Our anniversary report on 9-11's fallout led readers to muse on an annus horribilis. Many e-mailed their love, support and admiration. Wrote one, "I grieve with America... I love your country... your freedom." Others took issue with U.S. policies in faraway places like Pakistan, Israel and Guantanamo Bay.
Reflecting on September 11
I am an English teacher in a small town in France, and I'm responding to your Sept. 9 cover story, "Beyond 9/11" (One Year Later). I just wanted to say that today, Sept. 11, my heart goes out to the victims of last year's terrible tragedy and their families, and that I grieve with the American people. I love your country and your language. I love your freedom, your hospitality and your warmheartedness. I try to share all this with my students. I bring a group to the States every year and so many of my students want to go that I have to turn down many applicants. Every year, even in spite of the cost, our trip is a huge success and my students cry when they have to leave your country. So please do not believe that all French people are America-haters. I'm ashamed of the arrogant behavior of some of our intelligentsia. A lot of French people love you, America.
On this remembrance day, when people all around the free world are attending memorial services for the victims of 9-11 and paying their respects to those who passed away in that terrible tragedy that affected us all, I want to express my solidarity to my beloved New Yorkers and to your wonderful country. As I watch Ground Zero on television, I see an open wound, a reminder to alert us that hate and violence can only lead to destruction and insanity. We shall strike back with wisdom, brightness, hope, faith and love--exactly what you've been doing ever since. That's the beauty of America's response to those hideous crimes.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Your cover story "Beyond 9/11" is a classic example of American double standards. President Musharraf was a pariah in the international community before 9-11, but after that he suddenly changed into a hero. As he sits tight with President Bush and his stock rises in the Western media, his agenda at home becomes more and more clear. First there was the farcical drama of a referendum, then there were fundamental changes in the Constitution and now, manipulated elections are at hand. Plans to extend his dictatorship have become very clear since 9-11. After all, Osama bin Laden was not so wrong: while the United States practices freedom, democracy and human rights at home and preaches these virtues abroad, it does exactly the opposite in the Third World wherever and whenever American interests are involved. And then President Bush wonders innocently why people hate America?
D. R. Nasrullah
Rebuild the towers; leave no scars for the enemy to gloat over. That would deal enemy morale a blow and show a determination not to countenance terrorism. It would make a meeting place for those who died that day and those who remember them as they go about their daily work. It would make an ultimate memorial, a war between the forces of creativity and the forces of destruction in which the former prevails. The Twin Towers were part of an urban landscape that evolved through the creative genius of generations. They were part of a civilization. That kind of thing needs to be preserved.
T. K. Pitulu
The extraordinary thing about the events of September 11 was not the fact that the United States was attacked by terrorists. Many European countries have lived with terrorism for decades (the IRA in Britain, ETA in Spain, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, the Red Brigade in Italy). Granted, the attack on the World Trade Center was exceptional in its magnitude. But what is truly extraordinary is the U.S. reaction to the attack. First, the Qaeda fighters "detained" at Guantanamo Bay are held in custody without any prospect of a fair trial. Many Americans say that "terrorists do not deserve a fair trial." But if these detainees are not given fair treatment as prisoners of war, American soldiers cannot but expect similar treatment by others when they are caught by the enemy. The United States has also opposed establishing an International Criminal Court, or at least refused to surrender its own citizens to be tried there. This, too, is a two-way street. If Americans distrust the international judicial system, how can they expect others to trust them? The United States is also planning to create "military tribunals" charged with judging non-U.S. citizens, using emergency methods with a selective presentation of evidence, and not subject to the U.S. civil justice system. This undermines the very basis of a modern civilized society. Finally, there's the plan to establish a spying system reminiscent of East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, which corrupted public morale, spread terror and left no one feeling safe. In Germany, 13 years after the collapse of the Berlin wall, they're still washing the Stasi's dirty linen.
September 11 is a day to remember the failed U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and reconsider it. The U.S. government continues to tax each household for military aid to Israel, a policy that has proved not to be in the U.S. national interest. America materially supports Israel in a fight over disputed territory at the expense of making lots of enemies, even though our economic interests lie heavily on the side of those enemies. Tension can be defused and terrorists can be neutralized by eliminating military aid to Israel, announcing the goal of removing U.S. ground troops from the Middle East and establishing the new nation of Palestine. The Israelis can pay for their weapons; the Saudis and Kuwaitis can afford their own armies. Palestine was a nation after World War I and should have been one since World War II.
Professor of Economics, Auburn University
Recalling the horror of last September 11, we might also reflect on the cause of the atrocity: the abject failure of American policy in the Middle East and the hatred for Americans engendered by their unconditional support for the savage and bloodthirsty Israeli regime. The whole world knows that the reason for the ongoing conflict in the region is Israel's determination to hold on to the settlements built illegally on Palestinian territory. Israel has long ridden roughshod over U.N. resolutions, it has committed acts that amount to war crimes and, daily, it perpetrates appalling human-rights abuses. Any other state acting as Israel has done would have become a pariah state by now; it would be threatened with intervention from all quarters. How can a people who suffered so much in the Nazi Holocaust visit so much suffering on another people? Yet world Jewry, to its eternal shame, thanks to U.S. support, seeks to justify every Israeli atrocity. The time has come for the United Nations to act against the United States: determination of the future of the Middle East must not be left to Israel. As for Iraq, it is the American involvement with Israeli--terror that is behind its warmongering against Iraq. Nobody believes that Iraq poses a threat to any country except Israel. Iraq could be the only Arab state with the courage, the will and the means to stand up for the poor, downtrodden Palestinians. To prevent such an eventuality, the hawks in President Bush's administration want to destroy Iraq's military potential, caring little for the lives of people as long as they are Arab, not Israeli. The United States is the bastion of democracy and protector of human rights? Don't make me cry. For America, might is right and ethical principles matter nought.
Roger M. Thomas
Loving the American Way
Please accept my sincerest thanks for the efforts you make to enlighten your worldwide audience on key issues in international affairs. Reading your Sept. 9 last word, "Why Hate America?" I found your interviewees' explanations as to why anti-Americanism is growing unprecedentedly intense today very plausible. The only thing is, I do not quite agree with Costa Rica's former president Oscar Arias's assertion that "people are envious of the United States." I am an Arab, I live in a developing country and I know perfectly well that, in spite of the economic adversities this country is going through, people here in Tunisia take American prosperity as an achievement to be appreciated and emulated, not to be envied. I can assure you that Arabs in general like Americans, and many Arab youths just adore the "American way"--everything from dressing styles to eating habits. As for Vaclav Havel's assumption that "the more dependent party" resents being helped by the "richer party," it seems to me that our highly respected philosopher has missed a key sociological postulate: the dominated party almost always takes the dominant party as an ideal model to be imitated. Does President Havel want us to believe that European youngsters hate American youths? Come on! Finally, I would like to point out that people in the Arab world are aware of the subtle distinction between official U.S. policy interests and how the American people feel about them. It makes a difference.
The Risks of an Iraqi Invasion
Congratulations to Christopher Dickey for his Sept. 9 World View column, "Seeing the Evil in Front of Us." His view of the risks in invading Iraq contrast sharply with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's storming ahead without a grasp of the broader world context. What President Bush and his team lack is true intelligence--not just hidden information but a profound understanding of the realities in which we live and must survive.
Pan-Arabism and Political Islam
Fareed Zakaria's article "Bin Laden's Bad Bet" (One Year Later, Sept. 9) could have more usefully examined the key danger faced by the West--realizing the plan set in motion by the leaders of Al Qaeda. Their experience is that given a clear enemy, the Islamic religion can be sufficient to drive men to overcome insurmountable obstacles (such as the Russians in Afghanistan). They want all Arabs to feel this emotion. Killing Americans in America is not seen as a great strategic win by those in Al Qaeda. What they want is American forces on the ground, in the face of local people. This level of intervention is what they want because it would provide the impetus to rebuild Pan-Arabism. Zakaria's rather hasty rejection of political Islam misses the point.
Havana's Architectural Heritage
Your focus on the need to urgently save Havana's modern architectural heritage is very timely ("Saving Havana," Society & the Arts, July 1). There are, in fact, increasing threats to the survival of individual buildings and an urban environment of very high cultural relevance. Their destruction would be a major loss for everybody. The School of Architecture at the University of Ferrara in Italy is currently at work on a project for restoring and revitalizing the Calzada 10 de Octubre--one of the most beautiful and popular streets of Havana. Unexpectedly, we have found enthusiastic support from several city governments in Italy. This appears to be a very promising beginning.
Dean, School of Architecture
University of Ferrara
Thanks for your excellent article "Saving Havana." As a conservation architect working in Malaysia, I share many similar concerns with the problems affecting our historical towns. Unfortunately, Malaysia does not have the kind of comprehensive urban-renewal projects such as those described in your piece. For example, like Havana, Malacca is also a wonderful result of the meeting of cultures. Unfortunately though, as with all of Malaysia's old towns, Old Malacca is in the process of becoming a legend. The combined effects of global culture and the rush to attract mass tourism has placed this important historical city in unprecedented danger. Instead of a unique character, we are witnessing the birth of another banal and ugly city. It is so impressive to see that there was no place for a theme park in the elegantly restored Plaza Vieja in Havana. I hope you will also bring the problems threatening Malacca to international attention because, like Ever Fonseca, I, too, believe that "all the problems can be transformed by our work into a utopia."
Lim Huck Chin
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In "The Downside of One World," the sidebar accompanying "Saving Havana," you write about Prague and wonder about serving a good local Pilsner with the burgers at McDonald's. I can tell you that you can buy a cold can of Pilsner at every McD outlet in the Czech Republic.
Prague, Czech Republic
You give examples of how badly post-communist countries deal with their great architectural heritage and you mention Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. I must object: Potsdamer Platz was totally destroyed during the last days of World War II. After 1961 the Berlin wall stood exactly on that spot and it was like a desert within a lively city. What should the German builders have done instead of rebuilding it in a modern way? Germany has a long tradition of saving its architectural heritage. During the last 12 years our government has spent billions on saving architecture that suffered severely during the war, like the Frauenkirche in Dresden and the Castle of Berlin that was nearly demolished by the communist regime in the 1950s. I was disappointed that you chose just one German project where new architecture got its chance. Actually, we believe that Germany's way of dealing with architectural marvels that survived two world wars and 40 years of communism is a good example of how Cuba could manage its own cultural heritage.
At last, your coverage did full justice to the nostalgic past and splendor of Havana, which had been the place for literary escape for so many British and American writers and the showpiece of architectural beauty and splendor. Due to U.S. economic sanctions and the lack of funds for maintenance, these unique buildings have deteriorated badly. UNESCO must do something to save this rich heritage without the blessings of the United States, not because Havana does not belong to one period or one political system. It must be saved because the beauty of good architecture is a joy to behold.
Syed Rashid Ali Shah
Vroomshoop, The Netherlands
Potter and the Princess
In his June 10 Periscope item ("Harried!"), John Horn expressed surprise that Mexican movie director Alfonso Cuaron is being considered to direct "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" because his most recent film was the sexually explicit "Y Tu Mama Tambien." But compared to the other two directors Horn mentioned as candidates for the job--Callie Khouri and Kenneth Branagh-- Cuaron is the most appropriate: he directed the best live-action children's film of the 1990s, "A Little Princess."