Richard Cohen [op-ed, Sept. 16] noted that 51 percent of Democrats surveyed by the Pew Research Center "agreed with the proposition that 'U.S. wrongdoing' contributed to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Mr. Cohen speculated that some respondents might have had in mind "U.S. support of Israel" and then bemoaned, "In this respect, these people and Osama bin Laden are in agreement."

Mr. Cohen's overall defense of moderation in political discourse was sound, but his interpretation and use of the Pew finding was unfortunate. While I was not polled, I count myself in that 51 percent, but I adamantly do not see myself in agreement with Osama bin Laden's extremist views and terrorist tactics. Unlike Osama bin Laden, I (and probably the Democrats in that poll) strongly defend Israel's right to a secure existence. However, I think the governments of President Bush and Ariel Sharon have pursued some shortsighted policies toward Palestinians that contribute to Muslim alienation from the United States and, in turn, contribute to the motivation of terrorists such as those who carried out the shameful attacks of Sept. 11.

While as a nation we must meet Muslim terrorists with an iron fist, we must also look to correct wrongful policies that alienate mainstream Muslims and encourage extremists. It impedes progress on this front to, as Mr. Cohen seemingly did, dismiss proponents of this approach as people who agree with Osama bin Laden. Israel deserves our admiration and support, but it should not be above reproach.

JIM KIRKMAN

Annandale