Our Feb. 18 cover story on Turkey's fight to join the EU got mixed responses from readers. One claimed, "Turkey isn't part of Europe—its leaders can't manipulate geography." Another said, "Erdogan is Islamizing Turkey, not democratizing it." A Turk demurred: "It will all depend on our high performance."
We were astonished to read in your Feb. 25 article "Agony and the Ecstasy" that the project to protect Venice from high waters "put forth by [Silvio] Berlusconi was shelved by [Romano] Prodi." Quite the opposite. Implementation of the project began in 2003; 40 percent has now been completed, and financing amounts to €2.44 billion, with respect to a requirement of €4.27 billion. The project will be completed in eight years and will definitively protect Venice and the entire lagoon area from high waters, even in the light of pessimistic forecasts for a rise in sea level. The go-ahead for implementation of the project was decided by the Berlusconi government in 2003 and confirmed by the Prodi government in 2006. Work has never been interrupted. Currently a work force of 700 is active in the 15-kilometer-long work site at the three lagoon inlets, with spinoff employment amounting to at least three times that figure. The information in your story is therefore incomprehensible and entirely without foundation. To verify the above and the work underway through up-to-date images, we invite you to visit the sites of the Ministry of Infrastructure at www.infrastrutture .gov.it and its local unit, the Venice Water Authority, salve.it.
Head of Public Relations and Communication
Consorzio Venezia Nuova
Venice Water Authority Concessionary
How Western Is Turkey?
If the population of Mexico were 95 percent Muslim, would the United States accept that through an agreement with Mexico, the citizens of that country could freely enter and settle on U.S. soil? Turkey is a nation where, not so long ago, Roman Catholic priests were murdered, the construction of new churches is not allowed and Amnesty International has urged the authorities to condemn intolerance and discrimination ("Turkey's Western Soul," Feb. 18). Ask Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan if Muslims in Turkey are free to convert (without consequences) to Christianity if they choose to do so, and if the Turkish administration accepts non-Muslims within its ranks. And what about women's rights? Have you traveled in Turkey to find out? In view of Erdogan's strong commitment to Islam, I would agree with what Cengiz Aktar, specialist on EU affairs at Bahcesehir University, said: that Erdogan and his government are more interested in Islamizing Turkey than democratizing it.
Jean De Maulmin
Your writers forget one simple fact: Turkey is not part of Europe but of the Middle East, and will always be. Turkey's Muslim leaders can do a lot of things, but they cannot manipulate their geography. It is a fact that Europeans can't—and don't want to—reject.
I liked your Feb. 18 cover line, "Turkey's Western Soul." As a Turkish financial expert working for a global company, I want to emphasize that Turkey is on its way to joining the European Union with all its institutions and organizations. I admit we have some basic problems that need to be addressed, such as economic stability, inflationary targets, educational issues and unemployment. But with its dynamic and young population, Turkey will be in a better situation in a few years and will have a more stable and transparent economy in the transition stage to the EU. France, Austria and Germany are opposing Turkey's admission to the EU, but eventually, despite their opposition, Turkey's EU membership seems unavoidable. It will finally depend on Turkey's high performance, not on opposition by some members of the EU.
The Unending Agony of Africa
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan accurately diagnosed Africa's basic problems and ingeniously prescribed the solutions in his interview with NEWSWEEK (" 'It Sits on Your Conscience'," Feb. 18). However, he seems to have consciously avoided mentioning the effects of intervention by foreign powers. True, Africa's problems are primarily African, and so should their solutions be. Nevertheless, some of the problems haunting Africa today are left over from its colonial legacy. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European colonial powers scrambled for territory in Africa and looted a great many resources, thereby forcing Africans to lead an impoverished existence with low morale and no self-esteem. The Europeans created artificial boundaries and artificial identities. They also created or nurtured mistrust among the people with their divide-and-rule policies, and they suppressed freedom. Under such circumstances, Africans had no chance to develop the mutual respect, tolerance and good governance that are the cornerstones of social and economic progress. Even after colonialism formally came to an end, foreign powers from all over the world have continued to flock into Africa under the guise of military and economic assistance or investment. But their lack of interest in supporting efforts to end conflicts in mineral- and oil-rich countries like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo reflects their intention to "give a little" to Africa and take much more from it. Isn't this "neocolonialism"? Please give us a voice.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The role played by the United States, Britain, Canada, the United Nations and others in bolstering the Kofi Annan-led mediation effort in the post-election conflict in Kenya is commendable. As the crisis deepens and mutates further, it is important to note that gains made in the fight against extreme poverty and hunger under the U.N. Millennium Development Goals initiative are being reversed. The world needs to understand that were it not for poverty, Kenyan youth would not be participating in the kind of destruction we witnessed earlier this year. If they were engaged in meaningful economic activity, chances are they would not be "on call" for hire. They would have neither the time nor the anger. What we are witnessing may be the result of years of bottled-up frustration boiling over. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell says that extreme poverty can pose a risk to national security. As we all know, good governance facilitates the fight against poverty. Governments, civil society and individuals must continue to engage; this indeed is a war against poverty.
Lynette A. Odondi
McCain and the Right
Sen. John McCain should not dwell on receiving a warm welcome from the far right ("So Much for a Warm Welcome," Feb. 18). He hardly owes it for its lack of support over the years. The ultraconservative talking heads hate the fact that McCain cavorts with the enemy—the Democrats. "Reaching out to the other side" may make Rush Limbaugh apoplectic, but doing so would allow President McCain to govern. It is the "change" Americans have been desperately seeking. So, the more the far right rants, the more attractive McCain will become as a unifying president who can actually attack America's biggest problems and end the toxic partisan politics that have made compromise almost impossible for so many years. The McCain "haters" may not care, but most Americans do.
Robert J. Brudno
America's right-wing conservative "bashers" have bashed so much that traditional Republicans such as myself are numb. They are so full of their own self-importance that they expect all "true" Republicans to simply follow their lead. Sadly, these media "entertainers" and volunteer spokesmen for the Republican Party provide nothing but entertainment. Their views do not reflect the true beliefs of most Republicans. Most of these bashers think that if they repeat a statement or a position enough times, then Republicans will just fall in line like obedient sheep. Not so. They need to realize that most Republicans are more moderate and independent thinkers. I don't appreciate clergy and media entertainers telling me how to vote.
It is wrong to suggest that John McCain's poor relations with hard-core conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have anything to do with the legacy of Ronald Reagan. There was a great deal of talk of this year about how Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory has been simplified. The same can be said of Reagan, who, despite appearances, was a complex figure. The cold warrior who sponsored civil wars in Nicaragua and Angola was also the peacemaker who dreamed of a world without nuclear weapons (including those of the United States). Reagan's simultaneous tax cuts and massive defense budget put him alongside Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush as one of the biggest deficit spenders (so much for "fiscal conservatism"). A major policy issue on which Reagan and McCain agree is one that self-proclaimed conservatives revile the most: both supported a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants (in Reagan's time it was unashamedly called "amnesty"). The thoughtless references to some sort of nonexistent "Reagan consensus" prevents Republicans from deciding who they really are. It has made the movement pathetically schizophrenic: simultaneously a party of isolationists and crusaders, of fiscal conservatives and big spenders, of principled libertarians and xenophobic and homophobic social conservatives.
We Republicans must quickly learn that there is no one single political philosophy, including mine, yours, John McCain's or Mike Huckabee's, that has all the answers. The answers to the problems that face the United States will be found in compromise and negotiation. It is imperative that our candidate can reach across the aisle and work with members of the opposition party. McCain has that ability, is a realist and is capable of uniting us. Let the pundits rant and rave.
Yikes. What a collection of haters in one place. John McCain seeks to distance himself from the ugly vitriol of James Dobson, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin, yet I recall him telling a truly offensive joke about Chelsea Clinton's looks, and responding to a supporter who asked in regard to Hillary Clinton, "How do we beat the bitch?" by calling that "an excellent question." So can he really claim the high moral ground here? The reality is that the Republican Party has made hating, dividing and promoting fear their hallmark during the Bush years, and it is naive to expect that they will change, whether they face Hillary or Barack Obama. The goal of this election must be to take hatred out of power.
Utica, New York
Readers would be mistaken to assume that McCain is a moderate just because he isn't fascist enough for the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. As mentioned, McCain is "the arch-hawk on Iraq." He assures us he would continue with the policies that have destroyed that country and cost our own nation heavily. He actually believes that invading Iraq was a good idea. Since there was no good reason for invading Iraq and the consequences have been disastrous, serious doubts arise about his judgment. A leader must be capable of learning from mistakes of the past.
Defining a Kapo
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's racist remark ("he called a German European Parliament member 'kapo,' ") is much worse than the translation you gave in "Berlusconi, Take Three" (PERISCOPE, FEB. 18). A kapo was not just a "concentration-camp prisoner," as you say, but rather a prisoner who had been appointed by the SS guards as a supervisor. Often he was a sadistic tormentor of other concentration-camp prisoners.
Your translation of the word "kapo" in the Feb. 18 article "Berlusconi, Take Three" is wrong. It is indeed "slang for concentration-camp prisoner" but that phrase is incomplete—kapos were prisoners' sergeant keepers. The worst of them all, though Jewish, were ready to do anything to please the "Boche" masters, just to save their own hides. Many were executed after the war by the Allies.
Fear as a Potent Weapon
Your Dec. 24 article about the unfortunate use of "fearmongering" in U.S. politics ("The Roots of Fear") brought to mind the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, when people were scared of anything different from themselves. It's upsetting that people buy into the hype that there are millions of others out there who want to kill us simply because we are American, and sad that America now governs by keeping us petrified.
New Richmond, Wisconsin
Your article tumbles into the trap that legal scholar Stephen Morse calls the "brain-overclaim syndrome"—the trendy tendency to "explain" human behavior by pointing to brain circuits that light up while we're behaving. But brain activity doesn't explain human behavior; it's just more activity to be explained. The minimal brain research you cite sheds no light on why people vote as they do. Yes, fear can sometimes trump reason, but that was known long before brain scanning was invented. And contrary to your assertions, reason frequently overcomes fear. In fact, whether we even feel fear has much to do with how we interpret what's happening around us. I might fear a shady character in a New York subway, but an outsider might not know enough to be afraid. Politicians do play on fears to get votes, but it's always both candidates doing this. In any case, no one has ever shown that a candidate's TV ads actually produce a significant fear reaction in a viewer. Violence-saturated Americans are more likely to yawn than cower when Republicans keep reminding them about 9/11.
Robert Epstein, Contributing Editor
Scientific American Mind
Your fascinating article delving into the biological effects that fear has on our brains reports that negative emotions (fear and hatred) provoke human behavior more often than positive ones. Dictators, terrorists and mobsters use fear to control and manipulate the masses. A gun to the head is the easiest way to get what they want. Filling hearts with hatred ensures a following. What happens is not only fear for one's future, but fear that some atrocity will befall us again. You say that fear eases over time when the threat does not materialize. But those of us who have known terror will attest to the fact that once we have been victimized, we are on the alert for the rest of our lives, be it a gun to the head or an atrocity that we survived. Interestingly, Americans didn't see what the rest of the world saw: the Republican administration held a gun to our heads in 2004 with the name Al Qaeda on it. Red alerts blared for days, only to cease the day after the election. Hatred for Democrats was swirled in with hatred for Al Qaeda.