Sir-- Current American foreign policy appears confused; present policies would appeal more to Paul Revere's horse than it would its rider. Moreover, the Founding Fathers would find as much use for the doctrines of George Bush as a frog would for a side pocket; but this is not without reason. For 40 odd years every American president from Kennedy to Reagan condemned the Berlin Wall as being undemocratic, inhuman and an insult to all freedom-loving nations. Not a chance was missed to condemn the 'evil empire' from construction to demolition; JFK was even to be seen clambering its ramparts to announce that he too was a Berliner and thus felt deeply the indignity and shame of the German people.
Contrast that view to that of the current Bush administration with respect to Israel's separation of its morally disputable borders from Palestine. Keeping one's head down is not a policy, much less is it a condemnation of an action that is without justification and bereft of support amongst the world's other democracies. If the building of Ulbricht's wall in 1961 was such an affront to the then presidential leaders of the free world, why then is Sharon's concrete and barbed wire partition of 2003 so seemingly palatable now?
The answer partly is to be found in the fact that next year is election year, and that George Bush and his Republican Party will do nothing at this juncture to alienate the Jewish support he so badly needs to succeed for a second term. It is also true that the Palestinian problem is simply too big for this administration.
It is to be hoped that future presidents of America will see the hypocrisy in condemning a wall built by East Germans -- to divide a mere city -- yet offering no condemnation whatsoever to a wall that divides an entire nation. At the final reckoning the Berlin Wall proved to be little more than a holding device; those who wanted to cross borders eventually did so. When its walls crumbled, so did the corrupt and bankrupt ideology of its creators, the eventual victors of the struggle being the very people who were for so long cruelly restrained from deciding their own destinies.
The ambitions of Sharon to divide and conquer, both physically and mentally, will also fail. One day the world will rejoice at the destruction of Sharon's wall just as resoundingly as it did when the Berlin Wall fell. One is bound to wonder whether anyone at all will then remember the silence of George Bush and his administration?
Sixth of October City
Sir-- In 'Smug as a bug outside reality' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) when you mention "the freedom fighters in Iraq", I presume you mean the Americans.
They are the ones who want Iraq to be free, so they can go home as soon as possible. Americans do not intentionally target innocents, unlike the brutal, brainwashed, Arab terrorists in Iraq.
Sir-- Your editorial 'The war on terror' by Naguib Mahfouz (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December) misses an important point. Contrary to the writer's implication since 11 September and the resulting strong US military response, there have been no significant attacks on US targets. Certainly attacks in Turkey and other places are directed against Western interests in general, but US citizens were not the victims. You should think of US policy as having several sets of goals, some immediate and some longer term. After September 11, the most important immediate goal was to ensure no additional US citizens were victims of terror attacks. This has, so far, largely been accomplished.
With all the current debate in the US over Iraq, it is easy to lose sight of basic facts so let's try a little thought experiment. What would the mood of the US public be and what would be the consequences if there was another attack in the US on the scale of 11 September? As it did after 11 September, the US public would demand punishment and retribution for the perpetrators. This energy would have to be directed somewhere and the only two possibilities are Syria and Iran. Obviously the governments of Syria and Iran have figured this out, so despite their obvious motivation and participation in sponsoring terrorist attacks in other places -- including Iraq -- these countries now have a real interest in ensuring that no further attacks occur in the US.
The assertion that by responding to terrorist attacks militarily, rather than with negotiations and concessions, the US has enlarged the problem is incorrect. Terror organisations may be as willing as ever to attack the US. States, with larger interests and responsibilities, can be deterred and large scale attacks in the US cannot be mounted without state sponsorship. Other victims of terror may be upset that the US has pushed the problem away from itself and out into the rest of the world, however the responsibility for terror attacks is with the terrorists. The first responsibility of the US government is to US citizens.
Firmly behind Israel
Sir-- Anyone reading your letters page would be under the impression that the vast majority of Americans disapprove of their government's role in the Middle East. Assuredly, this is not the case. We stand firmly behind Israel and are very firmly set against terror-sponsoring nations.
Hopefully, some day the decent people in the Middle East will demand better from their governments and their religious leaders. Until then, they can only wallow in their status as a hateful, anti-freedom, impoverished underclass.
West Paterson, NJ
Sir-- I'm absolutely convinced that the primary reason for the US invasion of Iraq is Israel's need for water. Israel's only source of fresh water is under the West Bank and even if they could keep control of the West Bank, the supply is not enough in the long term for the area's population. Desalinated water cannot be used for agriculture and is used primarily for industrial purposes. Therefore, Israel cannot continue to exist without another source of fresh water.
They were not able to buy water from Turkey because of transportation problems, and is too expensive and unreliable to try to transport it by sea. If they brought the water in over land, it would have to cross Syria or Iraq and this was not politically possible. The only option to guarantee Israel a water supply was to change the regime in Iraq and distribute Iraq's abundant water to surrounding areas; and I'm sure in the not too distant future, you will see this start to happen.
I believe the American people should be made aware of the real reasons we go to war and spend billions of dollars and lives in such an endeavour. And should be made aware of the reasons in real time and not years in the future when it becomes just a historical debate. We already know that our headlong rush to invade Iraq was not because of its link to Osama Bin Laden and not because of weapons of mass destruction. It's very clear to anyone with an IQ over 70 that these were just transparent excuses. I also don't buy into the theory that our invasion of Iraq was for oil. If our Middle East policy were just about oil, we would not have supported Israel all these years.
The World Bank has made studies and keeps track of every drop of potable water on earth, and someone with contacts at the World Bank might be able to obtain proposed plans showing how the World Bank proposes to distribute the fresh water supplies in the region. There's no doubt the World Bank will be very involved in these projects. I'm hoping that you might pursue this theory and track future developments as far as Iraq's water resources are concerned.
Sir-- I would honestly be surprised if Bush won the next presidential elections. I'm not a big Bush fan and, along with his father, he owns about a quarter of the oil companies in Texas. So this war could very well benefit his own personal gain in wealth in the oil industry. I think most Americans realise our government is far from perfect. They spend more time and money on foreign relations than their own people. But most of us are patriotic and love our country.
We recognise the US can be bullies, but there's really nothing we can do about it. My questions to you are, how do you get rid of the Israelis in what they call their land in a peaceful manner? Second, if the Israelis do leave, will the Palestinians let Christians into Jerusalem? The American media has given us the impression that the sole goal of Muslims is to kill Westerners.
Sir-- Regarding 'Fault lines betrayed' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 December). It appears we have now exposed another intrinsic truth. Here we have an agreement which is rejected by the political powers of both the Palestinians and the Israelis; it seems to me that it is that most evil of evils, a compromise position.
The fact that the militant right wingers on both sides despise it seems to imply that it should be implemented immediately, to the horror of militant Israelis and Palestinians alike. The reasonable position is often defined by its ability to alienate both extremes.
Sir-- With regards the domination of US policies by Israel, I have this view to state. The British and Americans have been involved in the business of driving wedges in areas of strategic interest to them (Imperial Russia was too, but then it took a back seat until WWII because of its revolution, then went on full steam). Israel was just one such wedge in the most crucial area of the world for UK/US -- the oil basket of the world. Just consider, would they have considered, leave alone pursued, the creation of Israel had it not been located where it had been?
The Israelis have cleverly perceived the need for the Americans to keep supporting them, and soon turned the situation to their advantage -- a case of the tail wagging the dog. Americans may drop Israel if they develop a strong puppet regime in Iraq, but that seems unlikely. So as long as the US needs oil, it needs to dance to Israel's tune.
A situational sibling of Israel has been Pakistan. Pakistan also has been a mistress of many patrons and has used each to its advantage. The latest American wedge has been East Timor, a Christian island in a sea of Islam, to afford a foothold to the US in that area.
Sir-- Having been glued to the TV watching one of the most marvellous sermons of the genius preacher Amr Khaled broadcast during Ramadan, I really fought back tears of pity seeking an answer to nothing but one question: how much longer would the great preacher be on the run?
Owning a satellite dish along with a PC, it has been accessible for me to regularly follow his sermons, whether on the two satellite channels -- Iqra' and ART -- or on his Web site, with great interest. Amr Khaled, with the aid of his sympathetic tone and compassionate manner, tries to get us to recall the grandeur, superiority and prestige of our ancestors, clarifying how we could get the same rank by honestly following in their footsteps. Moreover, I think Khaled is the only preacher who embraces and tackles the spiritual needs of the young, guiding them to a change for the better.
As a big fan of Amr Khaled, I'm writing to ask "certain authorities" to lift the ban imposed on him, making the marvellous sermons of this gifted, soft-spoken preacher more accessible to those owning no satellite dish, PC or may have even no money to buy his tapes. Isn't the ban a clampdown on freedom of expression, especially when Khaled never tackled issues that might cause problems or touched on political aspects?
I think it is a curious paradox to talk about freedom of expression while Khaled is on the run. Rather than banning him, I think we have to make use of his cogent sermons to mirror the true image of Islam in the West, especially at a time when Islam and Muslims are accused of terrorism.
The good fight
Sir-- Mr Hetata's analysis 'World Domination, Inc.' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 November - 3 December) is very accurate and, for Americans like me and my friends, very sad, indeed. We have demonstrated against this war, not simply because it is costing us in "blood and treasure", but because it is wrong. I don't know what will happen if these crazy people retain power after the 2004 elections, but I promise that we intend to fight this in every way we can. Our voices have been ignored and we have been insulted, called unpatriotic, and now the FBI has been given carte blanche to spy on dissenters again, as was done during the Vietnam War under Nixon.
It is interesting to note that Bush was voted for by an overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans. Now, they have, of course, changed their minds -- we all hope not too late. I must say that I admire especially the courage that has been shown among Muslim women in America. They are true heroines who still go uncommended for their strength and bravery in the face of great danger here. We stand proudly beside them.
Mr Hetata refers to, but does not go into much detail, about the loss of constitutional rights, especially dangerous for Arabs, Muslims and dissenters in the US. As the saying goes, the truth is the first casualty of war; the second are the rights and liberties of the most vulnerable among a nation's populace. If a citizen of a democracy has any expectation of their survival as a free person, that citizen must defend to the death the rights of all, including those of the citizens of other nations who are being victimised by the foreign policy of their own nation. In this democracy, our loyalty is not first to our own government, but to the Constitution, which represents all that is good about my country, and to all our fellow citizens -- especially the most vulnerable. It is my hope that Egyptians will pray for us at mosque on Fridays; we are all in great danger.
The conspiracy of the Zionist Christians (right-wing fundamentalist Christians) and the Likud is a devil's deal. Many of us know this and have known it for sometime; those of us who dissent now will be forced to leave our country if they are re-elected, in order to keep up the good fight for truth and justice for all the world's people, most especially the Arab people. I am 54 years of age and I don't have so many more years, but the children, ours and yours, deserve better than what is happening now. Though I am American, born and raised, I have a family in Egypt, whom I love with all of my heart, and I will never give up for their sake, as well as for the salvation of my own country from tyranny.
I have visited your country twice in the last year, and there I found a lovely and gracious people. What is happening to you gives me great heartache, and my love for you all inspires me everyday to continue to work against the dark powers that threaten us all. Please know that many of us do care about something besides money.
Sir-- The proposal Mr Hamza offers in 'What went wrong?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 November - 3 December) is certainly worth exploring and examining.
It is shocking to see all the talents and capabilities of the Egyptian people suppressed by an unhealthy reality of reactionary conduct. Both the government and the nation have to embrace a new attitude in which common goals can be attained. Isolating the Egyptian people could have some serious consequences on the future of the republic.
Establishing a "salvation group" is a creative but cautionary proposal, since it may become part of the problem and not its solution. Therefore I suggest that this group be given all necessary means to bring the country back up on its feet. The integrity of this group is essential to the outcome of the project, and grassroots support from local communities could guarantee the success of this endeavour.
Egypt and the Egyptians should be proud of individuals like Mr Hamza.
New York, NY
Make a move
Sir-- As a Briton "with the Nile in his blood", I salute Mamdouh Hamza's honest assessment in 'What went wrong?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 27 November - 3 December).
A country's greatest resource is its people and any national economy is underpinned by small businesses. A country can only go backwards if its people aren't healthy and educated.
In my experience, Egypt has a wealth of talent and a geographical advantage that could see it steamroller itself to happiness and prosperity. To do this does not just take what Mr Hamza suggests, the most difficult task will be to change a mindset that has evolved in the citizen, passed down from those above.
Given the sad state of the world at the moment, I pray Egypt does not become a victim because it decided to stand still.
The Czech Republic
Sir-- The analysis in 'What went wrong?' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 27 November - 3 December) is very expressive, deep and sincere; yet it is so simple and written in the normal language of common people, describing things that are discussed between normal caring citizens.
Sir-- I read the article written by Ghada Karmi 'A very Arab obsession' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20- 26 November) and I believe the Arabs need to blame themselves.
They never stood up to their rulers, and the West is playing their roles as superpowers.
Sir-- I am very concerned about the intensity of technological advances. It seems we are living in George Orwell's 1984 Big Brother society. Our technological resources are advancing too fast, and it feels like we are being contaminated by these technologies which are transforming our society into a surveillance society.
There is no way out. For example, one can use the GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to help us get back home when we are lost; we subscribe and then we are never lost. What makes us think that even when we don't need the assistance of these devices, they aren't following our every move?
Think about that. Its a very plaguing thought. What has the world come to?
Sir-- I believe that the latest pretensions by Sharon of being ready to take progressive steps are untrue. The only thing I know is that this man uses rhetoric as a weapon in order to deceive all of us. He is untruthful and the whole world knows it. The US, which is supposed to be the main sponsor of the peace process, knows everything about this man and his dark history yet it wastes no time in protecting him and providing him with power.
My second point is that our president warned against the war on Iraq, saying it was not the only option and that it would lead to more violence, destruction and the spread of terrorism. And what has the result of war been? US troops and coalition forces face the threat of death every day. I am sending a message to the US administration telling them to let the Iraqi people rule their homeland by themselves, and not to wear peace uniforms which they do not deserve.
Sir-- In a letter by Mehmet Celeck of Ankara, Turkey titled 'Death road' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4- 10 December), it amazes me that Mr Celeck was worried and concerned about the number of American casualties in Iraq, but not about his own people who died recently at the hands of terrorists in his homeland.
Unfortunately, it seems that the terrible death of his own people has no worth in his view.
Al-Ahram Weekly reserves the right to edit letters submitted to Readers' Corner for brevity and clarity. Readers are advised to limit their letters to a maximum of 300 words.