At the Nexus of Terrorism and Drugs
Afghan warlord and opium cultivator Haji Bashar Noorzai could be an intelligence source the U.S. needs to combat terrorism, but he's sitting in jail on drug charges. He has offered to help, and as the wars on both drugs and terrorism rage on, readers debated the wisdom of his incarceration
Your article on Afghan warlord Haji Bashar Noorzai listed possible negative consequences of his arrest [Feb 19]. Assured by a U.S. agent that the trip would be "like a vacation," Noorzai went to America to offer his cooperation against the resurgent Taliban. Now in jail, he can no longer supply intelligence, move his tribe away from the Taliban, persuade his followers to give up poppy farming or sway other warlords toward the political path. But worst of all, his 1 million tribespeople will now be convinced of U.S. perfidy, duplicity and treachery and therefore be converted into implacable enemies of the U.S. It's unlikely that Noorzai's arrest will save the life of even one drug addict on U.S. streets, though it will almost certainly cost the lives of many U.S. soldiers overseas.
MAURICE O'SCANAILL Clifden, Ireland
The Noorzai case is a perfect example of this Administration's botched war on terrorism and the Drug Enforcement Administration's handling of the incredibly stupid war on drugs. Haji Bashar Noorzai could have been a real asset in rooting out the Taliban. Intelligence on the ground is a most valuable resource. Has Noorzai's arrest really made a difference in heroin production? U.S. taxpayers are now going to have to spend millions to prosecute and detain him. The U.S. could wipe out the drug trade tomorrow through legalization and taxation, which would take away the enormous profits earned in illicit trade and reduce theft by addicts who steal to support their habit. The huge sums saved on incarceration and policing could be spent on health care and education.
WILLIAM A. RING San Diego
I have not seen one positive story on either Afghanistan or Iraq, and now you've run the story about poor old Noorzai. The guy was obviously smart enough to reach out to the U.S. before the war in an effort to maintain his power and keep the drugs flowing. When are we going to hear about American triumphs? Where are the stories about our brave warriors? I see nothing but reports about terrorists like the duped warlord Noorzai.
MARTIN ROBITZ Crete, Ill.
Perhaps the question of whom to arrest and whom to send back into battle should be cast in different terms. Which should we fear more--terrorists bent on destroying a nation and an idea or domestic addicts who owe their allegiance to a drug? We might do well to take the view of Winston Churchill, who said after Adolf Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R., "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." The terrorists are our Hitler, and the drug dealers are our U.S.S.R. We must assign a higher priority to our external enemies even as we care for the wounded from both wars.
HARRY PUNCEC Lakewood, Colo.
The U.S. should stay away from antisocial friends like Noorzai. Why would he want to help the U.S.? I am very disappointed by your decision to put him on the cover of a magazine I respect for decent journalism.
ZAHIS ALI Memphis, Tenn.
The case of Noorzai is just more evidence of the plague of groupthink that has struck U.S. decision makers, from the mishandling of pre-9/11 intelligence to the mistakes in Iraq. Officials made contact with a valuable source but then just let him rot in jail with the crucial information. Such missteps have cost billions of taxpayers' dollars and thousands of soldiers' lives.
WINSTON SAMSON Virginia Beach, Va.
TIME lent respectability to short-cloaked Islamophobia in Richard Brookhiser's "A Template for Taming Iran" [Feb. 19]. After delivering a lesson on the war with the Barbary States, he insinuated that Iran's threat might likewise be a missionary one of "militant jihad" to "make slaves" of "sinners." And in justifying the Barbary Wars by claiming, "Sufficient to the day was the evil thereof," he evidently intended to demonize Iran by representing it as a vague menace. His message is alarmist and empty.
STEPHEN D. CLARK Rye, N.H.
Brookhiser conveniently dates the U.S.'s problems with Iran to the hostage crisis in 1979. Our problems actually date to 1953, when the U.S. and Britain deposed the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh because he had the temerity to believe that Iran's oil wealth belonged to the Iranian people.
CLYDE FARRIS West Linn, Ore.
Patriotism or Blind Support?
Kudos to Joe Klein for skewering Senator Joseph Lieberman's intellectual dishonesty in charging that President George W. Bush's critics undermine our troops [Feb. 19]. Why is it that so many of the politicians who are dedicated to sending Americans off to war have never seen combat? The foremost examples, of course, are Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but now you can add loyal disciple Lieberman to that list.
BOB MADGIC Anderson, Calif.
I served in a war that the Democrats constantly criticized. I was spat on, called a baby killer and denied employment. The same events are transpiring with the same cast of characters. Those on the left, including Klein, deny undermining the troops, but that is what they do every time they write an article that gives Islamists hope and reason to hang on. Senator Lieberman is right about denying Islamists encouragement.
JIM BRASSELL Fortson, Ga.
Is it really that hard for Klein to believe that when Senators talk about withdrawal and failure in Iraq it is music to the ears of our enemies? Is it really that hard for Klein to believe that this same talk undermines the morale of our troops? Our enemies are not oblivious to U.S. politics, and our soldiers are not robots without morale. Those who speak out against the war have every right to do so, but they are not free of the consequences of their words. Their dissent does not make them unpatriotic, but it does make them part of the problem.
MARK W. CARMEAN Dunkirk, Md.
Klein was reasonable but left readers wondering what it means to support the troops. He failed to hold his audience accountable, to demand that a choice be made and acted upon. Where was the call to action? Where was the directive to take the President and his regime to account publicly, loudly, immediately?
RON ERTER Sumter, S.C.
Defining Black Identity