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Letters: Oct. 23, 2006

10 minute read

On a quest for a story meant to define an already stellar career, Michael Weisskopf lost a hand but reclaimed his life and family. Readers sympathized with Weisskopf and with the countless soldiers who are also nursing physical and psychic wounds received while serving their country

My commendations Michael Weisskopf for the great excerpt from his book and for his courage in facing tragedy and in becoming stronger as a result [Oct. 2]. I say that as a doctor who has seen many amputees. Weisskopf’s position as a senior correspondent for a major magazine meant that he got the best care. But what happens to the soldier with a high school diploma who never saw a doctor before his injury and who may return home to a setting that is ill equipped to get him to even the nearest wheelchair vendor? Our soldiers also deserve top-quality care for their injuries.


Weisskopf is a hero. I’m a retired Veterans Administration clinical social worker who treated war heroes for 40 years. I know what they are made of. Besides the valor he demonstrated by saving lives, he is putting his life back together after a horrific trauma. Like the great war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Weisskopf chose the heart of the battle zone to profile the armed forces. Anyone who has read Weisskopf’s story should be able to appreciate the heroism of our armed forces and veterans.

PHILLIP L. ELBAUM Deerfield, Ill.

I wept when I read Weisskopf’s account of losing his hand in Iraq. In coming to terms with his loss, he realized that he had actually won a prize: the rest of his life. But his story revealed that he won more than that. By summoning the courage to undergo painful introspection after his injury, Michael Weisskopf has reclaimed his soul and his spirit. I too suffered a loss, 15 years ago, when my young husband died of brain cancer. By addressing sometimes unendurable pain and grief, I won the same prize.


I was riveted by Weisskopf’s story of horrific pain and soul searching. It made me think of the soldiers who have died in Iraq and the more than 20,000 Americans who have suffered terrible physical and mental wounds there. Weisskopf’s story brought attention to thousands of soldiers who left their youth, limbs and peace of mind overseas. They will never forget their government’s deception in leading them into an unnecessary war.

FLORENCE GRAFF Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

Weisskopf said he asked his psychologist why he had grabbed the grenade, and the answer was that it was an act of self-preservation–“That’s what all heroes are made of.” I disagree that heroism is rooted in self-preservation. The soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his buddies and the citizen who pulls a stranger from a burning car knowingly reduce their chances of survival to increase those of another. It is the willingness to risk one’s life for a noble purpose that should define an act of heroism, not the instinct for self-preservation.


I very much appreciated Weisskopf’s article and started to cry when I read about Specialist James Fair, the young man who suffered a brain injury, lost his eyesight and both hands. He weighs on my conscience because I have not reconciled myself to my responsibility for his injuries as an outspoken supporter of our liberation of Iraq. I have work to do on that, and it continues to keep me awake.

KAREN HOWARD Redmond, Wash.

Having torn a tendon in my right rotator cuff, for which the only treatment is surgery, I have been obsessed with how I’m going to get dressed, do my hair and apply my makeup with my dominant hand in a sling. Then I read Weisskopf’s story. I am no longer worried about my situation. The courage exemplified by Weisskopf and the amputees at Walter Reed are awe inspiring and humbling.


Hurricane Hugo

Hugo Chávez’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly, in which he called President George W. Bush the devil, made no contribution to peace [Oct. 2]. Chávez tried to transform an important forum of debate into a circus. Maybe he thought that he was on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, or maybe he was trying to mimic Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who banged the lectern with his shoe in the same forum. Both leaders were disrespectful to the delegates, U.N. officials and the U.N. as an institution that represents our ultimate hope for peace. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should take measures to avoid such occurrences in the future and uphold the dignity of the institution.

JOSÉ THOMAZ GAMA DA SILVA Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Instead of criticizing Chávez for his verbal attack on the President, perhaps we should ask why foreign leaders like him are attacking Bush. Has a U.S. President ever been so vilified worldwide? Is the rest of the world wrong? I applaud the courage of Chávez, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others who are not afraid to speak out. If our leaders are pigheaded and hell-bent on having their erroneous way, we should stop them from pursuing their ill-conceived, self-destructive course.

DAVID CHEN Hacienda Heights, Calif.

I was disappointed that your story did not mention what every American should know about Chávez: there is legitimate opposition to his rule in Venezuela, but his method for dealing with it has been to replace the legislature and decree that all law come from a special council he appointed. The judicial branch of the Venezuelan government was packed with Chávez loyalists, and the constitution was rewritten. He might have come to power by the ballot box, but he has remained in power using different tools. In short, Chávez is actually the kind of President that many delusional leftists accuse Bush of being: an ideologue who has reshaped his country’s government to stifle political competition and consolidate his authority.


As far as I am concerned, President Chávez owes an apology to the devil.


A War for Darfur?

Columnist Peter Beinart argued that military action may be the necessary solution to the horrendous situation in Darfur [Oct. 2]. He failed to mention the role that Muslim countries and leaders could play in pressuring Sudan to open up Darfur to U.N. peacekeeping troops. It is deeply disconcerting that the Muslim community and its leaders demonstrate an amazing capacity to orchestrate vocal opposition when they sense a slight to Islam yet fail dismally to channel equal energy into resolving the conflicts in Sudan and by extension in countries like Iraq. In brief: perhaps they need to focus less attention on the infidelity of the West and more on self-criticism and addressing the problems within Muslim-majority nations.

GOVERT P. ARENDS Retford, England

No, not another invasion! What is needed to save Darfur is a demonstration of political will. The World Food Program and UNICEF have not fulfilled their aid pledges to Sudan, and the African Union forces lack funding and equipment. It is the European Union that should offer the African Union all necessary support for a larger force. Political will right now from the E.U. would make it easier to bring Russia, China and some Muslim countries on board. Surely the E.U. can agree at least about Darfur. The citizens of the E.U. member nations do.

JOHN PEDLER Sarlat, France

When Home Is the House

I read with interest your article on teens playing poker [Oct. 2]. Two years ago, my 13-year-old son received a Texas Hold ’em set for Christmas. He learned the rules and tricks of the game very quickly, taught them to me and now beats me at almost every game. These days it’s pretty hard to get him off the computer or PlayStation, but poker is something we can play as a family. Games like Clue and Parcheesi just aren’t cutting it anymore.


I have played poker and gambled for more than 45 years, and I have seen many people lose their homes and families to gambling addictions. What starts out as playing for pennies ends up as dollars. Parents should teach their children the value of education, not how to play poker on the Internet. The programmers of the online poker games know the usual outcome of the cards. Risking a gambling problem is a losing bet.

LESLIE B. DAVIS New Castle, Pa.

Folding Newspapers

Michael Kinsley’s piece on the apparently dismal future of the newspaper industry made some valid arguments about the value of traditional journalism [Oct. 2]. Kinsley’s attempt, however, to place most of the blame for newspapers’ decreasing readership on the Internet and bloggers–whom he characterized as “some acned 12-year-old in his parents’ basement recycling rumors”–is simply ridiculous. Kinsley’s hyperbolic criticism confirms many of the reasons for the general distrust of mainstream media.


Kinsley should ask why people visit blogs for information instead of getting their news from larger, mainstream media like newspapers. It is because organizations lose credibility when they make judgments that are wrong. I got the impression that Kinsley wants journalists to be above accountability, that no matter what they print they are above it all. But the marketplace decides which products survive and which don’t.


Please Feed the Models

Columnist Belinda Luscombe addressed the decision of the organizers of the Madrid fashion shows to bar from the runways any model who falls below a certain weight [Oct. 2]. ¡Viva España! ¡Viva Madrid! I have never met a man or woman who thinks those gaunt and pathetically unappealing models, who look like something from the worst of the World War II POW camps, do anything for clothes, fashion or themselves. It’s time we objected to the twisted concepts of the fashion-industry nitwits.


Madrid’s ban on models who are too thin has started a pointed conversation. If pressure is put on models, it may find its way up to designers and magazine photographers. The emphasis on skinny bodies is demeaning to women and encourages anorexia and bulimia. I know healthy women who are a size 4 or 6 and nonetheless diet to try to look like models. That is not good for anyone. When was the last time you saw men starving themselves to death for a career?


Luscombe is right on target about who is to blame for malnourished fashion models: the designers. But the danger to women goes far beyond the fashion industry. As a psychologist, I am seeing an alarming number of young women who enter my office hating their bodies and starving themselves to achieve an unattainable ideal. Any movement to stop this travesty should be lauded and supported. If Madrid outlaws the use of dangerously thin models in fashion work, perhaps that could begin to force those responsible to adapt.

MINNA BAKER Narberth, Pa.

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