Letters on the New York attack

Readers share thoughts about the World Trade Center disaster and David Horowitz and Bruce Shapiro's takes on it.

By Salon Staff

Published September 12, 2001 8:27PM (EDT)

Would David Horowitz like to explain how a missile defense system could have prevented the hijacking of four civilian airliners and using them to destroy the terrorist targets? No? Didn't think so ...

-- Jane Carnall

Clearly yesterday was an opportunity for George W. Bush to rise to the occasion, and just as clearly, he failed to do so. His four-minute "address to the nation" was the most patently inadequate series of platitudes I have ever heard in all of my 44 years on this earth. He appeared nervous, unsure, and disconnected from the emotions and anger of the American people. Most folks I talked to, including some conservative Republicans, were at first stunned, and then angry and disgusted. I can't tell you the number of times I heard, "God, I wish we had Bill Clinton back again."

The news anchors are too polite to say this, but I believe there exists a serious undercurrent of discontent in this country right now.

-- Sheila Fyfe

David Horowitz is an idiot! Is he suggesting we place missile launchers around all our national monuments or landmarks? Is he suggesting shooting down any domestic commercial airliner that goes off course? Space based lasers to decimate foreigners? I would agree airport security needs to kick it up a notch, but should we live only in fear? If bin Laden is shown to be responsible, we should remember the CIA trained him in terrorist techniques. We should be working towards peace and prosperity for the entire world and not just grabbing it all for ourselves and to hell with the rest of the world.

-- John Corriveau

Forgive the fragmentary nature of my letter -- the day has been long, and David Horowitz's audacity leaves me nearly speechless.

"... the first duty of government is to provide for the common defense." If David is quoting the Constitution, there are a few things which come before it, not the least of which is "establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility."

"... missile defense system that will prevent even bigger terrorist disasters in the future." I guess we could shoot down planes with the satellites, since commercial airliners have GPS locators and other devices that would help our aim.

"... outweigh the objections of the ACLU ..." Which would include outweighing (dangerously close to "outlawing" don't you think?) civil liberties, the middle part of the ACLU's name.

David, don't worry -- your country will respond to this "act of war" with its very own war, though not soon enough for your bloodthirsty saber-rattling!

Does anyone other than me find it funny that David Horowitz was against war when he was young enough to be drafted, but is now in favor of it since he's too old to be of use in a battle?

-- Cal Godot

David Horowitz said this attack shows the US is 'soft," and says the US should build the missile defense boondoggle.

What planet is Horowitz on??!!??

Bush's fantasy "missile defense" would have done absolutely nothing to stop today's attack!

That money needs to be put into what could have helped, like better intelligence agencies.

Face it, Horowitz has shown over and over he is a right wing shill with no shame, and the same lack of logic and reason he had when he was a Marxist.

-- Ross Sauer

I'm sorry to see that the otherwise sober and informative collection, "What does it all mean?" was marred by the inclusion of more wild rantings by David Horowitz.

"How could obvious targets like ... the World Trade Center towers be so undefended?" he asks incredibly.

I can only guess that in Horowitz's perfect world, all skyscrapers would be fitted with gun turrets, manned 24 hours a day.

"America has ... stripped itself of even prudent defenses," he goes on ridiculously.

Which defenses does he have in mind? Did someone disband the Army, Air Force and Navy while I wasn't looking?

"America is in denial that much of the world hates us ... " he informs, shockingly.

Funny ... I'm 53. I've known all my life that much of the world hates us, and I've never met a single American who wasn't aware of this rather blatant fact. But thanks, David. I'd almost forgotten.

" ... it's time to spend the surplus on national security now," he suggests.

Too late, David. Your pal George W. already squandered it in a shameless attempt to pander to the voters -- and in record time, I might add.

"Beginning with a missile defense system that will prevent even bigger terrorist disasters in the future."

But of course! In response to an existing threat, we must bankrupt our country for a space-based Maginot line, which hasn't even demonstrated it can defend us from a theoretical threat. Brilliant.

But then, I've learned to expect no less from David Horowitz.

-- Wayne Smith

Three cheers for Bruce Shapiro for sounding a lone call to reason amidst the grief that is turning into vengefulness. I heartily agree that this is a wake-up call for the American people to take back our foreign policy from those who would use it to prop up dictatorships and corporate interests. I truly hope that we have the character to emerge from this tragedy a better nation, and not a more vindictive one.

-- Keshini Ladduwahetty

Thank you so much for Mr. Shapiro's article. It is frightening how much American hatred and xenophobia is lurking within our people. With the message from our leaders and the president that does not address healing, only retribution, the racists are hearing that it's o.k. to rant and promote unfettered bile.

I agree that increased surveillance powers for the FBI or a strike-hard act does not address the situation. The current rhetoric seems quaint and dangerously outdated. I long for a farsighted leadership that opines and strives for a solution that yes does not reduce "the responsibility of the perpetrators of this week's attack, or diminishes the need to bring the full force of domestic and international law to bear, but does find a way that does not keep us in a continual strike/revenge mode that obviously does not work and robs us of our loved ones.

Even the president's good vs. evil words simplify and trivialize this horror, the hate diatribe being posted and promoted by Americans is evil too.

-- Charlene Abrahamson

I was completely devastated by the crashes yesterday. I felt helpless. I can only hope that our government will take swift action to resolve this issue as soon as the party responsible is unmasked. As I sat in my living room glued to the television, I thought of all the families whose lives have been affected by this horrible act of terrorism. All the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and coworkers who went to work that day, unknowing their lives would come to an end later that morning.

I can only express my heartfelt sorrow to those families who have been ripped apart by this senseless tragedy, and pray that the Bush administration will bring those responsible to justice. As for the Palestinians cheering and throwing candy, celebrating the deaths of innocent Americans, I think our government must hold them accountable as well. Thank God for all of the privileges we are afforded as Americans, and pray that this will never happen again.

-- Jessica

Bruce Shapiro must be the biggest bleeding heart left on the planet. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, only one member of Congress voted against the declaration or war. I do not doubt he would have been with that lone misguided person if he had been there too. The country is well past dirty tricks or small punitive bombing missions which the author is right in saying will only breed more enemies. We are engaged now in a war and we must persecute it to the fullest with only the unconditional surrender of our enemies as its objective. German and Japanese children do not grow up to bomb our buildings even though we crushed both countries utterly in WWII. Countries where anti-American sentiment is this vile must be destroyed completely.

-- Lawrence Liao

Leave it to David Horowitz to use the bodies of other people as his soapbox. Which is natural, because other people's lives mean nothing to his infantile ego. Of course, if he could demonstrate how National Missile Defense would have protected the country yesterday, our admit that if America is "soft" than that softness extends, in exponential amounts, to the presumably conservative super-patriots who staff the FBI and CIA, then I would gladly take back my words. Good luck to us all.

-- George Grella

We have now found the cars filled with fight manuals in Arabic. We have identified the terrorists responsible for this so-called war. Israel gave up land that they gained with their blood when the Arabs attacked them in the hopes of peace. They did everything they promised and the Palestinians have done as little as possible. Now the Palestinians say it's about Jerusalem. Should we give them a city that is holy to three religions so that they can destroy the holy sites just as they did Joseph's tomb. The Palestinian people danced in the street and cheered!! This picture was definitely worth a thousand words to me! I want them out of my country and if you are an American who is plotting against this country then you should be executed for treason. Let them take their misogyny and violence back to their home countries.

-- Crystal

As usual, Jake Tapper had to strike out against our president by calling him our "communication-challenged" President.

While I had no problem understanding Tapper's attempt to communicate with the unfortunate folks like myself, who read this piece of trash, I find it much easier to understand this presidents' communications and goals.

Tapper's point is easy to understand: Trash the opposition. It's too obvious that name calling and lies are your only weapon. It's hard for them to support their cause by telling the truth.

Tapper's attempt at making the President out to be a coward by not flying back to DC right away just shows how much of a idiot he is. Jake, why don't you really reach out and be a snake in the grass and connect up with bin Laden like a couple of other brave journalists have done and then "bravely" go to jail to protect your sources?

-- Steven

I am a government teacher at Sandpoint High School in North Idaho. I fail to understand why we can't unleash our military on the people who are responsible. We talk about economic sanctions and, charging these people with war crimes. What about the crime against humanity? The people who were killed were not servicemen -- they were everyday innocent civilians. I feel we should retaliate in the same manner. MAKE AFGHANISTAN A CRATER!!! They cheer and revel in our pain. Men, women and children it should not matter. They hide this man (bin Laden) they should all be held accountable. Then maybe other countries would think twice about attacking the most powerful nation in the world!

-- Matt Perry

Let me suggest the following -- build timeout rooms at all major domestic airports.

The rooms can be used by officials to send every pampered, selfish traveler who chooses to complain about showing IDs or enduring medal detectors at gate areas.

Minimum punishment would be 20 minutes. Hopefully many such morons will miss their flights.

-- Kenneth Farragh

Yesterday was our generation's Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center is our USS Arizona. The fact that so many are entombed in the rubble and so few can have survived, once the chance of finding any more alive ends, the wreckage should not be removed nor the buildings replaced.

The site of America's worst single event should be left as it is as a most solemn monument to all those who died that fateful day even if it means the terrorists bodies also lay buried within.

The process of the digging and recovery of what little remains can be identified will be much too painful to the survivors and the families of the dead.

What a horrible day and even more horrific event. It can not ever be forgotten. The sorrow I feel is immense at the least.

God bless the good people of this nation and all those good people who have died or suffered in this most numbing and senseless trauma.

-- Michael Dunatov

"Whoever the culprit is, you don't lower yourself to their level by bombing a city with innocent civilians." So writes Robert C. Gray.

I count myself among the many Americans horrified and saddened by the tragic events in New York and the District of Columbia. However, I am equally appalled by the sort of morally superior rhetoric that I see in quotes like Mr. Gray's. And he's not the only one. Chattering commentators (on television and in my office) clamor to condemn attacks on civilian targets as the province of fanatics without consciences. This is true, I believe. But. More civilians have been killed by patriots and soldiers with surnames like mine than have died at the hands of Strawman bin Laden.

-- Mark Phillips

My family lives about 50 miles east of the city and I have a brother-in-law who is unaccounted for. Our hope is that he worked quite a bit away from the WTC and that he is just unable to contact my sister. Words can not express my feelings of anger and sadness. The extent of the evil perpetrated against innocent civilians defies belief. I am worried that the enemy here is a vicious ideology filled with hate and jealousy and not some bastard cowering in a smelly hole in the desert. This act of evil has affected all of us ... American, Kiwi, Aussie or French. The USA was chosen because it is the most visible and shining example of the strength of the culture we share. It was an attack against our civilization's conviction that a person has worth ... even if we disagree.

My biggest concern? How do we defend ourselves against an enemy who has no concern for the lives of the innocent? How do we defend ourselves against those who have no concern for their own lives and are taught that for killing innocents and themselves, they will go to heaven and be served forever by 72 beautiful virgins? How do we defend ourselves against an enemy that has no capitol? Do we retaliate against an entire religion? Or region? Or stinking hole in the desert? No assassination of the leader of this act will replace the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters or friends of those no longer in this world. God bless our friends around the world who see what this really is. Big country or small, those of us who believe in freedom and liberty need to stand up to the plate (American term, sorry) and strike down and strike back at this cult of death and destruction. All of my countrymen appreciate your prayers and concerns.

-- Laurence Percz

Tuesday's terrorist attacks are the direct result of George Bush senior's failed Iraqi policy. He heeded bad advice from Colin Powell -- advice that it was unnecessary to depose Saddam Hussein, the worst danger to world peace since Hitler.

The lesson taken from this failure by terrorists and rogue despots is that America will bow to "multilateralism" and fail to pursue unconditional surrender and war crimes trials. Osama bin Laden and his like were emboldened to continue (for the past 10 years) ever escalating acts of terror, secure in the knowledge that they, personally, would not seriously be held to account for the slaughter of innocent civilians.

Now comes Bush junior, who assures that we will take action, but it will be targeted and precise and only after a complete investigation where guilt is unambiguous. These constraints didn't work for the past 10 years of terror, and they are inappropriate now.

The correct response is a unilateral declaration of war against "terrorists" en masse. Osama bin Laden, his Taliban co-conspirators, the Iraqis who provide technical and logistical support, the countries who supplied fraudulent passports and other documentation. If you take out just one of the terrorist cells, even if it's the "right one" this time, the others will simply expand to take it's place.

The time for half measures is past.

-- Rich Black

While no one can say whether it would have prevented the WTC attack, it must be noted that Bush's unwillingness to take an active role in forcing Israel's right-wing government to go back to the peace process of handing over occupied lands to the Palestinians and ending the provocative settlements on Arab lands surely allowed the current belligerent mood in the Middle East to worsen. Only the U.S. has the power to compel Israel to move towards peace and reconciliation with its own Palestinian citizens and those whose families have been forced into decades-long exile from their ancestral homes. As long as that Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues, America, as Israel's prime ally, will be a target, and no amount of anti-terrorism warfare will change that.

-- David Lindorff

I have to say that the comments by David Horowitz and other like-minded conservatives are almost as frightening as the horrible criminal act that prompted them. Even though I know that his comments are well intended, doesn't it occur to him that his is exactly the response that America's enemies want to hear. His call for further erosion of our rights and liberties in the name of security is music to the ears of terrorists. This act has shown the U.S. and the world who the new enemy of freedom and democracy really is. It is the terrorist and no amount of military hardware or missile shields can protect us from that enemy. I am not smart enough to know how to protect America from this type of attack in the future. Maybe the answer is that we can't totally protect ourselves from this type of atrocity. But, I am smart enough to know that America should not give in to terrorism by destroying the very freedoms that make us the target of terrorists.

-- Bill Ticknor

I noticed none of your accounts were eyewitness accounts of the attack on the Pentagon. I was driving north on 395, listening to the account of the World Trade Center attacks. I passed the Pentagon exit and rounded the bend, and there was a passenger jet. That stretch of highway is in the flight path for National Airport, and I'm used to planes flying low. But not that low, it was much, much too low, and not on the right trajectory. And I knew exactly what I was seeing, even before it came down. I've blocked most of the actual crash out of my memory.

I can tell you now about witnessing this kind of thing: You don't experience it with the evolved part of your brain. All day, the sound of fighter jets and sirens made me cringe. Even the sight of open sky makes me anxious. A puff of steam from the water I was boiling for pasta was a reminder of the smoke ball. I had to put away my 2-year-old's toy airplane, the one where you push the pilot's plastic head down and it tools along by rubber-band power.

I drove up 395 again today. As soon as my car left the on-ramp, I was scared to death. I cried as I started rounding that corner, and as soon as I was past the place where I'd pulled my car over to the side of the road, I stopped crying. Welcome to the monkey part of my brain. I'm getting to know it better than I wanted to.

-- Stephanie Thomas

The backlash and biased attacks against Muslims are already under way -- in the streets and in the American media, and it is bound to get only worse from here on. People in power and strategic positions throughout the country must step in and make clearly worded statements to avoid unjust attacks against a certain group based solely on their appearance and their religious beliefs.

For example, a news item on a Web site has written what appears to be a cooked-up, planted and seemingly false story. It stated that a piece of luggage of a passenger who did not make a connecting flight had three pieces of items in it: a gauge to measure fuel, a map of some sort of the flight/airplane, and a copy of the Holy Qur'an. This story seems fake and planted, as were lies planted in the media in the past about babies in Kuwait being unhooked off life-saving devices at the onset of the Gulf War, and the picture of a Chinese man challenging several army tanks during the uprising in China for freedom and democracy. Muslims normally would not put the Holy Qur'an in checked in luggage. They hold them against their bosom out of respect for the Word of God. This is why I believe this news item has been planted in the media, and this and similar ones to come must be removed by responsible men and women from world news because evil acts do not deserve evil retaliations, only just actions.

-- Name withheld

Mr. Horowitz's response to the acts of terrorism is absurd. He sounds like an angry gym coach: "American is soft." Then advocates for the missile defense shield -- which would not have helped us with the airplane hijacking situation. Apparently too many liberals are consorting with terrorists. This man is a loony. Apparently he forgets how often conservatives have propped up evil military regimes.

-- Jeff Daniels

Are the Palestinians who celebrated yesterday's attacks not in any way aware of the historic sea change in public opinion that had been underway in the United States? Are they completely ignorant of the fact that many here were beginning to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict quite differently than in decades past? And if they are so unaware, why?

I am not, as some have suggested Americans ought to be, made more sympathetic to certain Israeli tactics -- such as political assassination -- by the behavior of some Palestinians yesterday. Surely, however, the sight of Palestinian children dancing in celebration of mass American death and destruction will have some chilling effect on the sympathy that many thoughtful Americans had begun to develop with Palestinian claims for compensation, right of return, etc.

-- Danielle Pelfrey

I'm stunned -- David Horowitz is a complete nimrod and I can't believe you're not embarrassed to have this kind of viper on your staff. In the wake of this horrible tragedy, while all your other commentators are busy offering constructive, healing, or otherwise meaningful commentary, Horowitz is still doggedly playing political games, leaving footprints in the blood of the victims of these attacks. While others are pulling everyone together or looking for solutions and answers, he is inciting hatred and divisiveness.

-- Marc Williams

I just moved from New York to Florida less than two months ago. Seeing what I saw today on the news has sent a wave of shock and sadness through every bone in my body. I still have friends and their families missing and can only imagine what they and their families are going through. Today this horrible act has set families without their children and children without their parents. Being a New Yorker all 22 years of my life, living and working in the city, I never thought I would live to see the day where something like this would happen. I send my condolences and deepest sorrows to the families that have lost their loved ones and my prayers are with the families that are still looking for their loved ones.

-- Andrea Dee

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