Sir-- Only fools of the deepest dye would believe the US claim about freedom and democracy; only fools pure and simple would be deceived by such a hypocrisy. The claim of championing human rights throughout the globe and in all its sites is a joke so foundless and so absurd, so many standards and visions blurred. The free country is no longer free, the superpower is now to be or not to be. Countries are attacked and their peoples robbed by ruthless and barbaric wars that never stop.
And the Yankees, oh dear, begin to wonder why we hate them, why the anger; because we are fools, so stupid and ignorant, so naive, uncouth and so intolerant.
Face the music
Sir-- Our humiliation as Arabs has been repeated at least three times during the past 55 years, (1948, 1967 and the invasion of Iraq 2003 ). Every time we face a defeat, we moan and accuse others (Israel, the US and everybody else), but never our incompetent dictatorial leaderships.
All dictators fall; always taking down their country and many other people with them. For once, I wish that our intellectuals would face the truth: we have a great deal of responsibility for our humiliation.
A free man will defend his country by all means, while the slave (politically speaking) will not. It's a shame that the Arab nation does not have the right to choose its own governments, leaders or to speak freely.
In short, the peoples' civil rights.
Fear of freedom
Sir-- Reading your articles on the fall of Baghdad and the reactions of Egyptians in 'Shocked, awed and saddened' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 April) helps me to understand in ways I never have why the Arab world is in the state it is: one man, non-democratic rule, and the lack of freedoms and associated innovations and growth enjoyed by so much of the rest of the world. The US, UK, Europe, UN and Christians -- are not the enemies of the Arab world. The enemies lie within. Read Escape from Freedom by Eric Fromm.
The burden, complexity and messiness of freedom is too much for some to deal with and blaming others for all of one's problems is so much easier. Denying facts and believing whatever stories the media feeds is as unnatural as the myths taught in the schools. (I love the one about the farmer shooting down the helicopter in Iraq. He admits he was forced to lie and was never paid the reward Saddam promised).
But watching Arab networks and feeling good in the short term leads to the shock and awe when undeniable truths, such as Iraqi celebrations, come to pass.
Denial is more than a river in your great country. Join the real world and work with your brothers and sisters of all nations and all religions to advance the world and not make up a make believe world of your own.
Sir-- I am a regular reader of Al-Ahram Weekly, and have visited Egypt five times and will definitely be visiting again this September. Like many of my friends, I was and am, against the war in Iraq. But I have to admit my puzzlement when I read about how the Egyptian people feel ashamed by the defeat of the Saddam regime as reported in 'Shocked, awed and saddened' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 17-23 April), as if it was a blow against all of the Arab people.
Surely the existence of such a regime was a bigger blow against the Arab people, with the massacres of Iraqis by that indefensible regime? To me, it appears that such a reaction is as illogical as Europeans feeling ashamed at the defeat of Hitler's Germany and the following occupation by the US/UK etc of Germany. I understand your feelings about the US/UK occupation, and I feel that popular pressure at home will reduce the occupying forces over the next year. It is in no way as significant to the region as the defeat of the Arab nations by Israel in 1967 -- and since then Egypt has been at the forefront of realising that war is not the way to do things, and has opened up relations with Israel.
My fervent hope is that Egypt again tries to lead the way at the UN in order to send troops and aid workers from Arab states to replace the US/UK forces and to help in the reconstruction of Iraq. This would show to the world the maturity of the Arabs, and their compassion in helping one of their own. Unfortunately, until the civil infrastructure is restored, military force will be the only way to keep law and order on the streets.
I totally agree that Bush and Blair were wrong, and the invasion of Iraq was planned since 2001, but, unfortunately, we now have to live with the consequences of their actions, and try to rebuild Iraq not as a puppet state with another despotic leader, but as a modern society similar to Egypt. As one of the two great civilisations of the ancient world, it deserves no less.
A fit metaphor
Sir-- How telling that US forces so carefully protected Iraq's oil fields while ignoring the looting of Baghdad's internationally renowned museum. The complete, and by all accounts preventable, destruction of one of the world's most significant collections of antiquities is a fit metaphor for current US foreign policy, which causes more serious damage through carelessness than calculation.
The notion that Iraq even has history -- let alone that 7,000 years ago this land was the cradle of civilisation -- is not likely to occur to the neo-colonialists running a brawny young nation barely more than 200 years old. The United States' earnest innocence is the charm that our entertainment industry markets so successfully around the world, but it is also the perennial seed of disaster as we blithely rearrange corners of the planet we only pretend to understand.
To Donald Rumsfeld, the widespread looting that has ravaged hospitals, libraries and museums in Iraq was simply further proof that the US invasion of this fractured Muslim country represents liberation. "Freedom's untidy," he said. "And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes." Translation: You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.
It almost sounds as if the defence secretary is projecting onto the looters a blanket excuse for deadly errors the White House and the US military have made and will continue to make in Iraq: alienating allies, killing civilians, hand- picking craven and corrupt Iraqi "leaders" who haven't been in the country for decades. This is, after all, the distillation of the Bush doctrine: free countries are free to commit mistakes and commit crimes in unfree countries.
One wonders whether Rumsfeld would extend such tolerance to the United States' own two million prisoners. Surely he would not dismiss our country's long history of urban riots as an example of the untidiness of freedom? It is only in Iraq that we believe, to quote a song Janis Joplin made famous, that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."
Sir-- I would like to personally thank Jill Kamil for her thoughtful and informative article, 'The cradle of civilisation' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April). I had sent an e-mail expressing my concern of the lack of publicity that the archaeology and cultural heritage of Iraq was receiving before the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad occurred. Jill Kamil replied to my e- mail and I was truly surprised to see that there would be an article in Al-Ahram Weekly on this topic.
The information that I gathered from Jill Kamil's article was extremely useful and informative not only for me, but also for my classmates at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I used several articles from Al-Ahram Weekly to explore the vast cultural devastation that is taking place in Iraq right now.
I am very satisfied with the level of reporting that I am seeing daily in Al-Ahram Weekly and view it regularly. Keep up the good work and thanks again to Jill Kamil whose professional research and reporting afforded me the opportunity to share information about Ancient Mesopotamia that was thoughtful and accurate. Also, a big thank you to Nevine El-Aref, David Tresilian and Zahi Hawass for their thoughtful articles as well.
Keep up the good work.
Sir-- This is how to win a war American-style: first, choose a country that is most profitable to you (like Iraq), then brainwash the world through your formidable media, with all kinds of fabricated excuses. Third, bomb its infrastructure out of existence (1991 Gulf War-style), establish an economic blockade for 12 years plus sanctions, divide the country into three zones and enforce it by war planes. Six, send in UN inspectors to inspect every inch of the land, followed up with U2 plane inspections. Eight, start "shock and awe" bombardments by unseen missiles and B52 bombers, blow up power stations, water supplies, hospitals and food depots and starve the population.
Only then, go in with tanks and heavy armoured cars protected by Apache helicopters. Then instigate chaos and rob the country's rich heritage and burn its priceless manuscripts and books.
Finally, start handing out lucrative contracts to your favourite companies and bill the Iraqis.
Sir-- I am very impressed with Galal Nassar's analysis 'The collapse' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17- 23 April). As an Arab myself, I was left in shock and awe when I saw Baghdad fall with zero resistance. I questioned, like many others, what happened to the special Republican Guard, the military, Saddam Hussein, and the chemical weapons. Believe it or not, I lost a lot of sleep over this.
Why did Al-Sahhaf misinform us, what happened to the confidence he portrayed? I was so sure that Israeli soldiers were involved, and you just proved me right. When they asked Israel how to carry out urban warfare (since they have this experience) they simply told America "Don't waste your Apaches, and your drones, all you need is tractors and run them over by the hundreds, just as we do with the Palestinians."
My question is this: aren't the Arabs, including the Iraqis, aware of what is going on or are they stupid? Sometimes I get the feeling that they are either retarded or a bunch of cowards who cannot stand up for themselves.
Sir-- I read with interest the views of Egyptian intellectuals on the reason for the American invasion of Iraq in 'Worse than 1967' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 17-23 April). The imperialist goals thesis, suggested by the intellectuals, is clearly out of touch with the American street's view of the invasion. If the farmers and ranchers in our local coffee shop believed that we sent our sons and daughters to Iraq to "enslave" people, George Bush's presidency would be over in a matter of months.
Right now, most people here believe that first, certain individuals, organisations and governments in the Arab/Muslim community wish to kill as many American civilians as possible. This thesis is supported by the notion that the chemical, biological and suicide weapons these people seek and fight for don't work very well on the battlefield. Their only real purpose is to kill old people, office workers and young children.
Second, although oil companies and other entities may take advantage of the situation to get rich, that is not the reason our military went to Iraq. Rather, they were sent to take these terrible anti-civilian weapons out of the hands of Saddam, Al-Qa'eda and others who wish to kill Americans. Third, as soon as the engineers repair Iraq's basic infrastructure and a government that doesn't want to kill numerous Americans takes over, we'll leave. The American people (who can vote Bush out of office) have absolutely no interest in enslaving anyone.
The intellectuals' disregard for the opinions and political power of ordinary Americans suggests a real problem for the Arab/Muslim community. Before the 9/11 attacks, people in my rural town had little interest in the Middle East. The ongoing conflict between the Muslims and Jews was as distant as a conflict between Chile and Argentina might be to an Egyptian citizen. Few cared about or understood the reason for the conflict. We had no more interest in our government's position on the conflict than you might have on your government's efforts to help Chile defend against (hypothetical) Argentine attacks.
On 9/11, Al-Qa'eda convinced my neighbours that they needed to pay attention. Al-Qa'eda convinced most Americans that certain Arabs and Muslims wanted to kill them (for no apparent reason). If that attack had not happened, the American people would not have supported the invasion of Iraq and, without that support, the invasion would not have happened. The intellectuals' failure to consider Al-Qa'eda's blunder and the importance of the American "street" in American foreign policy suggests a serious misunderstanding of how my country works.
Minot, North Dakota
Sir-- It is of great comfort to read the Muslim sentiment in 'Arab anger' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April) regarding the consequences of the US-led invasion in Iraq. As our brothers and sisters were brutally murdered in the name of world domination by white supremacists, let us not forget their blood was not shed in vain. It is critical to build on unity and diversity as we, the people of the world, start the struggle to tear down this regime of terror.
In the heartland of the United States there is economic upheaval; the people of colour have no voice, each emerging leader has been assassinated, the media selects to keep the American public in the dark. The Bush administration is starving its populace to feed the weapons of mass destruction it uses to commit acts of murder.
We, the people of colour have to unite. The people of North Korea and Columbia are trembling as aggression towards North Korea escalates and troops are in Columbia with virtually no media coverage.
Let us remember that good is unified and evil divides; we have to make a commitment not to allow the United States government to divide the people of colour and fight amongst themselves. There are millions in the Unites States who are in the struggle for good. The human will is much stronger than any mother of all bombs. Anger is the first step to change; let us change in the name of peace and unity.
Mehnaz Miraj Gibson
Sir-- Sadly, the free press in America has been bought out by special interest groups and your paper is welcome as another perspective.
The Bush era of "lining the pockets of friends" with plundered booty whether from Iraq or from the working poor of America has reached a new height. Both America and Iraq are seeing a robber looting as the rich in the military industrial oil complex get richer and moral rot sets in.
New York, NY
Sir-- The Dixie Chicks are the latest victims of the tiniest minds in our society. The inventors of Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast have a new bludgeon to use against their most feared and despised enemies: those who would actually exercise their constitutional rights. Why should we be surprised? Isn't this what Right-wing Fascists have always been about? And emboldened by recent events, they have now been given a broader platform for their shrill, fanatical bleating.
The real problem here, is that a more virulent strain of this Fascist, knee-jerk trash has lately emerged. They aren't just to be found slithering out of their trailer parks and backwoods snake pits anymore with cheesy little American flags pasted on their pick-up trucks. Because of the ethno-political nature of the current world conflict, their vile, putrid intolerant venom is being embraced by a certain Zionist power elite in the national media and being promoted into a mainstream agenda. And these fascists who wrap themselves in the American flag while they conduct themselves like the intolerant commies they really are, disgrace the heritage of true Americans. They would be better off if they moved to Red China where there is a society more in sync with their own philosophy.
In years past, this type of brain dead filth would have simply been exposed as a caricature of itself in the media. Now, it's being given credibility by Fascist info- tainment organs like Fox News, Clear Channel, MSNBC and others. This loony, Right-wing pond scum isn't just a source of passing amusement anymore. It's dangerous; more dangerous to democracy, freedom and American values than Bin Laden or Hussein could ever hope to be. As Tim Robbins said: "There's a chill wind blowing".
New York, NY
Sir-- Since the blatant intervention by the USA in the affairs of the Iraqi people, I have been reading your paper on a regular basis. I find your analyses of the present conflict in Iraq very true and only wish that more in the West would voice their disapproval of American foreign policy. As a Brazilian and Canadian citizen, I have expressed my anger towards this unfair and sick war by protesting with 200,000 others.
I believe that all Middle East nations should stand together and send a clear message to Mr Bush: we don't believe that you care about the people of Iraq more than you cared about the oppressed black people of South Africa. We don't believe that you can impose democracy when one of your journalists looses his job for speaking up on Iraqi TV.
Carlos dos Santos
Sir-- There is growing accusation and suspicion between the Western world, particularly the United States, and the leaders of many Middle East nations with regard to Iraq.
The Arab/Muslim world has reason to be suspicious of American and British intentions. Yet, this is entirely counter-productive at this time of great uncertainty. It is true that American 'liberation' of Iraq should not become an occupation, yet there needs to be stability to ensure humanitarian relief reaches the Iraqi people and the hope that Iraq can ultimately be brought back into the community of nations.
One does not want Iraq to descend into anarchy and chaos. It will take patience and time by all stakeholders in this situation to ensure a peaceful transition for Iraqis.
However, 'real' democracy is also a much needed necessity in this part of the world if we are to witness any kind of peace and stability in the region. The citizens of the Middle East must renounce religious extremism and embrace democracy, freedom and justice, and open market economies if we are to make any kind of progress in our world. There must be mutual respect, tolerance and understanding if our world is to bridge the gap between cultures, religions and civilisations.
The growing gap between rich and poor nations must be bridged before it is too late. The UN and the Security Council need to address this concern and make it a major priority. There must be a bridge between the Arab/Muslim world and the Western world. The oil rich Arab nations must be encouraged to help their poor Muslim neighbours. Foreign aid and investment must be increased by all developed nations. Western business, corporate and political power cannot continue to exploit the people and resources of the developing world especially in Iraq at the present time. Disease, hunger, famine, homelessness and dire poverty must be addressed by the UN and its various agencies. America, Britain, and the EU must do more to make our world more stable and secure.
Unless there is cooperation and development, peace will be fleeting at best.
Crimes of invasion
Sir-- Although I fully agree with the trial of members of the former Iraqi regime, I believe it is a matter of justice that the British and American war crimes must also be punished.
First, the USA and Britain used cluster bombs in their air strikes over the cities of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and Al-Hillal; this is internationally forbidden according to the Treaty of Ottawa because of the great risks for civilians by land mines and scattered missiles [upon explosion many missiles scatter in the wide environment]. According to international law, the use of weapons with high risk for civilians is a war crime.
Second, on several occasions Iraqi civilians were shot by American troops at checkpoints. The justification by military spokesmen that it is in reaction to a suicide attack by an Iraqi solider in civilian clothes makes no sense, because shooting civilians is always a war crime according to international law. Of course, American troops have the right to take security measures, but not at the cost of Iraqi lives whom -- as the occupying force -- they are responsible for protecting according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
For maintaining the principles of international justice, the trial of British and American war crimes is of the utmost importance.