A reader looks back:

Something I have wanted to ask you for a long time, brought up by your reference to not having kept your head after 9/11: have you read the very short book Prisons We Choose To Live Inside, by Doris Lessing? It is very much like a personal letter to her readers, on the subject of how - I remember that from her own experience she mentions wars and revolutionary fervor - people do tend to get swept away in a particular kind of dangerous surge.

Just thought it would resonate.

I realize that it's no consolation - but even people who in one way or another can say that they did not lose their footing were operating in, and were affected by, a sanity context that was not normal. That's how it was for me. I am uncertain that the diffidence in pressing one's suspicions or thoughts under the circumstances was much more well-grounded or less culpable than a public living-in-the-illusion, really.

Perhaps the greatest weapon of terrorism is simply the impact that terror has - and ineluctably has - on the human mind and judgment. When we think of how understandably traumatized most of us were after 9/11, we can perhaps better understand why so many Iraqis - traumatized each day and night for decades by Saddam - are even now reeling from their own psychic traumas. To ask them to leave that past behind, like a cell-phone in a cab, is to ask the impossible. Paranoia, hatred, bitterness, revenge, panic: all these are very human responses to what they went through and have not begun to process. Which was why instilling order immediately upon liberation was so important. And why our refusal to do that has led to the current abyss. Human - all too human.