Re "Koizumi's Second Act" [sept. 22], the Koizumi era heralds the beginning of image politics in Japan. Junichiro Koizumi has named new members to his Cabinet while leaving the key Minister for Financial Services and for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Heizo Takenaka, in place—a move that was seen as showing Koizumi's commitment to banking reform. Koizumi is a man of great integrity, but a lot will be expected from him if he is elected to a second term in November.
The Man in Black
Like many who grew up in the 1960s, I never went long without hearing Johnny Cash's unique voice and memorable songs [Sept. 22]. Everything you need to know to get through life can be learned from his music: prison and guns are bad, God is good, you should stand up for what you believe in, love often breaks your heart, and a good train ride is one of life's simple pleasures. Cash experienced every high and low, and he survived with dignity.
Nadine M. Henning
There is no tribute too big for this giant of a man. Cash was a true American hero. His music knows no genre or boundary; he was a tremendous inspiration to so many people.
Cash's death was a blow to admirers of real music everywhere. I am not a fan of most country music. So much of it is little more than superficial pop, lacking the real soul of the blues tradition. Cash's music is different. Whenever I heard his majestic voice and earthy poetry, I was moved. He was the people's poet, with a heart and mind rooted deep in the human experience. The echoes of that voice can be found far and wide across the musical spectrum.
John A. Sorrels
More in Sadness than Anger
Right-wing columnists like Charles Krauthammer [Sept. 22] have two essential responses to critics of President George W. Bush's policies: 1) you're unpatriotic; 2) you're mad. In his commentary, Krauthammer doesn't indict me on the first count, but he does lump me in with a crowd of Democrats he describes as "seized with a loathing for President Bush—a contempt and disdain giving way to a hatred that is near pathological." However, what I feel as the result of President Bush's policies is sadness. I'm not mad at his "revolutionizing American foreign policy" or that he exercised "a singular act of presidential will" in Iraq; I'm sad that damaged relationships with key allies have weakened America's position in the world. I'm not mad that Bush is "reshaping economic policy"; I'm sad that the redistribution of income from the working to the ruling class is so pronounced and that Bush expects my grandchildren to pay for his excesses. I'm not mad that the President has reinstated crony capitalism as a governing philosophy; I'm sad that he is so indifferent to what is happening to people who don't have power or access. I'm not mad that Bush is "acting like a king"; I'm sad for democracy.
New York City
Krauthammer's essay was neatly designed to turn all criticism of Bush into symptoms of liberal jealousy, envy and spite. Bush's Promethean overreaching, his imperial scorn for trade agreements and the U.N., his warmongering—all were presented as signs of greatness. I looked in vain for some sign that this was satire. Alas, it wasn't.
Issues for Albright
After reading "10 Questions for Madeleine Albright" [Sept. 22], I have another one for the former U.S. Secretary of State. If Bush is doing such a poor job in the fight against terrorism, why hasn't there been another terrorist attack in the U.S.? Albright and the rest of her team at the State Department failed to curb terrorism in the same way they failed to capture Osama bin Laden when they had the chance in Sudan.
Mount Horeb, U.S.
In "Facing Reality," Michael Elliott was far too lenient in his assessment of the situation this Administration finds itself facing with Iraq, Israel and radical Palestinians [Sept. 22]. Gone are the Administration's chest beating and taunting of enemies. Reality has set in. The Bush doctrine, our new national defense strategy, with all its unilateralism, militarism, boldness and unrealistic dreams, is dying right where it began, in the deserts of Iraq—a complete failure. The U.S. has not taken a dramatic new step toward solving all its problems in one clean sweep but has compounded them immeasurably, creating a monster where there was none.
Saddam Hussein might have been cruel by Western standards, but it is America's so-called friends, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that are the backbone of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Iraqis will always prefer a Saddam over an invading Bush. The President should have listened to real friends, such as Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, before embarking on the foolish Iraq invasion.
A Wedding-Eve Tragedy
I was deeply affected by the Applebaums' story [Sept. 22]. Nava and her father were in a happy mood hours before her wedding. Suddenly they became casualties of terrorism, and their names were added to the endless list of victims of hate. Suicide bombers take the lives of innocent people they do not even know just because those people are citizens of a country the bombers hate. The Israeli army should reconsider its strategy in dealing with Palestinian suspects. Targeting a house where a terrorist leader is supposed to live and killing innocent people inside cannot be a peaceful solution. The result is the Palestinians' hatred, pure and simple, just as the French used to despise the Nazis for executing innocent people on French soil during World War II. Hate leads only to more hate and violence.
Les Bréviaires, France
In Defense of an Artist
The story of documentary filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl [Sept. 22] is that of a person betrayed by opportunistic turncoats and backstabbers. The people who applauded her before the war—and they weren't only Germans—were the same ones who condemned her afterward. Her fascination with Adolf Hitler wasn't different from anyone else's at that time. In the prewar era, a passion for Hitler, whether it was blind faith or political maneuvering, was a common phenomenon. Was Riefenstahl's art fascist at that time? One must ask whether there ever was a country that didn't praise itself or its people. Isn't the human striving for godlike perfection, as captured in Riefenstahl's film Olympia, a trait shared by all humans? She achieved the highest form of expression attainable by an artist.
Michael Munk Kucirek
Coping with Grief
Pico Iyer's essay "Move On," about how to handle the lingering trauma of 9/11, ranks among the best I have read this year [Sept. 15]. He gave thoughtful and positive advice. We redeem our sorrow not by perpetuating it but by directing our thoughts to altruistic thinking and action. America is a beacon of hope and a role model for the people of nations that are culturally advanced but industrially undeveloped.
Many 9/11 victims were not Americans. Would Iyer suggest that their friends and families, many of whom are Asian and all of whom are still mired in grief on the second anniversary of the terrorist outrage, "learn from Asia" and "let it go"? Iyer should be careful. Asia is, after all, a vast continent that is home to Indians, Pakistanis, Israelis, Palestinians, Sunnis, Shi'ites, Chinese and Tibetans, among many others. Cambodia's leniency toward its mass murderers, which Iyer cited, is part of the problem, not the solution. By perpetuating hoary bromides about Asia's older cultures, Iyer furthers the very East vs. West attitude that he seems to oppose.
Your analysis of Saudi Arabia was correct. The country's rulers are not reliable, they do not care about their people and they seem destined to lose power to an Islamic revolution [Sept. 15]. Only democracy and prosperity can beat Muslim fundamentalism. But do the Saudis want democracy? Why would they voluntarily give up their privileges and completely change their way of life, giving real freedom to women and minorities? Freedom for all is inconceivable to the Saudi rulers, who have absolute power and believe they always will. They do not care about the misery of common people.
A Ray of Sunshine
Singer Johnny Cash [Music, Sept. 22] first came to our attention 35 years ago, when his album of a performance at Folsom Prison was a huge hit. It sold more than 1 million copies and reached the top of the charts in 1968. We told how the recording came about [Aug. 30, 1968]:
"In the huge cafeteria of California's Folsom Prison, a baritone lament echoes over a shuffling country beat:
I shot a man in Reno just to
watch him die ...
Two thousand inmates whoop and whistle ... The prison whistle shrieks. Clang! go the steel cellblock doors. This is Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. The performance, which took place last January, resulted in one of the most original and compelling pop albums of the year. Country singer Cash ... is a big favorite in the penitentiary circuit. 'We bring the prisoners a ray of sunshine in their dungeon,' he says, 'and they're not ashamed to respond' ... Cash ... sings with granite conviction and mordant wit about sadness, pain, loneliness and hard luck ... The Folsom album was made when Cash, after six years of trying, finally convinced Columbia Records that one of his prison visits would make a successful on-location recording ... It has sold far beyond the usual boundaries of the country market ... In fact, the album stands as a timely symbol of the growing infusion of country sounds into the U.S. pop mainstream."
To Set the Record Straight: Al-Qaeda Warning
The report about al-Qaeda in Iraq [Sept. 15] included a picture of a card with an Arabic warning signed by al-Qaeda. The caption said that the message was "Promises of death to America." The exact translation is "Death to agents of America."