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Rethinking America's Place in the World

One historian quoted in "Terror in America" (Special Report, Sept. 24) says: "It will shake the way Americans think about their place in the world." Maybe it has escaped the average American and President George W. Bush lately, but America has always been looked at as the leader to follow, especially by the populations (if not their leaders) of Third World countries aspiring to mimic the American way of life and the freedom and democracy that come with it. Whenever the U.S. tends toward isolationism, those who look to her as a model feel betrayed.

Those who think that this is a religious war are mistaken. Muslims pray to the same God as Christians and Jews. Suicide is banned by Islam: Indeed, if a Muslim commits suicide he is not even entitled to a prayer on his tomb. Jihad is a defensive act, not an offensive one, and has nothing to do with killing innocents. Unfortunately, history is filled with politicians hijacking religion to enhance their own agenda. Those who do recruit desperate people living in a den of misery. The U.S. must tackle the roots of the desperation that leads people to commit such desperate and reprehensible acts.

Ali Nsouli


More hits from flying objects, no matter where, will cause more innocent victims. The Sept. 11 extremists are coming from a world that cannot share our values, because their masses are too poor, in many respects, even to think about a future. Next to oil, we appear to care only about the rich and powerful. But it is time to get to know the masses of that world.

Paul Kruip

La Roque d'Atheron, France If it is proved that Osama bin Laden is responsible for the terrorist acts, the Islamic countries must capture him and bring him to trial before a secular Muslim court ("The Mideast maelstrom may get much worse," Special Report, Sept. 24). That's the only way to prove to the world that America and the Islamic countries are honest in what they say about the war against terrorism.

Jean-Claude Malaguti

Antibes President George W. Bush's action to mobilize troops and get funding for a war (with Afghanistan?) is perhaps not the best way to heal the wound ("This changes everything," Special Report, Sept. 24). Bush needs to reflect on what has occurred since he took office. His heavy-handed way in international politics has ruffled more than a few feathers: quitting the Kyoto Protocol, unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear treaty, advising against South Korea's "sunshine" policy with North Korea, breaking his promise to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, etc.

While none of these justifies killing innocent people, war means more lives will be lost. It should be noted that economic sanctions (as in Cuba) and military actions (as in Iraq) are never absolutely successful.

Kow Ping

Hong Kong "What must be done" (Editorials, Sept. 24) says "France and Germany have consistently undermined U.S. efforts to contain terrorism in the Middle East by, in effect, trading with the enemy." Unfortunately, you don't write who the enemy is: the Palestinians, Syria, Iran, Iraq, the Taliban, the terrorists? Are you sure that your "enemy" is also Germany's and France's?

Regarding "moderate Arab governments have continually allowed extremists to inflame anti-Israeli and anti-American passions": You are right to use the word "inflame," because those passions were already there. After the attacks of Sept. 11, America is in a war mood, and rightly so. However, new terrorists will take over as soon as the old ones are put away until America deals with the huge pile of hatred that it has stirred up in the Arabs of the world. This is feeding the terrorists past, present, and future. How can this be done? By reversing its civic policy in Palestine and ending the toleration of Israel's discrimination against Palestinians.

Giovanni De Lord Rinaldi


As to the need to "field a new armyto track down and destroy terrorism": Terrorism isn't a "thing" that exists in specific times and places: It's a state of mind. You don't fight terrorism--let alone beat it--with spies, missiles, or soldiers. You fight it by understanding and removing the causes (and they are many). However, much as I despise the Taliban, I am quite certain that leveling Afghanistan won't solve anything besides American frustration. Can you really afford that?

Vincent Verschoore

Donzy-le-National, France

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