Smell the napalm
Sir-- Washington "experts" are telling us that Iraqi civilian casualties will be held to a minimum when America makes the pre-emptive strike against Iraq. I am not satisfied with the word "minimum" because I don't want to see any casualties on either side. Attacking Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein is about as stupid as bombing Los Angeles in order to get rid of the child molesters, pimps and drug dealers.
Germany and Japan made pre-emptive strikes and now our president and his sidekick Don Rumsfeld are doing their best to get us into that notorious club. I'll have none of it. The president keeps harping about "weapons of mass destruction" and how Saddam used poisonous gas against people in his own country. Let me tell you something, Mr President, whether you get hit with gas, a bullet, an arrow or an atomic bomb you are still dead. America wrote the book on weapons of mass destruction and we invented just about all of them.
The people of Iraq have never done a thing to my country; in fact, we were their ally in their war with Iran, and we were also Osama Bin Laden's friend when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. If we go to war with Iraq, flags throughout the civilised world will fly at half-mast and we will have given the world yet another reason to hate America, and another excuse for them to plan 10/11, 11/11, and 12/11.
Wake up, Mr President, and smell the napalm. Ooops. Sorry about that napalm thing. You avoided military service and Vietnam by joining the Texas Air National Guard so you never smelled napalm like the rest of us.
William F Pittenger
Garden City, Idaho
Sir-- The American media and US government are repeating the following story to the public: If Iraq has weapons to defend itself (what they call weapons of mass destruction), then America will invade Iraq. If Iraq is found to be clean of any weapons, then Iraq is hiding some weapons, and USA will invade Iraq.
In America this is called "damned if you do and damned if you don't".
Sir-- Mr Basheer M Nafi's article, 'Whither Arab independence?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 21-27 November) hit the nail on the head, didn't it? It's all about oil. The Americans and the British will do whatever they have to to secure it. Israel (a Zionist nuclear power) is the stick, dollars are the carrot, and if you really get out of line, an Abrams M1A Tank might park in your living room.
Mr Nafi asks, whither Arab independence; perhaps he should have phrased it "wither" Arab independence. Surely oil has the same political viscosity as blood, doesn't it?
Down to your level
Sir-- While there are valid concerns regarding the Ashcroft mentality in America as mentioned in 'Bogeyman in hiding' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December), it is silly to think that the US intelligence services really have the suppression of American rights as their goal. You certainly lose credibility when you entertain the thinking that the US is holding Bin Laden secretly. You also probably think the CIA was behind the 9/11 attacks.
The Muslim world has the luxury of suppressing facts and re-writing history to fit its needs. You are not going to be happy until you bring the rest of the world down to your level of poverty, desperation and disease.
Long Beach, CA
Bigotry closer home
Sir-- I wonder why none of the readers who are so vocal about hate incitement have mentioned the 1 December episode of the Prime Time TV show The Practice? The main case in the episode was about banning all Arabs and Muslims from flying on an airline, and the case was won. Not only does this reinforce bigotry and discrimination towards Muslims and Arabs, it demonises an entire ethnic group: Arab-Americans. Furthermore, within this episode Muslims were referred to as "bastards". If this is not hate incitement, what is?
How come not a single one of our politicians who have been busy trying to ban television shows in other countries have even condemned The Practice? Or are they going to use the "freedom of speech" excuse now? Wouldn't this position jeopardise their own credibility of fighting bigotry and hate speech? Shouldn't our politicians at least practice what they preach?
Bigotry and hate speech is as wrong against Arabs and Muslims as it is against Jews, otherwise this is outright hypocrisy.
Sir-- I wish to respond to the American reader's letter 'We will prevail' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December) citing that your paper is anti-Semitic, that Europe is irrelevant, and that the vast majority of non-Jewish Americans support Israel. On the first and third point, the reader confuses Al-Ahram Weekly's criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Accusations of this sort have been an ongoing problem within the United States, well-informed Americans are too intimidated to criticise Israel, while the majority of Americans have no opinion on the matter. Why? The fact is that the majority has no idea about what happened to the Palestinians, the expulsions, the camps -- nothing.
On the second point, the suggestion of Europe's irrelevance emphasises how insular and uninformed Americans are (including that writer). Read the newspapers and you will easily understand the relevance of the European Union on global trade, environmental issues and even their role in the Middle East conflict. Again, the writer confuses criticism of Israel with anti- Semitism, and therefore brands Europe as such.
The insularity of his understanding and perception on anti-Semitism, Europe and US attitudes speak for itself.
The new Jews
Sir-- It is an ironic twist of events that Egypt is blamed for anti-Semitism. We now minimise state- sponsored terrorism (such as that which Israel, and other allies engage in) and portray the threat in terms of religious and ethnic groups. The Arab community in the US feels especially vulnerable because the energy and centre of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim media movements are concentrated here. How else would we explain that the New York Times runs a cartoon with a bomb-wielding, mean- looking Arab and a caption that reads "Orthodox... conservative... reform... what's the difference."
Such cartoons have not been rare in Europe since the Nazi era. The harm is not only psychological (insult to a culture or a religion), but also helps feed into actions that are physically harmful. Didn't we see this before, dehumanising a group first before attacking it?
New York, NY
Basic Jewish ethics
Sir-- I must protest about the letter writers who state that Israel wants to exterminate the Palestinians. Apart from the fact that such a concept is totally alien to basic Jewish ethics, may I point out that up to the commencement of the current Intifada, Israel's biggest trading partner was the Palestinian Authority.
Can anyone possibly conceive the idea that any state would want to destroy its most profitable trading partner? Let's be realistic.
Sir-- I just want to say a word to the Palestinians and Israelis. Why don't you try to live with each other in peace? This is the only solution that will end your deteriorating situation. Civilians on both sides have the right to live in peace without fear.
I totally disagree with killing civilians whether they are Israelis or Palestinians, and I'm sure that there are a lot of people who agree with me.
I would also like to ask the Americans, what is that the Arabs do which makes the hatred and hostility towards them grow? Why do you always think Islam is connected to terrorism? And you say that the American people want to communicate with us, well, I have tried to do that hundreds of times via the Internet, but you can guess how unresponsive they were.
Sir-- I would first like to congratulate you for your efforts in order to bring the news of the world to your readers. It is very important that people all over the world are aware of ideas and behaviour of other people in different continents, different countries, different political systems and different religions. We all live on the same planet and there might be more things under the sun which are common amongst ourselves, than there are things that separate us.
I found your Web site when I was looking for information on Mr Dyab Abou Jahjah, because of his unusual behaviour and the attention he gets in the press. As you wrote in your article, 'Zero tolerance for Arab activists' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December) on the possible trial against the Israeli leader Sharon, Mr Jahjah was a very clear opponent of the Belgian halting the prosecution of Sharon. As a matter of fact, four Burundi people, who were sentenced by the same court that should have tried Sharon, are in jail at the very moment. For that unfair discrimination and other reasons Mr Van Quickenborne and Mr Jahjah protested against the stopping of the trial. So far you are very well informed.
But I do think, that your information on Mr Jahjah is not complete and that he has exaggerated the impact of his Arab European League. Perhaps he poses some right questions, but it is not a good idea when someone at one hand proclaims himself a stranger and a guest in a country, and on the other wants to set fire to that country.
God has many ways of realising his plans with the world and mankind, but the aggression and lies of Mr Jahjah can't have a divine origin. The words he whispers in Dutch are not the same as those he cries in Arab. Thank God, that there are more honest Arab, Berber and Jewish people in Antwerp, and they have their mosques and synagogues.
I'm sorry for this confrontation, but I wonder how Egyptians or Arabs would react if there was a young Belgian who makes the streets of Cairo insecure with his comrades, and cries in Dutch that he wants to take over power in the country, all in name of the one and only true belief in Jesus Christ? What would you do? And would you accept the insult of being called a racist, when you disagree with him?
Lodewijk De Wilde
Sir-- Although Amira Howeidy's article 'Zero tolerance for Arab activists' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December) gives a very good survey of the current mood in Belgium concerning its Muslim population and Dyab Abou Jahjah, Ms Howeidy startled me when she mentioned "the far-right controlled media". These are very marginal in Belgium. Much more influential are the mainstream (and therefore - sic-centrist) newspapers, which did/do an abysmal job on covering this story.
Their subtle -- even if often unconscious -- racism and their participation in the criminalisation of the Arab European League seem much more harmful than anything far-right rags publish. I share the (slim) hope of the author, and some of those interviewed, that the current attention in the media (even if slanted) will bring about some necessary changes.
Bart Van Steirteghem
New York, NY
Sir-- I liked the article on Kissinger's commission 'Kissinger, the investigator' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5- 11 December). However, I query the use of the adverb "disingenuously" to describe the CIA's 1980s involvement in Afghanistan. Does Al-Ahram Weekly agree that the CIA was pretending to act on a moral level by funding the Taliban? Namely that this is the same disingenuous pretence President Bush is accused of while rattling his sabre over Iraq?
Sir-- It is fitting that Henry Kissinger is back as a top US strategist. He is in the right company. Actually, he should have been called back long ago, the moment George Bush formed his Taliban Cabinet with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and so on.
There was no point in keeping just one war criminal out of the planning room.
New York, NY
Views from the other
Sir-- Ayman El-Amir couldn't get it more wrong in 'Kissinger, the investigator' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December). Kissinger's job is not to look for some pathetically tired idea of "root causes", his job is help us to be more effective at ripping this weed out by the roots and then ripping it to shreds. Mr El- Amir would have us fertilise this weed -- we choose to burn it.
At the same time, I would like to extend my compliments on Abdel-Moneim Said's most recent article 'Learning about the other' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December). I have been following the Arab press recently and he displays a much better understanding of parts of the character of the USA than I have seen elsewhere.
I hope he also wrote in Arabic that our wealth does not stem from something we did not create, such as natural resources. One need look no further than Japan to see that natural resources are not necessary for productivity and wealth. He also might have stressed that while we do examine history, we are and always have been a country of the future. Our system of government creates the framework, and within it we find what does and doesn't work, and we do what works.
There is a maxim to the effect that only a fool takes the same course of action and expects a different result. This is a lesson that could usefully be applied in your part of the world. In Palestine, for example, it could have prevented untold suffering, and still could.
Open for dialogue
Sir-- Abdel-Moneim Said is the first writer I have read in the Arab press who comes to the table with an objective open mind. I am ready to openly admit the flaws of my country's policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, but it is often hard to do so when you feel there is little willingness on the other side to do the same.
Having open-minded thinkers is the only thing that will get us all out of the mess we are in.
New York, NY
Sir-- Concerning Edward Said's article, 'Misinformation about Iraq' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December), I disagree that Kanan Makiya is a "passing phenomenon". He is representative of the class of Zionist non-politicians who have risen to power in the United States, unelected, and who will be making foreign policy, instead of the US Senate.
As soon as I read that Makiya re-emerged with another identity, I thought "Mossad". I am not a fringe lunatic who sees conspiracies under my bed and coming out of my soup, but I am convinced that most terrorist attacks that have occurred since the 1960s have been committed by the Mossad -- this includes terrorist attacks on the Jewish population of Israel. This terrorist machine will stop at nothing to achieve the goals of Zionism, which is to occupy, ethnically cleanse and settle in the Middle East "from the brook of Egypt [the Nile] to the Euphrates". I don't believe that the majority of Israelis support this goal, but the fanatical government within the government -- which has become the government within the American government as well -- has publicly embraced this vision and will never give it up.
The American public, because of our harnessed and toothless press, is completely unaware of the danger that the Mossad poses to the United States. I have read reports coming from the US Defence Department that from now on the CIA and the Mossad will be working even more closely together. The 22 security agencies that will be merged to form the Homeland Security Department will definitely include a 23rd department -- the Mossad. The CIA, NSA and the Mossad will eventually form the core of the US government, permanently ensconced, unelected and not answerable to anyone, and running the president, the Congress, the country and the whole world, in secret.
I find these people terrifying, not only because they murder without scruple, but because they control so much of American life. And I must admit, I'm scared of being labelled anti-Semitic. But I'm coming out of my shell of fear. I am going to support the Palestinian cause, with my time and with my money. I'm not ready to go to Palestine yet, because I have family here and don't want to die or wind up in an Israeli prison.
New York, NY
Sir-- While I disagree with many of Mr Said's views in 'Misinformation about Iraq' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December), I have to agree on the role of George Bush and his administration, as well as Mr Makiya. I feel that to target the Iraqi people in an air campaign, after we read so much of their horrendous treatment by the regime of Saddam Hussein, is completely ludicrous. I also feel for anyone preparing himself for positions of power in a post-Hussien Iraq, is involved with the planning of civilian casualties as much as George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the idiots we have chosen to lead our country.
I also feel George Bush is trying to clean up the tarnished legacy of his father because he did not remove Saddam from power over ten years ago. As a very liberal American citizen, Mr Bush has started us back down a path of being a greater Imperialistic nation. He has also destroyed our own federal budget plans to get our own nation out of debt. He campaigned on a theme of making government smaller and reducing taxes and spending. Now he wants to increase spending, decrease taxes and create an unmanageable large bureaucracy at a cost of billions of dollars per year.
There is no doubt in my mind that after the events of 9/11 we had to take a major military action against both the government of Afghanistan and Al- Qa'eda. In my opinion, that has been a fairly unsuccessful action since Al-Qa'eda just packed up in Afghanistan and moved over the border into Pakistan, along with much of the Taliban leadership. Yes, we damaged their infrastructure, but we also killed many innocent civilians.
After this military history over the past 11 years or so, to take on another major military action in the Middle East -- at an estimated cost of $90 billion a month -- is something we flag-waving Americans need to take a closer look at.
Long Beach, CA
Sir-- Although I don't totally agree with 'Misinformation about Iraq' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December), I think anyone who thinks they can make an Arab country non-Arab is completely insane and obviously not reading the newspapers
Sir-- I just loved your article about Amm Hussein Al-Hadari 'A limited existence' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December). It describes an old man, a lifestyle and an old tradition -- and all these elements blend perfectly. It introduces to me the romantic side of the festival of Ramadan.
I now live in Cairo and I hope I can get an old man calling my name to wake me up for suhur. It is so interesting and charming. Thank you for your wonderful article.
Sir-- I greatly enjoyed Mr Rakha's article 'Festive menace' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December) about the Eid and the infamous "Bomba". It brought back several childhood memories.
Growing up in Alexandria in the 1950s, I vividly recall smacking the poor pedestrians walking on Port Said Street in Ibrahimiya. My uncle's wife, Madame Jermaine always came to the rescue when I ran out. Once she gave me a very generous supply of the insidious pebbles that brought incredible joy up to this moment. Thanks again for sharing your memories.
Sir-- Thank you for the good article 'Conviction unsound' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 December) on Saadeddin Ibrahim's release by Jailan Halawi.
Sir-- I enjoy your newspaper very much and wish the Arab World would publish more in English to educate the American people who have so much influence over the future of the Arab world, Palestine and the conflict with Israel.
There is one correction needed in Lamis Andoni's analysis 'Turning on the house of Saud' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 November - 4 December). Senator Charles E Schumer is from New York, not Florida.
Sir-- Kindly accept my suggestion to have a section regarding IT, technology development and trends.