Volume CXXXII, Number 2
September 20, 2002
Striking Iraq would hurt U.S.
To the Editors:
As we recall the events of a year ago, we are still grieving as a nation.
But now more than ever it is important to think ahead and think clearly.
Specifically, we should be thinking about how to effectively prevent acts
of terrorism in the future. In doing that, we should be asking whether
the Bush Administration's proposed strike against Iraq will help or hinder
the United States in its fight against terrorism. I strongly believe that
such an attack would do the latter.
Saddam Hussein is a despicable dictator, but so far the Administration
has failed to make any credible connection between his regime and the
Al Qaeda terrorist network. If the United States were to attack Iraq,
this would divert vast military, intelligence, and financial resources
away from routing out terrorist networks. It would also seriously destabilize
the Middle East region and would further inflame anti-U.S. sentiment in
the Arab world, which would only increase the probability of future terrorist
attacks. A U.S. attack on Iraq would also set a terrifying precedent of
legitimizing preemptive strikes. It doesn't take much imagination to see
that a precedent of attacking a country without clear provocation could
set off a Pandora's box of nightmare scenarios in this nuclear age.
If the U.S. were to attack Iraq, Saddam Hussein would have no reason not
to use any weapons of mass destruction he might have, either against our
troops or against his neighbors in the region. Iraqi missiles cannot nearly
reach the United States, but they could strike Israel. Israel has two
hundred nuclear warheads and intermediate range missiles and could very
well use them in any retaliatory strike, leading to a conflagration of
On the issue of Iraq, the Administration has effective diplomatic tools
at its disposal. It should use its clout to push for a resumption of weapons
inspections instead of starting a war that would divert vast resources
away from our fight against terrorism and kill thousands, and perhaps
far more, in the process. A team of UN weapons inspectors with unfettered
access to sites and backed by an international coalition would address
the key issue regarding Iraq: getting rid of weapons of mass destruction.
Let's be clear in our task: we need to concentrate our resources on eliminating
the threat of terrorist attacks, so that we may never see a day like September
11, 2001 again. We should avoid any actions, like attacking Iraq, which
would undermine that goal.
25 Belmont St.
Bowdoin is fighting the war on poverty
To the Editors:
With the reading and discussion of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed,
this year's first-year reading assignment, still fresh in our minds, it
seems like an opportune time to tell newcomers to the Bowdoin community
about what I consider to be one of the proud moments in Bowdoin history.
In the 1960s, after the plight of poor Americans had been documented and
publicized, President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced an initiative he
called the United States' "War on Poverty." It consisted of
a set of federal programs designed to improve the lives and prospects
of those "left behind" in our nation's remarkable economic success,
and it was big news.
At Bowdoin it was a hot issue, and a group of students and faculty members
formed a loose knit group called Merrymeeting Community Action to help
fight the war on poverty in the Brunswick area. Some key figures were
Bowdoin professors Paul Hazelton and John Rensenbrink, local druggist
Louis Drapeau, and Bowdoin student David Solmitz '65.
It soon became apparent that a more comprehensive approach was needed,
and in 1972, Merrymeeting Community Action was disbanded and the Coastal
Economic Development Corporation (CED) was formed and incorporated. CED
is a non-profit corporation and is structured according to a national
model as a CAP (Community Action Program) Agency. For instance, following
the CAP model, representatives of low-income people, elected officials,
and the private sector each comprise one-third of CED's board. CED's name
reflects the fact that the area it serves is larger than Brunswick and
includes, among others, the towns of Bath, Topsham Damariscotta, and Waldoboro.
What does CED do? It applies for grants from the federal and state governments,
and occasionally from private foundations as well, to fund anti-poverty
programs, and then it operates those programs. Among the programs currently
being operated are the Head Start program for pre-school children at nine
different centers; WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition programs;
housing assistance programs to assist low income clients with weatherization,
improvement of central heating, energy conservation, home repair, and
transitional housing; job training and retraining programs, as well as
pre-GED tutoring programs; family development programs on a case management
basis (if a family has a need in one area, it is likely to have needs
in others as well, and this approach attempts to connect families to all
the services that are needed); and food assistance programs. CED also
owns and operates affordable housing in several locations, and currently
has a budget of over $8 million.
Throughout CED's existence, Bowdoin people have served as volunteer members
of its board of directors. Currently John Fitzgerald of the Economics
Department serves as its treasurer, and I serve as its president.
I like to think of the people who work for CED as the foot soldiers in
the war on poverty. Their efforts are well conceived and effective, but
it is important, and discouraging, to realize that, more than 35 years
after it was declared, we have not won that war. All of us at Bowdoin,
whether we come from affluent backgrounds or not, live a privileged life
while we are here. All around us are people who are not as fortunate as
Bowdoin students who doubt that they can make an impact on the Brunswick
community in the four short years they are here should remember David
Solmitz. What he and his friends helped start years ago still endures.
Professor of Mathematics
Speech was not offensive
To the Editors:
Many members of the psychology faculty have written to the Orient claiming
that I spoke without respect for their discipline, indeed, without respect
for any of the social sciences at the College's convocation ceremony.
This surprising accusation is based on a very short section of my speech
in which I cautioned that science is not the perfect tool for exploring
every problem, and that the suitability of scientific methods should be
carefully examined whenever they are employed. My position has never been
that the natural sciences are intrinsically superior to others disciplines
in this respect, and I do not exempt my own field of Physics from this
caution. As an example in my speech, I mentioned the difficulties inherent
in studying the behavior of individuals, and it is this example that has
drawn fire. To draw from my statements the conclusion that I hold all
studies of the behavior of individuals worthless is a very large leap.
The greater portion of my speech was devoted to the need for science to
be informed by a variety of viewpoints and to the value of a broad education
in preparing citizens for meaningful participation in the formation of
public science policy. Those interested in the full scope of my speech
will find the text at http://www.bowdoin.edu/~mmsall/speech.doc
Associate Professor of Physics