned intoyour paper on the Web and found its great articles.We would never considervoting for Gorethere's no way ever. Gore was joined at the hip with Clinton.We can't forgive that. We don't trust Gore. He's a terrible speaker, and wedon't believe anything he says.I voted for Clinton, thenfelt deceived, and now will never in my wildest dreamsno matter what rhetoricthey throw my wayvote for Al Gore. I have many friends who feel the same way.
Jessica Lumanaro, Philadelphia
See "Sanchez, Dirty" Some of Taki's language,such as his use of the word "puke," is unnecessary. That word is utterlyrepulsive, and it shouldn't be used in polite language. I shall refrain fromreading Taki's column in the future.
Mildred Perry Miller, Chattanooga
Bumming in Gstaad Taki: Your comparison ofyour poor, beautiful, rich mommy's "melancholia" to actual clinicaldepression ("Top Drawer," 6/16) is maddening. This type of blatantignorance of the reality of the disease is why depression remains a "stigma."Because people like you perpetuate the notion that most people with depressionare fakers, people like my mother suffer tremendously. Surely one does not thinkthat a sane person would choose such a piteous existence. For my mother, whois severely depressed and on medication, has, in her small Southern town, beenmisunderstood for 25 years, branded as simply a bad person who likes to do naughtythings, and lives in isolation as a social outcast. Sure, she's stolen a fewcars, kidnapped a Siamese cat, tried to kill my father, been to and escapedfrom a few jails and institutions and alienated every person who has ever caredabout her. But who would really call that "stigma"? Oh, the "romance"of picking up one's mother from the loony bin. Do you not comprehend, Taki,that depression is caused by a chemical deficiency and is a real bona fide disease,not some bug that one catches from being down in the dumps for too long?It is very sad to me thatsuch a ridiculous commentary on something you obviously know nothing about somehowlanded on the front page of NYPress and will be read by so many people,especially your large legion of ass-kissing fans ready to lap up your undisputedinsight. Next week by Taki: "Don't You Wish Those Goddamned Parkinson'sPeople Would Stop Shaking So Much?"
Rachael Hawkins, Astoria