Drawing a line between blame and self-examination

Thank you for Catherine Labio's opinion piece ("Americans, don't blame yourselves for Sept. 11," Oct. 10). I have been of two minds, wanting justice and revenge for the atrocious attacks, and feeling deeply guilty over our foreign policy and cultural decadence. As a progressive liberal, I tend to be critical of our culture in ways I deem healthy and appropriate - but of late, this critical eye has been all-encompassing and difficult.

Francis DeRespinis

Raleigh, N.C.

In response to Catherine Labio's opinion: I agree that the question, "Why do they hate us?" should not attempt to explain or justify Sept. 11. However, self-criticism and self-examination are prerequisites of understanding - not justification. The average American neither knows nor cares much about US foreign policy. Other nations often - and deservedly so, in my opinion - see us as a nation acting out of self-interest, philanthropic only when it furthers our own goals. Does that justify Sept. 11? Absolutely not. But self-examination might help an often-unaware population educate itself on foreign policy. Maybe then, more of us would demand a diplomatic approach.

Sabine E. Teaver Gainesville, Fla.

Contrary to Catherine Labio's opinion, I think the question "Why do they hate us?" is the only good thing coming out of Sept. 11. It is important not to blame America, but to find out what the enemy is thinking. Looking at US foreign policy in the name of national unity doesn't solve anything; instead, America must change its goals.

"Why do they hate us?" is relevant, because the madmen who flew into the WTC towers have supporters without whom they could not have succeeded. In a country as poor and destroyed as Afghanistan, it is difficult to cultivate trust in America. So the question shifts to: "How do we change attitudes that have developed in the past 25 years?" I hope the aid parcels dropped will do the trick, but I'm skeptical. Afghanistan deserves to be part of the world community, but it will take a long time for wounds from 25 years of fighting to heal.

Adrianus A. Landzaat Mitrovica, Kosovo

Debating Bush's stance - and support

Godfrey Sperling's column ("Bush Must Pursue His Goal to the End," Oct. 2) sounded to me like a pep rally. Attacks on Iraq would only prove that US action in the Middle East is as condemnable as the attacks of Sept. 11. For the sake of justice and true national security, the US should end its war against Iraq; call for Israel, along with its neighbors, to abide by UN resolutions and norms of international law; and work for democracy and justice worldwide - while pursuing the arrest of the terrorists according to international law. If President Bush continues his hawkish recommendations to battle Iraq, the blood of future tragedy will be on his hands.

Larry Howe-Kerr Pueblo West, Colo.

You report that 9 in 10 Americans favor military action ("As strikes begin, Americans hawkish but wary," Oct. 9) - but this simple finding masks ambiguities. First, Americans feel that the government knows what to do. Had our government chosen not to bomb Afghanistan, it might still have received majority support. Second, Americans feel we must respond to Sept. 11 - but special forces, increased intelligence, and compassionate diplomacy might have constituted "something," and been less inflammatory than air raids. Finally, if 8 in 10 Americans worry about more terrorism, this may reflect unease about the Bush administration's grasp of the problem, and its response.

Matthew Orr San Francisco

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