9/11 and Iraq now connected

By Dan Streib

I’d like to use my column this week to respond to a letter to the editor by Mr. Konstantinos Yfantis (“Iraq not related to 9/11,” Sept. 14) who had, in turn, responded to a letter by Mr. Jim Furey (“A sobering reminder from MSNBC” Sept. 12). But before I make my response, I’d like to use my small space in this newspaper to say a few words regarding newspapers themselves and their opinions sections. Hopefully, this will provide a little context for my response to Mr. Yfantis.

A newspaper is a marvelous thing. It is a vast source of information on current events that can be read at little or no cost, but for the benefit of much enjoyment. To me, there will always be something charming and entertaining about sitting back in a chair, opening up those gray pages of a newspaper, and educating myself about what’s going on at home and elsewhere. Opening a paper is like opening a window to the world.

Of course, with the media providing so much information to the public, they’re bound to develop some opinions about the events they cover. In order to prevent those opinions from distorting the unbiased news they try to provide, it’s only logical that every newspaper run editorials – -to provide its opinion in a place clearly designated for it.

Yet, a newspaper seeks to educate the populace with the information it provides (not to persuade), and in so doing, it also seeks to drive the democratic process.

Following this mindset, most newspapers do not seek to become the only opinion on the news they provide. They merely seek to spark debate with the views they choose to express. In order to bring that debate full circle, a letters to the editor section – where people can provide their views – is subsequently provided. With this, the newspaper becomes not just a news provider, but rather an engager that aids society’s perpetual quest for intellectual gain.

Throw in some columnists and you have an opinions page – or a community forum on current events where people exercise their freedom of speech.

It is only with full admiration and respect for this democratic idea of a forum for intellectual interaction that I humbly respond to Mr. Yfantis’ letter. I merely seek to spur further debate among this paper’s readers. The following is the record of my attempt.

Mr. Yfantis obviously became rather frustrated with the end of Mr. Furey’s letter, which expressed how his sorrow on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks created a desire to achieve American objectives in Iraq. In his letter, Mr. Yfantis proclaimed, “Neither the government of Iraq nor its people had anything to do with the attacks of Sept. 11.” He is entirely correct.

Yet, the fact that Iraq had naught to do with the 9/11 attacks does not render current violence there irrelevant to that somber day. It is a fact that a group that pledges allegiance to al-Qaida is in Iraq and has caused much violence there. Other terrorists take many innocent Iraqi lives, too. These terrorist groups use violence to achieve political goals. That is the definition of terrorism.

The terrorists’ goal is to stop America from achieving its objectives in Iraq. That means that they aim for a precipitous American military withdrawal and the subsequently inevitable failure of the fledgling Mesopotamian government. Chaos will increase, and these terrorists and their ideologies thrive on chaos.

Giving those who commit terrorist acts what they desire encourages terrorist activity. If you pet an animal immediately after it bites you, it will bite you again to get petted in the future. If others notice your odd reaction, you will be bitten quite often.

After watching replays of the attacks on 9/11, one is easily swayed to take a hard line against terrorists everywhere, so that no group gets the wrong impression of what the U.S. will and will not tolerate.

The term “everywhere” does indeed include the biggest enclave of terrorist violence in the world: Iraq. In this way, Iraq and 9/11 are now tied together.

I was against the invasion of Iraq, but I, like Mr. Furey, now hope for victory in Iraq. And it is worth noting that at least part of my hope is due to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 six long years ago.