Do your part
Sir-- Regarding 'Courting self-destruction' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February). Mr Nafie's reading of the Bush administration is correct: they are determined to launch a war of genocide to change "Saddam's regime" regardless of the number of children, men, women, military personnel and all other creatures their "crusade" will kill, or the number of homes, museums, universities, schools, businesses, office buildings, mosques and churches it will destroy, or the oil conflagrations it will cause.
Here, in the United States and in Europe and elsewhere, the majority of us are doing what we can to stop "W" Bush. What are you, Arabs and Muslims, doing to help us?
K Antonius Semaan
New York, NY
Sir-- With the threat of war, I have been thinking a lot about what is going on in the world. What is justice? What is the right thing to do? Should we go to war with Iraq? Is the government of the United States telling us the truth? I have yet to find the answers to most of these questions, but now I have another question. Should I be ashamed of my country?
It seems that I would most likely be embarrassed.
Sir-- Mr Shukrallah's article 'A splendid little war' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) was brilliantly written, historically perfect, with wonderfully wicked satire. I am an older American woman who only recently gained access to the Internet, and am finally able to obtain relevant international news and opinions, rather than the usual US propaganda. I am one of many Americans who did not vote for Bush Jr -- and never liked his father either.
Bush was not elected, as I'm sure you know, but selected, appointed and crowned king illegally by our Republican-stacked Supreme Court. However, Bush is only a puppet king, controlled, as are most of the world's heads-of-state, by international corporations and it is these corporations which pursue world supremacy, as you suggested.
I wish I had a solution. In the 1960s my generation said: what if they had a war and nobody came? When will soldiers just say no? The majority of Americans want peace not war in Iraq or anywhere else. I imagine this is true for most people in most countries, especially women, as we and our children are always "collateral damage". Thank you for your insightful article. I look forward to reading future editions of your newspaper.
Sir-- Egypt remains a bastion of reason in the Middle East and the world at large. Recent comments by Ibrahim Nafie and Mohamed Sid-Ahmed state problems and suggest solutions in the most intelligent and refined way, which is more than any of us in the United States can expect. They are kinder to our renegade leadership than we are.
First, may I say that about half of our country polls are being against the war mongering, sabre rattling posturing of the right-wing regime that controls our government. George Bush Jr's standing in public opinion polls has already started to plummet. History will judge that the man is too stupid even to realise that he is a figurehead, and he will go down in history as the least intelligent of all our presidents. We would urge all decent people of other nations to please not judge us on the basis of our current leadership. It's a temporary aberration.
The idea that war can be prevented by starting a war is wearing thin here. Hussein is in a box; the likelihood of his using weapons of mass destruction outside his borders is next to zero. The chances that he will use weapons of mass destruction outside his borders if attacked, is a certainty. The forces of destruction which are about to be unleashed will long outlive the leadership that strikes the match. Unfortunately, it is the peace-loving and benign Middle East populations who will suffer the most and the longest.
The only person who has the power to change this equation is Saddam by resigning office. In essence, Hussein can win by losing. By his personal sacrifice, Hussein cannot only marginalise, but in fact defeat Bush altogether.
I find the sophistication, decency, and intelligence of the Egyptian society on the pages of Al-Ahram Weekly well expressed. Unfortunately sophistication, decency, and intelligence are seen as weaknesses in Washington. The only hope for the prevention of hostilities is for the Arab leaders to convince Hussein of the wisdom of stepping down. It would disenfranchise his worst enemies. And in that regard Hussein can win the moral high ground and the gratitude of the world community itself. Since decency and intelligence don't count for much in the US, it's sad to say that it is up to the Arab leaders to save us from our own shortcomings.
Sir-- The leaders of the Arab world must stop all oppression against their people. They must look towards freedom and democracy for all; religion and government must be separated to achieve this goal.
The Middle East is the solution to peace and it is in your hands, not only for your future generation but the generations of the whole world.
Standing up for rights
Sir-- I, and many thousands of other Americans, took part in the protests on 15 February against my government's criminally stupid push for war in Iraq. My government has been hijacked by religious and political extremists, and although we cannot stop them, we shall do what we can to stand up for human rights, the rule of law and international cooperation -- without which we shall all surely face a very dark future.
Santa Cruz, CA
It isn't human
Sir-- I am an American who is appalled at the violations of Palestinian civil and human rights which I read about every day online, so it comes as no surprise that they will not receive gas masks. Why would Sharon's government pay for such necessities when it is already in the process of trying to slither its way like a snake into the annihilation of all the Palestinian people. Not only is it bad enough that they can't cross the borders for work and therefore do not have any money to buy food, but what is most appalling is the amount of financial support the United States gives to Israel. It is allowing the State of Israel to commit such inhumane acts against the Palestinian people without reproach.
Such violations committed against the Palestinians would never, ever take place in the US. The only selfish reason why the US keeps any relationship with Israel is because it is the only non-Arab country in the Middle East, and it needs it as an ally. Israel is allowed to commit all sorts of the crimes against humanity, including the imprisonment of children for throwing stones. It's inhuman, but then again, whoever said that Sharon was human.
Sir-- 'The final frontier' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) is a remarkably sagacious article that unfortunately may contain more truth than one would like to believe.
Prepare for liberation
Sir-- 'The final frontier' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) is well-written, but unfortunately the reality is that Iraq will soon be reinvented.
Nearly every government in the Middle East is a brutal, repressive dictatorship and all destined for the trash heap of history.
Arabs have as much of a right to democracy as the rest of the civilised word. The hour of liberation is approaching.
Gas them all
Sir-- Regarding 'Apartheid unmasked' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February). It is the height of hypocrisy to simultaneously support terrorism as a means of creating a separatist Muslim "Palestinian" state, and to berate Israel for not providing enough gas masks to the 3.5 million people who would be quite happy if all Jews died.
Sir-- There is a lot of spin concerning the departure of Saddam Hussein as a way to save Iraq from war; they tried to do the same with Arafat (and I am not comparing these two men). The issues are not the departure of these men (their peoples will eventually solve the situation) but of the brutal policies of Israel and the US.
Who will be next? Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iran? We cannot have a world where powerful nations decide who leads a nation, even if he is a tyrant. Apparently some Arab intellectuals endorse the idea, which in my opinion is more a sign of impotence than a well-thought strategy to "solve" the problems of Iraq, and indeed many nations in the region.
Blessing in disguise
Sir-- I have always enjoyed reading your articles, even from as far away as China. I'm also very interested in the Middle East, having made friends with many Jews and a few Arabs. My best friend at school fought in the Yom Kippur War on the Israelis side and my sister's first husband was a Tunisian, who was justifiably upset when Arafat's headquarters in Tunis were bombed.
I can feel the despair of the Palestinian people and the helplessness reflected in some of your articles. When will the Arabs wake up from their slumber?
Here is an anecdote which I believe is based on fact. Years after the Japanese government finally formalised relationships with the Chinese communist government in Beijing, a Japanese delegation came to visit China. At the meeting with Mao Zedong, the Japanese delegation delivered a formal apology expressing regrets over the invasion of China by Japan. Mao Zedong smiled and said, "There is no need for an apology. In fact, without the Japanese invasion, we would never have been able to unite the Chinese people. Do you think I should maybe thank the Japanese?"
History teaches us that the common people have always triumphed over tyranny, regardless of how powerful that tyranny is. There have been many tyrannies in history but they have all fallen, while the common people remain. History is measured in hundreds and thousands of years, at least for us ancient cultures. From the beginning of Rome to the end of the Byzantine Empire, over two thousand years elapsed. America has only been around for less than 250 years. Maybe some day, an Arab leader will thank Bush for invading Arabia. Cheer up.
Sir-- The stand of the Egyptian opposition parties is very much correct regarding Powell's intentions of bringing democracy in Middle East.
Through the experiences in our country Pakistan, we understand that democracy or human rights are just tools that US has been using where they fit their interest. In Pakistan, the US has stood along with the military regime that has consistently weakened and gradually destroyed democratic process in this country. These issues do not matter to the US; General Musharraf is still the darling of Bush despite the fact that he has made fun of the Legal Framework Order and constitutional amendments.
Parties representing the genuine interest of people are duly expected to expose such fake concerns of US on democracy before the public.
Sir-- After Iraq handed over its arms declaration to the United Nations, Colin Powell said (and I paraphrase): Iraq has "failed to provide provoca-", then when realising he was about to say "provocations", he immediately changed his word to "proof". That Freudian slip, if anything, shows the rather irrational manner with which this war is being waged.
If, as the so-called wise leaders of the world vehemently insist, there is proof of Iraq's weapons programme, then by all means have the inspectors search these suspect sites. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to think something is rather strange that when the 11 September hijackers are mostly Saudi, Iraq should be attacked; or that when North Korea admits it has nukes and throws out inspectors, Iraq should be attacked.
For all the people
Sir-- Does anybody realise what it is like to be a superpower? To know that every move you make has an effect on the world as a whole? To be the country that gets criticised for all of its policies, yet when a country needs financial aid or military help we are expected to comply without any questions asked? Unless you are an American, then you have no idea.
Many of these countries can go on and criticise what we do and not support us (France, Germany, England, Canada, South Korea), but in the end they know that if they ever need us, we will help them without reservation. If the situation was reversed, I am not sure the same could be said.
I am not saying that this makes us better than the other six billion people in the world, it doesn't. People have the right to live however they want. But what about the people who have no choice? Can a person leave North Korea if they want to because they disagree with their leader's policy on food rations? Can they leave Iraq because they don't like Saddam? This would never happen and all we are trying to do is give people that chance.
But without us, do you really think there would be peace in the world? Do you think Saddam would be content on ruling just Iraq? He already tried to invade Kuwait once, what would stop him again? The Taliban would still be chopping off people's hands in the stadium today if it was not for us.
I realise that some of our policies are downright wrong, but name one country whose every policy is accepted without any question. Most leaders do what they feel will help their citizens the most, and those who call this a war against Islam are very ignorant.
Roots of rage
Sir-- It is never easy for a proud nation to admit that its conduct in foreign affairs has been less than outstanding, especially a country like America which has been a world leader in humanitarian aid to nations less fortunate. I am not going to hang out all the dirty laundry but let me use two illustrations. America interfered in the internal affairs of Iran by using deceit and violence to keep the Shah in power even though the people of Iran hated him. The Ayatollah Khomeini was forced to flee to France and when he finally returned to power, he was anything but happy with America. When President Clinton authorised the firing of missiles into Afghanistan in the hope of killing Osama Bin Laden, he missed the target but did manage to kill five children. I don't know about you, but if one of those children had been my flesh and blood I would have moved heaven and earth to get even.
Our arrogance and stupidity in foreign affairs cannot be blamed on the Idaho rancher, the Seattle nurse, the Arkansas salesman, the New York cab driver or the Pittsburgh steel worker because, like 95 per cent of all Americans, they would not knowingly hurt anyone in another country. The blame must be born by elected and appointed officials (especially the latter), because they often put the interests of friends and large corporations in the forefront and short change their country. Thanks to them, we are the most hated nation on the face of the earth and it is they who are really responsible for the poor souls who died so horribly on 9/11.
William F Pittenger
Garden City, Idaho
Understanding the other
Sir-- I have been reading your newspaper for some time now and find the articles fair, balanced and well written.
It is critical in these times that we better understand each other and our points of view. Only through such understanding, will we resolve the many issues facing not only the Middle East, but the world. Thank you for the excellent work.
Kansas City, MI
Sir-- In Holland we have a major problem with Dutch policies concerning Muslims. Three parties -- the LPF, CDA and VVD exploited 11 September to garner as many votes as possible by making the Dutch people believe Islam is a terrible and dangerous religion. Now the VVD Party is trying openly to shut down Muslim schools and mosques and introduced the fascist rule which allows white Dutch youth to marry at the age of 18 years, while Moroccans and Turks have to wait until they are 21 if they marry from their own community.
The CDA is the Christian hypocrite supporter of VVD, which allows Christians schooling but does not say anything about the crusade of their coalition party VVD against Muslim schools. There are other Christian parties like the Christian coalition (Christenunie) and SGP who openly state in their programme that they oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Meanwhile, Bible extremism is allowed in Dutch politics, but anything to do with Islam is viewed as dangerous.
When Gretta Duisenberg, the wife of the president of the European Bank ECB, flew the Palestinian flag from her window, her Jewish and Christian neighbours started protesting and called her actions anti- Semitic. Since then they have filed lawsuits, delivered death threats and Jewish groups like Wiesnthal, CIDI, AIPAC and ADL accuse her and her husband of anti- Semitism. It's time that all Muslims groups do everything in their power to support this woman.
I heard some Arab companies were planning to invest in Holland, but I call on Arabs and Muslims not to invest in Holland until things settle down and the old parties come to power again.
Sir-- Cairo Airport must be one of the ugliest airports I have ever seen in my life, and for a country which places a lot of importance on its tourism industry and promotes itself as one of the most important tourist destinations in the world, it's a shame that the first thing a tourist sees upon arrival to Cairo is this old, ugly and dilapidated airport. The Duty Free Shop (to which the tourist is invited to visit upon arrival) must be one with the least merchandise in the whole world.
My other objection is the treatment of Egyptians by some airport officials. Upon my arrival recently, I was asked by the customs officer where I had come from, if I had friends there, where I had stayed -- all very intrusive and irrelevant questions to his work. This of course, while calling me by my first name, which I found very unprofessional.
When will these officials learn some professionalism and just stick to the comments and questions necessary for them to do their job.
Power to women
Sir-- I have just scanned 'Assessing the index' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January) by Professor Ibrahim El-Issawy in your latest on-line edition concerning the Arab Human Development Report. Being an English woman who has spent much of her working life in male-dominated professional and business circles, I have to say that I felt my hackles rise when I read the professor's passing remark that women would automatically become empowered through overall economic and social development.
Women are empowered by their own sense of identity. I'm sure that every one of your readers can think of at least one powerful woman in their lives. But imposed social mores and expectations can confine a woman's opportunities seriously. I suspect that many of our social customs were fostered in order to keep women in economic subjugation, just so that they would be available to service the needs of men.
Consistently in my working life, I have met deeply- ingrained male prejudices, alas, even from charming Egyptian gentlemen. They see a female, not an individual. I think it will take rather more than increased investment, liberalised world trade, growing incomes and enhanced work opportunities to develop an equivalence between men and women. Equal, but different.
Breaking the chains
Sir-- Dr Ibrahim El-Issawy's view in 'Assessing the index' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 January) that women's empowerment is bound to increase in response to improvements in general economic, social and political conditions, rather than in response to pro-women social and political legislation, misses the point of the ADHR.
Women are currently underutilised in economic activity (as it is measured) in Egypt and without empowerment and the associated benefits of development, will continue to be under-utilised in Egypt's economic development. An example is education (improving human capital of the educatee) and innovation (allowing women's innovative capabilities to benefit the remainder of the economy).