Sanctions Squeeze More Than Governments

Your editorial "Habit-Forming Sanctions" (April 14) skims too lightly over the real problem: Many sanctions are knee-jerk retaliations, politically inspired. Reducing the living standards of a people to strike at their ruler is an egregious human-rights crime. Cuba, Libya, and Iraq are examples.

Cubans don't compare democracy to communism. They compare suffering under the brutally policed poverty of Batista to Castro's socialism and its educational, medical, and housing benefits. They see US-trained militias murder the indigenous poor in Latin America. No wonder the EU as well as the OAS has voted against this embargo.

Libyan sanctions have little to do with the Lockerbie tragedy, but rather the intent of Britain, the US, and Israel to punish Qaddafi - who threw the Brits out of Tripoli, the US out of its Wheelus Air Force Base, nationalized Libyan oil, and supported the PLO.

In Iraq, after the most devastating bombing - with the targeting of communications, sewage processing, and water-purification facilities - the seven-year embargo represents genocide in its cruelest form. Our press has carefully hidden it from the American people.

These three embargoes represent not the will of the General Assembly of the UN, but rather the political undermining of the organization by the world's military giant.

Edward W. Miller

San Rafael, Calif.

Search for our place in the universe

Regarding "How Billions of Humans Can Evolve in Harmony on Planet Earth" (April 9), the book review of "Consilience": Whether intentionally or not, social biologist E.O. Wilson, under the banner of promoting a "unity of knowledge," does little but urge on the green eugenists who already hang on his every word as support for their notions that cleansing humans from rural areas is necessary to protect the earth's biodiversity.

Mr. Wilson invokes the notion of consilience - recognition of coherence among unrelated inductions - as the mechanism for reinvigorating the Enlightenment. Its promise was that all questions of human existence, most notably moral questions, could be reduced to objective issues and solved in a scientific way.

The marriage of human sociology and biology has given rise to this faux discipline, "conservation biology." Wilson's disciples promote the notion of objective answers to resource-management conflicts based on this "science" and its promise to reconcile biological and sociological questions.

To disagree with the Wilsonites is not necessarily to promote the oft-contrasted Christian dogma regarding man's dominion over Earth, but to acknowledge that many social questions do not have objective answers, nor subject themselves readily to scientific reduction.

The sciences and humanities have always informed one another and will continue to do so. But there seems little evidence that they will rule together in a "unity of knowledge." Society should be no more prepared to endorse a secular scientific morality than it has been willing to surrender to any single sacred algorithm for ethics.

Brian Bishop

Exeter, R.I.

Rhode Island WiseUse

Muslims in Turkey

In "Islam Draws New Fire From Turkey's Army" (April 8), Abraham and Isaac are referred to as figures from "the Christian tradition." Surely this should have been the Judeo-Christian tradition!

It seems that the attitude of the Turkish government toward removing religion from the state, or separating the two, is creating the very political entanglement with the Muslim religion that they fear. It is reminiscent of the trials of Jesus by the Sanhedrin and the Roman rulers of Jerusalem.

Mary Porter Wise


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