Alexandria, Va.

I could not agree more with "National Security State" by David Cole [Dec 17]. As a twice-wounded Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, I am horrified by the "security" measures hastily taken by this Administration. We have not seen such a blatant assault on the Constitution since we incarcerated Japanese-Americans in World War II. Perhaps the Attorney General should issue orders to mail letters to males aged 50 to 70 with Italian surnames asking them to "voluntarily" come in and talk about what they might know about organized crime.

The real threat to the freedom of the citizens of the United States does not come from the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. The greatest threat to our freedoms comes from George W. Bush and John Ashcroft.







Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

I agree with many of your letter writers ["Boxing Days" Dec. 17]. Jack Newfield, as usual, has hit the nail cleanly on the head. The beautiful and brutal sport of boxing can't be abolished, because every time it has been–nineteenth-century England or early twentieth-century New York–it has mushroomed in illegal form, like speakeasies in the 1920s. What it begs for is reform, an honest and aggressive trade union for the only professional athlete with no protection, no pension. Newfield's Bill of Rights for Boxers should be our fistic Ten Commandments. May the powers that be (and the powers that shouldn't be) heed his prayers. Power to the fighters.







Reno, Nev.

Thanks to Edward Said for some rare clarity ["The Clash of Ignorance," Oct. 22]. Yes, we need to destroy those bastards–in self-defense, not because of any far-flung notions like a "clash of civilizations." Hitler & Co. were Western (Christian) analogues of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, to the nth power. Now that was a bastard offspring if ever there was one. What civilization did they represent? The guiding principle? (Mass) psychosis happens. It's in the genes.




New York City

Samuel Huntington, in his The Clash of Civilizations, did not suggest that the Islamic world was "evil" or "bankrupt." He did not suggest that it did not have a rich cultural, scientific or technical heritage. He emphasized how recent the West's ascendancy has been. The point that Huntington was making was that the twentieth-century obsession with ideology (democracy, fascism, communism) was no longer the rallying point of peoples but rather their ethnicity, religion, language grouping and cultural heritage. And in a world of competing interests, the West and Islam (facing common borders, incompatible ideologies and shared enmities) would come into conflict. This would happen with or without Osama bin Laden. This is not about terrorism–or fundamentalism. It's about a broader move for competition between cultures, made all the more prescient with the decline in the relative strength of the West. Edward Said chooses to ignore Huntington's thesis and offers up political correctness in response, thereby failing to challenge Huntington on a theoretical basis.





Edward Said portrays the September 11 attackers as an isolated band of fanatical criminals with no significant relationship to the broader Islamic world. Said's claims clearly do not hold water. He says, "Why not instead see parallels, admittedly less spectacular in their destructiveness, for Osama bin Laden and his followers in cults like the Branch Davidians or the disciples of the Rev. Jim Jones at Guyana or the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo?"

The falsity of such parallels is immediately evident. Attempts by authorities to restrict or eliminate those cults did not result in demonstrations across half the globe of tens of thousands of sympathizers and supporters. The pro-bin Laden demonstrations we have seen from Gaza to Pakistan to Indonesia do not bode well for his claims. This is not to say that the vast majority of Muslims are not tolerant practitioners of their faith; it is merely to say that bin Laden and his camp are not a tiny isolated friendless minority; if they are an aberration, they are a vast one.




Palo Alto, Calif.

Let me add a footnote to Edward Said's excellent article. While Said is certainly correct in his description of Huntington's "civilizational" argument against Islam, the remedy Huntington seeks for the United States targets another large group internally–not only ethnic and diasporic groups but a number of political protesters as well. Indeed, Huntington finds that "the central issue for the West is whether, quite apart from any external challenges, it is capable of stopping and reversing the internal processes of decay" [emphasis added]. He names the causes of this "decay": "Western culture is challenged by groups within Western culture. One such challenge comes from immigrants from other civilizations who reject assimilation and continue to adhere to and propagate the values, customs, and cultures of their home societies…. In the late twentieth century…American identity [has] come under concentrated and sustained onslaught from a small but influential number of intellectuals and publicists. In the name of multiculturalism they have attacked the identification of the United States with Western civilization, denied the existence of a common American culture, and promoted racial, ethnic, and other subnational cultural identities and groupings."

Huntington does not mince words: "Rejection of the [American] Creed and of Western civilization means the end of the United States of America as we have known it. It also means effectively the end of Western civilization."

Two years after the The Clash of Civilizations was published, Huntington drew the connection between immigrants and progressive academics in an essay for Foreign Affairs: "The growing role of ethnic groups in shaping American foreign policy is reinforced by the waves of recent immigration and by the arguments for diversity and multiculturalism."

But it is crucial to note that this 1995 piece merely develops a line of reasoning Huntington began two decades earlier, in his work for the Trilateral Commission. In the commission's 1975 publication The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, Huntington remarks: "The essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private…. People no longer felt the same obligation to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves…. Each group claimed its right to participate equally–in the decision which affected itself."

In short, while lauding the active participation of more and more diverse populations on the one hand, on the other hand Huntington is concerned that there may be too much of a good thing: "The vitality of democracy in the 1960s raised questions about the governability of democracy in the 1970s…. In the United States, the strength of democracy poses a problem for the governability of democracy…. We have come to recognize that there are potentially desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy."

Thus, with the growing calls to re-examine domestic civil liberties, it is useful to see how a "civilizational" conflict abroad ties into one at home, with specific ramifications for immigrants, ethnic Americans and certain progressive points of view.







Chapel Hill, N.C.

Perhaps the intensity of patriotic zeal in the aftermath of the September 11 attack has abated enough finally to pose the question, What was the fate of the many millions of flags printed in newspapers back in mid-September? A casual glance around store and car windows confirms that only a small fraction of them are actually on display. Have the others been stored away after a duly ceremonious and careful folding, stars on top? Or, as is more likely, have they been thrown away and, if so, has the disposal been done as 4 USC §8, stipulates "in a dignified way, preferably by burning"?

It is a sad fact that all who recycled those newspapers without first removing the flag are guilty of flag desecration, and environmentalism is at last confirmed to be an anti-American plot. On the other hand, those who sent their papers to the incinerator are true patriots, the dioxin released in the flag-burning assuredly no more dangerous than the smoke that once hung over Fort McHenry. But woe to those who may have used their newsprint flag to wrap fish, since the code explicitly forbids "using the flag as a receptacle."







An addendum to the letter, and Christopher Hitchens's reply [Dec. 10], about the introduction of coffee to Vienna in 1683: Some bakers' apprentices were working at night, preparing the next day's bread, and heard the sounds of a tunnel being dug by the Turks under the city wall. The boys alerted the army and thus an invasion was forestalled. As a reward, the baker boys were granted the exclusive privilege of baking a rich roll in the shape of the Turkish crescent. It became popular as the Kipfel. About 100 years later Maria Theresa's daughter Marie Antoinette came to France as the bride of Louis XVI. She missed her morning Kipfel and imported a Viennese baker to teach the French how to make it. The latter, of course, improved the recipe, and produced the croissant. The rest is gastronomic history.







Brooklyn, N.Y.

There is no one like him. We have missed him. We can go to the movies again!



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