This site updated as of January 21, 2019

September 11, 2001

Following are selected articles and commentaries that have been shared with me via email since the attack occurred. If you have any comments or something to add, please email Paula.

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11/27/01 Peter Katz

November 27, 2001 -- "The Real War"
By Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

9/11 was indeed the onset of World War III, we have to understand what this war is about. We're not fighting to eradicate "terrorism." Terrorism is just a tool. We're fighting to defeat an ideology: religious totalitarianism. World War II and the cold war were fought to defeat secular totalitarianism Nazism and Communism and World War III is a battle against religious totalitarianism, a view of the world that my faith must reign supreme and can be affirmed and held passionately only if all others are negated. That's bin Ladenism. But unlike Nazism, religious totalitarianism can't be fought by armies alone. It has to be fought in schools, mosques, churches and synagogues, and can be defeated only with the help of imams, rabbis and priests.

The generals we need to fight this war are people like Rabbi David Hartman, from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. What first attracted me to Rabbi Hartman when I reported from Jerusalem was his contention that unless Jews reinterpreted their faith in a way that embraced modernity, without weakening religious passion, and in a way that affirmed that God speaks multiple languages and is not exhausted by just one faith, they would have no future in the land of Israel. And what also impressed me was that he knew where the battlefield was. He set up his own schools in Israel to compete with fundamentalist Jews, Muslims and Christians, who used their schools to preach exclusivist religious visions.

After recently visiting the Islamic madrasa in Pakistan where many Taliban leaders were educated, and seeing the fundamentalist religious education the young boys there were being given, I telephoned Rabbi Hartman and asked: How do we battle religious totalitarianism?

He answered: "All faiths that come out of the biblical tradition Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the tendency to believe that they have the exclusive truth. When the Taliban wiped out the Buddhist statues, that's what they were saying. But others have said it too. The opposite of religious totalitarianism is an ideology of pluralism an ideology that embraces religious diversity and the idea that my faith can be nurtured without claiming exclusive truth. America is the Mecca of that ideology, and that is what bin Laden hates and that is why America had to be destroyed."

The future of the world may well be decided by how we fight this war. Can Islam, Christianity and Judaism know that God speaks Arabic on Fridays, Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays, and that he welcomes different human beings approaching him through their own history, out of their language and cultural heritage? "Is single-minded fanaticism a necessity for passion and religious survival, or can we have a multilingual view of God a notion that God is not exhausted by just one religious path?" asked Rabbi Hartman.

Many Jews and Christians have already argued that the answer to that question is yes, and some have gone back to their sacred texts to reinterpret their traditions to embrace modernity and pluralism, and to create space for secularism and alternative faiths. Others Christian and Jewish fundamentalists have rejected this notion, and that is what the battle is about within their faiths.

What is different about Islam is that while there have been a few attempts at such a reformation, none have flowered or found the support of a Muslim state. We patronize Islam, and mislead ourselves, by repeating the mantra that Islam is a faith with no serious problems accepting the secular West, modernity and pluralism, and the only problem is a few bin Ladens. Although there is a deep moral impulse in Islam for justice, charity and compassion, Islam has not developed a dominant religious philosophy that allows equal recognition of alternative faith communities. Bin Laden reflects the most extreme version of that exclusivity, and he hit us in the face with it on 9/11.

Christianity and Judaism struggled with this issue for centuries, but a similar internal struggle within Islam to re-examine its texts and articulate a path for how one can accept pluralism and modernity and still be a passionate, devout Muslim has not surfaced in any serious way. One hopes that now that the world spotlight has been put on this issue, mainstream Muslims too will realize that their future in this integrated, globalized world depends on their ability to reinterpret their past.

9/24/01 Pattie Markley

September 19, 2001 - "Aboard Flight 564"
-- Peter Hannaford, The Washington Times

As it was at most U.S. airports, last Saturday was the first near-normal day at Denver International since the terrorist attacks. On United's Flight 564 the door had just been locked and the plane was about to pull out of the gate when the captain came on the public address system.

"I want to thank you brave folks for coming out today. We don't have any new instructions from the federal government, so from now on we're on our own."

The passengers listened in total silence.

He explained that airport security measures had pretty much solved the problem of firearms being carried aboard, but not weapons of the type the terrorists apparently used, plastic knives or those fashioned from wood or ceramics.

"Sometimes a potential hijacker will announce that he has a bomb. There are no bombs on this aircraft and if someone were to get up and make that claim, don't believe him.

"If someone were to stand up, brandish something such as a plastic knife and say 'This is a hijacking' or words to that effect here is what you should do: ...(see full text)

9/23/01 Frank Miale

(Received) Sept. 23, 2001 - "Faces of Honor"
-- Pete Hamill - City Beat - NY Daily News

He would see them on summer afternoons, big and brawny or wiry and tough, standing outside the firehouses all over the city. Their denim shirts were often stained with sweat. They had the ease of men who did not need to brag about the work they did. It seemed that they were always laughing.

We would see them when the city leaves turned yellow with autumn, standing in the open doors of those firehouses. Inside, the red fire trucks and engines glistened with the pride of craftsmen who respected their tools. They seemed to love talking with small children. They were all, it seemed, fond of dogs. They sometimes paused and breathed deeply of the crisp air of October, for no men understood better the special beauty of a cleansing breeze. It seemed that they were always laughing.

We would see them inside the closed doors of the New York winter, waiting casually, almost indolently for the sounds of alarms. Upstairs, they talked with passion about food, for they cooked for themselves, and the menu was a kind of democratic choice. ...(see full text)


9/19/01 Rob Murphy

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2001 -- Obligation to Protect

If this isn't our final wake-up call, nothing is. All Americans will need to concede some civil liberties that we have taken for granted for so long. It's the least we can do. Good rules bad, and that can never change again. Move on...yes, but learn from this terrible waste of lives and resources that protecting our freedom and that inate primal need to feel "home and safe" has a real cost that should never be compromised.


9/18/01 Myriam Touimer

Friday, September 14, 2001.
-- The following is an observation by Tamim Ansary, an Afghani-American writer He was interviewed by Bill Moyer on PBS (see transcript: , after the incredible world-wide distribution his letter received via Internet e-mail, and how/why he wrote it:

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later, I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done." And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters. But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." ...(see full text)

9/13/01 Peter Katz/
Martha Greenblatt

Thursday, September 13, 2001 -- A personal perspective of the events in NYC
--By Professor Joachim Kohn, Board of Governors, Professor of Chemistry, Rutgers University Department of Chemistry

Dear friends:

I had spent the last 10 days in Israel and happened to return one day before the terrorist attacks took place in the USA. During the last 10 days in Israel, I toured the Muslim Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem and made a short trip through the West Bank, bringing me into close contact with the Arab population. In view of the current events, I would like to share with you some of my personal observations.

Several weeks ago, a front page report in USA Today described the secret world of suicide bombers (I have a copy available for those who are interested). It showed that every single suicide bomber is a devote Muslim who strongly believes that by killing himself he will be entitled to enter the "7th heaven" where he will enjoy (among other benefits) the services of 60 heavenly virgins to fulfill all of his wildest sexual dreams while being totally deprived of any female contact on earth. From my experiences in Israel, I can confirm that this provocative "USA Today" report is essentially correct. ...(see full text)

9/11/01 Steven A. Brown Tuesday, September 11, 2001 1:26 PM -- A Very Sad Day
A triumph of evil. God help us. I worked in New York City in the early 1970s, when the World Trade Center was being constructed. It was a time of optimism about the future. I have wondered how long those twin towers would stand, and guessed that they would be an enduring monument to our civilization in ten thousand years. Now they are gone, in my lifetime. It is horrible and shocking, as Pearl Harbor was to those living at that time. When I heard the news, I wept. We are at war, against terrorists determined to destroy America. We must be vigilant. I think we should close and secure our borders. Too many have been allowed in who harbor ill will toward us. Those who seek to destroy us operate freely within our borders. That must stop. We will survive the present disaster. We must be vigilant. God help us.
9/17/01 Melissa Brown

Monday, September 17, 2001 -- The Sad State of Afghanistan
--Unknown source

Take a look at this:, paste this link into your browser and behold the piteous enemy. They have no crops, no forests, no water, no industry. There are 26 million of them with a life expectancy of 46. They have no constitution, no army, no government except for factions and the fanatical self proclaimed Taliban. They have only 100,000 television sets 21,000 phones, almost no paved roads and a measly 26 km of railways, a per capita income of $800 annually. Women cannot vote and the literacy rate among women is 15% and 50% for men. They have existed for 81 years are still too illiterate and factious to form a government. They are religious fanatics... ...(see full text)

9/12/01 Peter Katz/
Julie Greenblatt

Wednesday, September 12, 2001, NYC -- When the Unimaginable Happens, and It's Right Outside Your Window
-- By CLYDE HABERMAN, New York TImes

O you get it now? It is a question that many Israelis wanted to ask yesterday of America and the rest of the finger-pointing world. Not in a smart-alecky manner. Not to say, "We told you so." It was simply a question for those who, at a safe remove from the terrorism that Israelis face every day, have damned Israel for taking admittedly harsh measures to keep its citizens alive.

"Suppose I had intelligence reports telling me that someone was going to hijack a Boeing 757 and crash it into the World Trade Center," an Israeli official said yesterday. "And suppose I used an M-16 to kill him. According to the arguments being used against us, I'd be an assassin, illegally using American weapons." ...(see full text)

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