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Civilians at Risk in the Hunt for Bin Laden

January 12, 2002

Now that even the administration has recognized that its policy of unilateralism has been an abject failure (i.e., the brewing war in Israel, the rising tensions along the Pakistani-Indian border), perhaps it's time to view the war effort under the same microscope.

Our leadership's apparent unwillingness to put our troops on the ground to cut off escape routes from Tora Bora allowed Osama bin Laden and the majority of the Al Qaeda leadership to escape.

In an apparent attempt to prosecute a war without casualties, I fear we have put our soldiers at an even greater peril, as they will now be forced to pursue a regrouping Al Qaeda into hostile territory and Bin Laden, quite probably, into the bosom of a heavily armed aggressor nation like Iraq.

In the meantime, Bin Laden may be marshaling his forces for another attack on American soil, putting all of us at risk. I think history will view this as a colossal military blunder, the consequences of which we may not begin to understand for some time.

Pat Skipper

Los Angeles

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Re "Questions Lurk in a Dead Village," Jan. 8: So the bombing of Qalaye Niazi in Afghanistan may have been a "mistake," the result of faulty information given to the Americans by vindictive informants. Or perhaps it was not a mistake. Perhaps there may have been Taliban soldiers mingling with the population. The assumption is that if the latter is true, there is nothing to be uncomfortable about. If a few women and children, fleeing for safety, happen to get blown into little pieces, it can't be avoided. This is war, after all.

Why is no one questioning this logic? Why are the deaths of those Afghan civilians any less heinous than the deaths of the American citizens killed in the terrorist attacks?

I have the sense that I have either gone mad or else the rest of the country has. What happened to all the talk of tolerance for others, of our common humanity in this ever-shrinking world? Has fear obliterated all that? God, I hope not!

Victoria E. Thompson

Sherman Oaks

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In his recent tape, Bin Laden, as do a few others, places all the blame for Muslim terrorism on Israel. Each day we read of Muslim terrorism directed against non-Muslims in India, Russia, Africa and the Philippines. In what way can Israel be responsible for the killing of innocent civilians in those countries?

Burton S. Levinson

Beverly Hills

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It is absurd to bring Afghanistan Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation ("U.S. Troops Leave for Cuba to Set Up Afghan War Prison," Jan. 7). To carry these brutal fighters halfway around the world, have them questioned and then take them back to their country is costly and frivolous. Now that there is a government that we established in Afghanistan, it is up to the Afghans to take over the job of housing and questioning these fighters--along with assistance from U.S. military or other federal services. Say "no" to bringing these deadly terrorists to the U.S. base, from which they may be able to work their way into the U.S.

Norman E. Mann

San Diego

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Daniel Pipes identifies correctly the one force that may effectively combat militant Islam in the world: moderate, diverse and empowered Muslim groups (Commentary, Jan. 6). Healthy political struggle in Muslim regimes, the way Madison envisioned it to function in America, is something that will eventually paralyze militant Islam.

It is certainly in America's interest to understand the nature of credible Muslim opposition against militant Islam and to sustain its efforts the way it has with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. As Pipes suggests, this may be the only means by which commonalities between the West and Islam may be preserved in the presence of militant Islam, rather than be destroyed by it.

Amjad M. Khan

Cambridge, Mass.

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