Polemics & Exchanges

On Fingering Terrorists

Philip Jenkins was right about the absurdities involved in the anthrax investigation (“The Butler Didn’t Do It,” Breaking Glass, September), but I see two other reasons why many seem determined to find culprits other than Middle Eastern terrorists.

Many on the left are uncomfortable with ethnic villains.  Frequently, they view non-Westerners as spiritually superior.  While outraged by September 11, it was difficult for them to focus rage on perpetrators who sprang from a minority.  By the time of the anthrax attacks, they had had it.  Couldn’t that at least be the work of a right-wing nut?  They view most of the American public as inveterate xenophobes and racists who would no doubt launch a homegrown Kristallnacht if atrocities always seemed to be springing from one particular quarter.  Many even saw flag wav-ing as the first step in that direction.

Officials in investigative agencies fear the odium that will be heaped on them if they focus on the likely suspects.  Who wants to be remembered as another J. Edgar Hoover after seeing what has been done to his memory?  If the anthrax attackers are not Islamic terrorists, you do not have to focus your anger on a potentially reputation-tarnishing target.  No one will call you...

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