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.

After the darkness of this destruction, there shines a bright light of goodwill upon us. We have paid dearly for it, but now we can use this goodwill to help secure justice and to help make the world a safer place, or we can squander it on a quest for vengeance.
Mark Frank
University City

Why prove the terrorists right? Ray Hartmann advocates the death penalty as a way of showing our attackers some new face of the United States when our legacy in the last few decades, especially in the Middle East, has been to fire missiles into whatever nations we're not supplying with arms or buying oil from. If these terrorists have seized on our support of Israel, our 10-year siege of Iraq and other activities to cast us in a satanic light, why should they be proven right?

As I mourn the thousands of Americans who have been brutally torn from our national embrace, I can't help feeling a twinge of sadness, too, for a monumental opportunity that we will almost certainly forego: to prove the eternal triumph of law over brute force and to halt the endless cycle of futile vengeance.
Chad Parmenter
via the Internet

Hold United and American accountable, too: I agree on about half of your editorial. If it is Osama bin Laden, yes, he dies -- publicly. Let us watch him or whoever did this hang. We definitely could take an example from Israel, who deals with this terrorism every day.

But after we bury the dead and rescue the living, we need to do a little justice at home.

The fact that four aircraft belonging to two major U.S. corporations can be so easily hijacked and used as weapons of mass destruction is an example of gross criminal negligence.

The airports and the airlines are concerned with profit first; safety and security, to include national security, have come a distant second.

I was in the U.S. Air Force for eight-and-a-half years. This crap would not have happened on any U.S. military plane because the military puts national security first -- it is fully aware of what could happen if even a C-141 fell in the wrong hands. If what happened Tuesday had happened on a U.S. military airplane, the entire chain of command that was responsible for that aircraft would be dealt with with speed and severity! Justice would be quick and hard and exemplary. Then we'd go after the evil SOBs that did this.
Rich Quinn
St. Louis

Frank and Jim
Love is still alive: Elizabeth Vega's "Dead Wrong About Frank" was an excellent, heartwarming story [Sept. 12]. You should write more success stories like it. God is truly in the blessing business. Frank is a very blessed child, and God has put him into the position to be a great man. Jim has shown that love is still alive. Jim stepped forward and took the responsibility for another, and for that I admire him, for he has changed a life. Thanks, Riverfront Times -- keep on keeping on.
Roxanne Olunloyo
St. Louis

Second Helping
I have never read a more disparaging review: While I love reading the Riverfront Times every week, I was appalled at the viciousness of Melissa Martin's review of C. Whittaker's ["Dead End," Sept. 12]. My girlfriend and I live in the Central West End, and from Friday-Sunday we eat virtually every meal in our local establishments. We have eaten at C. Whittaker's at least three times and have found the food and service to be good and the overall dining experience to be pleasant. What precipitates this letter is the calculated "fire for effect" prose that was so carefully written to injure the image and reputation of this restaurant. I have never read a more disparaging review of any business, let alone one that is a tenured part of our community. There is something seriously amiss here, and it has nothing to do with mediocre food, poor service or dirty restrooms. Martin's review is a classic example of exploiting the media for some motive as yet to be determined.
Dick Bruce
St. Louis

Her experience mirrored mine: My experience during my one visit to this establishment about a year ago almost mirrored Melissa Martin's experience. The service was worse than the cleanliness of the place, and the attitude was absolutely smug. Not only was the waiter rude and inefficient, but when my guest and I finally had to ask the management for our check, we were again forced to wait close to 15 minutes. Believe me, not leaving a gratuity was not enough to express our displeasure.
Joe Thele
St. Louis

If I could, I'd spill stuff on her: I am sick of reading reviews by Melissa Martin. She is the most nasty, evil-tongued bitch to grace your paper. If the restaurant was so awful, maybe she should review another. Silly me, of course she can't, almost all of the places she goes she has a problem with them. Funny, I have eaten at most of the same places and never had a problem. If I waited on her, I would probably spill stuff on her and not bother to come back, either.
Karin Ransden
St. Louis

Emily's List
Ann Ruwitch got things done: Without disagreeing in any way with the very positive view you depicted of Vince Schoemehl and Grand Center, I would like to correct the impression that under Ann Ruwitch's presidency, only the sidewalks were cleaned and the parking signs lit [Eddie Silva, "Grand Guy," Sept. 5]. Under her leadership, the very complicated groundwork for the renovation of the Continental Building was laid, the Cardinal Ritter school was attracted to the neighborhood and the necessary land acquisition was facilitated. Channel 9's move to Grand Center and the Sheldon addition were accomplished during her presidency. I can personally attest to the help that she and her staff provided in the acquisition of the Beaumont site and demolition of the building, making it possible for both the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and the Forum for Contemporary Art to build their projects. These endeavors involved complicated negotiations requiring, unfortunately, a long time period.

Three years from now, I am sure there will be an equal amount of progress to point to which will have taken place under Vince Schoemehl's leadership.
Emily Rauh Pulitzer
St. Louis

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