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George Szamuely’s “Proud to be Un-American” (“Top Drawer,” 6/23) was as pathetically silly and sad as it was ludicrously argued. Szamuely’s targetsmarket democracy and American foreign policyare topics worthy of intelligent attack. But by latching onto 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 troops resupplying 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 war that bears some ugly parallels to Serbian atrocities in the Kosovo crisis. As odious as the NATO bombing of civilian targets in Serbia was, Szamuely vitiates his 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 Chinese harbor some degree of animus and mistrust toward the U.S. (exacerbated by the embassy bombing, of course), but our national relationship is more nuanced than defined by outright nationalistic hatred. Few Chinese students are applying for graduate school in Moscow, but Chinese applicants to American schools are legion. Why is that, if Russia is truly offering a credible alternative to the West?

 

Furthermore, Soviet Russians did not give up their empire “naively,” believing the “other powers would not take advantage of their weakness.” They collapsed into a vortex of paranoia and conspiracy theory. Bruce Clark’s An Empire’s New Clothes and David Remnick’s Lenin’s Tomb might correct Szamuely’s grave misconceptions.

 

Beyond simple misconceptions, Szamuely’s assertion that the new Russia represents the true global defender of “freedom and self-determination” is simply asinine. If Russia has such a sterling global reputation, then why did Poland, the Czech Republic and Szamuely’s native Hungary, opt to join the NATO alliance instead of a retooled Warsaw 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 model for the rest of the world to emulate. Where Russia once advanced its Soviet system 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-bureaucratic oligarchy. 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 and India, Vietnam and Taiwan, now there’s a concinnous mix.)

 

So George, what exactly is Russia offering the rest of the world? What is its alternative to “market democracy”? Do you have an alternative, George? Yes, we’ve all heard media tales 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 advancing progressive alternatives to capitalist democracy probably died with her. The many problems of market democracy and American foreign policy require thoughtful critique. But in lieu of answers or the semblance of analysis, Szamuely can only cough up callow ravings and half-baked screeds.

Alan Koenig,
Brooklyn

 

Romania Fever

George Szamuely states in his article “Proud To Be Un-American”: “Back in August 1968, ignoring previous pledges of noninterference in the internal affairs of their neighbors, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria marched into Czechoslovakia alongside the Red Army. (Significantly, Yugoslavia was the only country in the region that condemned the Soviet invasion.)”

For the sake of accuracy I 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 into your paper on the Web and found its great articles. We would never consider voting 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 we don’t believe anything he says. I voted for Clinton, then felt deceived, and now will never in my wildest dreamsno matter what rhetoric they 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 utterly repulsive, and it shouldn’t be used in polite language. I shall refrain from reading Taki’s column in the future.

Mildred Perry
Miller, Chattanooga

 

Bumming in Gstaad

Taki: Your comparison of your poor, beautiful, rich mommy’s “melancholia” to actual clinical depression (“Top Drawer,” 6/16) is maddening. This type of blatant ignorance of the reality of the disease is why depression remains a “stigma.” Because people like you perpetuate the notion that most people with depression are fakers, people like my mother suffer tremendously.

Surely one does not think that a sane person would choose such a piteous existence. For my mother, who is severely depressed and on medication, has, in her small Southern town, been misunderstood for 25 years, branded as simply a bad person who likes to do naughty things, and lives in isolation as a social outcast. Sure, she’s stolen a few cars, kidnapped a Siamese cat, tried to kill my father, been to and escaped from a few jails and institutions and alienated every person who has ever cared about 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 diseasenot some bug that one catches from being down in the dumps for too long? It is very sad to me that such a ridiculous commentary on something you obviously know nothing about somehow landed 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 undisputed insight. Next week by Taki: “Don’t You Wish Those Goddamned Parkinson’s People Would Stop Shaking So Much?”

Rachael Hawkins, Astoria

 

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