Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Fall 2009 Vol. 105 No. 1 OAM Home | Oberlin Online


Words of Choice, Necessity

What a pity for the top brass at Oberlin College to have to feel proud about Richard Haass for his accomplishments as an apologist of war and empire. Haass’ responses to the questions posed by Helen Hare (Summer 2009) reveal an uncontrite court jester who "twists and turns his hour upon the stage" in an attempt to persuade an audience that war can either be a choice or a necessity depending on the critical interests and the pressing needs of the day.

Well, war is always the choice necessity in prosecuting the universal interests and needs of the imperial overclass. We, the underclass, appear to have no choice but to pay for it with our blood, sweat, and tears.

Haass did not see any analysis disclosing that there were no WMDs left in Iraq after 1991, though the case had been proved by U.S. and U.N. inspectors with an established reputation for credibility, in particular, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. One million dead and 4 million refugees in Iraq, plus the destruction of a modern state does not count as a crime against humanity in the USA.

It is easier to live in the trigger of the gun than in the target. As long as we become convinced that the problem resides with the other, we will not recognize that "the enemy is us," as Pogo used to say.

Raymond McConnie Zapater, parent
Philadelphia, Pa.

It is breathtaking for Richard Haass to assert that "Nobody, in my experience, made the opposite case," referring to the "intelligence" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, the rationale for the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Many people clearly and articulately made the opposite case—among them former U.N. humanitarian coordinators for Iraq Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday and former U.N. arms inspector Scott Ritter—even if their voices were ignored by the subservient corporate press and an intellectual establishment hell bent on war.

I marched with millions of people on February 15, 2003, who challenged the bogus assumptions about Hussein’s weapons program and the broader rationale for the war. These people did not have access to special intelligence; they just used their intelligence, unlike Haass and many other intellectuals who bear responsibility for the disaster that has unfolded in Iraq.

Anthony Arnove ’91
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawl

Fellow Follow-up

It was great to see how well Oberlin students are doing with national-level academic fellowships, and to read about the efforts the college is making to identify and nurture potential recipients (Summer 2009). Professor Pat Day (English) did that for me in 1988, telling me he’d nominated me for a Mellon Fellow-ship in the Humanities —a fellowship I’d never heard of. To my great surprise, I won the fellowship. Back then, it was a five-year full scholarship, enabling me to complete a PhD without going into debt or having to teach my way through. I’ve always been grateful to Professor Day, and to Oberlin, for helping make that happen.

Elizabeth Freeman ’89
Associate Professor of English, UC Davis
Davis, Calif.

A hearty congratulations to Jonathon Harmatz, whom you’ve noted is the first Obie on record to have received a Coro Fellowship. The Coro Foundation was launched in 1942 as two guys commiserated over how so many great nations had descended into fascism and war—and how the same things most surely could happen here. Five years later the Coro Foundation recruited returning veterans in San Francisco to join an experiment in broadening public participation in civic life. Coro has since expanded throughout the country.

Fellows receive intensive training: nine months, full time—and then some. Fellows use their cities as experimental subject and laboratory, exploring creative tensions through a series of field placements with businesses, labor unions, government offices, political campaigns, media, and not-for-profit organizations.

I have no doubt that Jonathan will represent Oberlin well among his fellow Fellows. And I have no doubt that Jonathan will emerge from the program with knowledge, insight, and skills that will serve him well—and serve society well—in whatever path he may pursue.

But I do doubt that Jonathan is the first Obie to receive such an honor.

Eric Witte ’87 (Coro Fellow ’87-88)
Woodbury, Minn.

Editor’s Note: Cheryl Sharpe ’79, Zachary Zimmerman ’77, and Daliaz Pérez-Cabezas ’00 were also Coro Fellows.

Canned Response

The history of Oberlin Steel has been discussed a bit this year among us pan alumni, including the year the band started playing at Commencement and Illumination. So for some reason, I felt compelled to correct the article in which Emeritus Secretary of the College Robert Haslun ’67 is said to have dated it to 1977.

The band formed in fall of 1980. Its official inaugural concert was in Warner Gym, February 12, 1981, the result of a winter-term project by all the band members (about 12 of us). At the time we were the Oberlin Can Consortium. The name changed (thankfully) to Oberlin Steel in 2001. The Oberlin Can Consortium first played during Commencement in 1982, on a stage set up in Tappan Square by the arch, and we too played Stars and Stripes Forever. (I had the piccolo part.) The tradition of playing on the steps of Finney Chapel during Illumination started sometime thereafter, possibly 1983.

Peter L. Mayer ’82
Sarasota, Fla.

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