I read Abigail Hauslohner's article on the Egyptian revolution with great interest [Democracy, Egyptian Style, April 18]. However, I disagree with her rather harsh view of the Egyptian armed forces. As a surgical resident who took part in the protests and treated countless victims during the days of rioting, I feel personally insulted that their integrity is being questioned. In the chaos that followed the revolution, the military was the only institution functioning near full capacity. At this critical point in Egypt's history, they stepped in to shoulder responsibility and did a marvelous job.
Islam Noaman, CAIRO
Democracy as understood by the Egyptians (or, for that matter, by the rest of the non-Western world) may not jibe with the Western concept; it has its local flavor. In the end, autocracy will likely re-emerge. Egypt has been ruled by leaders with a powerful military background for decades, and chances are the generals in charge of the interim government will want to continue having a strong say in national politics. And that could be the cause of a power struggle.
Tan Boontee, CHUKAI, MALAYSIA
Lessons from the Civil War
Thank you for David Von Drehle's insightful article [The Way We Weren't April 18]. I was disappointed, though, by his failure to draw a more explicit connection to the contemporary Tea Party, birther and antigovernment movements. The dotted line from the Lost Cause apologists for the Confederacy to the "take my country back" fanatics of today is direct and insidious.
Gary R. Howard, SEATTLE
There probably will never be acknowledgment of the role slavery played, because it would stain the hands of some iconic figures, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and, yes, Ulysses S. Grant, whose defenders simply can't accept that such paragons could breed, work or trade human beings as if they were cattle. As a descendant of the bred, worked and traded, I have learned to compartmentalize American history. I therefore say to those who would deny slavery's importance: The historic flaw of slavery does not diminish but accentuates the greatness of our relatively young country. In 235 years, we have gone from slaveholding President George Washington to African-American President Barack Obama, who incidentally carried the former Confederate states of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
David L. Evans, CAMBRIDGE, MASS., U.S.
If this magnanimous cause to free a race of people from bondage was so important to the U.S. government that it threatened the existence of our young country, why was the government still making a concerted effort to eliminate outright an entire race of people Native Americans for generations after the end of the Civil War? Even today it can be argued that through neglect, there is some legacy remaining of this policy.
David White, JACKSONVILLE, FLA., U.S.
Of course slavery is immoral and despicable, and of course preserving slavery motivated Southern states to secede from the Union. Yet there also can be no doubt that Southern states believed the Constitution conferred the right of secession. Abundant constitutional scholarship supports the reasonableness of such a view at that time. But Von Drehle comes no closer than a dismissive mention of "states' rights" to the question of the legality of secession and the illegality of a war to stop it. Surely Von Drehle cannot be surprised that so many doubt the nobility of the motives of the Northern states and the legality and morality of their armed and economic devastation of the South.
John D. Wells, CHASSELL, MICH., U.S.
I was dismayed to see no mention of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is unimaginable to think of any serious article on slavery and the Civil War without any reference to the small book that started the big war.
Maharaj Mukherjee, POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y., U.S.
While reading Von Drehle's article, it struck me that the melancholy pictures of former battle sites accompanying the piece suggest one aspect of the Civil War that should unite the most fanatical advocates of both sides today. The pathetic images of war re-enactors posing amid modern development illustrate a disgraceful failure of the U.S. to protect this part of its national heritage.
M.E. Walker, KOLN, GERMANY
Von Drehle's report on Civil War revisionism was eye-opening and well written. Especially smart was the focus on Northern collusion in supporting and profiting from slavery. The time-bending photos were terrific! One omission: W.E.B. DuBois wrote an important corrective to the Lost Cause view, titled Black Reconstruction in America, in 1935 two decades before C. Vann Woodward published The Strange Career of Jim Crow but as a black scholar, he was ignored.
Steve McGlamery, BLACKSBURG, VA., U.S.
The truth of Von Drehle's thesis about Civil War amnesia is fully borne out by John Cloud's adulatory Essay on Gone with the Wind [Inherit the Wind, April 18]. Not once in the latter does the word slave, or any of its derivatives, appear. Didn't Cloud notice something was missing when he reread his sentence, "The planter class no longer had pigs or cotton or pretty French dresses, but it still had land"?
Geoff Bobker, LONDON
Von Drehle's analysis of the Civil War was excellent. It is important to consider a parallel between the decisions made in a pre-Civil War U.S. and contemporarily in Libya, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The question of whether governments should fire upon their own people is as fresh as today's news. For those of us who believe that the U.S. was right in waging war in order to do away with slavery, and in doing so fired upon its own people where does that leave us with respect to these more modern issues? I have no answer, just a certain level of discomfort.
Robert L. Glass, PADDINGTON, AUSTRALIA