Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Much of the time, I feel stoned with grief. Because of the unimaginable number of lives that were lost, and the intensity of their suffering, a hole opened up in the world and sucked out everything which is not suffering and death. Only Tuesday morning September 11 feels real, and everything I have done since then which represents normal life--going for an eight mile hike in the woods, paddling my kayak--seems like a dream or a memory from long ago.

I have a better handle on how to respond ethically, practically, and militarily, than I do on what to do emotionally right now. There are a lot of stunned people and sleepwalkers advising each other to carry on, go to a Broadway show, or buy something. The advice is fine, as far as it goes, but there is no Pashmina you can buy that will cover the hole.

What we must live with is the simple insight that (given enough time) if something can be done, it will be done. If its physically possible, no matter how evil it is in our rulebook, someone will find a way to do it and will pronounce it good. The consequences of this fact have already been more massive than anything I thought I would see in my lifetime.

Getting your mail helped me a lot these past few weeks. I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

You wrote:

We are facing a very calm, rational geopolitical intelligence which sees a chance to sideline the U.S. and build a new superpower. Moans and rants about our foreign policy sins, however accurate, are irrelevant, as this is a time to think about survival, not "understanding" or negotiation.

The point seems compelling with respect to the short term, but it should not completely discourage pursuit of long term solutions.

Looking for ways to make sure everyone has an opportunity to prosper frequently arises in a moral context, but September 11th demonstrates it is a matter of survival.

o Improved security (defense) can't hope to completely remove vulnerability given the near infinite list of targets and terrorist motivation.

o An aggressive war on terrorism (offense) can't hope to completely remove the threat given 1.3 billion people claiming Islam as their religion.

Peace represents the only long term hope in the sense of softening destinctions between "us" and "them". People can attempt various "spins" on the source of the conflict, but it seems like the standard class warfare that has wreaked havoc since humans arrived on earth.

We do need to survive until tomorrow, but we need to move energies as quickly as possible to long term solutions. America's efforts at offense and defense will further spread suffering including within our own country until we do.

Daniel Berninger dan@PULVER.COM

Dear Mr. Wallace:

BRAVO - The voice of reason in a reason challenged world. Earlier today, while driving in my car, I was fortunate enough to be listening to the ' commen persons ' opinion of the WTC diaster on the radio. Apparently the commen wisdom is that all persons of middle eastern decent should be eradicated from the face of the planet. While I most certainly do not agree with what was being said and while I would none the less defend to the death their right to say it, it does begin to take its toll when it seems that their is not a rational soul left in this world.

I stumbled across an article written by you, quite by accident, on the net.


Melissa Currence mlcnlv@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I am a journalist in Edmonton, Alberta. I appreciated your thoughtful, well-written piece on the WTC attack. Many of the officials who appeared on CNN yesterday, from President Bush on down, declared that this horrible event was an attack on "freedom" and "democracy," but the United States would "stand firm." Whatever the perpetrators wanted to accomplish, hopefully the result won't be the indiscriminate reprisals or curtailment of rights that concern you. These were uncondonable acts, but I think you are correct to locate their origin in a global socio-economic imbalance that is forcing people to the wall.


Colin Smith csmith@edcn.ab.ca Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


I was forwarded your essay What War Will Mean and it is sad that someone with your talent for writing was not given the insight to see beyond the most superficial understanding of the occurrences this week. You are truly blessed to be in a country that has people of integrity, courage and foresight that grants you the liberties we enjoy as Americans.

Ed Risinger II Risinger@selecthealth.com
Austin, Texas

Dear Mr. Wallace:

In What War Will Mean you wrote that the President reacted with "completely inappropriate boyish glee".

I didn't see that - and my antenna was more than up to the task of instant detection of latent jingoism. Perhaps your essays would be more readable if they were perhaps just a tad drier? Nevertheless, good effort.

James DeWinter jadewinter@peoplepc.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Could these terrorist attacks been a warning? The attackers could have used biological weapons which would have wiped out New York City. These attacks demonstrate that Bush's missile shield would not have stopped a nuclear attack had the hijacked planes been carrying weapons of mass destruction.

Ross lobo@renonevada.net

Dear Mr. Wallachinsky:

You have only said what we can't do. You haven't come up with any independent thinking of what we need to do and how to do it. What good is your drivel?


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just read your latest articles Hard Rain and What War Will Mean as I often read most of your articles. I note that at the end you state you don't know what's next. The reality is, of course you don't because you are now and have always been clueless. In What war will mean, you talk about what Russian intelligence told us. At least they still have an intelligence organization. Self proclamed intellectual traitors like you that have done your level best to create the blame America first, anti intelligence, anti CIA, FBI, political correctness that has allowed this all to happen. I'm sure that within the week you will have penned your first article on how this was our fault. YOU have the blood of all those people on your hands by giving aid and confort to the enemies of this country. I doubt you will loose any sleep. You expresso sipping, klog wearing, sudo-elit Stallinist never do. Thanks buddy, they really couldn't have done it without you.

Warmest Regards,

J. Paul Parker jpaulparker@worldnet.att.net
Marysville, California

Dear JW~ Thanx for the perspective. It was well written, and moving. It's been some crazy days in America, no? Rat ratchik_64@yahoo.com
Dear Jonathan:

I just wanted to say that I am so glad that you were not hurt or killed in yesterday's attack. I think it is important what you do and of course, I have fellow feeling for our mutual search for truth and justice in this world.

Unfortunately, this idea does not extend to our enemies. "Enemies" is a term that I do not use lightly, I only use it in reference to those with whom we are at war with. (People I disagree with, for example, politically, are merely opponents.)I understand your comments about the need for justice in our civil and public life, an idea that we do not always pursue as we should, either abroad or even here at home. And yet, there is a very different situation confronting not just America, but the civilized world by those whose actions were demonstrated yesterday.

The gleeful reaction of people in the streets in Egypt and the West Bank and Lebanon who trilled and thrilled at the reality of thousands of dead American civilians are not mere expressions of a political triumph (because it has no political significanc), but of a deep and abiding evil hatred that resides in their hearts for anybody who is different from them and their theocratic ideology. Their repeated sanctifications to "Allah" as cover for their manifest evil cannot be laid at the door of stockbrokers and hot dog vendors at the World Trade Center.

I think that the civilized world has now been made sensible to the fact that our enemies are not just the actors who perpetrated this and the other unclaimed attacks over the past few years, but a theocratic ideology that is at war with the very idea of reasonable civilization itself. This is because a reasonable civilization does not find sanctification within the confines of whatever interpretation of the Q'uran is used by those who use it.

A just civilization is based upon reason and not upon religious sanctification which has and is responsible for the continued shedding of the blood of innocents. As such, we are at war not just with an oppressed and unjustly treated people(s), but rather those whose hate comes from other than secular and ethical concerns--a hate generated by a profound anger not just against our actions, but also by who we are. Unfortunately, I think this war is just beginning, it will be long, bloody, and ultimately it will end in victory for civilization because the haters are intrinsicly weaker than we are. But many innocents will die because of the irresponsible actions of those who acted yesterday and the continuing support they receive from the majority of people who profess an allegiance to "Allah" in this world. I am so relieved that you were not hurt and I hope that none of your loved ones or friends were either, although that may be a faint reality.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Mike McGlothin mmcgloth@yahoo.com

Dear Jonathan:

You are responsible for your own destiny. No matter who they are, no matter what the terrorists do, & no matter what our gov't does, you are awake & alive. That is more than some of us can say, now. Also, you are NOT defenseless, no matter how you may feel. Your description of the building coming down was graphic & anyone would be frightened in that situation, but even then, you weren't defenseless--you have 2 fast feet, 2 good hands, & most importantly, you have a mind. The most potent protective device you can have is between your ears. We are never at their mercy, really, sometimes we just think we are. I for one am not staying in some rat hole because of the terrorists. I will ive my life as always, just with one ear cocked. I take it you're doing the same, & I wish you luck, sir.

I hope you are feeling better since Tuesday.

Joseph Schechter schechtr@sfsu.edu

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you for your article. Learned of it from Politech list. As I sit at the computer, flipping through web sites, listening to NPR, I found it articulate and empathic in a way I really valued.


Aliza Dichter


Read you late article on the WTC-events etc.and found it respectable. I think it needs the asking of other questions as to how come so many previous"tools"being used by the US later turn into"weapons"against selfsame US later.This reminds me of a book written by a German doctor working in Vietnam seeing how Vietkong were giving lectures and US advisor standing among the South Vietnamese persons not understanding even a single word.... yours

Axel Thiel axelthiel@web.de


You have probably received many emails similar to this, sorry if I am intruding on you.

I have read your short passage of your account of the WTC disaster in the Spy Newsletter and I feel I have to offer my support somehow.

I am a bank clerk in Edinburgh, Scotland, very much removed from the atrocities of yesterday. However I feel (as do many of my colleagues) this is a direct attack on ourselves and it makes no difference that this attack centered on America, the results would be the same if it was at an office block in the same street of our office.

Like all of my country men I offer you my support, it is a tragedy the number of people who lost their lives in this tragedy, however I see the further implications and the tremendous psychological scar left on people such as yourself, a survivor who has lost many friends and acquaintances in this horrific day. In years to come this atrocity will remain in peoples memory along with the physical scars of fire and rubble, no amount of action by the USA, NATO or any such coalition will ease these wounds, my heart truly goes out to you.

Please contact me if I can be of any further help either to you or your fellow country men,

Best wishes

Anton Nelson emailnotna@yahoo.co.uk


I wanted to compliment you on the various pieces you've written related to the tragedy--while I do not agree with everything you've put down, the comments are very thought provoking. I've shared them with others who have had similar comments. Here's wishing you and your family well in this time of upheaval. Erik Phelps erik.phelps@landsend.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I must say that your essay was well written and concise. While I do agree that something must be done, you seem resolute that this must involve the tremendous loss of life of our "fighting age" young men. As a father of two of these young men, neither of whom wants to fight an amorphous, ambiguous enemy known as "terrorist", I must disagree with you. We can take the time for careful reflection that you wisely recommend, and discover the real team or persons behind this atrocity, and bring them to trial in a world tribunal.

Who do we attack in a war where even the enemy is not known to us? We attack those who we think are the enemy, with the loss of more and more innocent lives, including but not limited to our sons. We will be attacking mainly those who live in nations who are known to our intelligence community to sponsor terrorism (the practitioners tend to refer to it as violent revolution). Those who we kill will be related to terrorism only peripherally. The great majority of Afghanis, Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, or Syrians are not terrorists. Bad idea.

In your essay, you didn't address the symbolism of the targets, and the anger at the American ideas regarding global capitalism. The notion that the American system will work on the global stage is arrogant in the extreme, and has proven to be a disaster in more countries than it has benefited. Basically we are exporting our concept of wage slavery for the benefit of American corporations.

We have become quite the self-possessed monster. Apparently, someone saw fit to take us down a few pegs--with efficiently disastrous results. Will we miss the message?

Peter D. Stanislaw pstanislaw@peoplepc.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I happened across your "Hard Rain" piece by accident and was particularly struck by it. But, as a bit of a wordsmith myself, perhaps I simply appreciate the emotions that it brought to the surface.

This is truly an unbelievable time.

From South Carolina, my thoughts and prayers.


To Jonathan Wallace:

Although I agree with a lot of what you write, I think your ideas about the plans of Bin Laden or whoever may be behind the action of Sep. 11, are sheer speculation. This means that they can be like you described and could be different.

I cannot sympathize with any terrorist act. I can however understand them. There is no such thing as a civilized country; in order to stay a country so-called uncivilizes actions have to be taken, in order to guard interests at home or abroad. The USA is an example of a country where the real actions have been covered with a thick layer of moral judgments about other countrys or persons, which all boil down to breast beating.

Whatever actions should be taken: one thing stands out above all: there will always be power driven personalities. They can only thrive when there are followers. There are only followers when there is poverty and injustice. On the long term the solution therefore is obvious.

Sincerely yours,

Harbert van der Wal info@dynsup.nl

Dear Sir,

You raise some interesting and valid points regarding the nature of our Offensive strategy. Regarding our Defensive strategy, the answer to the dilemma that you raise is that we must adopt the Israeli Solution in that we must now pursue a Fortress America effort which would include reacquainting ourselves with our Rights under the 2nd Amd. and completely revamping our lax Border and Non-Citizen policies. By clamping down on domestic foreignors, the holocaust on 9/11 would not have happened, nor could such future ones occur. The simple precautions of allowing pilots to carry a firearm, stricter airport security or using inpenatrable cockpit doors would have prevented this. The oblivious attitude which has allowed such lapses in the past should now be eliminated. We need to be a whole lot smarter in every area as you suggest. Go to: www.americanpatrol.com for further information regarding immigration problems.

M. Johnson mjohnson6@webtv.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your email was forwarded to me - such is communication in the 21st century. I live in Nelson, at the top of New Zealand's South Island. The population is a little less than 50,000 - the number quoted all day yesterday as working daily in the twin towers. I woke up and started work in my home office at 5.45am, a time when the national radio station is usually still in music mode. When I heard news I at first assumed it was a doco-drama. I turned on the TV and saw images that will be with me for a long time. Later in the morning I received a fax from our town hall - they had opened the council chamber as a centre for American visitors. Then the local peace group rang to ask if I would put out an urgent media release letting people know there would be a prayer service in the cathedral later in the day. People went about their work on a beautiful spring day. But we too fear the aftermath and are aware that something in our world has changed irrevocably. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Jacquetta Bell

Hello Jonathan,

You have been into the jaws of Hell. This is an invention of our own making. The disease of the right wing of religion has hit New York like a plague. What makes the event so unsetting is that it has finally come to our shores. We are in the war zone just like those in many parts of the world live every day. The fierce wrath of a people gone mad through the irrationally of religion has taken its dues upon us. The perservasion of the value of human life is what is at stake. Revenge may be sweet, but if we get caught up in that loop, we will only contribute to the discredit of humanity. The right wing elemenet is like a cancer on the face of humanity. The war is the the battle of the minds of men. Primitive thinking is what fuels the outrage. We are now recipents of our mental inventions. The desttruction of the human body is only the superficial factor in all of this rangling. Most of all, for deep concern is the destruction of the human mind. The drama is created in the mind and fostered upon the stage of human existence. Our greatest enemy is ourselves. To find those who did this horrible thing and destroy them is not emough. What is needed is the purging of the human mind. Without this, only will sustain in time, the equation. It will rise again. The challenge is to take on the enemy of the mind. But many are asleep. May we find our way into light.

Until now,

Fred M. Fariss count@infi.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thank you for sharing your reactions to yesterday's events with your newsletter fans. I found your message to be very well written and an excellent summary of what it must have been like to be there. I also worry about the coming threat to our civil liberties from the mindless ones at the top.

Thanks again.

Karen Lindquist klindqui@monroe.lib.mi.us

Uh huh, uh huh....Well then what the Fuck do You suggest we do about this then?! Stand around quoting Bob Dylan? Blame ourselves? After-all...that's what the fanatics want us to do.

I say that we should seek out those responsible for this horror and hold them accountable.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Eloquently written on this very sad day. Thank you.

Linda Enke lenke@leadingindicators.com

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you for that wonderful message. I've put it on my Weblog (http://www.briefhistory.com/weblog/). Hope that's ok. I'm glad you're safe.

Best John Naughton naughton@pobox.com

John Naughton is an academic and the (London) Observer's Internet columnist. 'A Brief History of the Future', his book on the evolution and significance of the Internet, is published by Phoenix in the UK and Overlook in the US. An archive of his recent Observer columns is available at www.briefhistory.com/footnotes/

Dear Mr. Wallace:

A fine piece. One thing you should know: We don't have much civil liberties left anymore. The Fourth Amendment is dead because of modern technology, the Second is dead in some places, somewhat alive in others, & despised by most of the populace, & the First Doesn't apply to anyone who is not a big corporation (alternative press has the hardest time).

I too think we should leave the Arab countries alone as well as other parts of the world. We can't save the world, & we need to clean up our own act first.

It would also be helpful if we didn't let in any more immigrants. So many of them come from places resentful of America. Right or wrong, that is how they feel, & we have seen the consequences of letting such people in. We have plenty of people to sustain America now; why do we need more?

One thing is for sure: This attack will not be the last one.

Joseph Schechter schechtr@sfsu.edu

Dear Jonathan:

This is in reference to a posting on Freematt's Alerts of your 'Year Zero' essay 'Law and War' of September 24, 2001.

You say:

Law without force is a sham. Like World Court decisions, which are not binding on any country that chooses to disregard them, court rulings against Osama bin Laden or others responsible for the mass murders on Tuesday morning will have no effect if we are not in physical possession of the perpetrators.

While I agree with what you say, I do not think much of a world in which it is "force" that is being applied in order for "law" to function. It seems awfully seductive that as long as the U.S. can exert "force", why should it bother with "treat others the way we would want them to treat us"? The trouble is, were we to lose our "superpower" status (e.g., if ALL the rest of the world were to gang up on us), I fear it is *we* who would end up subjected to whatever "force" others choose to apply.

A hypothetical: Multiple explosions in Moscow kill a significant number of bystanders. Russia determines that the "mastermind" behind these explosions is an exile living in Canarsie. (For the sake of discussion, assume the Russian Prosecutor General is as convinced of the involvement of that person as is the U.S. Attorney General of the involvement of bin Laden in the attacks of September 11.) Russia demands extradition of that person. Let's say the U.S. refuses.

Would you (in that hypothetical) support Russia using "force" (including its military) to apprehend that Canarsie resident?

Mikus Grinbergs mikus@bga.net


I recently received this essay, attributed to you. First off, I must say this is very well thought out and cuts very close to the roots of this situation. The media has been portraying Bin Laden as a rabid madman and ignoring what a brilliant planner he must be. The idea of a "fundamentalist superpower" is chilling, and the more we deny the possibility, the more likely it becomes.

I know things must be pretty rough out there these days. I wish you the strength to deal with what must be going on.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

There is another saying, not Johnson, far too graphic for him: "A conservative is a liberal who has been raped."

I know the MidEast. I understand (in some cases agree and in some cases disagree) with most of the claims of who hit who first. But the terrorism campaigns are not, essentially, about Israel. They are about wiping out western ways, "evil" ways. And, they are about power. They are, ultimately, about fascism.

We thought it was wiped out in my father's day; our battle was communism. And we seem to have one that one (I was there and in the lines) only to have fascism raise it's ugly head again.

So here we go again. I'm old and tired, all my buddies who are either getting their bags packed or awaiting recall are old and tired, but we're also unbowed. They want to play the Great Game. And we are here.

John Ringo johnringo@mindspring.com

Dear Jonathan:

In the last two weeks, some have argued that we should seek a legal solution to the WTC and Pentagon bombings, rather than warfare. But a legal solution is predicated on the use of force anyway--you have to arrest the defendant. And the right cop to send is the US military.

Maybe, but should they be judge and jury as well?

The attacks on September 11th were _crimes against humanity_, on a par with what happened in Srebrenica or Rwanda, and should be treated the same legally -- the fact that *enforcement* may be more prompt (when the casualties are American rather than Bosnian or Tutsi) doesn't change that.

Robert Fisk puts it nicely:

But let's go back to that word justice. Re-watching that pornography of mass-murder in New York, there must be many people who share my view that this was a crime against humanity. More than 6,000 dead; that's a Srebrenica of a slaughter. Even the Serbs spared most of the women and children when they killed their menfolk. The dead of Srebrenica deserve - and are getting - international justice at the Hague. So surely what we need is an International Criminal Court to deal with the sorts of killer who devastated New York on 11 September. Yet "crime against humanity" is not a phrase we are hearing from the Americans. They prefer "terrorist atrocity", which is slightly less powerful. Why, I wonder? Because to speak of a terrorist crime against humanity would be a tautology. Or because the US is against international justice. Or because it specifically opposed the creation of an international court on the grounds that its own citizens may one day be arraigned in front of it.

Danny Yee dany@staff.cs.usyd.edu.au

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I must say, you are convincing. What now, then? Protracted, bloody war with untold death and destruction? Do you believe that justice is unattainable without it? We still have no clear picture of an enemy, save Muslim fundamentalism.

Poking sticks into hornet's nests has always been inadvisable. In my opinion, this is an intel case, where we need to demoralize the "intelligence" behind the scenes. Full out frontal war plays too much into the hands of the zealots, does it not? As the Soviets learned, they have a hell of a home-court advantage, not to mention impeccable training courtesy of Langley, VA.


Peter D Stanislaw pstanislaw@peoplepc.com
Liberty Academy Unschool

Hi Jonathan,

Good point about War and Law. I agree.

Here in Texas some compassionante conservative proponents of the death penalty have a slogan: Sing the Eyes of Texas and hang the bastards high.

I think the better solution is to not execute the terrorists. Execution would be fulfilling their desire to die for Allah. Instead, lock'em up and throw away the key.

And not entirely in jest, one way to get the Taliban to ante up bin Laden might be to threaten them with kidnapping all their women and sending them to school.

Hang in there. Up Flag! Salute!

Regards, Ken Loveless ken@ccsi.com

Mr. Wallace,


Thank you for this insight. I will definitely pass it on to others.

I protested the Viet Nam War, but this is a totally different kind of war. This is a different time and a different place. Sen. Chuck Schumer said, in so many words, "In 1993, 6 people were killed in the WTC terrorist bombing; in 2001, 6000+ people were killed in the WTC terrorist attack; and, the next time, 6 Million people could be killed with the use of a sophisticated nuclear device in a terrorist attack, the makings of which device the terrorists have been attempting to obtain for at least the past 2 years. ..........We have no other choice but to stop the terrorism NOW..........and the only way we can do it is by going to war against terrorism NOW."

I agree with what you say 100%. Law without force is a sham.

Thank you for writing this article.

Barbara Moon Webster angels1@bestweb.net
Bearsville, New York


I have been doing a fair bit of thinking about ways that the US can resolve the Afghanistan and bin Laden situation. Without going into the causes of the problem, which believe to be the fanaticism of bin Laden's followers, I believe that a few points need to be considered.

I believe that the present situation can be likened to a barrel of flaming oil. (Appropriate, considering the region) What is likely to happen when the USA drops a bomb into the barrel? Right, it only makes the fire a *lot* worse.

>From what I've seen there are two main factors that seem to create terrorists in the first place.

1) People are hungry and in despair about their future.

2) People have been given a heavily biased news account of the actions and motives of the US.

The current plans to attack can easily be used by opponents to contribute to both of the above. A full-on attack, while it may be satisfying in some ways, is likely to make things worse in the long run.

Let me suggest an alternative. I believe that the US should, for the cost of only one or two cruise missiles, implement the following.

1) Make up food parcels, clearly marked that they are a gift from the USA, and containing favourite Afghan foods.

2) Include a wind-up radio of the type that has been developed for the third world, along with instructions.

3) Drop millions of these parcels on the Afghan people.

4) If necessary, put up a communications satellite directly over Afghanistan for reliable communications, that the government will be unable to jam.

5) Broadcast BBC World service to Afghanistan in their language. (I suggest the BBC since they are less likely to be seen as partisan in the present situation.)

From what I've read, the Winter weather in Afghanistan is bad, major military operations are not a real option. There will be millions of people starving there this winter. And keep in mind that, if the US blockades Afghanistan's borders, then the US is going to be blamed for the starvation. No ifs, ands, or buts. The worst part is that the Taliban and bin Laden's boys will be eating OK, thanks. It will be the innocents who suffer most. Hang on, isn't this why this exercise is taking place? The innocents in the WTC?

What would the situation look like in the Spring if a sizeable population had eaten regularly, thanks to the US, and had been hearing unbiased news reports? It couldn't be worse than it is now, and it might be a *lot* better. Isn't this approach worth a go, at least?

If, in the spring, it is still necessary to send in military force the disadvantage of this strategy will be that the enemy will have had another few months to dig in. BUT, they've been fighting there for *how* long? IMHO, they've likely dug in to the max in most places. Any changes are likely to be minor. It would likely be a reasonable strategy to drop the odd bomb on clear military targets during the winter, just to make them keep their heads down.

This is *not* going to be an easy exercise. Remember that the Afghans have been trained by the likes of the elite British SAS (roughly equivalent to the US Green Berets). And also they are fighting on their home territory, which gives them the advantages of motivation, local knowledge, and local support. The strategy that I've suggested may weaken the local support, at least. And, if some of the locals see the US as a possible alternative to the Taliban, then they may assist with local knowledge.

As a final concern, from what I've been hearing, some of the anti-Taliban force leaders aren't the sort of people with whom the rest of the world should be particularly comfortable. We've got to get away from the, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend.", thinking that contributed to many of the problems in this region. I don't have any good alternatives, but it seems that actually trying to act from clearly defined ethical principles might be a good start.

-- Don Gingrich gingrich@melbpc.org.au


Excellent essay. You have encapsulated the key elements that need to be addressed if international terrorism is to reduced over the coming years (it is no instant solution).

I am an Englishman who now lives in Australia but one who was in Northern Ireland on several occasions some years ago. The IRA, unfortunately sponsored by a number of New Yorkers, did not contain the suicidal element but did contain the element of disregard for human life. It is difficult enough to fight a "terrorist" who believes in sending code-word telephone advance warning of most bombs and is prepared to indulge in ambush tactics which give the opposing units some chance of defending themselves - but a suicide attack with no warning indicates a totally different mindset.

In Northern Ireland there is a wealth of intelligence material available to the British Army and other agencies and this is collected via informers and undercover operatives. In the case of those perpetrating the attack on WTC we are discovering intelligence after the event - and how much of this could realistically have been discovered and evaluated prior to the event? One of the big challenges with intelligence is to determine validity and the evaluation process is often clouded by personal prejudices or a fixed viewpoint. The evaluation is further clouded by the knowledge current at the time (yet another example of the wonders of hindsight) - which means that intelligence needs to be an iterative review process over time as other pieces of intelligence are gathered and how many intelligence agencies have the will and resources to perform this task efficiently and effectively?

Look forward to reading more essays as you develop the theme. Justice tempered with morality - is it achievable?

Regards....Andrew Pursey ur010990@a1.com.au

Wow...fabulous essay. Beatifully written, researched, and extremely well-thought-out. Sincerely,

Jenny youknowhowitis69@hotmail.com

Dear jw@bway.net:

Well, not that you are required to do so, but do you have something to propose?

Before you do so (if you do so), I would ask that you not belabor my ear with another recitation of all the horrendous choices the United States has made in the Middle East and elsewhere (being too easy on Israel by far, pursuing sanctions against Iraq that harm Saddam Hussein's wretched people and consolidate his power, and so forth). There's much to criticize in what the U.S. has done (I, for one, think the Iraq sanctions have been a practical, and moral, disaster). But to a large extent, it's beside the point. Any choices the U.S. makes, any status quo the U.S. enforces, in the Middle East and elsewhere, is going to be passionately resented by somebody. The fact of the matter is that the United States is a great power, and great powers are normally a focus others' envy, hatred, and fear. Cheap, readily available technology gives any and all such persons the option now of terrorism. The U.S. could preclude further attacks like those of last week only by no longer being worth attacking.

And that is not going to happen. No great power (to my knowledge) has ever willingly relinquished its position in the world. Nor should it. Doing so would only create a vacuum, sure to be eagerly filled by people who have anything but American interests at heart. Since we're not going to fade away, and whatever we adopt as a foreign policy is going to make an enemy of somebody, I'll suggest that the difficult problem of how to retaliate and deter should engage our attention more than the difficult problem of what to do in Israel in any given week. (Not that the latter problem isn't also important.)

Other comments occur to me. I think your analogy to the experience of the British and Russians in Afghanistan is less compelling than you believe, because the U.S. (so far as I know) is not proposing to occupy Afghanistan. And If the media exaggerated the effectiveness of "smart" bombs in the Gulf War, they did so because there was indeed something remarkable there that could be exaggerated. It is a fact now that far more damage can be done from the air, with far less loss of civilian life, than could be (and was) done in World War II.

Well, sorry to unburden myself on you like that, but I don't have much to do this weekend, so I couldn't think of an excuse to get up from the computer.


Your subscriber,

Aaron Baker aelegal1@aol.com