In response to:
Religion from the Outside from the June 22, 2006 issue
To the Editors:
I strongly disagree with the comparison of the Japanese kamikazes with the terrorists that attacked the World Trade Center that Professor Dyson made in his review of Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon [NYR, June 22]. The kamikazes were in a declared war and were attacking strictly military targets that were a direct threat to their nation. The 9/11 terrorists that attacked New York were bent on and succeeded in killing inncent civilians who made no threat against them, their families, or their nation. The difference between attacking military targets in a war and attacking and killing thousands of innocent civilians who mean you no harm is a huge and unbridgeable gulf. The kamikazes may have been brave and intelligent soldiers fighting in an evil and lost cause. The terrorists that attacked the Twin Towers were nothing more than vicious murderers, no better than serial killers. That Professor Dyson should state that we should respect the terrorists as enemy soldiers is frightening and disheartening. Any attempt to dignify the terrorists is despicable. Professor Dyson’s suggestion that there is an analogy between the terrorists and the kamikazes is misleading, insulting, foolish, and dangerous. He owes us a retraction and apology.
Stephen P. Schwartz
Professor of Philosophy and Religion (ret.)
Ithaca, New York
Freeman Dyson replies:
Yes, I wrote that we should respect our enemies as human beings in order to understand them. I do not retract or apologize for this statement. I would like only to add a more general statement, that our lack of respect for our enemies has made it harder for us to deal with them effectively.