Andrew Cockburn [“Crime and Punishment,” Letter from Washington, October] draws much-needed attention to Saudi Arabia’s deceitful lobbying campaign to derail the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a 2016 law that bolsters the civil suit brought by the families of the victims of 9/11 against the kingdom.
Lobbyists working for Qorvis, which was hired by the Saudi Embassy, misled US veterans into believing that the law would put them at risk of being sued for actions abroad. Many veterans were persuaded to sign letters to Congress opposing JASTA, and some were even transported to Capitol Hill to lobby in person — and, I believe, often without the knowledge that their participation was orchestrated by Qorvis and funded by the kingdom. Those who have since found out are outraged.
The injustice continues as long as any of them remain unaware. At the very least, the Department of Justice should compel Qorvis to furnish the names of every veteran it drew into the campaign so that they may learn the truth.
Brian P. McGlinchey
Call of the Wild
Walter Kirn’s thoughtful writing on animals as a vehicle for overcoming conservation fatigue [“The Spaceship and the Moose,” Easy Chair, October] has merit, yet our perceived apathy may be rooted in a more inconvenient truth: all that most of us do (in America, anyway) is work, or worry about having work. A change of pace would not only provide us with the time to ponder nature and its marvelous beasts but would also benefit our surroundings. Although we might like to, many of us simply do not have the opportunity to prioritize our environment, cute animals or not, ahead of the bottom line.
My heart broke when much of the wildlife in my rural area, including coyotes, owls, quail, and roadrunners, vanished because of the noise pollution — tractors and hammers for months on end — required to build just one house. As a nation that upholds “property rights” above almost all else, we often place the concerns of a single property owner over an entire habitat. I know from personal experience that the effort required to push back against postwar city- planning rules is so enormous and requires such specialized knowledge that I cannot fault those who opt out of the fight.
But the gospel of growth must not be allowed to destroy what we love, or to delude us into believing that “green growth” will fix the problem. It will not. We must find another way soon, before the moose and the wolves, the bears and the bobcats, exist only as specimens in zoos or as DNA samples in freezers.
My experience in local politics in the 1980s largely echoes that described by Lydia Davis [“Rensselaer County, New York,” Forum, October], but I’d like to mention the role played by some in my town’s government, whose positions, unlike most others, were vigorously contested. The campaigns often cost ten thousand dollars, just to take on the thankless task of dealing with small issues and petty arguments, with financial compensation that did not come close to covering the costs.
Why? Because these men happened also to be members of the chamber of commerce. Once in power, they invested our resources into projects such as “revitalizing” the downtown shopping district. Yes, that area got beautiful sidewalks and ornate streetlights. What didn’t we get? A community pool, a recreation center, or any publicly owned amenities that might have competed for our leisure time, and that our family-oriented suburb was missing.
The Good Cold Days
Elisabeth Zerofsky strains to evoke Cold War peril by scenting a “whiff of West Berlin” in Lithuania [“Everyman’s War,” Report, October]. There is, of course, no longer a Soviet Union, yet Zerofsky writes of contemporary Russia often, it seems, without acknowledging the significant political and economic changes in Moscow since.
This theatrical article closes with a view from Lithuania’s border into the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and the ominous border guards patrolling therein. But Kaliningrad, unlike the image of East Berlin this scene evokes, is open to business and tourism. It will even host teams for the 2018 World Cup. To effectively deal with Russia, a geopolitical competitor, we must first see it clearly.
Elisabeth Zerofsky fails to consider Moscow’s assertion that the United States promised Mikhail Gorbachev, after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, that NATO would not expand eastward — a promise swiftly broken by the Clinton Administration. Zerofsky also does not acknowledge the number of times Russia has been invaded from the west in recent history. A reflection on both perspectives might have led to a more measured article.
El Paso, Tex.
Because of an editing error, Dale Maharidge’s “Bumpy Ride” [Miscellany, November] failed to note our gratitude to the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which provided generous support for the article. We regret the oversight.