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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fat and Prosperous U.S. Does Have Resolve

In response to "Plato on Fate of Modern Civilization," a column by Yulia Latynina on Sept. 19.

Yulia Latynina's commentary on the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington contains assertions that should not be allowed to stand.

Let me start with her suggestion that a fat, prosperous America brought this devastation upon itself by reason of its a) wealth; b) arrogance; c) underhanded intervention in the affairs of other countries; d) unwillingness to "fight to the end"; or e) all of the above.

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Nothing the United States has ever done could possibly justify the slaughter of thousands of civilians, nor is it likely that anyone could trace what happened to any particular event. Those who planned and carried out these barbaric acts may indeed have grievances with U.S. policies or actions, but this was a monstrous deed born from a formless hatred for the country as a whole.

Were it not one reason for attacking our civilians, it would inevitably be another for those who have lost all sight of their own humanity. Neither the United States nor any other country can be expected to tailor its policies, domestic and foreign, to the fevered fanaticism of extremists.

Unlike the ancient empires that Latynina cites as having collapsed under the weight of their own wealth and arrogance, the United States did not become prosperous and powerful by the armed subjugation of other nations and a wholesale expropriation of their wealth. Its affluence has been built on the labor, ingenuity and creativity of peoples of many national and ethnic roots, large numbers of whom fled their native countries because of grinding poverty, a lack of opportunity and oppression.

Furthermore, the United States is no empire, nor has it ever been an empire. It is a federation of states that willingly joined for their mutual benefit.

I have myself been a stringent critic of my country's foreign policy over the past decade, believing it to be ill-advised and predicated on a moral superiority that we cannot necessarily claim. To its credit, the current administration appeared to be attempting to move away from this supposedly moral interventionism in the internal affairs of other countries and from the absurd proposition that national sovereignty is a matter to be decided on an ad hoc basis by other countries.

On the other hand, underhanded intervention in the affairs of other countries has always been a part of international relations and it is not going to disappear, however unpalatable it may be to some. It is one way that human beings at every level of organization, from families to states, act in order to protect and promote their interests, and it is equally characteristic of powerful and weak states.

It at any rate leaves more initiative and power in the hands of those affected than does a direct military assault, especially when the latter involves a balance of power heavily favoring one party and the casus belli may be something as trivial as not liking the way another country runs its domestic affairs.

As for whether the United States is prepared to fight to the bitter end, the definition of what constitutes "the end" quite properly depends on what the goals are. The U.S. certainly fought to the bitter end in both World Wars, and for far longer than was wise in Vietnam.

In other cases, such as the Gulf War, it fought and achieved the goals it proclaimed, one of which was not to hunt down and destroy Saddam Hussein. It was only with Slobodan Milosevic that we saw U.S. and Allied foreign policy reduced to a focus on a single individual, in the course of which we allowed that obsession to justify any actions we chose to undertake. Is that really a wise foreign policy, or better than the "underhanded intervention" in Yugoslavia that eventually allowed the Serbians themselves to choose their course?

It is of course true that the way of life in the developed democratic world is an open invitation to the kind of tragedy we saw in the United States on Sept. 11.

If enjoying democratic freedoms that have been a beacon to those oppressed elsewhere amounts to being "molly-coddled," why then I suppose Americans are guilty as charged. Not to worry, however. The brutality of the madmen who deemed the lives of well over 6,000 innocents to be a mere pittance in pursuit of their varied grievances is likely to result in some curtailments of those unparalleled freedoms, much to our sadness.

Finally, I would like to address Latynina's amazing suggestion that our "intellectually lazy" president, failing to understand the stakes, has offered an inadequate and perfunctory response predicated on the calculation of political ratings or a boost in profits to the military-industrial complex. Setting aside the intellectual hubris inherent in the comments, are we to understand that Ms. Latynina has access to highly secret military information that the hordes of journalists in Washington and elsewhere have failed to obtain?

As far as I understand, no one outside a small circle knows at this point precisely what actions the United States has in planning. It is highly unlikely, however, that there is going to be a new Vietnam in Afghanistan, or, as Russians might see it, a new Afghanistan in Afghanistan.

Whatever happens in the short-term will be no more than the immediate reaction and first step on a very long and complex road. The United States president, his Administration, the U.S. Congress and the American people understand all too well that what is at stake is our very way of life. We understand that this horrifying threat is not to be resolved by a single military action, or a minor battle, or a one-time assault.

It is clear that serious, well thought-out measures are being taken in Washington to identify the scale of the threat and to wage constant war against it in all forms, from the military to the diplomatic, in the United States and abroad. The United States is working hard to create a global alliance against terrorism in recognition that every democratic nation is at equal threat.

Yes, the fat and prosperous United States has at last absorbed an almost unbearable grief of its own. But we are not about to give up our fundamental liberties, or allow any group of fanatics who nourish themselves on a hatred of our country to determine our future. I think those who doubt our resolve will be surprised to see that America can still fight to the bitter end, and prevail.

Norma Brown

Skepticism Is Healthy

In response to "Bin Laden? Better Be Sure," a column by Boris Kagarlitsky on Sept. 18, and ensuing letters, published Sept. 21.

Boris Kagarlitsky's different take on the events of Sept. 11 has drawn a lot of interest from those who defend the official version. His critics all have missed their mark, however, including Name Withheld from Los Angeles.

In particular, I question the assertion that the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrators were not suicidal. The federal indictment named Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and "others unknown," which happens to be the title of Stephen Jones' book about the case against his client McVeigh. If there were in fact other co-conspirators, McVeigh went quietly to his death determined not to reveal their names. That is tantamount to suicide.

Many of the Americans who have responded to Kagarlitsky's piece profess absolute confidence in the U.S. news media. They could use a dose of skepticism. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's public statement that the hijackers were in possession of the codes for Air Force One, and that a mole was suspected in the White House, has yet to see print. This statement has been discarded because it doesn't fit the "bin Laden did it" scenario.

By the way, I submitted a piece similar to Kagarlitsky's to four major newspapers in California on Sept. 13 and didn't even get the usual obligatory acknowledgement of its receipt. At least in Russia, discussion of alternate points of view is permitted.

Art Hoffmann
Los Angeles

Keep Privates Private

In response to "My Hernia Operation a Bit of a Close Shave," a column by Vladislav Schnitzer on Oct. 1.

I would like to comment on the quality of an article published by your newspaper. Albeit lacking in depth and sometimes in originality, some pieces published by your newspaper's columnists might be of interest to a particular group of people.

However, there does not appear to be any value in publishing the ravings of a pensioner about having his crotch shaven by a pretty nurse! Aside from lacking in taste and having no substance, the fact that such an article was published reflects very poorly on the editorial staff of your newspaper and shows an utter failure in attempts to come up with substantive or, at least, entertaining contents.

I believe it might be much easier to fill the empty space in your paper with pro bono advertisements or photojournalists' pieces, when no other alternative is available and contents are lacking, than to have an octogenarian waste the ink in his pen telling thousands of your readers about the three attempts to shave his crotch before a hernia surgery.

Not only is it foul to read and conjure up the images invoked by the piece, it is also no doubt offensive to many people.

Despite Moscow's being somewhat of a world's backwater and its failure in attracting high-caliber international journalists, it still seems incredible that a paper catering overwhelmingly to educated and cosmopolitan people would publish pieces so utterly dreary and distasteful.

Gueorgi A. Djaparidze

Floyd Fan Mail

In response to "Global Eye -- Follow the Money," a column by Chris Floyd on Sept. 28.

I think Chris Floyd's take is great. Is there such thing as a Global Award for mud-raking? Chris, for sure, would get my vote! As for my fellow countryman, Mr. Name Withheld, lighten up!, You're still in some "fraud friendly Florida" voting booth, if you really think George W. Bush has such a united appeal here!

John W. Hazouri
United States

Some Legal Advice

In response to letters by Andrew Anselmo, published Sept. 21, and by Al Lucero, published Sept. 28.

I am a Moscow-based lawyer and am looking forward to radical police reform in Russia aimed at establishing confidence in the police on the part of ordinary people. Without such confidence, any fight with terrorism would be a bluff. Below is my advice for people if stopped by the police who want to check their documents.

1. Before handing over your passport to the police, ask them to show their IDs: It is their duty to show IDs on request. Write down the names of the police into your notebook; if you are not familiar with Cyrillic characters, write down the serial numbers of the IDs. If the police ask you why you need their ID data, you can answer that "just in case something goes wrong you'll call the internal security division of the Interior Ministry" (the phone number of which, by the way, is 237-7585; another useful phone is the reception desk of the ministry, 222-6669). In case the police refuse to show their IDs, stop communicating with them, claiming they are "unknown persons in police uniform."

2. Speaking loudly and drawing public attention may work as well but it's not for everyone. Instead, you can be polite but firm in your confidence that you did not violate any Russian law and communicate this message clearly to the police several times during the encounter. Even if you do not have any documents with you, you still do not violate any law in this country. To my knowledge, Russian street police have no right to impose fines on pedestrians for violation of passport rules; it is the competence of at least the deputy head of the district police department.

3. Do not show any sign of impatience to the police, it will work against you. Instead, show that you have plenty of time for them and you will be delighted to go to the police station if needed (under the pretext that "they will for sure know that I'm right"). There is little chance, however, that the police would really take you to the police station, but if they do, refuse to talk without a representative from your consulate, even on the weekends.

4. If you are working in Moscow, it is useful to know that you are not under obligation to carry your work permit with you; instead, it should be with your employer. You may still want to carry a photocopy of it together with your passport and visa. Again, fines for violation of work permit rules are imposed by the officials of the Moscow Migration Committee and not by street police, so turn down any attempt to make you pay on this ground.

I hope this will be of help to somebody.

Valery Yakushev

Double for a Room?

During an excursion to visit the Golden Ring city of Kostroma we went to the hotel Kostroma to book a double room for two nights.

As a room was available, my wife Albina agreed on the price speaking in her perfect Russian. We handed over our passports and when the lady at the reception saw my Italian one, she immediately told me that I had to pay twice as much as the rate paid by Russian citizens.

I informed the lady that this was unconstitutional, but she could only show me the resolution of the City Soviet of National Deputies No. 72 dated 31.12.1991, with the instruction that foreigners be charged double, as the hotel is a municipal company.

I would sincerely appreciate it if you could inform me whether such resolutions are legal after the adoption of the post-Soviet constitution and which articles defend foreigners against such abuses, typical of the former Soviet regime. Thanks in advance.

Walter Borio

Amber Fox

In response to "Pentagon PR in Search of the Perfect Name," a column by Matt Bivens on Sept. 24.

Matt Bivens certainly opened an interesting topic. How about organizing a vote among MT readers for the most idiotic operation name? My candidates are: Essential Harvest and Amber Fox. Both are NATO operations in FYR Macedonia.

(Please also note that FYR is the politically correct prefix to the name of the country, meaning Former Yugoslav Republic. It was added to please Greece.)

Vojin Sevic
FYR Macedonia