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Home » Clarion » 2015 » October 2015 » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor


Terror Marks Grim Anniversary

On October 3, 2015, just days before the 14th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, the US bombed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan. As of the date of that grim anniversary – October 7, 2015 – 22 people had died, 37 were wounded, and 24 were missing. Though President Barack Obama apologized, Doctors Without Borders insisted that the US knew the coordinates for the hospital, asserted the bombing was a war crime and called for an independent investigation.

On September 28 in Yemen, and again on October 7, US coalition partner Saudi Arabia bombed wedding parties killing at least 70 and 23 people, respectively. This is not unusual. Since 2001, the US has bombed at least eight wedding parties in the region. A recent review paper by Doctors for Social Responsibility estimated that approximately 1.3 million people have died in the three main battle zones of the US so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT): 1 million in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Millions more have been injured and displaced. Optimistically, it will take multiple generations for these countries to recover from the destruction.

GWOT is a failure. As with US conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and Central America, war crimes are routine. Politically, the US promised democracy but has delivered neoliberal corruption – profitable for US contractors and local elites but incapable of building stability, no less democracy. GWOT, which continues to leave chaos in its wake, is now the primary cause of the spread of terror. Among US service members, 6,840 have died and 970,000 have disability claims registered with the Veterans Administration. The Brown University Watson Institute estimates that the cost of the war to date is $4.4 trillion. The final cost will likely be at least $8 trillion.

Whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican, this war is immoral, self-injurious and insane. The perpetual war must end.

John Lawrence
College of Staten Island
PSC Committee on the Militarization of CUNY

Ranking Rewards War on CUNY

Baruch, CUNY and New York’s governor are all hailing yet another college ranking coup: Our college’s home page prominently boasts that Washington Monthly’s ranking of hundreds of colleges for the “Best Bang for the Buck” in the Northeast places Baruch in the No. 1 slot. In fact, four of the top five colleges on the list are CUNY campuses: Lehman College, John Jay College and Queens College took the third, fourth and fifth slots.

But there’s a major paradox here. Almost no one who knows anything about them has anything good to say about college rankings. They are nothing but beauty contests, we agree, based on data the institutions themselves supply (and often falsify), and should not be taken seriously. So why do we hear hosannas each time we rise in the standings, as if we were on our way to a berth in a major bowl game? This conundrum reminds me of Woody Allen’s joke about the man who says his brother thinks he’s a chicken. “Have you thought of turning him in?” he’s asked. “We would, but we need the eggs,” is his reply.

With the sole exception of a minor inflection in the first couple of positions, all the first 100 of these slots are listed in perfect rank order of how little they charge. That is, even though the rankings purport to be about “bang” for “buck,” if we strip away all information about academic measures, and rank the institutions purely in order of how low their net tuition charges are, nothing – not a thing – would change.

And in this case, what the governor makes clear by celebrating our placement in this list is that by starving CUNY of funding, he finds cover in it for shortchanging students and their educators. CUNY faculty and staff have gone six years now without a contract or a raise. V.I. Lenin, the Soviet Union’s first leader, is reputed to have said that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we hang them.” It seems to me that by celebrating Baruch’s placement atop this absurd ranking we’re doing exactly the same thing.

Glenn Petersen
Baruch College

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