Reader Mail

Subtle Undermining

United 93 and "who we're fighting." Also: Iran: past the point of no return. Plus much more.

5.4.06

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TO BE FAIR
Re: James Bowman's review of United 93:

Other than Bowman, the Wall Street Journal's Morgenstern seems to be the only one putting the breaks on the outpouring of critical adulation for United 93. In a fleeting sentence Morgenstern lets slip his sense that maybe the film went too far in trying to be fair to the terrorists. Which makes it all the more incomprehensible to hear and read so much about how the movie "reminds us who we're fighting." In his op-ed for the WSJ, Todd Beamer's father also vouches for the flick's efficacy in this regard. If he says so too, well then it must be powerfully true.

But for Bowman's specific point-by-point dissent, we might not be hearing from anybody about the subtle ways in which the film may well work in a manner contrary to those goals. For one viewer that this reader overheard while exiting from a screening late Saturday night, the movie only showed "how stupid our President is." So we get two reminders for the price of one: we're also fighting those who refuse to see the hijackers for who and what they are. Greenglass's mild-mannered until-they-do-their-thing, quietly, devoutly praying, "no thank you ma'am" and "I love you" muttering Muslims aren't any reminder at all of whom "we're fighting."

Another recent movie, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West goes immeasurably further than United 93 does in suggesting with whom we are verily at war. It shakes the viewer much more severely and in an unforgettable manner. Unfortunately it saw nothing comparable to the major distribution afforded the latest release from Universal.
-- N. Spiegel
Miami, Florida

Regarding James Bowman's curious "review" of United 93, it is a pity that the gentleman lost his spectacles and was unable to view the film the same way most of the rest of us did. Surely the film he writes about could only have been shown in his imagination and not in any real world setting where audiences were horrified, mesmerized, and finally moved to tears by the movie's unrelenting realism and intimacy. Otherwise, his grousing about "too soon" and "no heroism" ring hollow indeed when measured against the film's power to prick the memory and gnaw at our emotions, still for many an open wound from that awful day.

I actually sympathize with Bowman's reasoning about why United 93 might be too soon. And if we were talking about looking at events with a historian's eye, I would agree with him. There is much to be said for space to be created not "between illusion and reality" as Mr. Bowman thinks but rather between "news and history." The great Civil War historian Bruce Catton half-joked that the French academy never used to allow the study of any subject more recent than the Napoleonic Wars, believing that at least 100 years should pass before the historian can approach a subject with the proper perspective. And while it may be proper to allow an event to age and ripen in our minds before gaining a valid historical outlook, no such stricture needs to be placed on an artist. In fact, immediacy can add to the emotional impact of the artist's work. It certainly did in United 93.

Mr. Bowman really leaves the tracks when he posits the jaw-dropping notion that United 93"shows some signs of being influenced by the liberal and revisionist view of the events of 9/11, namely that the attacks were at least partly our own fault." Where? How? There is not one single moment in the film that I can recall where I felt director Greengrass played overt politics with the story. There was certainly some subtext in the film that was critical of the government response that day. Good God! Bowman can't be thinking that the response of the FAA or the military was adequate, can he? If, by extension, that means criticizing the President then Greengrass certainly went a lot easier on Bush than the 9/11 Commission. Beyond the confusion and the disbelief shown by the people who perhaps could have mitigated the effects of 9/11 (how that could be possible is not even hinted at in the movie) what the response of the United States government in the film showed above all else was that we were woefully unprepared for those kinds of attacks. The 9/11 Commission pointed this out regarding FAA protocols: "On the morning of 9/11, the existing protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen."

"In every respect" would seem to absolve the administration of the sin most frequently cited by its critics: that they should have expected hijacked planes to be used as missiles to destroy tall buildings. It also points to a theme that I believe came through loud and clear when viewing the government's response during the course of the film in its totality; that the United States on September 11, 2001 had spent the previous decade sleepwalking through history and that the looks of astonishment on the faces of everyone from the FAA, to the air traffic controllers, to even our military said as much as the 9/11 Commission Report could ever say about this subject.

Finally, Mr. Bowman's complaint about there not being any true "heroes" in the film and that some aspects of the passenger assault on the cockpit were downplayed is factual but misses the point. If Greengrass was going to make a film that highlighted the heroism and courage of the passengers -- especially Messrs. Burnett, Glick, Beamer, and Bingham -- the audience would have been catapulted out of the intimate, existential universe created by the director and thrust into fantasyland. I thought that the assault on the cockpit was an extraordinary piece of filmmaking and, ironically, in some ways mirrored the terrorist's assault from earlier in the film. The looks on the passengers faces just prior to launching their attack was a carbon copy of the expressions on the terrorist's faces just before they nerved themselves to carry out their mission. What struck me about this was how it reminded me of the faces of men at war. Whether intended or not, Greengrass reminded us all that, at bottom, 9/11 was an attack on American sovereignty. And the film's power is in reminding us what it felt like to be an American that day.

And giving the hijackers more than one dimension by portraying them as pious men who had loving relationships with their family is no more a glorification of their cause than portraying Hitler as a man who loved children and dogs as was done in the powerful recent film Downfall. In a way, it makes what the hijackers did even more chilling and adds to the film's overall realism. I daresay that if Greengrass had portrayed the hijackers as unemotional killers, it would have jarred the audience out of the world created so superbly by the director.

Hollywood, with its ability to turn reality into myth, is uniquely situated to add events like 9/11 to our national narrative in such a way as to bring understanding and closure. It is a pity that Mr. Bowman failed to absorb the nuances of the film and instead chose to judge the film from such an erroneous and superficial viewpoint.
-- Rick Moran
Algonquin, Illinois

Thank you, Mr. Bowman, for a fine review.

If I should ever have the misfortune of finding myself in like circumstances to the passengers of United 93, my most urgent prayer would be that John Farmer and David Thomson were not aboard, but back at their desks sucking their thumbs as usual, while I and a few other commoners are bashing in the door of the cockpit.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

ONE APPEASEMENT AT A TIME
Re: Andrew Cline's Rouge State Enabler:

When, not if, the Iranians finally produce their own nuclear device it will be incumbent upon the American president to swiftly remove all American forces from with Europe to lessen their exposure to nuclear annihilation. Let the French "Force du Frappe/Crappe" handle Europe's defense. Should be quite interesting.

I'm taking odds the French will be ordering cafe au "goat" lait in short order. And for the Germans, well, does anyone know whether sheep's milk will produce a good "schlag"?
-- Wolf Terner
Fair Lawn, New Jersey

I agree with Andrew Cline that the United Nations has been ineffectual in its dealings with Iran on nuclear development. He is correct when he calls it a myth "that polite, reasoned debate can sway nations to act against their own self-interest." But how does he propose to solve this issue short of unilateral warfare led by the United States? International diplomacy is the only means available for solving problems of this nature short of military force when the underlying economics and the prevailing alliances aren't in our favor. The United Nations is probably the most suitable vehicle for a non-military solution in Iran. I think pacifists and hawks alike would have to agree that additional American military intervention at this time would further isolate the U.S. and set the stage for increased terrorism and unnecessary wars.

If we ever had any political capital in the Middle East, it has already been squandered in Iraq. We would be in a stronger international position today if we had elected a President who "talks softly and carries a big stick" rather than one who threatens belligerently and cudgels his enemies whenever he thinks God approves.
-- Paul Dorell
Highland Park, Illinois

Try as I might, I am unable to distinguish the present Iranian regime from that of Nazi Germany. That being said we need to depart from the "well, it's only the Rhineland" mentally and bomb these terrorist pimpernels into the Stone Age.

My father once said that had Mr. Carter, when he was President, used nuclear weapons on every city of consequence in Iran, when Iran invaded our sovereign territory and captured our embassy, there would be no threat of terrorism from these Paleolithic religious fanatics.

I offer this advice to Mr. Bush because as sure as the sun rises and sets the Iranians will give us that treatment just as soon as they are able.
-- Jason Brutus Kane
Wellington, Florida

Cline might as well thank the U.N. now because as he describes, the point of no return has already been reached.

Iran has some pretty sophisticated centrifuges and nuclear producing equipment and facilities solidly in place. Thank Russia as well.

The point I would like to make is that the danger that we all fear is upon us, not down the road a few years. As Iran continues to enrich uranium, the previous "red line" that one has to assume was moved up after Iran crossed it; we are now faced with the possibility of Iran covertly providing seed material to our enemy's nuclear ambitions or even to terrorists who are undeniably desperately seeking a nuclear weapon. Since Iran is by far the biggest sponsor of Islamist terror groups on the planet, including a strong link to al Qaeda, it would seem nuclear by-products and waste, or even fully enriched uranium for use in making highly radioactive conventional bombs would be a fairly easy proposition. The bottom line is anything nuclear in the hands of the Iranian mullahs and Ahmadinejad should be intolerable.
-- Richard Craig
Corpus Christi, Texas

Mr. Cline paints an appropriately dismal picture for the prospects of a peaceful non-nuclear Iran. Given the litany of the players involved, this "Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight" has no hope or ability to achieve a peaceful victory over a dangerous regime led by a raving madman. At least Mr. Cline had the compassion not to remind us of the intrepid Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the hopelessly inept IAEA, who, God help us, is a major player in this list of losers that will insure complete victory for Iran.

Given the current world climate and the feckless leaders whose responsibility it is to rid the world of such potential cataclysms, Mr. Cline is correct to posit the notion that the stars are indeed perfectly aligned for Ahmadinejad to obtain the weapons necessary to complete his Islamic Armageddon. But Mr. Cline is not without a sense of humor. After all, he, without a hint of sarcasm, stated that France, yes the same France that was the leader of the coalition of the coerced & the bribed (albeit Saddam's, not Bush's, as inanely stated by Jean-Francois Kerry) will help introduce a resolution at the U.N. for tough sanctions. About the only way France's participation in this resolution could possibly produce a positive result would be if Ahmadinejad collapsed dead in a fit of side-splitting laughter. But I shouldn't be so flip, after all, it's nice to see, at least for the moment, that the French haven't raised the white flag to Iran... just yet. It is suspicious however, that France would join the "good guys." That is, unless China and Russia have elbowed France away from the trough of bribes and other goodies Iran is offering its U.N. whores, err, allies. Perhaps Jacques is just too old to learn Arabic as a third language (no, whimpering does not constitute a separate language). All in all, Mr. Cline reminds us of two things; enjoy life while you still can and if we do manage to survive this, it will be because of the muscle of the U.S. and Israel. To turn a phrase on Bertolt Brecht, sometimes it's necessary for Might to Make Right.
-- A. DiPentima

A HOST OF THE WEAK
Re: Quin Hillyer's Here Come Da Judge:

We can all thank Sen. McCain for the latest nomination even being controversial. After all, it was he who knew his colleagues so well that he knew they had no spinal column, and that starts with Sen. Frist and permeates virtually the entire GOP caucus. The Constitutional option should have been invoked long, long ago. Even if the vote had been lost, it would have exposed the RINOs in all their true glory. If the trigger had been pulled on the option three years ago, we might have exposed Sen. Specter early enough for him to be defeated for Judiciary Committee Chairman, if not for the Senate as a whole.
-- Ken Shreve

HOUSEHOLD SCIENCE PROOFS
Re: Doug Powers's Governmental Viscosity Breakdown:

Why do you educated morons try to convince people that our weather is fine and that the world does not show the effects of carbon dioxide. This is no joke. Do me a favor. Go to your garage and close all the doors. Pretend this is the earth! Start you car and set there until your entire tank of gas has run empty. Now if you can, tell me there is not effect to your breathing.
-- Stanley Leavy

ST. CURT
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Enough Blame to Go Around:

Although much credit must go to Marvin Miller's MLBPA role in leveling the baseball playing field, the real hero in challenging baseball's reserve clause was Curt Flood. Flood, a primmer centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, sacrificed his career when he refused to be treated like a piece of chattel. Mr. Flood was blackballed from baseball for his heroic stand.
-- Tom Bullock
West Covina, California

DEIST DEFENSE
Re: Mark D. Tooley's The Founding Believer:

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were all Deists. Each denied the specific teaching of any one conventional church or organized religion. Deists have no bishops, cathedrals, prayer books or hymnals; no pope or mullah. Deism is, simply, a rational religious philosophy which suggests that ethics, moral values and spirituality are just a tad better than the specific teachings and/or preaching of any particular church or organized religion loaded down with bunches of "man-made" rules. Other former Deists include Tom Paine, James Madison and Ethan Allen, so I guess we're in pretty good company.

As I understand it, Theists believe there's not more than one God, and Deists that there is not less than one God. Gnostics are also kinda interesting too....
-- Frost

CRANK CALLS, TOO
Re: Larry Thornberry's Listed for Life and Reader Mail's Republican Lists:

I'm a little behind in my reading but I'd like to join my voice to those who prefer the RNC save their postage on mailings. Yes, I too, do not bother to answer, contribute, or even acknowledge the existence of a "Republican" national committee. As far as I'm concerned, DNC and RNC are quite interchangeable. Actually, they didn't just send us mail but call us also (that is, before I went to cell phone exclusively). We would get a call from some automated dialer which asked us to hold for a recorded message, at which point I hung up. However, let's get back to the crux of the matter. In Vermont, we have a primary in the RINO party for the vacant Congressional seat between a staunch conservative state senator and a RINO woman who was the Adjutant General of our Guard. This RINO has called for Rumsfeld's resignation and other liberal stands; however, that does not stop Laura Bush from coming in state to stomp for her. She is being funded by the RNC, even though this is a primary and the party should keep their hands off. So all you good conservatives, keep telling the RNC to pound sand, and yes, I think it is time to start a third party because the two main ones we have are actually one in philosophy.
-- Pete Chagnon

INTELLIGENCE RUNDOWN
Re: Larry C. Johnson's and William F. Gardner's letters (under "CIA CYA") in Reader Mail's Republican Lists:

Is this the same Larry C. Johnson who two months before 9/11 stated we were completely safe from terrorist attack?

The Declining Terrorist Threat

By LARRY C. JOHNSON

July 10, 2001

WASHINGTON --­ Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.

None of these beliefs are based in fact....


If it is, he should be hiding in shame under a rock, or doing penance in some monastery.
-- Don Herion

Need I remind Larry C. Johnson -- that the "American Victory" in Afghanistan was NOT the work of Ronald Reagan's CIA, but (should be dutifully credited) to an alcoholic, whore-mongering Texas Democrat Congressman named Wilson, who sat on the House Appropriations Committee and a "renegade" CIA station chief named "Gus" who the CIA would rather forget -- funded and ran the insurgency out of the Congressman's office and sent the CIA "office boys" to clean up after the fact. Note to self: the constipated decision makers who occupy that unnamed building in Virginia lost control of the STINGER missiles sent to aid the mujahedeen. Question of the day -- where are they now? Inquiring minds want to know!

House Democrats openly backed Ortega, blasted the Reagan administration on the Contras -- came down on the wrong side of history yet one more time. So, are these really "CIA victories" or were they pre-emptive illegal wars according to the Taliban wing of the Democratic Party?

Lest we forget -- pathetic liberals blame the Republicans for the rise of OBL as a result of this Afghan "victory" so loudly proclaimed by Mr. Johnson. As Mark Twain said... "everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but nobody's entitled to their own facts."

Somalia, 18 dead Rangers -- their naked bodies dragged through the streets. Two Medal of Honor winners (KIA) -- all killed by the CIA's failure to track a huge arms shipment from Iran, through Sudan, into the coffers of a New York City taxi driver turned warlord. CIA failed the U.S. Army yet one more time.

Larry, take a pill. Jed's closer to the truth than you give him credit for in this case.
-- Mike Horn, LTC, Military Intelligence, U.S. Army Reserve, ret.
Tracy, California

I hope someone points out to Mr. Gardner that Ms. McCarthy worked in the Inspector General's office, and in most organizations IG personnel have very broad access indeed. They can't really do their jobs without it.
-- Ed Ahlsen-Girard
Walton Beach, Florida

STICKER SHOCK
Re: Elaine Kyle's letter (under "Driver Beware") in Reader Mail's Republican Lists:

Elaine Kyle in Reader Mail wrote, "It should be required by law that every gas pump has a sticker with the amount of tax being paid on each gallon, then maybe voters would know who to go after about the cost of gasoline."

I don't know if it was the law, but when I was growing up I remember such stickers on the pumps in California and Arkansas. The probably stopped putting them on when they kept raising the tax.

Does anyone remember when the last federal gasoline tax was enacted? It was a 4.3 cents per gallon increase in 1993 by Bill Clinton and the Democrats in Congress who today whine about gas prices.
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

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