Week of September 19, 2001

Sept. 11, 2001
Retribution, yes; mindless anger, no: Ray Hartmann is to be commended on his well-reasoned editorial on the World Trade Center massacre ["An Act of War, Not a Crime, Sept. 12]. As he notes, those who have unleashed this evil upon us must swiftly learn that there is indeed an Old Testament God. Yet, in seeking retribution, let us not mindlessly vent our anger and frustration on the local Muslim community simply because its customs and beliefs differ from our own. Hopefully, the treatment of the West Coast Japanese-Americans in the early days of World War II will have taught us the folly of precipitous and unthinking solutions to painful and trying problems.
Edgar T. Farmer

Breeding better terrorists: Ray Hartmann has "no quarrel with the Muslim world" but immediately contradicts his own platitude by writing, "Let's give them the best jihad-in-return that a $300 billion-plus military budget can buy." If one follows the same logic, then Timothy McVeigh's murderous actions provide the moral justification for obliterating innocuous right-wing political activists in this country.

Of all the things Americans are proud of, the greatest may be our tolerance of opposing political views, diverse religious faiths and the belief in our justice system. We all strive toward the day that every accused citizen gets their day in a fair and impartial court. That natural extension of this ideal is that we should apply the same standard to human beings the world over. Otherwise, we are hypocrites. Hating and killing through stereotypes, racism and religious intolerance are un-American. Killing certain categorized foreigners by "jihad-in-return" will only breed better terrorists. Views like those of Hartmann contribute to why we are in this predicament to begin with.

Hartmann notes in passing that Osama bin Laden is a Saudi exile. Stop, Ray -- what does that mean? Saudi Arabia is one of the most fundamentalist Muslim nations on Earth, and they reject this man you demand we kill [with a] "jihad-in-return." Get off your bigoted horse, Ray -- the man you hate is banished by a country epitomizing the religion you seem to hate. Hartmann decries that some Palestinians "celebrated in the streets" after the attack on America; meanwhile, American Muslims are beaten in our streets. Hartmann hedges that he wrote his hateful piece "just three hours" after the attack, but this is not justification to excuse his shameful views. Indeed, it reveals more about the true feelings of this favorite "liberal" and "radical" of St. Louis than many of his followers ever hoped to know. All citizens of this country who have pride in American ideals realize that this is a war against a very sophisticated foreign McVeigh, not against an ethnic group, race or religion.
Tab Rasmussen
Jen Rehg
University City

The cost of friendship with Israel: Ray Hartmann proposes that we retaliate not just against those responsible, directly or indirectly, for this attack on our country but also the Palestinians, who are foolish enough to let their frustration be captured and made use of for propaganda purposes.

Associating Muslims and their extremism, however that may be defined, with Tuesday's horror is precisely the sort of chauvinistic excess Hartmann has made a career deriding.

Our perceived national interest and that of Israel may converge in some areas yet diverge in others. We should understand this and remain careful, when purporting to state a national case, to do so in terms of our own national interest rather than that of another.

It is certainly possible to find a mix of retributive action, force assertion and, most importantly, enhanced intelligence acquisition that may confound and intimidate our enemies without allowing ourselves to be made, in this instance, the client of Israel, as Hartmann appears to be indirectly proposing.

The unbelievable loss we have just sustained, apart from the perverted sense of justice and savage impulse from which it arises, should be understood as part of the cost of a strong friendship with Israel.

Friends we should remain, but friends only.
John Riley
Maryland Heights

Perpetuating the cycle of violence: As the news of the tragedy began to sink in, I was as overcome with grief as any other American watching from afar. Such massive destruction and loss of life naturally prompts strong feelings, and as a citizen of the U.S. I can certainly understand the emotion welling up calling for a warlike response to these deplorable acts. However, as a citizen of the world I have to stop short of adding my voice to this call for war, because I can only see it causing a perpetuation of the cycle of violence.

I think this is a time for thoughtful action. How can we prove that we really value peace and freedom? How can we prove that we do not relish throwing our great might around and thus further endangering the entire world? How can we keep more innocent blood from being shed? I think we do this by first seeking to resolve this act as we resolve other criminal acts, albeit one of the most heinous in our history. Our rush to call this war instead of crime merely enables us to feel justified in beginning a massive bloodletting, but it certainly won't end before more of our own innocent blood has been spilled.

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