Al-Ahram Weekly Online   27 March - 2 April 2003
Issue No. 631
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875
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Shame and outrage

Cartoon by Ossama Qassim
Sir-- Not since the Vietnam war have I felt such shame and outrage over the conduct of the United States as I do now. Yes, there is appalling, fanatical hatred loose in the world -- anyone who watched and wept on 11 September knows this with tragic certainty. But, my apology is not for the reality that the United States seeks to block one of the clear and malevolent dangers in the world, rather it is for the arrogance of our president and his advisors who pursue war and death as the first and best option, instead of the last and most regretted necessity in preventing further horrors against us all.

My apology is for our illusion of superiority; that, in pride and zealous moral certainty, the United States does not feel bound to act with the counsel and support of the United Nations, and even worse, that we have not the humility to seek the trust and support of the nations of the Middle East for whom it may prove to be the dangers of war or inaction are greatest of all.

My apology is for a country and for leaders who are strong, but not wise; who are resolute, but lacking in compassion. My apology is for those who will righteously strike at the inevitable results of suffering and oppression, but will not risk their wealth or pride to help alleviate the misery of our fellow beings from which such danger and violence arises.

If the Unites States of America were as busy in the world with the practice of compassion as we are with the craft of war and commerce, then those who would do harm to us all could not rise up against humanity from the hearts of the hopeless and the desperate.

Richard Varnes
Boulder, Colorado

Don't hate Americans

Sir-- I just want to let the Egyptian people know that Americans are not to blame for the war on Iraq; President Bush is. The majority of us are strongly against this war, so don't be anti- American, be anti-Bush. At the same time, allowing Saddam to remain in power would be a mistake. He doesn't care about the Iraqi people, he only cares about himself. You don't hear of the American government bombing or poisoning American people; we are not assassinated because we disagree with our government's views.

The Iraqi people need to stop being afraid and stand up to Saddam; America will help them. Sometimes we have to fall to rise again, more powerful than before.

People of Egypt, I admire you and your country. Don't hate Americans; true Americans only want peace and sometimes peace only comes after war.

Stephanie Hale

There to stay

Sir-- There has been much disagreement on the op-ed pages of American newspapers about whether the Bush administration's fixation with Iraq is motivated by oil. It seems to me that this debate comes at the question from the wrong direction.

The interesting question is not whether the march to war is motivated by oil, it is whether the United States, once it has its incomparable military positioned astride 10 per cent of the world's known oil reserves -- with the chance of driving a stake through the heart of OPEC -- could ever relinquish control of them.

Given the extraordinary lengths to which the US has been willing to go to pursue national security in other areas, and the paranoia that currently reigns in the White House, it is hard to believe that the answer to this question could be "yes".

Gregory Weiher
Houston, TX

War for peace

Sir-- This is not a war over oil; if it was oil that the USA wanted, they could just buy the oil from Saddam. This is about the threat which Saddam represents not just for the USA, but the rest of the world, especially his neighbours. Where were these peace demonstrators when Saddam poisoned his own people? Why are they not demonstrating over the sub-human life which the Iraqi people have to live while Saddam builds palaces for himself? Saddam knows how to play the world against the already anti-American sentiments in the world -- and the world just buys into it.

America has no wish to conquer any other country or we would have done it already; our theory is to help the rest of the world support itself. America doesn't need to import anything; we grow enough food to feed the world; we have all the necessary natural resources to provide for ourselves; and the ability to create the technology for anything we have a need for. We could close our borders and close off the rest of the world and still prosper. But a decision was made to help the rest of the world prosper and to share what we know, even if that means having to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

It's not a religious war either, because we are very tolerant of other religions. I have taken the time to read the Qur'an and can see how the radicals are misinterpreting its meaning, and using it as a tool to brainwash people to do their bidding.

Americans are strong in heart and believe that the world can one day live in peace, and such dreams can come true. What kind of a world would it be without the United States of America ? Think that over very carefully.

Deborah Mazzacavallo

Pacifist prattle

Sir-- I feel a need to inform your readers in the Arab world that many of us Americans support President Bush's initiative to oust Saddam. We believe that in spite of the risks and dangers of a war, the present moment offers a genuine opportunity to bring about some tremendous positive change in at least one Arab country, as well as cause a great setback to terrorist groups around the world. Like millions of ordinary Americans who support our president, I couldn't care less about Iraqi oil and I certainly have no interest in conquering foreign territory for imperial aggrandisement, as so many of America's intellectually childish critics insist. Indeed, if President Bush truly harboured the sinister motives his reflexive antagonists accuse him of, he would destroy his own political career.

Our American leftists, who hate not only President Bush but in some cases America itself, have simply taken leave of their senses. These people begin with the premise that Bush is an evil man; therefore, everything Bush does they interpret as bad, in order to make the evidence fit their premise. I used to be a liberal myself and spent many years listening sympathetically to leftist views, but the dogmatism of the left has finally worn me out, as it has many other former liberals. Frankly, I have never seen such an intellectually vacuous, morally bankrupt group of people in my life as our "peace marchers". There's nothing like listening to their pacifist prattle that this war is "all about oil" to convince a thinking person that it's time to become a conservative.

As for the Arab world's reactions, I can understand their unwillingness to see war brought to a fellow Arab country but perhaps it's time for Arabs to see the silver lining in this cloud. If we can bring about important political changes that help the Iraqi people leave the hellhole of Saddam's legacy behind, it could lead to positive changes in other Arab countries as well. The potential for good is, I think, greater than the potential for ill.

Houshang Shirazi
Los Angeles, CA

At what price?

Sir-- Has bush asked himself about the extent of human and financial damages which will result from this war? Have US officials calculated their losses after new generations of terrorists appear to take revenge on the US for its arrogance?

Some 4,000 Iraqi children already die every month, owing to lack of the medicine, food and a contaminated environment.

Mr Bush, your policy will lead to more desperation and disappointment, which augur ill.

Ahmad Abdel-Tawwab

The hand that feeds you

Sir-- Once again Egyptian students are in a rage against America. I can't blame them for that, but I would blame them for biting the hand that feeds them.

Hate us, boycott us, kick out all Americans, but don't take my tax money while you do it. It makes you look foolish, undignified and insincere; make your government stop demanding aid from us. When you are demanding charity from the US, not from your fellow Muslim/Arab countries, you seem far worse than hypocrites.

Jean Jackson
Salem, OR

We will be heard

Sir-- I wish to let the peoples of Egypt and Muslim nations know that the Canadian people support the Muslim world and we are very enraged at Bush's war in the name of the American people. We Canadians also have much access to American television and we communicate frequently with Americans on the Internet. The American people are also rioting in the streets against this war.

Do not despair; we, the People of Earth are speaking and we will be heard.

Ara Miles
British Colombia

Wake up call

Sir-- And as we expected, the cowboy from the wild West with his trigger-happy bunch of butchers has launched an illegal and immoral attack on an innocent population who have nothing to do with Saddam or his twisted ways. If Saddam was bad for Iraq, Bush is bad for the world. Saddam is being attacked for violations of UN resolutions and yet Bush himself is in clear violation of international law. Maybe Russia, China and France should use the same reasoning and attack the US. What a wonderful peaceful world it would be.

What is astonishing is what the Arab leaders are up to. What will it take to wake them up? This is definitely the darkest moment in our history and I for one have my head hanging in shame. Shame on us all.

Naeem Khan

Not in our name

Sir-- I cannot understand why the Middle East is aiding Bush in his illegal invasion of Iraq. I am no fan of Saddam, but it breaks my heart to see what is being done to the people, the sanctions were bad enough, but this is murder.

The only weapons of mass destruction I have seen are Bush and the propaganda our media spouts. I am forced to hunt out information on the Internet.

I just returned from my fourth demonstration against this war, I want you to know that there are many Americans against this war. We have an illegal president running an illegal invasion. He has broken all the rules this country was founded on.

Wayne Ryerson

Peace by force

Sir-- 'The gates of hell' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20- 26 March) was well written, but I do not think the results of the regime change in Iraq will produce the body count you suggest, nor do I fear a change in the worlds' alignments will be all negative. Iraqis may be relieved to be rid of Hussein and may make a fine new democratic and prosperous nation for themselves. The riches they used to help world terrorism will be redirected.

Call me a dreamer, but I believe as George Orwell once wrote, that pacifism in the face of armed evil is equivalent to blind worship of force. I think Americans have taken the higher ground and are bringing about peace through confrontation.

Elizabeth Lair

On the spot

Sir-- In 'The gates of hell' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March), you omitted the fact that Iraq has been under the terrorism of Saddam Hussein and his family for 30 odd years. The war is a result of that fact. Many of my countrymen don't agree with Bush because we think he's arrogant and ignorant. However, Saddam is a slaughterer.

As I was walking in a peace march recently, I suddenly thought: "I'm defending Saddam Hussein against another oppressor." It's quite a dilemma.

Axel Sjöström

Muffled freedoms

Sir-- I very much agree with Hani Shukrallah's 'The gates of hell' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March). I would also like to add that Bush is in violation of Article II of the UN Charter. As you'll recall, this is the very violation that sparked the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. At the time, Iraq broke international law and was punished; this time, America breaks international law and we are told to be silent about it. In the West, we are told about freedom of speech, but I do not even have the right to enter the local council to voice my opinion. What freedom of speech are we talking about?

Peace is not possible in this day and age since morality does not govern international politics. Thank you Al-Ahram Weekly for allowing me to voice my opinion.

Sabiha Mahmoud

Booming progress

Sir-- Regarding Mr Said's article 'The other America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March) on the polarities present in the US. The same divide is present here in Canada as well.

Blake said, "To generalise is to be an idiot," so allow me to be as extreme about the opinion here in North America as your editorial stance appears to me. Those here who are against removing Saddam (who hardly symbolises Muslims) are anti-Semites or uneducated, left- leaning, pacifist Christians who have been shocked and awed by the events in Europe over the past century and have lost the stomach for the good fight -- the fight to bring the pursuit of happiness and freedom to people who deserve that right.

The people of Iraq get closer with every mighty explosion; it's the sound of progress.

Gregory Brown

Accurate analysis

Sir-- Mr Said's article 'The other America' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March) describes the truth as I feel it. Thank you.

Tom Loew

On the sidelines

Sir-- While I am perhaps one of those idealistic American university intellectuals to whom Edward Said refers in his reflection on the pluralism that still survives in the USA 'The other America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March), I really am not personally acquainted with a single person who supports George Bush's war.

Since I am the sort of American who chooses not to own a car, perhaps this reflects only that I am a member of a politically marginal fringe group. Though I suspect that my basic assumptions about social organisation would seem remarkably prosaic to people in the rest of the world, I have to struggle some days to convince myself that it is the TV and newspapers and government who are the lunatic fringe, and that I am merely clinging to the belief that human beings should be treated humanely, wherever they come from.

Such a point of view survives in the USA because it survives everywhere there are thoughtful persons, and there are some of those everywhere, no matter how foolish the government.

What is unfortunate is how politically marginal are the intelligent observations of a man like Said, and how little exposure such viewpoints receive in the media, or even in the university. But then our frustration with our authoritarian institutions must seem silly or cowardly to those who bear the brunt of their power lust and greed (for it is still turned outward; our selfish fear is that it should turn inward), and still we also do not know how to fight back.

Daniel Fox
Seattle, WA

Desperate for change

Sir-- I commend Edward Said for his article 'The other America' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March). He is right on in describing the inner turmoil.

I am disgusted by the deterioration of American society I have seen in my 45 years. The government and the media cannot be trusted to give truthful information.

America, in my opinion, is in desperate need of change. It has become an embarrassment to live in a nation that dominates and deceives its own citizens as well as the rest of the world.

Susan Bonafede
Buffalo, NY

True insight

Sir-- Edward Said's 'The other America' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 March) strikes me as perhaps the most accurate, in depth analysis of America this century.

Frank Green

Greater awareness

Sir-- Recently letters appeared in your paper suggesting that Arabs should establish a lobby in the US Congress to address their needs, gather support to resolve issues and address the UN to ask for help. Many resolutions have been presented to the UN requesting that human rights for Palestinians be supported, and many have been recorded but not upheld.

A list of vetoes by the USA in the UN Security Council from 1972 to 2002, show that of the approximately 80 resolutions cited, 40 had to do with Israel. Of these, each was either a condemnation of Israeli Human Rights violations or a request for cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps one of your researchers could secure this list from the UN and publish it. I'm certain that many readers would be shocked at the contents. These resolutions are only a sampling of those made in an attempt to establish fairness in the Israeli/Palestinian situation since the beginning of the UN.

Unfortunately, we in the US have little knowledge of what goes on around the world and especially the workings of the UN. If we were more aware, I'm sure our attitudes concerning the Middle East would be quite different.

Elizabeth Bishop-Martin
Athens, GA

Name's sake

Sir-- The least that can be done to show appreciation for the heroic stand of Rachel Corrie, is that Al-Ahram Weekly sponsor the idea of naming a major street in Cairo or Giza after the fallen American heroine.

Mansour El-Gilani

Let us know

Sir-- The Arab media has a responsibility to report the horrors of war to the American people. Through English-language press, Internet and broadcast you can reach out.

The mainstream press in the US is controlled by a few large corporations which only present the pro-war sanitised side of the story. For example, instead of talking about all the innocent women and children we'll kill, they show pictures of our smart-bombs homing in on terrorists.

Cal Page
Boston, MA

Baseless theory

Sir-- In his article 'Traces of Poison' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 February - 5 March), Dr Salman Abu-Sitta made some references to my article "Israel and Chemical/Biological Weapons" published in The Nonproliferation Review (Fall- Winter 2001). I regret to state that some of the information presented in that article, seemingly based on my research, is distorted, both in facts and analysis.

The most disturbing issue refers to the reference about Ben Gurion's order to Munya Mardor, the founder of Israel's Weapons Development Authority (RAFAEL), made sometimes in late 1955, to launch a crash project to develop a new type of weapon system. While no Israeli official has ever explained what kind of weapons systems Ben Gurion's orders to Mardor were referring to, it was I (based, in part, on Haaretz's article by Israeli journalist Aluf Benn), who interpreted Mardor's veiled comments as a reference to a project "to develop a cheap non conventional capability". This project, I claimed in various publications, was a project to build chemical weapons. While my claim has never been confirmed, I still believe it to be true.

However, Dr Abu-Sitta goes much beyond what I ever said in my article on this subject, and he leaves the readers with the strong impression as if his assertions are derived and based from my research. In the same paragraph in which he cites me, Abu-Sitta continues and writes the following: "It turned out that the rush was to meet the deadline for the Suez Tripartite Aggression of 1956. Ben Gurion was prepared to bomb Egypt with biological weapons if his campaign fails."

Not only was this speculative claim never made by me, but I am firmly convinced that it is both false and baseless. First, my own interpretation was made in reference to chemical weapons battlefield capability (and not in reference to biological weapons). Second, the historical context for Ben Gurion's order was the Czech-Egyptian arms deal of the summer 1955, and not the 1956 Suez campaign. Third, and most importantly, for all we know there is no indication whatsoever that Ben Gurion "was prepared to bomb Egypt with biological weapons if his campaign failed". This is totally false.

To present research material in this way and leave the impression as if those allegations are backed by a real historical research, is a serious breach of elementary ethics rules concerning historical research. I deeply regret that Dr Abu-Sitta resorted to such tactics.

Avner Cohen
Silver Spring, MD

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