Iraq's Summer Soldiers

Tim Cavanaugh ("Iraq's Summer Soldiers," January) notes the liberal hawks' supposed hypocrisy in blaming President George W. Bush for mismanaging the postwar situation. This charge is spurious: To acknowledge the neglect or betrayal of an ideal is not to be hypocritical but to be honest.

That the occupation has not fared well should mean that intellectuals and writers such as Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman take a critical stance. The prospects of a free Iraq, and a free Middle East, depend on the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Administrative incompetence therefore cannot be tolerated.

Stephen Cheng
Valley Stream, NY

Tim Cavanaugh replies: Stephen Cheng supposes that Operation Iraqi Freedom has not fared well. In fact, it has fared much better than any reasonable person with a suitable respect for the chaos, madness, and unpredictability of war had any right to expect. What we are seeing right now in Iraq is the best possible outcome of the liberal hawks' grand vision. If they don't like the results, they need to reassess their expectations.

Civil Liberties & Enemy Combatants

There are two stories in Harvey Silverglate's "Civil Liberties and Enemy Combatants" (January). The first is about the abridgment of civil liberties, about the belief that people under the jurisdiction of our government should be afforded the protection of our laws. Extending the right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus to Guantanamo prisoners is a good thing, and insofar as the ruling in Rasul v. Ashcroft has accomplished this, it is a good decision.

The second story, however, is a surprising and depressing one. It concerns our failure to notice that our civil liberties have been abridged--our capacity for self-deception, our willingness to engage in wishful thinking, our ability to imagine that things are not as bad as they seem despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

This is the truly disturbing and important story, replete with ironies and sophistical logic. What is liberty if it is by halves? The jurisdiction of the courts has been extended, but what does that mean in practice? If evidentiary standards have been relaxed or abandoned, if there is a double standard for due process, what has really been accomplished? Is a writ without due process tantamount to no habeas protection at all?

Commentators have argued that Rasul will provide a warning to the government and provide legal protections for prisoners. I concur with Silverglate that this is unlikely. It is truly frightening that Rasul and related decisions have been trumpeted as a victory for human rights. They may make things look better, but the underlying problems remain.

Errol Morris
Cambridge, MA

Cut-Rate Diplomas

I enjoyed reading Paul Sperry's article on diploma mills ("Cut-Rate Diplomas," January) but feel compelled to correct the impression he left of Thomas Edison State College when he compared it to Hamilton University. Thomas Edison is a nonresident institution, but that is where the similarity ends. It is a New Jersey state college and is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It is one of very few regionally accredited nonresident programs.

I earned an undergraduate degree from Thomas Edison before going on to do graduate work at Trenton State College. While at Thomas Edison I studied on my own and was able to test out of 75 college credits by taking 15 fully accredited college-level equivalency exams. My admissions counselor at Trenton State told me that he particularly liked getting graduates from Thomas Edison because they all knew how to learn independently.

Ken Hamady
Leesburg, VA

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