Sir-- In his article 'Post-Oslo solidarity' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 February), Joseph Massad raises many important points concerning the Palestinians' inability to articulate their very legitimate cause, including the weak leadership offered by Yasser Arafat and the PA. However, I cannot fathom how Mr Massad ignores the detrimental effect that the suicide bombings and mass killing of civilians conducted by Islamic groups in particular has on the moral standing of Palestinians in the international arena.
Such bombings and killings, while perhaps not more reprehensible than some actions carried out by Israel, do irreparable harm to the Palestinian cause by enabling the Israelis, their American supporters and the media to frame the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in terms of Israel's security and "the war against terror", and not as it should be, the issue of Israeli oppression and occupation.
I am quite disappointed that throughout the Arab world those with the ability to shape public opinion and articulate the Palestinian cause, including religious leaders, journalists and academics, have failed to criticise those committing these acts. The fact is that to reclaim international support, the Palestinians must reclaim the moral high ground and the only way to do this is to halt suicide bombings and embark on a campaign of resistance characterised primarily by non-violence in the tradition of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. This will expose the brutal Israeli occupation for what it is and will be especially effective if it involves the participation of Palestinians inside Israel where they can truly disrupt and affect the lives and policies of Zionist Israelis. Such a campaign would also remove Israel's pretext for its oppression and violence.
Sir-- Joseph Massad in 'Post-Oslo solidarity' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 February) reiterates the Palestinian refugees right of return and seemingly acknowledges that the only possible solution that can meet this right is a bi-national state in Palestine. Though the right of return is not in doubt, contrary to the creative sophistry displayed by so-called international law experts, in Israel and abroad, opposed to the return of the refugees, there does not seem to be much debate as to how a bi-national state is to be achieved.
Apart from the work of Salman Abu-Sitta, which has shown that there is a large amount of space that is uninhabited in Israel that can accommodate the refugees, there are other questions about a bi-national state that need to be answered. For instance recent history has shown that there is a tendency for states without a homogenous ethnic majority or with significant ethnic minorities to break up as witnessed by Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union, and the instances of successful unifications have been limited to states with a common language and culture such as Germany and Yemen.
Secondly with large numbers of Israelis supporting the expulsion of Palestinians both inside Israel and the Occupied Territories, and with no evidence to suggest that any Israeli government will agree to a large scale return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, how will Israel agree to the right of return or how can it be imposed on Israel by an international community and organisations that more or less support the right of return?
Finally how will the large influx of Palestinian refugees be successfully integrated into a secular democratic Palestine that is a vast improvement in their standard of living on the squalor experienced by refugees in the camps of Lebanon, the Occupied Territories, Syria and Jordan?
As a British--Palestinian originally from the West Bank and who supports the right of return of Palestinian refugees, I would be most grateful if Al- Ahram Weekly could publish articles that address the above questions and the many other questions related to the establishment of a secular democratic Palestine with a workable model for such a state, as opposed to vague statements concerning the Palestinian refugees and the continued reiteration of their right of return.
Sir-- I am astounded at Joseph Massad's bile in 'Post-Oslo solidarity' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 February). It seems he is stuck in a time warp, still spouting the empty rhetoric of the 1970s. Sad.
New York, NY
Sir-- I just want to express how much the Europeans are against Bush and his plans to go to war in Iraq; we don't want any blood to be shed for oil. If Bush is fighting a war on terrorism, then why would the US act as terrorists and blow up other people? Why don't the Americans consider themselves as terrorists also? The US has sent war ships and troops long before it had any clear findings which would justify a military attack. Moreover, it is known that the US is the main country in possession of weapons of mass destruction, so why should that be permitted but forbidden to others?
Why do they have double standard just to serve their own interests, as if God would only bless America. Empires have had their rise and fall; the Pharaohs are gone, the Romans are gone, the Greek empire is gone, the Persian empire is gone, the Turkish empire has gone, the British and the French colonial powers are gone. No civilisation can rule forever.
Dominating other countries is always wrong, because power is unfair and the powerful suppress the weak. But as we have seen with past world powers, every injustice has its downfall -- sooner or later. May God bless the world and not just only the powerful America.
Shari Meryem Hitz
Mantra for peace
Sir-- Thank you for your coverage and articles on the US administration's policy regarding Iraq. I am particularly encouraged by the piece on the human shields caravan 'We are all Iraqis' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 January - 5 February) and Ramsey Clark's profile 'A voice of reason' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February). I cannot speak for any American citizen but myself, but I know I am not alone in my opposition to further war against the people of Iraq.
I am Buddhist by philosophy and spirit; I am using words and non-violent actions to fight for the right of all beings to just and humane paths to peace. May we find peace and strength in this season.
Sir-- Your profile on Mr Ramsey Clark 'A voice of reason' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) made me think about how I, as an American, can begin to explain the outrageous actions of the present US administration.
I have seen Mr Clark speak and his portrait of an American president as a religious fundamentalist who has sprung from a culture that reveres money over all things is accurate. In fact, the power culture in the West is filled with men who are indoctrinated with what I like to call the "MBA mentality". These people start out as businessmen but end up serving their own interests in the end, simply because they are taught in business school that creating a business with a modest profit that benefits its employees is not enough. Their personal image becomes interconnected to margins, the fact that there are employees also depending on the performance of a company is not as important to them as how the image of the company reflects on them.
When you put a man like this in power, as has happened with George Bush, you are left with a very dangerous situation were one man's aggression and ethnocentrism begins to be reflected in national policy. What about those around him? The MBA mentality tells you that when policy is made, they are either on the team or off it, which explains the reaction of Colin Powell. Whatever doubts he has regarding US policy plays second to the team effort.
I can only hope that more voices from within the US political system will talk out of school against abuses of power as Mr Clark has.
Not so splendid
Sir-- Was it such a slow news week that you had no choice but to print another anti-American article which offers nothing new, particularly insights or alternatives to the US role in the world? Perhaps Mr Shukrallah, the author of 'A splendid little war' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February), would rather that America hold off its attack while the Arab world deals with Saddam Hussein as it did so effectively when he used his weapons on the Kurds or when he invaded Iran or Kuwait? Being the world's policeman is a thankless task, especially when the minds of those you seek to aid are already poisoned by "academics" and other preachers of hate.
As for the comments against capitalism, I would agree that the economic system is not perfect -- but any student in America could tell you that. What does Mr Shukrallah recommend? Nothing. How difficult it must be to simply criticise everything and everyone else and offer no solutions. As for the comment "half the world lives on two dollars a day", where do those people live? Under benevolent dictators like Saddam and Milosevic and Kim Jong Il whom Mr Shukrallah would prefer remain in power?
New York, NY
Stamping out ignorance
Sir-- Regarding 'A splendid little war' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February). I ask that you not judge the American people by what is happening in this push for war against Iraq. Many, if not most of us who think independently, are against it. Our voice is simply not heard by this government. There are a number of concerns that I have, chief among them being that the executive branch of our government appears to be waging its own war while our Senate and Congress are rarely heard from. Because our officials are elected, I am guessing that since this is an easy war to win with few American lives lost, most will not oppose it for "political" reasons. Some courageous American states are proposing legislation that brings this to a full debate by government, but those efforts may be too little, too late.
I am mostly concerned, however, for the Iraqi people; the brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters who would be in the crossfire between American missiles and bombs and their own Iraqi poisons and diseases. They, like us, are the victims of their government. If you think of someone you know and cherish in your life at this moment, with only a matter of weeks before they die a horrible death, you will feel what I feel for the innocent Iraqis who will pay the price of this with their lives.
I don't know many Muslim people, but the few I have known are always very nice, honest, genuine people whom I have liked very much. There is a great deal of ignorance in our country about the people of the Middle East and their way of life, but like any ignorance it is easily cured by acquaintance and knowledge.
Sir-- Regarding Mr Shukrallah's 'A splendid little war' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February). I am a proud American as I am sure you are as proud of your heritage. Your views were taken with an open mind, and I considered them as fair as could be given the general perception of America in many parts of the world. The media in America as well as in your country seems to taint the picture of all the relevant truths that face many issues. The truth, in the end is as impossible to find as are the lies to weed out.
Part of it is human nature and part of it is human conditioning. We, all people of the world, see the same acts extremely differently due to relevant perspectives. What kind of anchoring do you think is put in the minds of Americans when after thousands of people die in a terrorist attack, you see people of the Middle East celebrating. The American century you speak of is out of a certain perspective and you also are a media outlet guilty of omitting all relevant truths of America.
Sir-- Regarding the article titled 'The final frontier' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) by Galal Nassar, I want to comment on one thing he wrote. He wrote about the Battle of Al-Nasseriya which involved the Hmmurabi division. First of all, Mr Nassar incorrectly called it a battalion. A battalion has four to six hundred men, whereas a division has upwards of 15,000. He also said that the United States and British forces were near collapse. That is incorrect. I was there as a member of the US army and we were slaughtering the Hammurabi division, most of whom were running away as fast as they could abandon their vehicles. President Bush ended the war to stop what had already turned into a slaughter from getting worse.
Trying to rewrite history is never a good idea. The only reason that any of the Republican Guards units escaped in 1991 was because we stopped chasing them in accordance with orders from the president. Iraq's army today is worse than it was in 1991, and it was pathetic then compared to any modern force. We're considerably better today.
Mr Nassar makes some excellent and cogent points in his article, many of which I agree with. He does not need to change history or try to give the Iraqi army credit for anything other than the pitiful, mostly cowardly, and entirely unprofessional and ludicrous exhibition of ineptitude it displayed in 1991 -- and will no doubt once again display when we visit them once again in the next few weeks.
Kenneth A Siegel
Walk in the park
Sir-- It's been quite some time since my Persian Gulf days. I flew A-10 sorties for several months and engaged the "vaunted" Republican Guard in anti-tank and anti-personnel missions. But, respectfully, those mentioned in 'The final frontier' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) are not "elite" troops. I believe they are good soldiers and courageous, and also seemed to be rather robust and tough. "Elite" troops would entail the skills the Special Forces Units from the US, or the Seal teams from the Navy and various highly trained commando units from militarily developed countries possess.
They had little skills in countermeasures and aerial defence -- you aren't going to drive a SAM truck in front of my jet, without receiving massive retaliation, it was like shooting ducks off a pond. They were capable regulars in my opinion, however, with the aerial skills of our current hi-flyers and attack skills of our air-to-ground missiles, combined with Blackhawk helicopters (which can deliver an amazing amount of firepower) and with comparably trained units from the US, it will be a short encounter.
Additionally, Special Forces have been in there for months now; they already have their targeting information at hand. Moreover, George Jr seems to have a little more fighting spirit than his father. It's a lose-lose situation for everybody; wars aren't good for anybody.
Mr Nassar did hit the nail on the head with the strategic importance of US bases in Iraq though. It is that element we are interested in, not oil. I don't believe you have heard any complaints from Kuwait regarding our taking their oil. We want runways.
Sir-- Condeleeza Rice's interview 'Taming the beast' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) displays the thinking here. She states that the president of the United States does not want war; but is there anything in Bush's demeanour, public statements or policy that supports her contention? She states that France and Germany will remain US allies; is she stating orders to them or is she merely engaging in wishful thinking? She states that she wants to give Iraq back to the Iraqis; then why take it from them in the first place? What does she intend to give them back, a country devastated by two American attacks 12 years of sanctions and stripped of its oil resources? Dr Rice's view of the world is chilling and dangerous to all.
I would like to thank you for the very interesting and informative interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell 'The war no one wants' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February). His remarks show that the Bush administration completely misses the essence of the matter on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Powell insists repeatedly that Iraq disarm, but doesn't the esteemed secretary of state know that nations, in much the same manner as Americans, have the right to arm and defend themselves? Perhaps we could charitably interpret what he means by stating that Iraq should not have offensive weapons. How does Powell know the Iraqis have these weapons?
Despite their vaunted intelligence networks all we have from the UK is plagiarism and from the US shadowy satellites and cryptic conversations that Powell perceives as "evidence". Powell's statement that the choice of war or peace resides in Baghdad is a complete abdication of moral responsibility for his government's actions. Powell has not provided a basis for the mass killing of civilians in Iraq that his war plans will precipitate.
The American peace movement is alive and well and Powell's ploys of war and deception will not succeed.
Half Moon, NY
Sir-- I am sorry to now realise that I am witnessing the fall of a great country that acts against the desires of its citizens. Americans do not want war, yet we have a leadership which was not elected by the popular vote of the majority of its citizens.
We need to stop destroying America's credibility within the world community. Our soon-to- be-former allies will not be talked down to or be forced to follow us in policies that go against them. Remember one thing, the day Bush took office our economy took a turn for the worse, unemployment began to rise, the poor became poorer and the rich became richer. Everything Bush has touched has turned to mud and this is also why I fear what will happen if we attack Iraq.
Sir-- I am an American with roots to Afghanistan but I would like to think, above all else, I am a human being wanting to end cases of victimisation whether in the examples of Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, or in my own homeland of Afghanistan. So, I am voicing my outrage on the recent incident media blackout of The Los Angeles Times regarding the February 20th UCLA lecture of the Columbia University professor Edward Said -- probably one of the top intellectuals in contemporary America.
His talk was relevant since it discussed the prospective Iraq invasion. Shouldn't the American public be made aware of this issue especially since it will be our sons and daughters trekking over to the Middle East to fight a war many here are doubtful about? Why is it that you can send journalists into the mountainous caves of Tora Bora but not into Royce Hall at UCLA?
When the media practices self-censorship it serves no purpose because all they are doing is manufacturing consent among the general public for a myth, lies or what Said calls "Orientalism". By filtering reality, you give a slanted view of the world to your readers creating a "mental Berlin Wall" for the American public. Misrepresentations of facts to the masses, naïve assessments, and faulty research by the media and also scholars have incited the world against the Middle East.
The San Francisco Chronicle and The Oakland Tribune found Said's previous day Berkeley lecture worthwhile pursuing, but the great The Los Angeles Times did not feel so about his UCLA lecture. Well, it was this naïve sense that partially contributed to 9/11 -- the day when thousands of people who put their trust in a free and responsible media became martyrs.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- 'A monument to hypocrisy' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February) by Edward Said is well written and very informative. It is not the sort of stuff that is read here in Australia, but it does give me a different perspective of the looming war. I went to the anti-war rally in Canberra on 15 February, and wish to say that I don't want to see this war happen. It is an unjust war, Saddam should have been sorted out 12 years ago and most of his weapons were supplied by Western countries. There is a danger of this war spilling over into other Middle East states and getting out of hand.
I watched the Israeli military do its dirty work on the Palestinians when the 11 September events took place; the same will happen when the US starts to bomb Baghdad, while the world press is looking the other way.
We shall overcome
Sir-- I have read Edward Said's 'A monument to hypocrisy' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February), and once again, as seems to happen more and more frequently in this troubled time, I am ashamed to be an American. Many Americans, if not most, are against the current administration's insane rush into a war that is clearly based upon lies which stretch back for more than a generation. Some of us are trying to make a difference, but our government is not listening to us. America, sadly, seems to suffer from a combination of ignorance (in no small part fed by a biased media), and apathy that are unrivalled by any other peoples in the history of the world.
I would just like to say to your readers that not all of America is bad, and that there are many of us who will continue to strive for both truth and justice -- two of the principles upon which our nation was founded. Know that there are many who have seen the plight of the Palestinian people, and who recognise the great injustices for which the US bears no small portion of the blame.
Today, we are marching against an unjust war to be waged against a country that is not our enemy. We will continue this struggle, though our leaders are seemingly blind and deaf to our actions and words. America must take its proper place as a part of the greater world community, rather than placing itself apart from the world community. Rest assured, the American people are strong and will prevail; not over the world, but over our own unjust leaders, and the injustices of the past.
Southwest Ranches, FL
Sir-- It is simply wonderful to read Said's words in 'A monument to hypocrisy' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February), even though they come from such despair.
He must know that many, many people like myself feel as he does; perhaps we will succeed in moving the world. Now is the time for incredible effort to be invested by all decent, honourable men and women.
Sir-- Absent from your article 'Trashed lives' on the rubbish collectors (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 February) is any response or comment from the government who handed over garbage collection to foreign companies.
Do they have an explanation for their reckless behaviour vis-à-vis the local collectors, besides being totally irresponsible in view of the huge foreign currency deficit the country is facing? Garbage collecting is not the hi-tech we need to transfer.