Nat Hentoff tags all the bases of hysteria in his polemic attacking the FBI (“Undermining free speech,” Op-Ed, Aug. 30). His hyperbolic comparison of St. Louis to “Castro’s Havana” ought to warn off even those ignorant of the facts that Mr. Hentoff ignores or distorts.
Fact No. 1: J. Edgar Hoover may be the favorite bugaboo of radical civil libertarians like Mr. Hentoff and the ACLU, but Mr. Hoover and the FBI were right. The Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the United States spent the better part of the 20th century spying on the United States and trying mightily to undermine our institutions in every way they could. Most of the abuses associated with McCarthyism were the result of excessive zeal by persons and institutions outside the FBI.
Fact No. 2: The September 11 commission report makes clear that the FBI’s ability to track at least two al Qaeda participants in the September 11 attacks was shackled by regulations imposed on the agency by Clinton era officials of the Justice Department, including former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and Richard Scruggs, director of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.
Fact No. 3: Violence and much property destruction have been visited on various cities by peace-loving “protestors” over the last five years or so. Did Mr. Hentoff miss all that? Republicans and Democrats alike are entitled to hold their conventions in peace, so that they can exercise their own sweet liberties of speech and assembly. A reasonable amount of investigation is not oppression, but prudence.
Fact No. 4: Mr. Hentoff’s smear of today’s FBI is simply peddling yesterday’s garbage. There are truly evil people in America today who are working assiduously to cause massive damage to Americans. Thousands of nameless, faceless FBI agents that Mr. Hentoff smears with his broad brush are often all that stand in the way of bloody chaos.
Finally, what exactly is Mr. Hentoff’s beef? By his own account, when FBI agents showed up 30 or 40 years ago to question him about his sources for his criticism of the FBI, he rebuffed them. Some quarter of a million demonstrators marched in New York on Aug. 29. Mr. Hentoff’s lantern show of scary horrors notwithstanding, the hankering of these delicates to express whatever it is they think they have on their minds apparently remains mostly unchilled.
The final irony is this: For decades radical libertarians on the left apologized for Soviet spies and intellectual saboteurs by pretending, and perhaps even believing, that these traitors were gentle intellectuals being savagely oppressed by the right’s Red-baiting goons. Today, radical libertarians on the right make virtually the same apology for almost any anarchist or insurrectionist who has a beef againstgovernment.The essence of such ideologues and the support they blindly give to our enemies foreign and domestic is their inability to learn from simple fact.
Some Mideast nonsense
Arnaud de Borchgrave repeats yet another canard: that the expansion of housing settlements just approved by the Israeli government will sever the West Bank and make it impossible for Palestinians to have a contiguous state (“Mideast fighting without end?” Commentary, Aug. 30).
Rubbish. Even if I had not visited the Jewish state dozens of times and lived there in the 1980s, a map of the region would disabuse me of Mr. de Borchgave’s contentions. The areas to be expanded are in and around Maaleh Adumim, a city of about 30,000 lying a few miles from the present borders of Jerusalem. Expanding this settlement will hardly sever the West Bank; it will, in fact, be an expansion in the direction of Jerusalem (west) rather than toward the Jordan River (the West Bank’s eastern border).
Mr. de Borchgrave should know this. Why then does he choose to repeat what critics of Israel’s settlement policies consider their strongest weapon: the assertion that a Palestinian state will be foreclosed by Israel’s settlements? Simply because the statement casts the Jewish state in the worst possible light — exactly the pattern of Mr. de Borchgrave’s essays. In the midst of a presidential campaign, with President Bush distracted and no candidate in any mood to take on Israel, the Israelis are once again doing their best to undermine American policy in the Middle East by closing the door on the hopes and aspirations of the peace-loving Palestinian people. What nonsense.
In response to Stephen Salaka’s letter (“Unfair attacks on Kerry,” Aug. 30), sorry to disappoint the liberals, but this is not a case of “George Bush is at it again.” This is a case of 527 organizations are at it again. The only linkage one can come up with between President Bush and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is of common donors.
This being said, why is there no massive outcry to hush the likes of George Soros and his MoveOn.org cronies? The liberal 527s have made numerous attempts to smear the record of Mr. Bush and his administration based on misguided allegations and disproven evidence. These same liberal fronts are dumping funds into the Kerry campaign. But the Republican Party is smart enough to stray from reaching for conspiracy theories and accusations of unlawful dealings that it can’t prove.
The “official U.S. Navy documents” referencing the allegations of actual events in Vietnam are vague and do not prove either party right or wrong. How this proves a group of 250-plus veterans of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to be liars is unclear to me.
Accusations made by the left wing are misplaced, and should be concentrated on 527s, and not on Mr. Bush, who has expressed displeasure with the airing of these ads.
An enduring enemy
President Bush’s opponents are circling like sharks because he said that the war on terror could not be won (“Bush’s loose lips give Democrats more firepower,” Page 1, Aug. 31). Though Mr. Bush retracted his statement, I believe that terror will never be eliminated as long as people are on Earth.
Even though Islamic terrorists in foreign countries cannot be confronted in the same manner as our domestic murderers next door, there are some similarities: They pick the time and place to strike; they blend in with innocent parties until that time arrives; they rely on our observance of societal norms; and, when they no longer care about their own well-being, they strike unless they are captured or killed.
There have always been terrorists, just as there have always been criminals, but the Islamic terrorists we face today are a phenomenon that has gradually grown to become a worldwide threat in the past 20 years. Their form of terrorism can be defeated only when a generation of Muslims is raised on something other than hatred of other religions. In the meantime, we can only fight them to retain our right to live as we choose. Where will those fights take place? If we hadn’t taken the fight into Afghanistan and Iraq, we would have already been kicked out of the Middle East or we would have had truck bombs on our streets. If we were to pull out of Iraq tomorrow, the numbers of Islamic terrorists would multiply and swarm into Saudi Arabia and our country.
So, excuse the president if he has a slip of the tongue by being honest about “winning” a war on terror. This is a real war, not a criminal investigation.
ROGER E. HARRIS