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Letters: Mar. 5, 2007

12 minute read

At the Nexus of Terrorism and Drugs

Afghan warlord and opium cultivator Haji Bashar Noorzai could be an intelligence source the U.S. needs to combat terrorism, but he’s sitting in jail on drug charges. He has offered to help, and as the wars on both drugs and terrorism rage on, readers debated the wisdom of his incarceration

Your article on Afghan warlord Haji Bashar Noorzai listed possible negative consequences of his arrest [Feb 19]. Assured by a U.S. agent that the trip would be “like a vacation,” Noorzai went to America to offer his cooperation against the resurgent Taliban. Now in jail, he can no longer supply intelligence, move his tribe away from the Taliban, persuade his followers to give up poppy farming or sway other warlords toward the political path. But worst of all, his 1 million tribespeople will now be convinced of U.S. perfidy, duplicity and treachery and therefore be converted into implacable enemies of the U.S. It’s unlikely that Noorzai’s arrest will save the life of even one drug addict on U.S. streets, though it will almost certainly cost the lives of many U.S. soldiers overseas.


The Noorzai case is a perfect example of this Administration’s botched war on terrorism and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s handling of the incredibly stupid war on drugs. Haji Bashar Noorzai could have been a real asset in rooting out the Taliban. Intelligence on the ground is a most valuable resource. Has Noorzai’s arrest really made a difference in heroin production? U.S. taxpayers are now going to have to spend millions to prosecute and detain him. The U.S. could wipe out the drug trade tomorrow through legalization and taxation, which would take away the enormous profits earned in illicit trade and reduce theft by addicts who steal to support their habit. The huge sums saved on incarceration and policing could be spent on health care and education.


I have not seen one positive story on either Afghanistan or Iraq, and now you’ve run the story about poor old Noorzai. The guy was obviously smart enough to reach out to the U.S. before the war in an effort to maintain his power and keep the drugs flowing. When are we going to hear about American triumphs? Where are the stories about our brave warriors? I see nothing but reports about terrorists like the duped warlord Noorzai.


Perhaps the question of whom to arrest and whom to send back into battle should be cast in different terms. Which should we fear more–terrorists bent on destroying a nation and an idea or domestic addicts who owe their allegiance to a drug? We might do well to take the view of Winston Churchill, who said after Adolf Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R., “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” The terrorists are our Hitler, and the drug dealers are our U.S.S.R. We must assign a higher priority to our external enemies even as we care for the wounded from both wars.

HARRY PUNCEC Lakewood, Colo.

The U.S. should stay away from antisocial friends like Noorzai. Why would he want to help the U.S.? I am very disappointed by your decision to put him on the cover of a magazine I respect for decent journalism.

ZAHIS ALI Memphis, Tenn.

The case of Noorzai is just more evidence of the plague of groupthink that has struck U.S. decision makers, from the mishandling of pre-9/11 intelligence to the mistakes in Iraq. Officials made contact with a valuable source but then just let him rot in jail with the crucial information. Such missteps have cost billions of taxpayers’ dollars and thousands of soldiers’ lives.

WINSTON SAMSON Virginia Beach, Va.

Timeworn Tension

TIME lent respectability to short-cloaked Islamophobia in Richard Brookhiser’s “A Template for Taming Iran” [Feb. 19]. After delivering a lesson on the war with the Barbary States, he insinuated that Iran’s threat might likewise be a missionary one of “militant jihad” to “make slaves” of “sinners.” And in justifying the Barbary Wars by claiming, “Sufficient to the day was the evil thereof,” he evidently intended to demonize Iran by representing it as a vague menace. His message is alarmist and empty.


Brookhiser conveniently dates the U.S.’s problems with Iran to the hostage crisis in 1979. Our problems actually date to 1953, when the U.S. and Britain deposed the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh because he had the temerity to believe that Iran’s oil wealth belonged to the Iranian people.

CLYDE FARRIS West Linn, Ore.

Patriotism or Blind Support?

Kudos to Joe Klein for skewering Senator Joseph Lieberman’s intellectual dishonesty in charging that President George W. Bush’s critics undermine our troops [Feb. 19]. Why is it that so many of the politicians who are dedicated to sending Americans off to war have never seen combat? The foremost examples, of course, are Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but now you can add loyal disciple Lieberman to that list.

BOB MADGIC Anderson, Calif.

I served in a war that the Democrats constantly criticized. I was spat on, called a baby killer and denied employment. The same events are transpiring with the same cast of characters. Those on the left, including Klein, deny undermining the troops, but that is what they do every time they write an article that gives Islamists hope and reason to hang on. Senator Lieberman is right about denying Islamists encouragement.


Is it really that hard for Klein to believe that when Senators talk about withdrawal and failure in Iraq it is music to the ears of our enemies? Is it really that hard for Klein to believe that this same talk undermines the morale of our troops? Our enemies are not oblivious to U.S. politics, and our soldiers are not robots without morale. Those who speak out against the war have every right to do so, but they are not free of the consequences of their words. Their dissent does not make them unpatriotic, but it does make them part of the problem.

MARK W. CARMEAN Dunkirk, Md.

Klein was reasonable but left readers wondering what it means to support the troops. He failed to hold his audience accountable, to demand that a choice be made and acted upon. Where was the call to action? Where was the directive to take the President and his regime to account publicly, loudly, immediately?

RON ERTER Sumter, S.C.

Defining Black Identity

For a Harvard professor, Orlando Patterson sure needs a lesson or two in political polling [Feb. 19]. His notion that Senator Barack Obama trailed Senator Hillary Clinton by 40 points in a recent poll because “many black Americans don’t consider him one of their own and may even feel threatened by what he embodies” is unprovable. Clinton enjoys name recognition throughout the country, whereas Obama might be known by only about 40% of Americans. Patterson used statistical quirks to further his own views on “black nativism.”


Patterson’s article is another attempt to drive a wedge through the black community. Every black person I have spoken to has expressed nothing but pride in Obama. We come in all shapes and shades; there is no one definition of black. We can still prefer Clinton as our first choice for President without disliking Obama. So stop with the media-coined phrases such as “nativism.” This is not a term you hear black folks saying.


The Feb. 19 issue contained two diverse opinions on America’s black voters. The first was Patterson’s piece suggesting that black Americans don’t consider Obama one of their own. The second was a Letter to the Editor from a black reader in San Leandro, Calif., who made the point that black Americans believe there are not enough white Americans who would vote for a black candidate, so they too wouldn’t vote for one for fear of throwing their votes away. I think the fella from San Leandro hit the nail on the head.

GARY H. BOYD Scottsdale, Ariz.

I would like a definition of “black enough.” Obama is a positive role model for all African Americans. Do they not like him because he is educated, wears a suit, talks without using slang and has a nice family? I don’t care if a candidate is red, white and blue with pink polka dots. People need to look beyond the surface and decide who is the best person for the job. Period.

NANCY DOBSON Lake Zurich, Ill.

A Woman Scorned

The story about astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak said that NASA “is not supposed to let loose screws through” [Feb. 19]. People do not choose to be mentally ill any more than they choose to be physically ill. NASA’s inability to monitor the psychological well-being of its astronauts is no excuse to use insulting and insensitive terminology to describe astronaut Nowak or anyone else who suffers from mental illness.


Jeffrey Kluger stated that “In the tut-tut world of exposé journalism, astronauts–particularly women–misbehave at their peril.” I’m not sure exactly how women these days are “misbehaving,” but I am sure that there are countless successful, powerful women who would be incensed by your characterization. Just take a look at the way our male politicians are acting and tell me that they are not the ones misbehaving at their peril.

KATIE MCGUIRE Danville, Calif.

Conservative Clergyman

David Van Biema’s description of Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola as a “fearless herald of Christ” was unfortunate [Feb. 19]. Akinola’s present crusade to further split the Anglican Communion and promote hostility among church leaders contradicts the very heart of Christ’s message. Jesus never uttered a word against gays, or gay bishops, but his great commandment was to love one another. In confusing his personal prejudices with the Gospel, Akinola is undermining Christ’s signature prayer for unity at the Last Supper: “As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they all be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.” In light of this prayer, why is every schism not a breach of faith?

BILL FIELD Wilmington, Del.

Van Biema noted that the Archbishop’s advisers became wary of the mainstream press because they felt a story “wrongly portrayed him as a homophobe.” But as your profile also reported, the Archbishop “has repeatedly compared homosexuality to partnering with baboons, lions, dogs or cows” and supported legislation to jail for five years practicing homosexuals and the people who support them. If that isn’t homophobic, I don’t know what is.

ROBERT PERRY Hercules, Calif.

Although the issues of gay “marriage” and gay clergy happen to be causing turmoil in the Anglican Communion, the underlying problem in the rapidly shrinking Episcopal Church has been 30 years of escalating persecution of conservatives by an intolerant liberal hierarchy. The Episcopal Church currently allows intolerant liberal bishops to depose conservative priests without trial and seize parish property from conservative congregations without compensation. Until this policy is revised, beleaguered conservatives will continue to seek the aid of Anglican prelates to help split a church that cannot be internally reformed.


Berwyn, Pa.

As the gay-ordination debate continues, it’s crucial, particularly for Christians, to reject Akinola’s uncharitable brand of faith and condemn the persecution of any humans, regardless of sexual orientation.


Would You Dine Equine?

Joel Stein’s “A Mane Course” was absolutely disgusting [Feb. 19]. To even suggest that horsemeat be eaten in this country just because it’s done in other countries is plain ignorance. Horses are not bred to be eaten but to be used for work, battle and sport. They are a big part of history and deserve to be honored, not slaughtered.


Although a horse lover and recent convert to vegetarianism, I was willing to read what Stein had to say, but all I got from his article was some sort of nose thumbing. He said that in the U.S. we oppose eating horsemeat because we think “like a 14-year-old girl.” He sounds like an 8-year-old boy who pulls the wings off flies for fun. Perhaps Stein should also order some cat, dog and hamster meat.


Music for Strings

In his use of string theory to analyze music, composer Dmitri Tymoczko focuses on chords [Feb. 5]. Reducing music to mere harmony impoverishes our sense of it as a reflection of the breadth of the human spirit. Why do, say, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Muddy Waters strike one as so different? Both worked in the blues–a form that consists of a repetition of a 12- or eight-bar pattern containing only a few simple chords. If Bach and bebop look the same through the lens of harmony, perhaps we would be better off not limiting our view. Vive la différence!


One should not be surprised that the music of the rock band Deep Purple is discussed alongside that of Chopin. Ritchie Blackmore, the legendary lead guitarist of the band, honed many of his catchy guitar riffs by incorporating elements of the music of Bach and Beethoven into rock-guitar stylings.

EBRAHIM MAYAT Johannesburg, South Africa

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