December 20, 2004

On Guard
I disagree with one key statement in Christopher McDougall’s “Reasons They Haven’t Hit Us Again” [December 6]. He writes that to intercept mouth-to-ear communications in Arabic requires “a formidable Arabic-speaking spy force, which would take years to build from scratch.” In New York, there are many Jewish Arabic speakers who volunteered to translate after 9/11 and who were turned down because current translators, who happen to be Muslims, don’t want Jews translating intelligence in Arabic.
—Gamaliel Isaac, Manhattan

While the public has learned very little about planned attacks that have been foiled, the information we do have about poorly monitored ports (and the ridiculous excuse for security at airports) should leave us quaking. Why carry a bomb when you can ship it freight collect?
—David J. Melvin, Chester, N.J.

On the subject of Al Qaeda, Christopher McDougall fails to mention two important points: First, bin Laden’s primary target has never been the United States, but rather the secular Middle Eastern governments that oppose Islamic fundamentalism; and second, the 9/11 attacks were intended as vengeance for the attacks on Lebanon, as he made clear in his recent videotape. Perhaps our daily anticipation of another attack overestimates our importance to bin Laden. On the other hand, what’s most likely keeping that threat alive is our government’s continued aggression in Iraq.
—Franklin C. Southworth, Manhattan

I was truly baffled by your “Why Haven’t We Been Hit Again?” cover. No wonder we reelected President Bush—the media is feeding us a constant diet of fear! I agree that people in New York have been permanently changed since 9/11. The realization of how easy it could be to commit an act of terror is now part of our everyday thinking. But should it be? The media and our present administration virtually brainwash Americans into thinking an act of terror is around every corner.
—Emma Lanza, Brooklyn

I hope the u.s. military isn’t going to adopt the idiotic terrorist role-play techniques as described in “Camp Jihad” [by Evan Wright, December 6]. It’s disturbing enough that the NYPD would have paid for “Dan” to participate if he had been working in the counterterrorism unit. To claim that praying, wearing a traditional Arab scarf, and eating Middle Eastern food help you “think like they think” is bigotry in the guise of cultural training. This so-called mirror-image training teaches the participants to make racist generalizations. Real anti-terrorism training might involve studying foreign languages and cultures, rather than dressing up in costumes and playing a modern version of cowboys-and-Indians.
—Anne Rettenberg, Manhattan
—Leila Kawar, Brooklyn

I am now convinced that some writers are subconsciously disappointed that we haven’t had another terrorist attack.
—Andy Ritch, Kerrville, Texas

Les Arts
I enjoyed gary indiana’s mordantly hilarious remarks on the upcoming “East Village USA” show at the New Museum of Contemporary Art as well as his fond reminiscences of the Fun Gallery [“One Brief, Scuzzy Moment,” December 6]. The great shows my partner and I had (Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kiely Jenkins, Jane Dickson) were worth hauling comatose junkies out of the doorway for—not to mention the horror of dealing with the art-world “Establishment.” One thing’s for sure: The art world would never be quite the same!
—Patti Astor, Hollywood, Calif.

Lover, Beware
I laughed out loud at Amy Sohn’s article about straight men sleeping with men, then I cried. [““Straight, With an Asterisk,” December 6]. Two years ago I discovered through a fluke that my husband of eight years was “hooking up” with men through a gay-sex line and had had 30 to 50 partners over a period of three years. He claimed he wasn’t—isn’t—gay, and now, in his forties, he “thinks” he might be bisexual. But “everything is okay because [he] was getting tested for HIV once a month,” and he doesn’t understand why I was upset since he “wasn’t having a real affair with a woman.” He refused to leave our marriage, and after two years of therapy, I finally got the courage to walk out. (We have a child.) You either have to have a great sense of humor or be desperate to be with such sexually confused men. It’s okay to experiment in your teens or twenties, but after 30, it’s pathetic.
—Florence M., Chicago, Ill.

So much for being progressive. Amy Sohn’s “Straight, With an Asterisk” is like a flashback to the fifties, where being a woman meant being submissive to the man, or the aggressor. Gay identity is much more complicated than Ms. Sohn implies—more complex than simply engaging in same-sex sexual behavior. Perhaps the men in her article are yearning to break free of the sexual binary system established by American mainstream culture, and not just to take a trip to “Gayville.”
—Jacqueline Yodashkin, Queens

Doggone It
My cats and i were deeply offended by “How to Prep for a Party in Ten Minutes or Less” [“Everything Guide to Holiday Parties,” December 6]. You advise hosts to drop off cats with a neighbor, but consider a small dog “dressed in a red collar and tutu” a great conversation piece. I’ve had guests come all the way from Japan just to spend the holidays with my two tabbies. As for guests who kvetch about an allergy to cat hair, my advice is to slip a couple of Claritins into their cocktails. This will not only relieve some of their inhibitions, but after a few more drinks will render them totally incapable of distinguishing a cat from a small dog—even one with a red collar and tutu.
—Les Dreyer, Manhattan

Corrections:Did Their Father Really Know Best?” by Jonathan Van Meter (December 13), stated that Donald Trump declared bankruptcy in the early nineties. While several of Trump’s casinos and hotels did file for bankruptcy, Trump did not seek personal-bankruptcy protection.

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December 20, 2004