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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Double Standards and Inaccurate Comparisons

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In response to "The Illogic of U.S.-Russia Relations," a column by Yulia Latynina on Jan. 26.

For all of the time and effort that the United States and Russia spend worrying about each other, there's not necessarily a lot of understanding in either direction.

I'm sure that trying to understand what the United States is doing might be quite confusing. There are too many different opinions. Of course, in understanding any large organization, there are always differences of opinion. This is certainly true within the U.S. government, where the two political parties seem to be immersed in totally different views of reality.

Even within an administration there are usually differences of opinion, and whether public expression of those differences is cynical, useful or merely confusing isn't clear. Politics itself is sometimes an exercise in stressing different things to different constituencies.

A second reason is that the world has really changed a lot in the last 10 to 15 years. Watching the Soviet Union from the United States was about as informative as watching the yearly movements of a glacier. The glacier had been there for so long, and we'd gotten so used to it being there, that nobody was at all sure what any of the landscape looked like underneath, and we were surprised when it suddenly disappeared. Much of the last 10 years has been spent worrying about landslides, mudslides and other assorted catastrophes that seemed possible or even probable when the glacier retreated.

Another big thing that has happened is the emergence of the European Union. All of the United States' old NATO allies have formed their own club. NATO is also different; it seems to have become a more general peacekeeping organization rather than anything aimed at a specific enemy.

So the United States is still trying to figure out where it fits in the world these days. And the great divide in U.S. politics these days seems to be based on these different views of what the United States is or ought to be.

David W. Dee
Winter Haven, Florida

In response to "Ashes to Ashes," a column by Chris Floyd on Jan. 28.

Floyd seeks to compare America's policy in Iraq to Auschwitz.

Though his article is so full of misinformation and non sequiturs it would take a response of similar length to do justice to them all, I would just like to deal with the two main premises of his argument upon which the rest of the sensationalist comparison hangs.

First premise: "What exactly happened at Auschwitz?"

According to Floyd: "Government leaders ordered the murder and torture of innocent people in the defense of the 'homeland' and the superior moral values of their culture."

No. Auschwitz is not only the "murder of innocent people"; its specificity lies exactly in the system used to eliminate particular groups of people. It was a bureaucratic murder machine, using gas and crematoriums.

Iraq is not Auschwitz. U.S. President George W. Bush has no project of ethnic cleansing.

Chris Floyd: "suddenly, viewed in this light, Auschwitz doesn't seem very strange." Yes, it does, Chris.

Second premise: "When faced with undeniable evidence of atrocity, they [the Nazis] blamed 'bad apples' in the lower ranks." Here, Floyd invites us to draw parallels to the crimes of the American "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib prison. Floyd supports this assertion with an out-of-context quotation from Rudolf Hoess. I offer another out-of-context quotation from Rudolf Hoess: "'I had personal orders from Himmler.' 'Did you ever protest?' 'I couldn't. I had to accept the reasons that Himmler gave me.'" (From a conversation with Leon Goldensohn, 1946.) Not bad apples, but big cheeses, I think. Until I read Floyd's article, I'd never seen anyone propagate the bad-apple argument in any serious publication or debate.

Floyd's conclusion: "The ashes of Auschwitz are still falling on the innocents being murdered today."

Not only does this metaphor make no sense at all, but in its very senselessness and misappropriation, it is distasteful in the extreme.

M. Rozencwajg

In response to "In Ukraine, Western Media Mirrored Kremlin," a comment by Ira Strauss on Feb. 1.

Your newspaper, in line with most Western newspapers, has been highly critical of Russia and President Vladimir Putin for his support of Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine elections. Putin visited Ukraine twice during the election campaign. This was considered as outrageous involvement in the affairs of a sovereign state.

The EU leaders have launched a project to form a unified constitution for the European Union. Some of the member states have decided to submit the proposed constitution to a referendum among the citizens. Spain is one of the states that will soon conduct a referendum on the issue. The Spanish government has announced its support for it and is running a campaign. Among the campaign activities, a big rally will be held in Madrid with the participation of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schr?der. Chirac and Schr?der, on invitation of the Spanish government, will come to Spain to persuade the Spanish people to vote for the new EU constitution.

That is, Chirac and Schr?der are invited to Spain to perform the same role for one side in the elections that Putin was invited to do in Ukraine. It strikes me that I have not detected the same voices so highly critical of Putin in Ukraine noticing any undue involvement in Spain.

Isn't this really about the double standards that Putin speaks about?

It is also evident that the European Commission and all the European institutions are throwing their weight (or administrative resources) behind the constitution with taxpayers' money, the same taxpayers they want to adopt the constitution the EU institutions have planned. The "No" side does not get any taxpayer resources at its disposal. We all denounce such practices if they happen in Russia, but now, with regard to Europe, there is silence.

Jon Hellevig

In response to "Listening to the True Voice of the Iraqis," a comment by Stephen Boykewich on Feb. 3.

This was the best commentary I have read concerning the views of the Iraqi people about the U.S. government.

Suspicions abound concerning the motives of the U.S. government toward Iraq among Iraqi and U.S. citizens alike, given the history of the U.S. government's affairs in Iraq, but then again, Iraqi turnout teems with hopes and aspirations that elections may be exactly what they are touted to be: something good for Iraq.

Barb Grover
Portland, Oregon

In response to "A New IT Attitude for a New Silicon Valley," a comment by Bill Robinson on Feb. 7.

In his article, Bill Robinson seems to posit that Silicon Valley offers an unambiguously positive model for the development of Russian cities.

Since I was raised in Silicon Valley, I would like to offer an alternative perspective. When I was born at the old Stanford Hospital in 1958, much of Silicon Valley was, as Robinson somewhat scornfully notes, devoted to farming.

This meant that as a child I could ramble around my semi-rural neighborhood, bringing home snakes we found, or participate in picking and drying apricots in one of the nearby orchards.

In the years my father worked for Silicon Valley firms such as Fairchild and Intel, the area grew increasingly crowded and the prices of homes skyrocketed.

As a result, most of the people I went to school with could not afford to remain in the area and the freeways have become clogged with aggressive drivers in fancy cars.

This is not to say that development is bad, but that late modernizers have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors.

David Foglesong
Princeton, New Jersey

In response to "An Iron Curtain at Mount Ararat," a comment by Harout H. Semerdjian on Feb. 8.

Opening the border between Turkey and Armenia will reward Armenian aggression and occupation in Azerbaijan, and its expansionist, hostile and racist policies against Turkey.

It will encourage Armenia and the Armenian diaspora to continue to press for the recognition of the so-called genocide internationally.

It will be regarded as a sign of weakness for Turkey.

As we summarize in Turkish as "Once Vatan," Turks value their motherland above all things, including economic benefits.

Nihat Canikli
Ankara, Turkey