In Yemen, at age 5, I joined the American Embassy school; thus began my American journey. I idealized the American spirit that burst into history with a zeal for freedom. I yearned for such freedom in my country, a nation oppressed by a monarchy fearful of the outside world. In 1962, brave soldiers overthrew the king, with the help of Egypt and the USSR. Tragically, America aided the deposed king for fear that our revolution might destabilize Saudi Arabia and its oil. A civil war ensued, costing 1,000,000 Yemeni lives. America - the rich, powerful, but uninformed nation - would drop more bombs on Arabs and Muslims for "national interests," and above all, to oppose the new enemy du jour, Islamic fundamentalism.
While studying in Beirut in 1982, I survived Sharon's attack that used American weapons. I was a physician in training, and I'll never forget an old man in the emergency room who asked me, while holding the youngest of seven children, shattered by an Israeli rocket: "Why does America hate us? Why do they let Israel do this? Where is the American television to show this?" I couldn't answer him, nor can I answer the millions of Muslims who have died because America plays chess with their lives, depending on short-term interests in Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir, or Palestine. My America was again on the wrong side of history.
I am an American and a physician because of the generosity of Americans. Knowing both the Christian and Muslim worlds, it pains me to know we may be in conflict due to our ignorance, arrogance, and misguided prejudice. We fear what we don't know of each other, but our survival depends on asking why our worlds are in conflict. Terrorism killed thousands of innocents on Sept. 11, as it has killed thousands around the world. Will we fight all terrorism, or just "Muslim" terrorism? War is inevitable, but its prosecution must be wise and just.
Mohamed Khodr Winchester, Va.
Thank you for "Pakistan at the brink" (Oct. 15, opinion page), which recognized that a fall in Pakistan's government could hand nuclear weapons to Taliban supporters. War has heightened Pakistani support for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and prompted General Musharraf to sack generals and intelligence agents who support the Taliban. But the US needs these people to provide intelligence information about the Taliban's and Mr. bin Laden's movements! I suggest serious diplomacy to encourage the Taliban to hand bin Laden over to the UN, so that justice can be pursued, and Muslim tensions reduced. Military action is destroying the intelligence that might have been possible with careful diplomacy.
I think many people - particularly well-meaning antiwar protesters in the West - gravely misjudge the Taliban, Al Qaeda terrorism, and many Muslims' attraction to that kind of Islam. I believe that Taliban- and Al Qaeda-style terrorist Islam is for our time what fascism was several decades ago - a monumental danger, to be destroyed with resolve and vigor. Like fascism, it has sprung from an oft-justified feeling that the deck is stacked against much of the world. However, just as we would seek to deter a murderer or thief, despite his disadvantaged background, I advocate that the US deter and destroy Al Qaeda terrorist Islam first, then change the conditions that led to its rise. Like fascism, Al Qaeda terrorist Islam must be overwhelmingly defeated, so that adherents lose faith in it as they see it fail - as happened with committed fascists after World War II.
Hubert Earl Kingston, Jamaica
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