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Policy: Letters regarding the contents of the magazine will be considered for publication in Spark unless specifically marked "not for publication." Correspondence may be shortened to meet editorial requirements. We will not publish anonymous letters; however, we may withhold names upon request.

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No ‘homework’ here
In the recent Spark article “Hitting the Books” (Summer 2003) it states that “the first recorded usage of [the word homework in its current sense] … occurs in the 1889 OED … .”

There was no Oxford English Dictionary — or any dictionary like it — in 1889.

“Homework” is not an entry in the OED, which was first published in 1928.

“Homework” is an entry in the First Supplement to the OED, which appeared in 1933.

Bernard van’t Hul ’53
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Inspiring Reminder
Some years ago at a church retreat, I mentioned feeling a sense of a spiritual gift of healing. The evidence being, many years of public service as a primary care practitioner, and I’ve not been sued. True, public service is not necessarily within the body of Christ, but it is certainly within the realm of God’s sovereignty.

Now, in the current context of primary care, editorially defined as a field fraught with uncertainty, on the very day I was complaining to my boss about being expected to see “ER follow-up” patients, without accompanying documentation, Spark arrives. I learned one of the local ER directors is a Calvin grad (Summer 2003, Class Notes). It made me feel better.

Awesome. Just when I was thinking of the nursing field as a choking ground, Spark reports of faith being shared. Hey, thanks for the Calvin perspective reminder.

Paul DeWaard ’75
Riverside County, Calif.

Getting it right
I am writing in response to “A Statue Is Toppled, but Hard Questions Remain” by David Hoekema (Summer 2003). The article reminds us of the Just War Doctrine and the Christian Reformed Church’s position in this case. In his opening remarks he makes two false claims in an attempt to downplay the success of the liberation of Iraq. Mr. Hoekema states, “It was American soldiers — not Iraqi citizens — who pulled the statue down while American tanks blocked the entrances to the square.” When, in fact, the crowd initially tried to topple the statue with ropes but where unsuccessful, the Americans then stepped in to assist. I believe Mr. Hoekema was trying to give the impression that the scene was a publicity stunt, performed against the Iraqi people’s wishes. The second claim was “The National Museum, containing a unique and irreplaceable collection of artifacts from the ancient land of Abraham’s birth and Israel’s captivity, was stripped bare by thieves.” This is simply not true. The curators of the museum hid the 170,000 pieces to protect them from the very thing is being claimed happened. When the dust settled, it was determined that only 33 pieces were missing, and the Americans have already started recovering those.

By misrepresenting what occurred and continues to occur in Iraq by the American forces, the reader is deliberately deceived to be moved to Mr. Hoekema’s point of view. The majority of mainstream media has a liberal bias when reporting the war; I was hoping a Calvin professor would not try the same spin.

Jim Van Duyn ’86
Wheaton, Ill.

Although Mr. Van Duyn and I evidently differ about the justification of the recent U.S. war in Iraq, I hope we can come to agreement on the facts that he cites. Photographs published in European newspapers clearly showed that American tanks were blocking the entrance to the square during the operation, and American news footage showed GI’s lassoing and toppling the statue. What, then, did the event mean? Most U.S. media saw it as a spontaneous gesture of liberation, but the reality was more complicated.

As for the situation of Iraq’s museum collections, I am glad to confirm that the situation is somewhat better than it appeared in late April when I wrote my article. Many important artifacts had indeed been removed for safekeeping, and some others have been seized at borders or returned by repentant thieves. A recent special report in the Guardian (June 18, 2003) quotes museum authorities from Britain and Iraq on the loss of “30 major pieces from exhibition galleries,” which tallies with the figure that Mr. Van Duyn cites. But the report goes on: Also missing are “2,000 finds from last season’s excavations at sites in central Iraq” and between 6,000 and 10,000 objects from museum storerooms. In addition, “millions of books have been burned, thousands of manuscripts and archaeological artifacts stolen or destroyed, ancient cities ransacked, universities trashed.”

These facts, of course, do not settle the more important issue of whether the war in Iraq was justified. Without question, the Hussein regime was tyrannical and oppressive, and Iraqis who dared to criticize its actions suffered horribly. But the United States went to war with the specific purpose of destroying mass stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons — a dire emergency that made it necessary, we were told, to set aside established procedures for international supervision and long-honored rules for warfare. U.S. intelligence sources, it now appears, had not provided clear evidence for such stockpiles, and as of early July not a single illicit weapons site or lab has been found. Did President Bush and his advisors, lacking evidence for such weapons but determined to go to war, decide they had to lie to the nation and the world? I sincerely hope not. And yet the alternative explanation — that they were so poorly informed that they did not know that what they would find — is not very comforting either.

David A. Hoekema '72
Professor of Philosophy