Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 April 2003
Issue No. 635
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Fear for the future

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Sir-- Thank you for reprinting your debate with PM Blair in English to make it more widely available 'Who will history favour?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April). As an American, I am scared and disheartened by my government's actions. History will indeed judge us -- as ruthless arbiters of "right and wrong". Many Americans agree that the war was actually inevitable. Diplomacy was never given a chance in Washington.

Bush and Company had planned a war all along and cynically tried to use the UN to support "regime change". Weapons of mass destruction were merely a smoke screen -- there was precious little evidence and the evidence displayed was considered suspect even by the CIA (who gathered it). It is now clear (in case it wasn't simply obvious) that Saddam couldn't have used his army to attack his neighbours -- so that argument by Bush/ Blair is wrong.

And there is no evidence that Saddam materially supported terrorism against the US. I am scared by my fellow countrymen's ignorance on this point -- Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, and yet most Americans now believe Bush's lies that Iraq was somehow involved.

Saddam is/was a horrible dictator, but then so are many others who the US chooses to ignore or who we actively support. Who is next? What countries will follow our "preemptive strike" doctrine next? Pakistan? India? Israel? The world is not a safer place now, and America will indeed pay a long, horrible price for this new policy of "preemptive war". Not tomorrow, maybe, but soon enough. That saddens and frightens me.

What should have been a shining moment for the US to show leadership and coalition-building has devolved into "who has the biggest guns." Now the Arab world has even more reason to hate America and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Let's just hope that two years from now there's a new president in the US and that s/ he heals the massive rifts Bush has created.

Richard Dean
Los Angeles, CA

Baghdad surprise

Sir-- Let me tell you where Saddam is. When the American troops occupied the Baghdad airport, the Iraqi information minister stated in a press conference: "we are going to do with them (the American troops) an unconventional act". So it is clear now that what he meant was that the unconventional act is the disappearance of the whole regime.

If you read the events you will conclude that Saddam and his entourage are in Russia:

1- Condoleezza Rice visits Moscow.

2- The Russian ambassador returns back from Syria to Baghdad.

3- The American troops fire on the media personnel killing some and injuring some to divert attention.

4- The Iraqi ruling junta disappears.

So, it doesn't need too much intelligence to figure out what actually happened. Saddam agreed with the Americans to sell his country, the broker was Russia; end of story. That's how they regard third world countries, buy the ruler, then you can buy the whole country. Very shameful and humiliating.

Amr Badran

What next?

Sir-- Who will rule Iraq after Saddam? A big controversy is brewing over what will happen when the war does end. The neo-conservatives like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle envision a longer US occupation of Iraq, directed entirely by the Pentagon and with only minimal participation by other countries and the UN. In essence, they want to win the peace the way the US has pushed for war: alone.

The State Department, CIA, Britain, the major humanitarian relief organisations, and most of the rest of the countries in the world disagree with this plan. They would prefer to see the reconstruction of Iraq as a collaborative, international effort led by the UN relief organisations and that it will be difficult or impossible to help starving or malnourished people in a Pentagon- controlled Iraq. Relief has never been a priority for the Pentagon, and in many cases the US simply lacks the expertise to distribute food and medical aid effectively. At the State Department, officials worry that not including the UN in post- war planning could heighten tensions between the US and other important allies.

We should also worry that a US-led reconstruction effort will be regarded with suspicion or even hostility by Iraqis, who have already shown that they do not welcome foreign intruders. In other words, if led by the US, an Iraqi government may simply fail. That could leave Iraq in the hands of another Saddam Hussein. US control of the reconstruction process will further alienate our already estranged allies, and could create a permanent rift between us and the countries we rely upon for cooperation in the war on terrorism.

Ultimately, the UN is equipped to build democracies; the United States government has neither the expertise nor the long-term political will to see such a process through. After almost rendering the UN an ineffective and fatally- damaged body, the US can now prove itself the leader of the world by working with the world community, through the UN, to rebuild Iraq into a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country.

Aref Assaf
Denville, NJ

Rising power

Sir-- The fall of Baghdad is an ill omen for Egypt, but not in the way your writers expect. Before the war, real estate prices in Baghdad began to soar, indicating that Arabs were investing in the country in anticipation of a new future for Iraq with freedom and respect for the law. From now on, Iraq will receive all of the foreign investment that might have gone to Egypt. Iraqis will grow rich and dominate the Middle East. Before the first Gulf War, Iraq had plans for major motion picture and television studios in order to challenge Egypt's hegemony over Arab media. Those plans will now bear fruit; Iraq will be the new face of the Arab world, while Egyptians languish in poverty, oppression and ignorance.

Roger McKinney
Broken Arrow, OK

Great article

Sir-- 'Worse than 1967' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17- 23 April) is a fantastic article. God bless you Amira Howeidy.

Moustafa AbdelAl

By other means

Sir-- We could be witnessing the beginning of World War III. An axis of states headed by the US attacked and occupied first Afghanistan and then Iraq, the latter in defiance of international law, the UN and world public opinion. They are now threatening Syria and Iran, and have a hit- list of many other countries. Given that the US has huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, how can we stop them from proceeding with their racist and megalomaniac mission?

The Arab League has called for an emergency session of the UN General Assembly to discuss the situation, and this should be pursued on a priority basis. However, it is not enough. A counter-attack against the US should be launched immediately.

In accordance with the strategy of guerrilla warfare, the point of attack should be where they are weakest: their economy. It is so heavily in debt that the only reason Bush can spend billions on this war is that we support the US dollar by using it as world currency. If that support is withdrawn, the dollar will crash and the war will have to stop.

This can be done very easily. If the oil- exporting countries issue their own currencies in payment for imports, and accept only one anther's currencies and the euro in payment for exports, other countries will be forced to diversify their foreign exchange reserves. Overnight we would have a multi-currency world economy. The IMF and World Bank would lose their power. Without US support, Israel would not be able to continue its occupation of Palestine.

Every time we use the US dollar outside the US, we are supporting the US war. We must launch a worldwide satyagraha (non-violent non-cooperation) movement against the US dollar, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and other countries threatened by US-Israeli aggression.

Rohini Hensman
Sri Lanka

Open arms

Sir-- If my country were plagued with a ferocious dictatorship (such as former Iraq), I would be happy and grateful if a (let us say) pan-Arab military force intervened and toppled the regime.

F Reale

Face the reality

Sir-- The George W Bush and Tony Blair administrations expected Saddam Hussein to treat US and UK invaders according to Geneva Conventions when they are captured? Very funny. Suddenly they have become respectful to international law, forgetting their blatant violations of every single principle of human rights and their murder of the UN. They try to make a fool of the international community by hiding their horrendous treatment of Taliban POW in Guantanamo, who are still almost out of sight and their fate uncertain. The only news I saw in newspapers included pictures showing them in chains and captives in cages like animals of a zoo. Is that action in accordance with the so- called Geneva Conventions?

What were the US-UK soldiers doing in Iraq? Weren't they massacring a foreign land without any provocation, killing its people, destroying its establishments and making fools of the indigenous and international communities and sponging upon them? Is this a war? Does it have Security Council or UN mandate? It is indeed an act of aggression against a nation already distraught with military and economic atrocities perpetrated the Anglo-American aggressors for the last 12-13 years.

The world knows that 20 March 2003 was the official death of the UN. All the rules of the UN and all other international laws have now become invalid as Bush and Blair administrations initiated the war. It is really surprising that hawks like Mr Rumsfeld still try to talk about international law, which they think will always shield their parochial national interests and hide their crimes against humanity.

My advice to these Anglo-American war criminals is: "Please, try to be civilised, and try to take a glance at your ugly faces in the canvas of history before lecturing on the Geneva Convention. The world has seen your faces and we hate what we have seen."

Mostafa Khaled

American justifications

Sir-- Please don't confuse the United States with the British or Russians. We never wanted overseas colonies and we certainly don't want any now. If we want anything you have, we will buy it and make you rich. We are not enemies of Islam, we believe in freedom of religion which is written in our constitution. If we had wanted either thing then we would not have left after we liberated Kuwait in the first Gulf War. We really did not care what Saddam did to his own people as long as he didn't try to export it. Is that the action of someone who wants to take over the Middle East?

Most of us don't even know where the Middle East is; we really don't care about what kind of governments you choose for yourselves, or what you say about us, just please don't shoot at us. We are likely to shoot back and we will always have bigger guns. What happened to set us off? You know what it was. It was 9/11. We all believe that Saddam was behind it. He shot at us and now we are shooting back. Could President Bush guarantee that 9/11 would not happen again with Saddam still there? The answer is no. Could the UN prevent another 9/11 -type attack? Did it protect the Bosnians or the Rwandans? Has it brokered a Palestinian-Israeli peace after 50 years of trying?

We will now do with Iraq what we did with Afghanistan and Nazi Germany. Do you want us to go home? Give us Bin Laden, arrest anyone like him, and then we will all go away. If you insist on shooting at us, then our cowboy mentality will kick in. That is very dangerous for you and whatever innocent people you try to hide behind. We really don't want to be the sheriff of the world, but someone has to do it if the UN has become useless in stopping terrorism.

Paul Cowan

Twist in the tale

Sir-- In America, we would like to give our great thanks to the Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian governments and people for lowering oil prices, and for their financial support to our troop to invade Iraq. We would also like to show our appreciation for their open door policy to our advisors and the "man of peach" [sic] Prime Minister Sharon.

Paul Wolf
Dallas, TX

One-sided views

Sir-- I am an American who has been reading your Web site to gain some understanding of how the Iraqi conflict is portrayed in the Arab world. Whether one agrees or disagrees with American military actions, one point seems clear to me: the American press provides many points of view, including brutal criticisms of the war and viewpoints in favour of the war. Americans make up their minds after hearing all sides. I see one side represented in your paper.

Chris Crane
Philadelphia, PA

Shared blame

Sir-- I find it hypocritical for the Arab countries to bring up civilian casualties when you routinely kill each other daily. I am sad for any civilian casualty in any country, but Saddam has killed millions of Arabs and has threatened other Arab states; do you think that the sovereignty of his Arab neighbours would not be more assured without him in the picture? If the Arab countries banded together you could have removed Saddam yourselves instead of the US having to come in and do it. Nonetheless, I do not pretend that the US is not partially to blame for the situation it helped create, by siding with Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war.

Finally I want to say that a large majority of Americans don't rely on just CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN, etc for news; we look at other information sources such as Al-Jazeera, Egyptian news, Arabic news and Al-Ahram Weekly, to get different perspectives, because we have that freedom.

Steven Potempa

Balance needed

Sir-- Regarding 'Tea and Jazeera' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April). While it is encouraging to see Al-Jazeera as an Arab satellite channel making such great leaps in coverage, I think it is important to recognise its extreme bias. Arab perspective is vital, but taking advantage of the lack of balance to it is dangerous. This type of consistent and unbalanced reporting will do nothing but cause more hatred and misunderstanding in the Arab world, specifically among the less educated and those who have not had much exposure to the West, America in specific.

I found it disheartening that Al-Jazeera focussed only on civilian casualties and showed nothing of coalition soldiers risking their lives to save women crossing a bridge under fire from Iraqi soldiers. Or what about the footage of Ba'ath Party members using women and children as human shields? This needs to be seen also. I can only hope for the best for the people of my heritage and ask that you do your part to ensure that all sides are reported.

Michael Naoom

Praying for peace

Sir-- I believe in my heart of hearts that we are all one under God. It is only governments, fear, misunderstanding and hunger for power that keeps my brothers and sisters in Sudan, Egypt, Iraq etc apart from me. I too am frustrated as the Egyptians mentioned in 'Anger in the valley' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20- 26 March).

Please tell the Arab people that there are many of us who feel we are ignored by our own government. I have asked the White House by e- mail to please stop this war; how many starving children could we feed with the dollars spent on one cruise missile? My country has such potential to be the leader in good deeds, but it's not happening.

I pray for peace. I don't know how to stop it, I am only one man, afraid that the Beast is loose in the world and won't stop until it consumes all reason and replaces it with hatred and blood. God have mercy on us all.

Dana Hall
North Carolina

All in one boat

Sir-- I am an American citizen who has strongly and consistently opposed my country's invasion of Iraq; therefore, I represent that roughly 30 per cent of Americans that the polls identify as "not being in support" of this war. I do not believe that any war is just, and do not believe that there can ever be a "preemptive enemy". Like several thousand other Americans, I believe that UN inspections would have revealed any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein could have been replaced by the Iraqi people with diplomatic and financial assistance from other nations -- if this had been the will of the majority of Iraqi people.

I have supported American troops by asking our government to "not send" them and to "bring them home immediately". I abhor the deaths that have taken place on both sides of this war, both civilian and military; I abhor the deaths that have resulted from worldwide acts of terrorism. I am a Christian and no words of Jesus Christ condoned war or murder, and to kill is to deny the basic truth of Christianity.

I grieve for all families who have lost their loved ones, and especially for the children affected by this enormous tragedy. I support US initiatives in providing all manner of assistance to the people affected by this war, and the immediate inclusion of the Iraqi people and the UN in forming a new government that preserves Iraq's resources for its people. I have communicated these urgings to my government.

American democracy has given me the opportunity to communicate my views to President Bush and Congress, to sign and circulate petitions against this war, and to organise and participate in acts of protest -- without fear. Although Americans like myself, who exercised our democratic rights in this way, could not prevail, our dissent is a matter of historical record.

Many Americans believe that our hero Martin Luther King was right, and that we can "overcome" with non-violence. We will continue to assert these principles while we mourn for the world this day. We are all connected. No tragedy that befalls any of us spares the rest of us.

Rebecca Trussell

Play it again

Sir-- I was very interested in your article 'Where is the music' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 February) on the shortage of songs for children in Egypt. I am an American music educator and my interest is collecting authentic children's folk songs to teach in the music classroom. My great love is the music of the Middle East and I have been researching for five years -- you're right, it's hard, hard work.

It is one "art form" to compose music to be sung for children, it is another to find the folk songs which have existed in one's culture for generations and which are sung primarily by the children themselves. Egypt has a wealth of the latter type, and I would suggest that you revive interest in these songs. They are jewels. Two or three volumes by Mrs Baheega Sidky Rasheed were published in Cairo in the 1960s. If the interest is in CDs, then make arrangements of some of these songs. They are time tested and would have enormous appeal. They are authentically Egyptian; not an imitation of some other country's style.

Joan Litman
New Jersey, NY

Young minds

Sir-- This letter is for Shaden Shehab, the writer of 'This will not happen to us, right mom?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April). As an American, it always bewildered me how Arabs could be so hateful, distrustful liars. You see the world one way only, your way. Now I see how so much hate can come from such small people, you teach your young to hate, which is deplorable. I wonder, Shaden, at what age do you teach your daughter to strap explosives to her body?

John Corcoran

Travelling the world

Sir-- I have learnt an enormous amount about the people and place of Cairo since I first was introduced to your newspaper on the Web. Congratulations on the recent 'Letter to an Irish mother' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 April). The reports I have received here (currently Australia) of the hospitality of Cairo's people (equal I am told, to that of New Zealanders) have always been very favourable.

The threats and dangers in the world are world wide and no single country or town should be labeled as a 'dangerous place to be' because of the actions of some extremists (whether individuals or nations). My own mother travelled alone to the other side of the world (literally) when she was just 16 years of age and even so, she has always panicked for her siblings when they have been travelling internationally (regardless of their age). It is something mothers do. They love.

I have a family of seven brothers and sisters spread out about the globe and all say the same things. There are times and places when people fear difference, but few are the times such fears are proven. Thank goodness the world is full of difference or we would all simply stay home and never learn the values of other societies and cultures.

Greg Dwyer

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