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Share your thoughts on what it takes to win the battle against terrorism. What lessons do you draw from the Reagan administration's counterterrorism efforts of the 1980s?

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photo of a highjacker holding a TWA pilot hostage, june 1985

Dear FRONTLINE,

It is a terrifying and enlightening look at the history of this phenomenon of American hatred by a select few in the Arab world. It is obviously a culture war and prosperity envy.

While I'm ashamed to see the same Reagan administration players involved again, I have to stand behind them in this effort. I don't feel that American policies are to blame. While not perfect, to blame our peace seeking efforts over the years is as Tony Blair said so elequently, "is to turn justice on its head."

There is a conception both here and abroad based on the history of the world that Western Caucasions run the world and exploit the rest of the cultures. It may appear that way, but the truth is more are included in the prosperity than ever before, and more will be in the future. The future offered by acts of terrorism is a one way ticket back to the stone age. September 11th is an example of what that would be like. I won't go there.

Mark York
Sunland, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching the Frontline 10/4/01 I was overwhelmed in realizing how old this issue is. Roughly 30 years of a not-so-successful, war-on-drugs like approach to terrorism and mid-east policy has resulted in Sept. 11th.

The portion of the program that concentrated on Libya and our treatment of the country was especially troubling, because now I am convinced that capturing Afghanistan and Usama bin Laden will be meaningless as a threat to the West will resurface somewhere else in the world with a new face. This is a war that will never be won in a military sense, we have to concentrate on our foreign policy.


LA, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Shame on Frontline. After the excellent documentary on Hunting Bin Laden I was excited about and encouraged colleagues to watch the Thurs. Oct 4 follow-up program. The program also was excellent in its limited documentation of a number of USA government confrontations with terrorism.

After a careful, logical progression of analysis of terrorist crises, decision-making and successes and failures in the Carter and Reagan periods, one would have expected conclusions - extremely relevant to September 11 - of the catastrophic failures of intelligence and national defense - both then and last month.

Instead, Frontline lurches irrationally forward in its conclusion to condemn the failure of reliance on international law and justice enforcement in dealing with terrorism during the last nine years?!? How Frontline leaped to this summary conclusion is incredible? No documentation or analysis of the international law track of efforts preceded this condemnation. In fact, if you had examined the efforts to strengthen the use of international law and justice you have made a strong defense of this approach - though none of us argue it alone will be enough.

The cowardly abandonment of the logical path Frontline had documented on the need to recognize the tremendous failures of US intelligence and national defense is inexcusable. Blaming international justice and Congressional limitations of disastrous, criminal covert intelligence operations of the 70s reflects a major intellectual and moral failure by Frontline editors and producers. Shame on you.

william pace
new york city , ny

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the program on terorism and the attacks on this country with great interest. I was somewhat aware of the situations in the Middle East and I must say that whole situation is a very confusing and explosive one.

As a native american and an American I can say that I emphathise with both the Israelies and the Palistinian peoples. Our country, too is occupied by a foreign government and yes our people too were slaughtered by the millions. Yet beyond all of that I consider myself an American.

As the buildings were crumbling September 11, I just began to pray and as I prayed I was ashamed for the first time in my life to be a human. The Hatred and the murder all in the name of God. I figured, here we are on this tiny planet and we have the audacity to kill in the name of the All Mighty and at the same time ask for forgivness as we kill our "Enemies" our fellow human being. We even go so far as to ask for his blessings and protection as we kill/murder each other. How do we make sense of that?

Donald Meyers
Missoula, Montana

Dear FRONTLINE,

First we have to understand why one choose such extreme measures to be make a political point. The reason being no other ways is available.

The US with its Veto power will not allow any resolution against the Israelis to be brought up even in cases where the rest of the world wants to.

In Saudi Arabia people are killed for airing their grievances against the government, if you take a poll in that country almost everyone is against the US presence. So only way they can make a point is to kill US soldiers.

The rest of the world is seeing what the US is doing to the Iraqi people, how can one protest against that, the US didn't even bother to go through the security council to approve of its no fly zone because it knew that it cannot. People in the gulf region see that the US is after its oil and the corrupt and dictator regimes in that region are supported by the US. So as long they help the US the US will turn a blind eye to their atrocities against its people.

So if you do wrong to others don't expect others to sit there quietly just because you are the bully. When people have nothing to lose, they become the most dangerous type. So the US should try to be fair what it does in the rest of the world, you can fool your people but you cannot fool the rest of the world.

Ali Raza
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although I have appreciated most every Frontline Program in the last several years, I found your "American Terrorism" program pathetically misinformed and misleading.

No mention of Sharons bloody invasion of Lebanon and slaughter of thousands of Palestinians. Nothing about the CIA's use of the Mossad to set off car bombs murdering hundreds of Lebanese Christian and Moslem women and children. Massive arrests murder and torture of thousands of civilian Lebanese after the US supported Israeli invasion of Lebanon, just so Israel could have bargaining chips to exchange for their IDF prisoners.

No mention of the USS Vincennes downing of Iran Airbus as the most probable reason behind the Pan Am bombing.

From Schultz on down, apparently all our CIA and State Department officials still apparently cannot openly even now state the truth: US support of 50 years of Israeli genocide in the Middle East is the key factor behind all past, and unfortunately probably future acts of terrorism against the US.

john mosby
san francisco, ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for the enlightening look at how terrorism has been with us for some time and how we as Americans have a large part of the problem by letting political considerations dissuade us from our duty. Your report did make it appear that we as a society are too afraid to take definitive action.

As a veteran, I, too, feel sad and a little ashamed. I do however, feel there is something that America could have and should have done to eliminate the causes of these kinds of actions. As a wealthy, powerful nation, it is clear by the impoverished state of these starving and dejected people, that we, obviously have not used our affluence to affect good for the people of the world, but, rather have indulged ourselves with endless luxuries and really turned our back on the resposiblities associated with leadership. By allowing poverty, starvation and deprivation to burden these desperate people, we have fueled their contempt and honestly given them good reason to hate use. It is quite obvious to them, the only time we offer aid and support is when it serves our own interests.

I believe we should devote our economy and industry to serving the needs of the world on a continuing basis and make it our main objective to bring relief from hunger and deprivation to ALL peoples of the world. But, leaving these people hopelessly impoverished, starving and desperate, how can we expect them to agree to peace?

R. Baker
Shreveport,, Louisiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

It seems obvious to me that we need to open another front in the war on terrorism, an educational front. Granted the West is ignorant about Islam, however most Islamic people appear to be in the same situation. We should encourage the Islamic religious leaders to get together and define what is an acceptable interpretation of the Quran in areas such as: dealings with others of their faith and outside their faith, comparisons with the beliefs of other religions, etc.

We should explain to them that there was a time when the religious groups in the West were in a similar situation. We fought amongst ourselves and attacked other groups with similar beliefs. We should explain our feelings of guilt for and opposition to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Perhaps with a better knowledge of the history behind the separation of church and state in the U.S.A. they might learn to respect our rights and those of their Islamic neighbors more.

John Adam
Hebron, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

A terrific one hour which sadly makes us realize that this is not a recent, but a long run problem. I hope that the people who are currently planning our response were watching last night's show. I was more than a little ashamed of myself when I realized that I had lived through the terrorism of the

1980s with the naive expectation that none of this could reach me directly.

Far too many lives, both civilian and military have been lost without an effective plan and effort to counter this very real threat.

Henry Brown
Wethersfield, Connecticut

Dear FRONTLINE,

Contrary to what my fellow citizen from South Carolina feels, I do not fault Clinton for failing to stop terrorism. It is my belief that Bill Clinton recognized this danger and took all of the actions to remove this threat he could politically.

I feel very strongly that Rush, Tom Delay and Bob Barr were so obsessed in destroying Clinton they accused him of "Waging the Dog." Instead of going to Clinton after the embassy bombing to see what needed to be done they stepped up their attacks on what they saw as weakened enemy. I blame them for the failed missile attack ... if they had gotten on board I think Clinton could have ordered a more effective attack. Instead the famous Chicken Hawks attacked Clinton for trying to divirt attention from their joke of an impeachment campaign.

What does Clinton and Gore do now the shoe is on the other foot? Do they bring up this failing of Republican to support their campain to get Bin Laden? No, they support the President. I think we might avoided this whole attack if the Republicans had gotten behind Clinton like the Democrats have gotten behind Bush in 1998. Why?... because they did not want to take a chance on Clinton slipping out of their trap and becoming a hero by taking out Bin Ladin.

Brad McGrew
Fort Collins, CO

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am an Afghan American born in Kabul Afghanistan. I oppose terrorism as do all true Muslims along with all human beings on this planet.

Watching "Target America" allowed a whole new outlook on what a deceitful politically charged propangandish society we live in. We as American citizens and human beings must come together and intelligently strive towards abolishing terrorism all over the world.

The piece was also an eye opener as it gave a deeper insight into the inner dynamics of terrorism...the formation, the rise, the events leading up to the tragic WTC and Pentagon attacks. I have many convictions about fighting for democracy, however, if democracy is the root of all evil then I do not want any part of it. Beginning with the Reagan era, Cold War, Iran contra affair, hezbullah, Libya bombings, airplane hijacking, the PLO and Khadafi, these all played a major role in giving birth to the devil himself Osama Bin Laden. I believe that the United States has made many errors in dealing with past policies and situations, however it is evident that there is a "Clear and Present Danger" facing us all.

With the cooperation of NATO allies we will rid terrorrism clean off the face of the earth. The counterterrorism of the Reagan administration were not decisive enough. I believe that the Coalition movement is our best hope in thwarting terrorism. rooting out terrorism and consequently bringing it to it's downfall.

Jamshid Naebzadeh
Parsippany, New Jersey

Dear FRONTLINE,

When we visited in Cairo, Egypt in 1996 we learned that there is one former U.S. president who is loved and respected in the Middle East. That one president is Jimmy Carter. Perhaps we could learn from his success in building good will.

He handled a hostage crisis gently and Iran has since moved forward, he has worked as a peacemaker between nations, and he has worked to eliminate a disease in Africa that causes blindness.

Connie Jones
LaGrange, IN

Dear FRONTLINE,

The same people that prevented all previous Presidents to take action are still in power. Israel is the silent bear in the woods...its hand out to collect billions from American taxpayers every year and then use their own terrorists to instigate.

The plan is so clear...let the U.S.A. fight the Palestines, Arabs, Muslims etc. for the Isralis. Isn't that what we were seeing tonight on Frontline? The deliberate omission of the last eight years remember the "Cole"

Bill Moyer? and the bombing of innocent people in factories which was an abomination. Were you compromised here because Senator Clinton threatened you? When our own media is "sleeping" with our Congressional leaders, we will never know the truth. Wonder if Drudge and Rush can stomach this.

My ultimate hope is that EVERY CONGRESSIONAL LEADER IS THROWN OUT OF OFFICE FOR BETRAYING THE CITIZENS OF THE U.S. All FORMER Presidents need to be tried for treason.

Do you want to end terrorism? STOP FOREIGN AID beginning with Israel.

Claudia Stenson
Sun City, Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought this program was pretty informative and gave some more depth to the story of how the U.S. came to be hated for its inept and self serving policies in the middle east.

I was struck by the sight of all of the familiar white guys who are recycled through the succesive administrations, they always seem to think they are going to get it right this time, but they just keep making the world a worse, more dangerous place. It seems to be an unstated assumption that the U.S. has a right to be in the middle east to begin with because of our god-given right to cheap oil. I would like to see the true history of all of the wars that have been fought for oil. Why don't you take off the kid gloves and get to the real story. Follow the money!

David Vohs
Port Townsend, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

This is a time where all of us has to stand together. Dealing with these killers is like dealing with Hitler during the 1930's. If we do not do something, the attacks will become worse and worse. Some kind of military response is needed.

Yet, we must understand that this is a long process. During the Reagan administration, they were too cautious. There should not be a measured response. There is no measure to this. We need to build coalitions, understand different cultures, and do not use bigotry against any group to strike out. We need to have clear objectives, have all our missions planned well, and a backbone by the American people to be will to realize that loss of life will happen. We have to be willing to do this to guarantee our freedom and our future.

Jon Finley
Napa, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Since September 11th I have talked to many people about what they think the causes of terrorism are and almost to the person they have named our support of Isreal against the palistinians.

Many people in the United States have not gotten accurate information for many years about how palistinians live in Isreal. In recent years this has slowly begun to change and public opinion has begun to shift against the Isreali state and this has the Isreali government extremely worried.

The United States entered into this pact with Isreal over the protection of america's oil companies in the middle east.

People in the United States are afraid of being branded as anti-semites if they criticize america's relationship with Isreal.

It is time we stop our reliance on Oil and convert to renewable energy sources and it is also time we stop supporting Isreal's treatment of the people who lived in that country before they came there.

The Isrealis colonized that land with brutal force and they continue to do so today.

If it were any other country doing the same thing we would be criticizing them for human rights violations and refusing to have political relations with them. Arabs are not stupid and they too understand this, only too well.

We must demand of Isreal if they want continued relations with the United States at all that they must stop oppression of the palistinians.

All this is a tall order but it can be done with the will to do it. With George Bush and Dick Chenney both oil men in charge I don't see it happening.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia

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