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ground zerojoin the discussion: What are your thoughts on the roots of militant Islam and the minds and motivations of those who hate the U.S.?


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for providing a more in-depth perspective to the middle east issue. I have felt embarrassed by the media's (and government's) superficial presentation of the issue evident in comments like "they hate us, they hate our freedom, they are evil, etc." as explanations for this tragedy.

It is evident that the core problem in the middle east is poverty and a lack of human rights. If only the human and monetary assets of these well-organized extremist groups could be directed to these issues.

The views expressed by the dissidents suggest that we are responsible for many of their problems. The countries themselves and their peoples surely need to assume some responsibility. The United States may be a superpower, we may be self-serving, we may be focused too much on economic gain and not on higher goals, but we are not responsible for the ills of the world.

We border few countries and Americans are not constantly exposed to other cultures except within our borders, where these cultures have been assimilated. The average American will find it difficult to understand cultures that remember thousands of years of tradition. We have a naivite, an idealism that is not based in reality, and are very arrogant in our position of geographical isolation and our affluence.

We have some growing up to do in the world arena. This tragedy makes obvious that we need to look carefully at the nature of our future involvement on a geo-poitical level and not forget the past.

I must end by stating that I am disinheartened when I hear blame placed at our involvment with Israel from some of your respondents. To me, this is just more of the same.

Diana Goldberg
dallas, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

I have thoroughly enjoyed your program over the years because of its unbiased reporting and attention to the facts. This segment was quite a disappointment. It made me really angry how the fundamentalist was given so much time unimpeded to state his case. And yet those representing governments were continually challenged. It sent a chill down my spine when the fundamentalist smiled and said he was glad Anwar Sudat was assassinated.

The media must be very careful not to be a tool for the Islamic fundamentalist. I feel that would be very dangerous at this time. The facts should be stated and analysed but extremist ideas should not be agrandized.

jacksonville, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

If I am to understand your program last night correctly, the United States - and its support of corrupt Middle Eastern regimes- is largely to blame for the poverty in the Middle East and the concomitant violence against the west. Of course this ignores the fact that Afghanistan, the most impoverished and brutal state of all, falls outside the American protectorate and is in fact ruled by fundamentalists, but why let facts get in the way of some good old-fashioned western journalist self-loathing?

If your show purports to explain Muslin rage, how can you not once mention the Islam faith itself, and the inability of Muslin states to accomodate themselves to modernism, secularism, democracy, the state of law? Why have Muslin states evolved differently from, say, Vietnam, which we certainly violated to a far greater degree? Yesterday the Taliban stated the fight was between believers and unbelievers. Frontline thinks this is code for, "stop supporting Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and all will be fine." I think they mean what they say. Islamic fascism, like Nazi fascism, can only be partially explained as a reaction against the west. Frontline impoverished our understanding by ignoring this sad fact.

J Riley
santa monica, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I've been a big fan and supporter of PBS but this is the first time I've been moved to contact you. I watched the program last night and was shocked at the fact that the interviewer was a virtual accomplice with the Egyptian follower("the BadGuy"), giving him softball questions, not contesting him on anything. He even gave him a chance to repeat some of his points as if we didn't hear them the first time(eg. Calling Sadat Pharoah). It was like watching Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. I was squirming in my seat,hoping he'd ask this guy why he and his buddies came here in the first place. And yet he saved the hard, combative tone for the American officials, even trying to put words in Ambassador Walkers mouth("bribery"). It was the worst example of journalism I've ever seen.

David Lee
indianapolis, indiana


Dear FRONTLINE,

"Frontline: Looking for Answers" has been the only news report since 9/11 that is not superficial.

American people should understand that everything has a cause and a consequence. Sure, we are the victims of the 9/11 terrorist acts, but if we search deeper, look inward instead of outward, we should see that one root cause of the problems is our unconditional support of Israel. ...

I am sure the American military won't give up until Bin Laden is captured or dead. Even if we erase Bin Laden, we won't solve the terrorist problems. With this war, many more Muslim fundamentalists the world over will be inspired and agitated and we will have worse security problems. Most third world countries would rather engage in civil wars than being manipulated by foreign powers. Americans need to respect that. Stop playing favoritism to Israel and get out of Saudi Arabia, and we will have a better chance for peace. It is so shameful of us to say that the majority of the Saudis want us there (what is the basis of such claim)?

Toni Chan
atlanta, ga


Dear FRONTLINE,

In watching your recent program, "Looking for Answers" I felt that at last someone in the media was willing to explore the role that American foreign policy has played in creating a global environment conducive to the development of such a vast terrorist network. Certainly, we cannot be blamed for the ferocity of the attacks against civilian targets, however, we would do well to try to understand why such hatred for the US and our policies in the Middle East has developed.

One of my greatest concerns over the past month has been that many American citizens seem unwilling to examine the legacies created by our foreign policy and our use of military force. Rather, we seem willing to accept the simplistic notions presented by the media and many policiticans that the attacks are inexplicable and are motivated by hatred of our "freedoms". It is gratifying to see that Frontline and the NYTimes are willing to engage in a more thoughtful analysis of the events leading to the Sept. 11 attack. A pressing question for me is: How do I, as an American citizen, push for greater attention to this kind of analysis in the mainstream media and among our nations leaders?

beltsville, maryland


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your reporting has been excellent. Is there any way your news organization can work in conjunction with the 24 hr Arabic news agency Al Jazeera (spelling?) to coordinate some sort of live town hall type meeting involving American Muslim,Jewish,and Christian leaders and journalists like Bill Moyers or Mr. Bergman with journalists, political and religious leaders from several Middle Eastern nations. What I would like to see is a creation of a thought provoking dialogue between "average Americans" and "average Arabs" to try to gain a better perspective of past and present problems.

blacksburg, va


Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching your program, "Looking for Answers", I am forced to ask, "Do our leaders have any memory or even any knowledge of world history?"

It is quite evident that the root of all extremism is poverty and injustice. We have only to look at the last century to see the meteoric rise of Nazism. Have our leaders forgotten that despicable period in human history? Nazism attracted many young Germans because of the dire economic and political situation in Germany after World War I. A similar situation exists today in much of the Middle East and Asia.

Extremism is not a new phenomenon. It has existed throughout recorded history. How quickly our leaders forget.

Rahfat Hussain
minneapolis, mn


Dear FRONTLINE,

I really appreciate your program, because it is probably the only objective program that is aired. You just place the facts and people can understand the truth and make their judgements. The question I have is why is it being concealed that the number 1 reason for acts against americans is their continuous support to Israel. Do the american public really know what Israel is doing with this support. Do they know that Israel was created with the use of terrosism? I really think not. Because the general public will not condone what happens in Israel if they really got to see the real picture. The attacks against americans are really unfortunate, since they are targeted towards innocent people. Unfortunately the Middle Eastern society does not know what the average american is like. Just like the americans do not understand and know what an average middle eastern muslim is like.

mckinney, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for a very in-depth look at the Islamic world, and it's problems. Unfortunately the majority of our citizens are not aware of our meddling and the devastation it has caused in the Middle East, for many years now. All this so a few arms producers and oil companies can have high profits. These same oil companies will do anything possible to prevent us from moving on to other reusable forms of energy.

Most of our citizens are unaware of the cost to all this. Billions to launch a war (one missle=1.5 million dollars). Billions and billions to increase our home security, which can never prevent determined terrorists. Who is paying for all of this? We are, the citizens. While there are so many elderly without medications and we all worry if there is enough money to save social security, our government lulls us into battle cries hopping we miss the point.

The point is, all this mess is easily preventable! When we start being fair in the Middle East by not financing oppressive Arab governments and not looking away when Israel breaks peace treaties, commits human violations, builds illegal nuclear weapons and bombs it's neighborsóthen these oppressed masses of Muslims would look to the west as something to copy and not to loath. ...

Helena Boyd
boston, massachusetts


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your show tonight was the first I have seen on television since this crisis began (9/11) that seriously attempted to explain the grievances against the United States that seem to be fostering hatred for our country in the Middle East.

The U.S. government (and I am a U.S. citizen, born and raised in this country, so I can say this!) can be supremely arrogant in its dealings with both the peoples and governments of other countries around the world.

While I do not support the terrorists in their chosen tactics (killing any and all Americans wherever they can be found), I do agree that they have legitimate grievances that absolutely must be addressed by the United States and its "allies" in the Middle East.

Specifically, the U.S. government should end its unconditional support of Israel (to the tune of two BILLION dollars each and every year in military aid alone), which is provided at the expense of the Palestinian people. It should allow the United Nations to end the cruel and inhumane sanctions against the Iraqi people, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths of malnourished children and other victims. And it should withdraw its troops and military bases from Saudi Arabia and end its unconditional support of that and other repressive regimes in the region.

Joanne Heisel
honolulu, hawaii


Dear FRONTLINE,

JUSTICE. That is the key to solving this problem. America has gotten away with many evil deeds throughout its history. But has seldom been held accountable to its victims. For example, the Pilipino people were caught in the middle and use as pawns in the global power struggle between United States and the former Soviet Union. They supported the former dictator Marcos who tortured, rob, rape and killed his own people. The list goes on and on everywhere.

For most of the people of the Third World, they are left to choose between the lesser of the "evils". And I have to admit that the United States is the lesser of the two evils, whether it was between the former Soviet Union or the current Islamic fundamentalist movement. But take note, it is not a battle between good and evil but between degrees of evil. The reality is that America will continue with its crooked policies because it can get away with it. It has the wherewital militarily, economically and politically. I suggest to ordinary Americans to lick their wounds because they will obviously win this fight. And they can continue with their shallow, hypocritical, materialistic and meaningless life full of sports, sex, consumerism and delusion of being a Christian nation.

Paul Yap
manila, philippines


Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm an american citizen in residence in australia and have been the last 18 years! After my stint in the US Navy I became very disillusioned with american foreign policy. ... I was in during the Marcos Regime [in the Philippines] and when we made ports of call I was dumb founded at the severe amount of poverty there. In a private conversation with my chief, I asked....Surely if we have two bases here we are aware that the foreign aid that the americans are contributing to this government is not going to its intented recepients. Our govt knew that Marcos was a tyrant and we did nothing and turned a blind eye. My chief then informed me that with talk like that, you dont belong in the miltary!

What's my point? When the US government creates dictators to serve there own means at the expense of the people of that country you are bound to incur the wrath and hatred of those people being oppressed. Desert Storm was a war for oil....Noreiga the cocaine drug lord was put in place by the US government and not to mention all the secret arms deals the US govt was doing behind the scenes. Still, when the Irish have terrorism...a blind eye is turned. The acts of terror on the African continent go ignored and the Middle Eastern countries minus Isreal are used as whipping boys to set an example to the world of US power. Yet americans will not let any foreign power dictate how it's people should be governed.

This in the eyes of many is a double standard and hypocritical by all means. But americans in there blind ignorance dont understand what role the US govt really plays behind the scenes. ... As a american Im sorry my country of birth came under attack. In saying that, I also believe you reap what you sow!

Paul Gillam
sydney, australia


Dear FRONTLINE,

Let me begin by saying that I have never submitted my thoughts on a news piece to any news organization before in my life. However, upon seeing your program, "Frontline: Looking For Answers" I was so moved that I felt I had to share my thoughts.

From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for this thoughtful and candid reporting. It is a breath of fresh air to see that there are still some people out there seeking to understand why there are people with so much hate for America that they would commit such a terrible act. The most detailed explanation in the media I have seen up to this point is that "they hate freedom and democracy".

While the grievances that these people had could never justify their actions, I hope we as Americans can begin to see that there may be legitimate errors in our foreign policy with respect to the Muslim world. Perhaps by taking positive steps to correct these errors, we can all move closer to a more peaceful world.

los angeles, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Great show on Frontline about Americas mistakes and mis ques in the region. Now lets do a story on the Tremendoous wealth in the regions by the Saudi, Kuwaities, etc who have done nothing for fellow arabs.

Why don't the weatlthy Billionaires in the region fund a new home for Palistine, repair the slums the PLO live in, and stop the oppession of the women in Arfghanistan, the Billionaies live in massive mansions and buy American company stock. Gee we are so terrible, but the Arabs move here to Educate themselves, learn our ways, and buy our companies. Help out your own neighbors first before you hate America

william stevens
daytona, fla

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