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How 9/11 is viewed

January 30, 2007

Re "Apocalypse no," Current, Jan. 28

David A. Bell's thesis requires the suppression of critical facts, which is always dangerous terrain for a historian. His thesis also requires the willful use of bizarre risk comparisons. Body counts do not capture the full gravity of an event, nor do they mean the same thing to different peoples. The assassination of a single man ignited World War I. Many of the 20 million Soviet deaths in World War II resulted from Stalin's military strategy.

Bell also hides his partisan purposes. Since the 2004 campaign, members of the left have personalized the current war in George W. Bush. This puts them in the awkward position of professing support for U.S. troops risking their lives and dying on their behalf but showing contempt for their mission. Such cowardliness is necessary for the partisan purpose of regaining power. Bell's commentary seeks to expedite that process. The 2008 campaign is underway, and for the left to regain power, it must erase what we learned from 9/11.

RICHARD B. BELZER

Mt. Vernon, Va.

*

Bell brings some long-overdue rational perspective. The war on terror, as conceived and waged by the Bush administration, is revealed as over-hyped, unnecessary and unlikely to achieve much, if any, of its stated goals. But no picture of what has happened to the United States since 9/11 is complete unless you "follow the money."

As tiresome as it might have been to drag out and re-quote President Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex, this is one point Bell missed. With the right leadership, America's reaction to 9/11 could have been careful and calculated, increasing protections against future terrorist attacks without tearing at the fabric of our society and wasting blood and treasure in fruitless armed invasions. But, sad to say, we have a president and vice president who are all too cozy with the industries that stand to profit from war. This is not leadership, it is highway robbery.

TED REISSE

Sherman Oaks

*

I disagree with the wide distinction Bell draws between modern terrorists' evil intentions and potential capacity. Armed with just knives and careful planning, a small, dedicated cell of 19 men managed, in the space of two hours, to slaughter thousands of innocents while destroying historical monuments in the heart of American (and world) civilization, came real close to killing a large number of our highest-ranking military leaders at the Pentagon and might have, had a handful of courageous souls not fought back, flown a passenger jet into the U.S. Capitol, potentially killing hundreds of our politicians and for decades shaming America into a dark, stigmatized corner where curtailed freedoms and a loss of privacy would have prevailed in a paranoid, quasi-military state. Believe it; they came that close.

RUSS WILSON

San Diego

*

It is obvious that Bell has not learned the lessons of the 20th century. The fact that the terrorists and their state sponsors like Iran have not been successful on a massive scale is not for lack of trying. Had we taken Hitler and Tojo seriously in 1936, Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust may not have happened and millions of people may not have been killed. Every threat, especially in the Nuclear Age, must be taken seriously at its inception.

BETZALEL "BITZY"

N. EICHENBAUM

Encino

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