Are U.S. airports still vulnerable to terrorism? Has the Washington Post editorial page turned blatantly pro-war? Readers weigh in.

By Salon Staff

Published August 5, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

[Read "The Last Line of Defense," by Kevin Berger.]

I'm still angry that the airlines could have, but didn't prevent 19 hijackers from boarding planes on Sept. 11, 2001 while armed with box cutters. It seems to me that the Israeli airline has managed to keep hijackers from boarding its planes since 1972 or so, about 30 years of safe flying that we couldn't possibly have matched if we tried.

And that's the key phrase: "if we tried." The airlines -- and many of their passengers -- still put comfort and convenience above security. Congress gave the airline industry billions in aid following 9/11, and much of that aid was spent not in improving security but in keeping airlines afloat (not aloft) while public tensions rose high in the post-9/11 scare. Many of the airlines that received aid had either been out of business or were facing bankruptcy before 9/11. Yet Congress dumped millions on them, too.

In gratitude, the airline industry has fought security measures tooth and nail, resisting modest attempts to tighten up the lax security that permitted hijackers to steal four jets on 9/11 and kill almost 3,000 people.

The idea that they still put convenience, ticket revenue and popularity ahead of security is maddening. When will these people start taking their responsibility to the public seriously? When will Congress and the White House take public safety seriously? America seems incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Frankly, I'm surprised that more jets haven't been hijacked. It must be that nobody has tried.

-- Jon Koppenhoefer

It's ludicrous to say that airport security was horrible before 9/11. Terrorists used to get on planes with guns. These guys couldn't get anything more fearsome than a box-cutter onto a passenger plane. To my way of thinking, that's damn good security.

The only reason the hijackings worked is the same reason hijackings have always worked: the passengers have good reason to believe that if they sit in their seats and do what they're told, they'll survive. No one was prepared for suicide hijackers. However, when the reality of suicide hijackers was only minutes old, the passengers of Flight 93 took charge. Never again will a hijacking work, even if the hijackers manage to get hand grenades and uzis on board; the passengers, having nothing to lose, will overpower them in some way before they achieve their goal.

The 20-20 hindsight finger-pointing that's gone on since 9/11 is unfair and unhelpful. Especially in the realm of airport security, where there was precious little more anyone could have done to prevent these maniacs getting on board. And of course there is sacrifice for the bottom line; to think otherwise is idiocy. At one end of the spectrum, we could have one passenger per jet, with three or four sky marshals just to make sure nothing happens, and the price of a ticket would be in the millions. We sacrifice safety for the bottom line every day of our lives, in our homes, in our cars and yes, in the sky.

Please, can we get back to discussing what we can do to make people less angry with us?

-- Jim Houghton

[Read "The Washington Post's Creeping Hawkishness," by James Pinkerton.]

I'm disappointed that after months of effectively slamming the Fox News organizations and other conservative media for being Bush Cheney '04 lap dogs, Salon.com now has decided to turn around and bash the Washington Post for failing to blindly back John Kerry.

When the author says that the Post "rarely backs Bush, but often pokes at Kerry, which is the same thing" he clearly seems to be arguing that the paper should follow a strict ideological line. It is unbelievable that a news organization can in good conscience publish such a line.

The media should seek to critique both (all) candidates for the presidency. They are not employees of either campaign, and they should not act like they are. The Republican and Democratic parties spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the electorate -- and if they can't withstand criticism from the media then they don't deserve to be elected. If the author disagrees with the Post's position (as I do) then the author should take issue with the specific argument rather than with the papers' failure to back Kerry.

-- David Mithofer

The Iraq issue is not the only one where the Washington Post backs the Republicans and George W. Bush. They also, among other things, back the GOP stance on destroying America's public school system through the use of meaningless, endless and expensive "standardized testing" for school children -- even though every genuine education authority who isn't being paid to say otherwise has come out against such testing.

Why does the Washington Post like the GOP so much?

Well, it's fairly easy to follow the money: The most profitable part of the Post Co., the giant parent corporation of the Washington Post, is its Kaplan division -- which has raked in the cash thanks to Bush's "standardization" scam. As David Povdin notes, the WP was attacking Democrats in general throughout the 1990s. The sudden neocon-ness didn't just start in 2000.

-- Tamara Baker

James Pinkerton sees the Washington Post moving to the right on foreign policy, based on its criticisms of Kerry. In fact, the Post in the past has not supported presidential candidates who showed a complete lack of seriousness on foreign policy.

In 1988, it declined to endorse Dukakis, after he had said that his foreign policy would be to "obey international law," as though that were a foreign policy. As for Kerry, given the amazing contradictions and total lack of substance in his statements on Iraq and the war on terror (he keeps telling us that "coalitions" are the all-purpose answer to all problems, without saying what these coalitions ought to do), it is not at all surprising that the Post is displeased with him.

I won't be surprised if the Post repeats what it did in 1988 -- decline to endorse either Kerry or Bush in the November election.

-- Lawrence Auster

James Pinkerton doesn't exactly make a "slam dunk" case that the Washington Post has been taken over by the Ghost of Neocon Past. Its editorial page has long been of the hawkish liberal type, the FDR-Truman-Kennedy mold, the kind that still dominates (less so than earlier) the New Republic. Is a little diversity among a political side such a bad thing? Does Pinkerton really want black Sudanese to be vulnerable to the Janjaweed because "prudence" is always the best policy? How Bush I-like.

He should also offer some evidence that "many top Bush appointees, still securely in their jobs, pressured the intelligence community to cough up such 'imperfect information'," because none of them questioned have responded that way, and the 9/11 Commission said there's no merit to the myth. It may seem self-evident to the antiwar faithful, but enlighten the rest of us with some actual evidence.

-- Greg Piper

As Mr. Pinkerton correctly noted, the Washington Post is not so much pro-Bush as it is pro-war in Iraq. It may be that the Post's editorial page is still on the defensive regarding its historic lack of judgment when it led the rallying cry for preemptive war in Iraq. This was, of course, after the Post had failed in its journalistic duty to pose the probing questions that might have exposed the lack of convincing evidence of WMD in Iraq, and the total lack of evidence linking Iraq to al-qaida, Islamist fundamentalism or 9/11. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Post would like to squelch any discussion of all that has gone wrong in Iraq up to this point, because the Post bears a share of the blame. Of course the Post insists that all discussion be directed solely toward the future -- where the Post still has an unblemished record.

In light of the incredible mess that exists in Iraq today, the Post's criticism of John Kerry for failing to provide a detailed future strategy is simply demanding the impossible. In June even the current president, a mere two weeks before the transfer of sovereignty, could not identify the entity that would receive sovereignty on behalf of Iraq. The entire history of the Bush administration in Iraq has been characterized by an arrogant refusal to plan for the future -- not even for the immediate aftermath of the invasion, when the predicted widespread lawlessness was allowed to continue unchecked.

Refusing to come clean about its own historic failures, the Post is irretrievably compromised on Iraq. Is it really important, as the Post suggested in "Missed Opportunity," for John Kerry to inform the American public that U.S. troops will be needed in Iraq for years to come? As the incumbent president who sent the troops there, one would expect that duty to fall to Bush.

-- Michael Sande

Salon Staff

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