Footnotes of an America United

There were these footnotes to the story of America's war on terrorism.

Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, chairman of the House Republican Conference, has written to the editors of the Reuters news service, urging repeal of their ban on the use of the word "terrorist."

Watts wrote that he didn't now why the word terrorist -- quote -- "is not an accurate portrayal of the aggressors who committed the acts of violence witnessed by the entire world last month."

Reuters on Tuesday apologized for saying -- quote -- "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," end quote, in a letter to newspaper editors. The news agency's top editor said that was insensitive, but reaffirmed the ban on the word terrorist as a -- quote -- "emotional term."

The latest from the artistic left comes from the novelist Alice Walker, author of the acclaimed novel "The Color Purple." Walker, a self-described "womanist." asked in the latest issue of "The Village Voice," what would happen with Usama bin Laden -- quote -- "if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed?"

She concludes -- quote -- "I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love," end quote.

And how should reporters covering the aftermath of a calamity like the terrorist bombings behave? The Columbia University Journalism Review has weighed in with guidelines developed by two professors. It urges reporters interviewing survivors to show -- quote -- "empathy, not detachment," even suggesting ways to sit that show empathy.

And then there is this -- quote -- "If the interviewee cries, this is not necessarily a bad or harmful thing. Carry paper tissues at all times and offer them as a caring gesture. One reason people feel self-conscious about crying is nasal discharge, and offering a paper tissue can help," end quote.

Finally, two weeks back, we took note here of Ralph Nader's post-September 11th remarks at the University of Minnesota, in which he said -- quote -- "we have to being putting ourselves in the shoes of the innocent, brutalized people in the third world and ask ourselves, why do they dislike our foreign policy?" end quote.

We noted at the time that no criticism by Nader of terrorist attacks was noted in the student newspaper account of his speech. He has now told us that he did, too, criticize those attacks, characterizing them repeatedly as a massacre.