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Letters: Oct. 14, 2002

12 minute read

Reeling In the Terrorists

It’s intriguing to learn where and how al-Qaeda is regrouping, because anyone with common sense knows it is not defeated. SEAN BECKER Erie, Pa.

Your report “One Man’s Story,” on revelations by al-Qaeda terrorist Omar al-Faruq [AL-QAEDA, Sept. 23], noted that he was subjected to three months of “psychological interrogation tactics.” That phrase is nothing but a euphemism for plain old torture. I fully appreciate that these terrorists are extremely tough characters and that an element of torture may be necessary to get them to spill the beans. But the U.S.’s democratic system may be harmed by something far more perilous than acts of terrorism: the worm of deceit. The preservation of democracy may require the use of wicked actions, but any act deemed too wicked to speak of plainly must be too wicked to perform. NICK GODWIN Edinburgh

It is revealing that most of the Lackawanna Six, accused of being al-Qaeda members, are unemployed underachievers whose loyalty to their country is ambiguous at best, given their religious extremism. Like these disaffected alleged terrorists, many people who live in the Arab world have been on the unemployment line for years. Arab jealousy of Western success and power is the root of the recent terrorism. RICHARD L. JOHNSON College Station, Texas

Al-Faruq confessed after three months of pressure, including sleep deprivation and isolation. But people who have been subjected to such conditions will often say almost anything their captors wish them to say. The information that has been gleaned from al-Faruq is likely to be horribly misleading and quite possibly complete fantasy. ED TILLMAN Mount Pocono, Pa.

Does the word secret mean anything to TIME? You mentioned several times in this article that you got your information from a “secret CIA document” and intelligence reports. What ever happened to responsible journalism? Secret means it is neither my business nor yours! PHYLLIS ADAIR Irvine, Calif.

It’s intriguing to learn where and how al-Qaeda is regrouping, because anyone with common sense knows it is not defeated. Al-Faruq’s secret testimony is precisely the kind of information the U.S. government needs if it is to wage a successful war on terrorism. SEAN BECKER Erie, Pa.

Enough is enough. This is a big world we live in, and there has to be more going on than al-Qaeda and terrorism every week. I would like to read about something else. By devoting so much of your magazine to the terrormongers, you’re giving them exactly what they want: more press. ROBERT GOUGH Thornton, Colo.

The Equivalent of Mug Shots

The basic legal premise that one is innocent until proved guilty seems to be ignored by the Wilmington, Del., police who are detaining innocent people on the street in high-crime areas and taking their pictures to file in a database [LAW, Sept. 23]. While police have the right to take photographs in a public place, they are on a slippery slope when it comes to searching and detention. It seems that being African American makes one a police target. And if the only cause for a search is being black, doesn’t that mean any contraband found would be viewed as the fruits of an illegal search and thus not be admitted in court as evidence? FRANK H. STALEY Upper Marlboro, Md.

Our Kind of Despot

Charles Krauthammer’s article “Dictatorships and Double Standards” [ESSAY, Sept. 23] argued that past and current backing for dictatorial regimes is justified because they support the larger U.S. interests of fighting communism or terrorism. Krauthammer failed to mention that several of the dictatorships the U.S. has assisted were created by the U.S., often by destroying an existing democracy. Could Krauthammer’s real point be that the U.S. should prop up dictators when democracy results in a government the U.S. dislikes? JEFFREY FRANK Arlington Heights, Ill.

Krauthammer’s message needs to be read by everyone, particularly America’s detractors. U.S. foreign policy does not exist in a vacuum, so while our leaders would prefer not to do so, they sometimes must take a course of action that is less than ideal. External factors often force our government to compromise. Our critics do not value the difficult decisions that American officials consistently make. Our leaders are not violent madmen but are instead champions of an ultimate global peace. DANIEL SPECTOR Washington

So we’re told that in the fight against Islamic radicalism, Americans must dance with dictators, or we will die. But where did most of the Sept. 11 hijackers come from? Not from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran or Libya, and not from any Arab nation led by a hostile regime. They came largely from Saudi Arabia, a country led by friendly dictators that Krauthammer categorizes as our “sons of bitches.” Supporting such regimes in the name of freedom not only is pathetically ironic but also backfires on a regular basis. Our strongest and most reliable allies throughout the cold war were the governments and people of true democracies, countries that knew the benefits of a free society and were willing to defend them. The same will be true in the future, as people who can vent their frustrations in a voting booth are much less likely to vent them with a bomb. JAMES DENNING Los Angeles

The essay asserts that moral rectitude ought to play second fiddle in the conduct of statecraft. To treat the people of other nations as pawns in a geopolitical chess game is a damnable proposition. The U.S. enjoys unprecedented dominance in the economic and military spheres. We have witnessed a continual increase in the number of the world’s democratic states. It is unconscionable to fritter away our moral capital by entering into Faustian bargains with thugs. Those pacts have yielded appalling results for Americans and the rest of the people of the world. VIJAY DANDAPANI New York City

Krauthammer is correct that the U.S. has always tolerated despots but wrong that this is how we fought and won the cold war. We chose to coexist with the Soviet Union in order to avoid the mutually assured destruction of nuclear war. I would remind Bush that it was precisely because we did not attack Russia that we survived to win the cold war. GORDON R. HARRIS Williamstown, Mass.

At a time when thousands of lives are sacrificed in war upon the altar of democracy and when the U.S. President is using it to enhance his position in the international community, the argument of necessity triumphing over ideology comes across as hollow, defensive and downright flawed. It is disappointing that Time published this example of American self-justification. TEO TZE YIN Singapore

Krauthammer’s logic is shocking. The U.S. has a history of cultivating people who become Frankenstein’s monsters. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf will no doubt join this group in a short time. Evil dictators are evil; there is no difference in the degree of evil. You cannot support a dictator just because his enemies are your enemies. VISWANATHAN SUBRAMANIAN Bangalore, India

As a Pakistani, I was saddened to see our President pictured as one of the “lesser evils” in Krauthammer’s Essay. But I am confident that Musharraf got a kick out of it, was even secretly gleeful to be grouped with such malevolent giants as Stalin, the Shah of Iran and Marcos. With all due respect to Franklin Roosevelt and his quip that Nicaragua’s Somoza was “a son of bitch. But he’s our son of a bitch,” it is the mother who nurtures the infant and shows him how to walk and talk. So if the enfant terrible behaves inappropriately, please understand that s.o.b.s across the globe are only walking the walk and talking the talk. KHAWAR MEHDI Karachi

Rattling Sabers and Nerves

President Bush has two motives for wanting to proceed alone with war on Iraq [SPECIAL REPORT, Sept. 16]. He is tired of people suggesting that he wants to finish what his father left undone, and the only way to silence these critics is to get on with the job. More important, he desperately wants to divert the American public from scrutinizing his dismal record on the economy. Bush has finally emerged as what he truly is: a bully who wants to use America’s might to follow the path of some of his predecessors. H. DAVID GOLDSMITH Chatham, Ont.

Iraq invaded Kuwait. China invaded Tibet. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. So does China. Iraq ignores human-rights laws. So does China. So why should Iraq be bombed, while China gets the Olympics? The world has been happy to ignore the atrocities committed against the Tibetans. I don’t suppose the lack of oil in the Himalayas has anything to do with it? GLYNIS JOHNS London

Si vis pacem, para bellum is latin for “If you want peace, prepare for war.” I hope that these words will guide us and that the Iraqi people will be liberated from the dictator Saddam Hussein. ERIK VAN LOON Rotterdam

When I was 9, I was told to fear missiles coming to the U.S. from Cuba; they were never fired. When I was 19, I was told that the Vietnamese would join the Chinese and make all of Asia communist; it never happened. When I was 29 and a soldier, I was told what a menace the Russians were, almost invincible. Now I am 49 and a bit more skeptical. Considering everything Bush has said, I still can’t see how anything Iraq can do threatens the American way of life one iota. I don’t envision Iraqi missiles hitting Des Moines, Iowa, anytime soon. Just as the Soviets painted the U.S. as the bogeyman to control the masses, America must have something to fear to divert attention from domestic problems. JOSEPH J. MIANO Bekescsaba, Hungary

The daily trivialities of the U.N. have been made it seem as if the nervous minds there are capable of acting only when confronted by a possible rival show led by the U.S. and Britain. This has reinforced the view of the U.N. as a public talking shop that cannot or will not act. PAUL BRAZIER Wotton Under Edge, England

The Bomb Was No Joke

In “Look Back In Angst,” James Poniewozik wrote about the new television programs that treat the cold war era with nostalgia [TELEVISION, Sept. 23]. He referred to the era of bomb shelters and the Cuban missile crisis and said, “Back then, we joked about it.” As a 63-year-old curmudgeon, I remember how we felt then, and there was nothing humorous about bomb drills or the Cuban missile crisis or the likelihood that going into a shelter wouldn’t save you. If we joked about the Bomb, it wasn’t back then but well after the fact. And the laughter, when it came, was nervous indeed. JEFF GRALNICK Weston, Conn.

A Kid at Heart

Your story on novelists who are writing fiction for older kids and teens [Books, Sept. 23] quoted author Michael Chabon as saying that “you have to sell adult readers on fantasy. Kids just accept it.” If Chabon is right, then explain to me why I, a middle-aged adult, have read the Harry Potter books five times each! MARIANNE L. ADAMS Diamond Bar, Calif.

Campaign Maneuvers

The Republicans are trying to win the November congressional elections by harping on patriotism and the war on terrorism [Nation, Sept. 23]. What they don’t realize is that across the political spectrum, all of us want to win against terrorism, and all of us are loyal patriots. Bush is making the same mistake his father made–trying to win votes for his party by using foreign policy at a time when most Americans are struggling to pay the rent. The economy was horrible under the first President Bush. It rebounded under Clinton, and now the economy is horrible again. When will the Bush family ever learn that most Americans still find “it’s the economy, stupid!” DAVID MICHAELSON New York City

A Class Act

“Raise your hand if you are sick of Sept. 11” were not the words of an apathetic teacher, as some of your readers might think [VERBATIM, Sept. 23]. Rather, as your explanatory text noted, teacher Liz Morrison was making an effort to engage her students in a discussion of the Sept. 11 attacks. Morrison is a beloved, well-respected teacher who has spearheaded patriotic campaigns to raise money for a World War II veterans memorial and to register voters. In reporting that two-thirds of the students raised their hands, you perpetuated the media’s negative stereotype of teenagers as selfish and insensitive. I have the pleasure of working with young adults every day, and our future looks bright to me. COURTNEY YEAGER REJNIAK Manchester, Mo.

Unpleasant Aftereffects

Re your report on the pros and cons of various prostate-cancer treatments [PERSONAL TIME, YOUR HEALTH, Sept. 23]: As one who has had the surgery and gone through the impotence and incontinence and psychological effects that followed, I would not have had a prostate operation if I had known about the aftereffects. The trouble with prostate surgery is that once it’s over, you have no more options. I was 74 years old when a very small portion of my prostate was found to be cancerous. I am now 84, but I do not think my abrupt change of lifestyle has been worth the so-called extended years. CLIFTON BLAIR Hillsboro, Ore.

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