Letters to the editor
Silence is over
Sir-- This is an open letter.
I am writing this letter to apologise for the actions of the American soldiers in Iraq. Their abuse and humiliation of Muslim prisoners of war is my responsibility. The United States is a democracy; in this country we choose our leaders, and I chose the president who ordered the invasion of Iraq. Here we have freedom of speech and I chose not to speak out against this war. As a Catholic, I heard the Pope and the American bishops unequivocally condemn the war, and I remained silent.
My silence, and the silence of my countrymen led to the degradation and humiliation of the Iraqi men in Abu Ghraib and the deaths of innocent civilians in cities throughout Iraq. I realise that the actions our soldiers took have placed Muslims in a position in which you are morally obligated to fight against us until we leave Iraq. You can do no less. I pray that you will struggle against us non-violently. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others in the 20th Century have shown us that non-violent revolution is possible, and can even change the heart of an oppressor.
Unfortunately, as one who has wronged you, I am not in a position to dictate to you the terms of your struggle. Please do not judge Christianity by the actions of the president I chose. He may use phrases from the Bible, but he does not represent the God I worship. Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies, not to "capture and kill them." I have failed as a Christian by refusing to stand up for Jesus when my president sought revenge for 11 September on people who bore no responsibility for that crime. For that, I apologise.
I assure you that for my part, and many other Christians like me in America, that silence is over. We stand with you against the occupation, and we will struggle with you as children of Abraham to end it.
San Antonio, TX
Sir-- As an American, I am deeply ashamed of the vile tortures committed against Iraqi prisoners.
Please understand that we are sickened by these crimes and do not condone them in any way.
New York, NY
Sir-- The US army has put a lethal weapon into the hands of its enemies. It is clutching at the weakest of straws to discount these revolting abuses by comparing them with those of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The US and Britain are rightly held up to a higher standard of behaviour, since that is their justification for invading Iraq.
Sir-- Like many, I was grimly amused to see the powerful and morally self-righteous Americans humbled by last week's tortuous reality. However, I was disappointed to find that the humbling experience did not extend further East. Your newspaper naturally condemns the torture and compares it to Hussein's regime, but you did not take the opportunity to discuss torture among existing Arab regimes today.
In the 21-27 February issue of The Economist, we read of a Palestinian arms smuggler who was arrested by Egyptian authorities. Under their custody, his teeth and toenails were pulled out; I do not approve of arms smuggling but that man's punishment is unacceptable. That occurred in 1971, but Human Rights Watch maintains that torture is still a problem for Egypt.
If everyone in this world began to honestly consider their own faults, we would have peace. Every politician and commentator should become a partisan advocate of their country's own improvement.
Sir-- What happened to the Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison proves that these soldiers are merely sadistic monsters. I really don't know how any human being can do these shameful acts with a smile on their face.
The Anglo-American forces claims of ''freedom'' and ''democracy'' in Iraq are now clearly revealed. The US completely lost its credibility in the Middle East, and it is lamentable to imagine that these acts were committed under the supervision of the CIA. Who will give back dignity to those prisoners?
It seems that the US will never stop lying and deceiving us. Condemnations, expressions shock and disgust will solve nothing. There must be serious action, although I'm sure that none will be carried out.
The question now is, if the world is led by such people, what does the future hold?
Cruel value system
Sir-- The power structure in the US, which depends on the military metaphysic where war is continuous and peace a mere interlude between wars, the highest level of impersonality, where other human beings are seen as pseudo-species (less than human), is institutionalised to keep the operators of this machine functioning smoothly. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison by US soldiers is a physical portrayal of this same internalised impersonality.
The fact that this impersonality is system-wide and not "isolated incidents" as the media is portraying, is proven both by history and by the domestic salesman ethic which is the value system that describes America. We saw the same impersonality during the first Gulf War at the "Highway of Death" where a member of the US military talked about "shooting fish in a barrel," while gunning down helpless individuals. Also, the same impersonality is seen in the continuous US support of similar and worse humiliation of the Palestinians by the Israeli government.
At home in the US, if we replace the photographs of Iraqi prisoners with female models, we see the daily marketing portrayal of women by the US advertising industry. Not only are the photographs identical in many ways, they are celebrated in a manner similar to how those soldiers were celebrating their humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. The only difference is that here they call it women's liberation, a slogan very close to "Iraqi liberation".
Sir-- The pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured on CBS's 60 Minutes II was despicable as well as evil. President Bush's statement to the press that this is not how American's act is incorrect and in error. While I was serving time in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri county jail for mailing flyer's protesting police brutality for World Jihad's Organisation, there was prisoner abuse there. A disabled inmate named Jeff Payne who needed a wheelchair was denied his right to have a wheelchair over and over again. The jail staff even told jokes about it over the speaker systems.
Before my arrival there, inmates informed me another white male inmate, who was charged with child molestation, was beaten very badly by other inmates when the guards opened everyone's cell doors while this particular inmate was taking a shower. While he was being beaten, the jail staff turned their backs so as to pretend they did not know what was taking place. These are but two incidents in a long list of prisoner abuses at this facility and throughout America.
Please don't allow President Bush or anyone else to tell you this is not how Americans behave, for it is just how we behave again and again when we think the world is not looking or no one will find out the truth. Brig Gen Janis Karpinski will be used as a scapegoat for what took place under her command at the Iraqi prison, but she is just a small symptom in a system rife with abuses of all kinds -- both overt and covert.
Please allow me to say I'm sorry and convey my deepest apology on behalf of all my fellow veterans, who will be viewed with disdain by Arabs all over the world because of their culture which nurtures such evil social behaviour.
St Louis, MO
Good things too
Sir-- One fact the Arab world fails to acknowledge (as does the American media) is that the investigation concerning tortured prisoners in Iraq was revealed from inside the US Army not from an outside source. The American public, through our elected representatives, is demanding a full and complete investigation, and those guilty will be punished. Can the same be said for those who tortured, mutilated and burned unarmed American civilians working as contractors in Iraq?
The American public wants Iraq to be free and US troops returned home as much as Iraqis and the Arab world; we are shouldering the financial burden. The Arab world and American news media are only interested in body count and scenes of torture, not the good things the American troops and American people are doing for Iraq. How about writing, talking and showing pictures about the humanitarian side of American involvement in Iraq?
Remember this: Islamic fanaticism is as much a hindrance to freedom as occupation. Forcing someone to follow your beliefs denies one the right to freedom.
Sir-- The pictures of the degrading and brutal mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by American and British soldiers have provoked anger, shock and disbelief throughout the world. The hypocritical statements of the occupying forces saying that their goals were security, peace and justice were unmasked as cynicisms.
After the claim that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction has turned out to be a lie, even for those who -- after the undignified attempt to deceive the UN Security Council by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in February 2003 -- still believed in it, the USA later tried to legitimate the invasion of Iraq in a different way.
Suddenly, the reason for the invasion was claimed to be the "mission" to free an oppressed people from a brutal dictator. Even the most enthusiastic supporters of the Bush administration should now recognise this statement as entirely shameless and untrue. The series of violations against international law by the US army starts with the beginning of the invasion, which was itself illegal and carried out without a resolution of the UN Security Council and was continued in numerous violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and in the most recent atrocities.
The proud presentation of the bodies of the killed sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay on TV and the degrading pictures of medical examinations of Saddam Hussein himself, are only two of the most obvious examples. The siege and bombing of the city of Falluja, where the total indifference of the US army towards Iraqi civilian casualties became quite clear, was a further example of the discrepancy between propagandistic statements of American morality and the Iraqi reality.
I, as a European and a humanist, am ashamed and deeply troubled by the reports and pictures from Iraq, but the ones who really suffer are the Iraqis who are defencelessly exposed to a murderous and reckless occupying force, that doesn't show the least respect for international law and human rights.
Iraq is in a state of anarchy and the Iraqis, the true victims, are physically and morally degraded and on top of it condemned as a people of terrorism by a great number of Western media. Today the world is witness to a humanitarian catastrophe and a human tragedy; unfortunately a silent witness.
Rich boy havoc
Sir-- Regarding 'I'm sorry' ( Al-Ahram Weekly Web site, 6-12 May), I wish that Bush would stop claiming that he speaks for the American people; he only speaks for himself. He's a spoiled rich boy who doesn't care about working class Americans, or poor Americans, or the millions and millions of Americans who don't have any health insurance.
A large number of ordinary Americans who are not rich like Bush want the US government to leave the people in the Middle East alone. The people in the Middle East should have their own governments and worship the way they choose to worship. They shouldn't have to worry about foreign soldiers marching around with guns, bombing their houses, throwing their people into prison and abusing them.
Bush has already worked hard to ruin America, but he's not satisfied. He wants to ruin the Middle East, too.
Overland Park, KS
Sir-- 'Wag the dog' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 May) is a great article, however, realistically there is little possibility of the situation changing significantly.
The interview 'I'm sorry' ( Al-Ahram Weekly Web site, 6-12 May) has gotten enormous publicity in the US and has introduced many of us to your fine newspaper, as well as displaying the eloquence, deep knowledge and wisdom of Mr Bush.
Sir-- Articles such as 'Wag the dog' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 May) should be published in major US newspapers in order for the American public to get to know the realities about the Palestinian question, and the unfair American polices with respect to this question.
The Israelis seem to believe that their occupation policies will succeed in the end, and the Palestinian people will eventually have no other choice but to accept the facts on the ground.
The Israeli occupation and settlement polices are very much the same as the early American settlements in the US, war and extermination of the Native Americans. But the Israelis will never succeed in this endeavour.
Adel Al Amad
Hopes for Iraq
Sir-- 'The dynamic of occupation' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 April) is a very good article. Let's hope for the future of the Arab world that Iraq will win its freedom and the right to rule its own country.
War of distraction
Sir-- I just read your article 'The dynamic of occupation' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 April) and I am very sad to see this ill-advised war.
I hope the Arab world could understand how many Americans were against it from the start.
I support 100 per cent a war against terrorists, but I'm afraid this Iraq adventure is a real distraction and a step backwards. I enjoyed the article, keep up the good work.
Leading the ignorant
Sir-- If only articles from your paper such as 'The dynamic of occupation' by Mr Azmi Bishara ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 22-28 April) would be printed by every newspaper in my country. Maybe it would open the eyes of many of them. The majority of them have absolutely no idea whatsoever about the Islamic world, the customs and thinking. They just drive their SUVs, drink their cans of Coors and watch their TV programmes. Anything outside the borders of the US is one black hole to them.
I doubt even Allah (The Compassionate and Merciful) Himself could knock some sense into the arrogant followers of the present administration in DC.
I only hope that the Arab world realises that not everyone born in America backs the US government in its illegal attack on the Muslim Middle East or believes their lies. Please thank Mr Bishara for his excellent article and keep them coming.
Voices for freedom
Sir-- 'The dynamic of occupation' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 April) was a good read and very thought-provoking. I do agree you cannot 'force' democracy since it's something that has to rise amongst people who want to enjoy freedom and progress.
A point you fail to make is that Afghanistan, Palestine and now Iraq are being influenced -- mostly through violence -- by those who do not want people to live in freedom and make progress. If you are truly a voice of freedom, you should write more about the atrocities of the people against freedom.
Sir-- In response to Ezzat Ibrahim's 'Open-ended history' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May), Fukoyama states that war is necessary. That was the same opinion of the Nazis in 1939; and the American settlers against the Native Americans in the 17th Century; and the argument for the American-Mexican War in the 19th Century.
No mean objectives
Sir-- Regarding 'Holed up in Iraq' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May), I have an honest question. Why don't you believe that the American's want to turn over sovereignty to the Iraqi's on 30 June? While I am but one American citizen, I can speak for the vast majority and assure you we want to turn over the role of government in Iraq to a legitimate government as soon as possible. We had one objective: destroy the government of Saddam Hussein and establish a workable government in its place. We wish it would be a democracy, but know we can't ensure that.
Our fear is that a new totalitarian government will rise in Iraq and we are now being as careful as we can not to turn over power, until a legitimate government capable of ruling the country can be constituted. These are not mean objectives, yet we are vilified and criticised and hated. I honestly don't understand.
Take a stand
Sir-- Speaking as a native of the most powerful would-be imperialist country in the world today, the United States, I concur with Nayef Hawatemah in 'Time and the things it takes away' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May) that it is beside the point at this late date to condemn the "bias" which has characterised US foreign policy since at least 1968.
A teacher of mathematics at a high school near the Pacific Coast with no special expertise in Arabic, I am in no position to offer your readers advice; I would only suggest to you that a principled stand of opposition to the aggressive invasions of Palestine and Iraq will find an echo in people of goodwill all over the world.
The Arab peoples who, in the General Assembly of the United Nations for example, were to present a simple statement condemning the aggressive actions of the United States in Iraq, would not be standing alone. Yes, it would be vetoed by the United States, but the 60-odd vetoes that the United States has already cast in support of its protégé -- the State of Israel -- already speak for themselves.
In conclusion, I applaud Mr Hawatemah's moderation and measured language; he submits a persuasive case for Arab opposition to an increasingly invasive and violent policy by the United States and Israel; it only makes sense to begin by insisting on the security and inviolability of Syria.
Non-violence's the way
Sir-- Thank you for your call for Palestinian civil disobedience in 'Sharon's land grab' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May). The best way for the Palestinians to end the cycle of violence and achieve their goals is to emulate the successes of the American civil rights movement, using non- violence as a weapon. That movement ended state- sponsored segregation and gave American Blacks full and equal rights as citizens. Racism still exists in America, but the rights of Blacks are now fully equal under the law.
Interestingly, Jews were among the earliest and strongest supporters of the Black civil rights movement. If the Palestinians chose a path of non-violent resistance, I am sure that millions of Jews would actively and openly support the cause of Palestinian rights as well.
The dormant Peace Now movement in Israel would be a strong and capable partner, and Ariel Sharon would be on a permanent vacation.
Asleep at the wheel
Sir-- It is seldom realised or mentioned by the press in this country but since the targetted assassinations of the Hamas leadership there has been very little retaliation by Palestinian groups towards Israel.
I'm not sure if it is a lack of will or a complication of logistics. Nevertheless, even without any overt threats towards Israel, the Palestinians suffer deaths by Israel daily. How many in the last three weeks? I would estimate about 30; 10 one day, three the next. Then another line of tanks enters another small town and the provocation begins again. Another eight might be killed, a few more homes destroyed, more property damaged, another curfew, someone runs out to get diapers for their baby and a sniper cuts them down in cold blood.
What if it were Jews being treated like this? How would the metaphors play of Nazi Germany and the Warsaw Ghetto? A world outcry would be heard. Who speaks for the Palestinians?
In the aftermath of the Cold War between the US and the USSR, there was a real chance for an endless bright future for the human race. With the US now parroting Israel and its IDF in Iraq, I wonder where we are heading. Some know the root of the problem but many Americans are asleep at the wheel. It takes a certain effort to understand what is happening coupled with a revulsion of what is talking place.
Many Americans take their lifestyle and their democracy for granted and simply don't care. They don't realise how easily freedom will slip away. They will wake up and wonder what went wrong when it has all gone wrong.
Fikry Boulos Salib
Sir-- 'Dehumanisation challenged' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May) is wonderful.
It's about time that Americans see the other side of this conflict.
New York, NY
Semites and Hammites unite!
Sir-- In 'Stemming disaster' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May) Ibrahim Nafie stated that any attempt to eliminate Israel was counterproductive. As an American liberal, I would agree; no matter what the Arab world's intellectuals think or the opinion of the Arab street, Israel is now a fact of life.
Arab leaders cannot really expect Israeli leaders to negotiate their own country's suicide. Arabs have many claims against the West and Israel, but it seems a tactical mistake to negotiate those claims as a basis for eliminating Israel. If I were an Israeli, of course my reaction would be "thanks, but no thanks."
Argue all you want about Palestine and who owns it, but the Qur'an itself says that the Jews are people of the Book. They are brothers, and like all civil wars, this war between brothers is vicious. I would take up Mr Nafie on his claim: stop trying to eliminate Israel. Semites and Hammites are all descendants of Abraham. To assert that Jews do not have a claim in the Middle East is to deny history. Give Israel the peace it seeks, negotiate borders within that peace and see what happens.
There are many conservative Jews who are just as appalled at Western liberalism as conservative Muslims are. The Hassidim have as little use for American culture as Osama Bin Laden. The American beachhead in Israel may just be an Arab creation. Stop trying to destroy Israel and the Arabs may negate any justification for the US intervention in the Middle East -- other than the naked imperialism of oil supplies.
I know that this view turns traditional thinking on its head, but sometimes what seems ridiculous turns out to be obvious. Invite Israel to be part of the region; you will turn American policy upside down.
Kill'em and take it
Sir-- Now this obese Sharon is my kind of guy, he's a known embezzler, liar and murderer. If we're going to have a billion-dollar-a-day war, let it be in support of the likes of this guy.
The Israelis have certainly gone out of their way to prove what valuable allies they are. It's been nothing but one deception after another, and just look at the wonderful history of the Jews. Not so much as 10 years has passed in the last 2,000 years that they have not been at the centre of some major upheaval. Naturally, it has always been the other guy's fault. And naturally, if you fault a Jew you're guilty of anti-Semitism.
So let us just leave the Arabs with a no-win situation; that's the way to have peace and stop the bombing. We all know that the Israelis are sincere, caring and peace loving. Plus, they have tonnes of natural resources, so who needs these other oil producing countries. And besides, if OPEC doesn't sell us their oil, we'll just kill them and take it.
Oakland Park, FL
Sir-- I read with great interest the article by Dina Ezzat entitled 'Seismic shift' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 April).
It was remarkable for its balanced perspective and actually quoted sources who said the Palestinians could do better in the effort to find a solution to their problems.
It is very difficult, here in America, to find any Arab perspective that does not see the conflict as totally one-sided. That is understandable since it is Arab lands which are being invaded and occupied, however, as far as I can tell, the recognition that the Palestinian leadership has failed the Palestinians is a novel concept outside of certain conservative circles in the US. That point, to me, seems self evident with the Palestinian economy failing, poverty increasing and the violent deaths of many hundreds of their people since the rise of the recent armed struggle.
It is clear the PA has not, or cannot, even curb the activities of Hamas or Hizbullah when the best solution is to stop them altogether. As long as these groups are active, with the apparent acquiescence of the PA, then there will be little sympathy for the Palestinians as a political group or state in the US. The article quotes a diplomat lamenting the state of Arab "weakness" due to the unyielding position of the US; believe me, this rigidity in US policy is directly related to the existence and activities of Hamas and Hizbullah, and the PA's seeming complicity in their terrorist activities.
Hamas and Hizbullah state unequivocally that their goal is the destruction of Israel. Not reconciliation or democratic reforms or even the right of return but, simply to destroy Israel. How is one expected to negotiate with that if you are the target? Here in America, we are not so much shocked by Sharon's killing of the Hamas leadership, but wonder why it took so long to do it. A barbarous act, indeed, but what choice did they leave him?
Sir-- I believe Mr El-Ghazali Harb's 'Open letter to President Bush' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 22-28 April) was a fair and eloquent appeal. It is long past the time when American citizens should demand an accounting of our government's uncritical support for Israel. I have always believed that Israel has the right to defend itself from homicidal bombers, but it does not have the right to confiscate, divide and destroy Palestinian land. It does not have the right to humiliate and oppress an entire people.
Our local paper reported an incident where a Palestinian farmer's 180 olive trees were chopped down by chain-saw wielding Israeli workers. Why? To build a portion of the so-called security wall. This is a gross injustice and all Americans should send a protest to our elected leaders. I am personally ashamed that our president has given Mr Sharon the green light for the West Bank plan. The Palestinian people have the right to help determine their future state and their future state should not have Israeli settlements and roads in it.
I also resent the Israeli government using our war against terror as a cover and excuse for its own disgraceful acts of terror. I also believe that the long suffering people of Palestine have paid a tragic price for their stupid, corrupt and venal leadership. I wonder why the Arab world that claims to have such concern for the Palestinians has never marched and protested against the thieves and charlatans who have posed as leaders of the Palestinians? Why has the Arab world looked away while Arafat and his parasites have stolen from their own people? Why have you allowed your hatred for Israel to blind you to the ways in which the Palestinians have been cheated by the very people who were supposed to look out for them?
Sir-- There he was, the leader the self-appointed saviour of the Free World, insulting our intelligence again. In a comical attempt a few weeks ago to placate Muslims in general he says: "the situation in Iraq has improved." This, after a week in which a through copies of the Qur'an, according to Naomi Klein in the Los Angeles Times.
Bush is engaged either in wilful denial or outright propaganda. "We can't let a few people" decide the fate of everybody in Iraq, he said. And he labelled those who oppose the United States as "gangs". But reporters on the ground are seeing a different picture. They tell us that there is widespread hatred for the US occupation, and that Bush's single success has been to unite Shias and Sunnis against the United States.
US military leaders brag about taking "precise" and "judicious" action against the enemy, but how precise and judicious was it when the United States killed hundreds of civilians in Falluja? Precise and judicious may not have been the operative words. Bush, as Paul Krugman recounts, demanded that heads roll for the mutilation of the four Americans. When that's the command from the commander-in-chief, concern about civilian casualties takes a back seat. When asked about those civilian casualties, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the pitiless senior military spokesman, blamed it all on Al-Jazeera and gave this great piece of advice: "Change the channel." But changing the channel won't make those corpses go away, only the US non- interference will.
Since Bush declared an end to major combat operations a year ago, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. He has acknowledged there is no concrete evidence of links between the 11 September attackers and Saddam. Powell now says that the most dramatic evidence he presented to the UN turned out to be based on faulty intelligence.
Hate on air
Sir-- Our politicians and major media outlets are repeatedly tracking and condemning hate speech in other nations around the globe. Meanwhile, closer to home, a Boston radio talk show host -- Jay Severin -- stated on 22 April: "I believe that Muslims in this country are a fifth column. You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them." When Mr Severin states to thousands of listeners that we should kill Muslims in this country, his speech jeopardises the safety of over six million American Muslims, including the very large American Muslim community in the greater Boston metropolitan area. Had he stated that we should kill Blacks or we should kill Republicans, Severin would have been taken off the air before his microphone went cold.
Genocidal hate speech promoting the murder of millions of lawful Americans should not be tolerated by either politicians or the media outlets themselves. So why the mute response from both?
New York, NY
Sir-- Regarding 'Enter Syria' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April - 5 May), the earthquakes that are visiting Syria today are dictated by its long history and geographical location. Despite the fact the Syria is a very Mediterranean country in its culture and heritag kept in mind and understood when talking about Syria.
First, Syria, unlike many countries in the region, is a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country which makes the USA blush with envy. Second, most Syrian cities -- including the capital city of Damascus -- have more close historical re and cultures.
In recent years, Syrians in Syria proper and abroad are becoming aware of this complex relationship and becoming vocal in restoring their true cultural heritage that makes Syria a unique country in the Middle East. Therefore, any attempt by any ideologically motivated government of Syria to change the facts on the ground are doomed to fail. Creating special circumstances and fictional incidents by any government to maintain power will only aggravate Syrian society and move it faster towards democratic reforms and the inclusion within the world's civil and rational societies.
Imad (Ed) Jazairi
Feeding on war
Sir-- It seems to me that one point that is overlooked is that Israel needs to keep the war going, so that it can continue to receive free monies from the USA. This is one reason that every time a solution begins to become exposed Israel launches attacks against Palestinian leadership. By doing so they can continue to scream that they are about to be forced into the sea, and demand more free military equipment and foreign aid which is channelled into more land stealing settlements. Israel needs the war to continue because if the US ever pulls the plug on the failed socialist economy of Israel, Israel will be forced to make peace with her neighbours which also means the establishment of a Palestinian state (something Israel swears it will never allow -- making them sound a bit like the Nazi soundtrack).
Most US citizens are kept in the dark about the amount of free monies the Israel state steals from their taxes (while schools and other programmes for US citizens go unfunded). Few know that Israel is the number one receiver of foreign aid, and few are reminded about Israeli transgressions against the US including attacking the USS Liberty in 1967, the proposed selling of AWAC's technology to Communist China or the turning of US citizens into spies for Israel (the Pollards). If they knew, they would think twice about supporting Israel (and as the Israeli leadership has been quoted as saying "...the Jews control the media in America and America knows it...").
Israel needs war like plants need sunshine. Without the sun plants will not grow; without the war continuing Israel cannot grow.
Las Vegas, NV
Sir-- I applaud the decision by both the British diplomats, and now the American diplomats, to complain about the Blair/Bush policies towards the Sharon government and Iraq. To me, these diplomats are knights in shining armour. They could have sat resting in their armchairs, but instead they banded together and reprimanded the giants of our times for pursuing policies of deceptions and force instead of policies of peace and negotiations.
Indeed, they have sounded the alarm from West Minister to Washington with their words of "dismay" and "great danger" that Britain's and America's policies are causing more harm than good. These policies are throwing this world into chaos and placing us all at greater risk for harm.
Europe in a nutshell
Sir-- Mr Abdel-Malek wrote an interesting essay 'East or West?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 February) concerning the cultural direction which Europe is poised to choose. The one thing which should be understood by the contemporary observer is that the Europe of the last 75 years is a historic anomaly. Mr Abdel-Malek makes a valid point by reminding us of the aggressive geo-political expansionism of the Europeans. The predilection to assert domination on other continents by European nations has only been held in check by the ability and willingness of the American economy to absorb the surplus goods and services from the European states and the demographic hegemony of the indigenous populations.
The liberal cultural character of Europe today is very recent. It was subsidised first by colonialism then by the unprecedented expansion of the American economy. These conditions are far from permanent. Before anyone places laurels of nobility upon the European States, remember their history. Europe is at their cultural crossroads, the demographics of the "Orient are pushing toward them;" five hundred years ago that dynamic pushed Western expansion toward the East.
Europe has yet to prove the resilience of their social liberalism. They failed to challenge genocide in the former Yugoslavia, until American leadership carried them. Many countries are retreating from their "cradle to the grave" socialism because of falling state revenue. I fear that the history of Europe past and future will be similar -- selfish, autocratic and feudal.
Kew Gardens, NY
Turn it down
Sir-- I believe that after the actions of the American military, the Government of Egypt should refuse to accept anymore foreign aid from the United States.
New York, NY
Sir-- Decision makers in Egypt need to move to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, subsidies for basic commodities such as wheat and fuel which cost the Egyptian taxpayers billions of pounds each year. First, current levels of subsidies are unsustainable because most of the subsidised commodities are imported, and the recent currency devaluation has made such imports much more expensive. Second, subsidies represent an economic distortion that encourages waste on a massive scale.
For instance, energy is not used efficiently, costing the economy billions of pounds while polluting the environment. The long-term solution to the problem of meeting the basic needs of lower income groups in Egypt lies not in subsidies but in economic growth. Action needs to be taken to streamline the bureaucracy, get rid of loss making state-owned companies, encourage local and foreign private investment in addition to the many other steps needed to stimulate the economy. The bottom line is that subsidies represent a short-term and unsustainable solution. Bolder economic reform is the only long-term solution.
Sir-- I honestly think South Africa should host the world cup because it's the rainbow nation. We have Whites, Indians, Coloureds, Arabs, Blacks all living together; we have all religions here, Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Judaism, so it will be easy for a fan to find a mosque, temple, synagogue or church. South Africa's infrastructure is one of the best in the world and ranks alongside Germany by FIFA, and soccer is South Africa's number one sport.
I really hope Egypt qualifies for the World Cup 2010 and plays; Egypt can host the World Club Championship and let South Africa host the 2010 World Cup.
Plight in Somalia
Sir-- Benadir is the coastal region of southern Somalia. With the highest population density in the country, Benadir was historically known for its cotton industry, goldsmiths, fishing, agriculture and construction industries. Through the centuries, Benadir flourished to become one of the most important trading coastal regions in East Africa. It is inhabited by communities which have succeeded in forging common cultural values, beliefs and a distinct identity.
Its peaceful, multi-ethnic population includes Arabs, Bantus and Cushites. The Benadiris did not participate in the recent civil war in Somalia, but as the conflict spread our community became a victim of the tribal war. The World Disasters Report 1997 states: "Most of the victims in Somalia were members of the Bantu and Benadir clans." Half of our people fled the country in search of peace; the Benadiris suffered much loss and devastation. Yet they rose to the challenge and survived, though not within the boundaries of their country.
The buildings of old Mogadishu, Merca and Brava, which the Benadiri ancestors founded with their meagre resources more than a thousand years ago, have been destroyed; but our history remains intact. This will continue to stand as long as we are proud of who we are, treasure our past and preserve it for future generations. Although the Benadiris of today are trying to preserve their Arab identity, customs and traditions, some facets of the culture like the Arabic language have begun eroding. A few scholars like me who want our community to recover its identity and the pride in our Arabic culture cannot do much without the help of our Arab brothers.
I believe the restoration work involves elaborate research and studies on this community of Somalia. A systematic study will also serve as a rallying point in the enhancement of our relations with the Arab world. A little help from our brethren in other countries, with their access to the media and their governments, will go a long way in helping restore the Benadiri people's Arabic identity.
Sir-- Regarding 'Time to think' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 April), my first comment is to simply let you know that you should at least contact someone from the Venezuelan opposition before writing this article. It's obvious that if you contact one of Chavez's officer, as Mr Carazo himself is, you will only get good biased comments on Chavez government. There are many things I could tell you about the "important achievements" you mention, but it might be too long to write in this letter.
I'd like to concentrate this comment on the Presidential Recall Referendum (PRR). In November 2003, more than three million Venezuelan citizens signed a petition for this PRR following a procedure established by the National Elections Council (CNE). This procedure establishes the rules to determine if a signature is valid or not. The CNE received the signed petitions and set additional rules after they were collected, imposing that more than 800,000 signatures were not valid because the citizens didn't write their names on the collections forms even when the signatures and fingerprints were impressed by themselves.
Furthermore, the Justice Supreme Court (TSJ) decided that those signatures were valid and ordered the CNE to proceed with the "repairs," assuming the burden of proof is on the citizen's side, so only those who did not sign would go to the "repairs" and get their signature off the petition. The CNE has not recognised this TSJ order. Venezuelan opposition is only asking for the Constitution to be followed, we need a PRR so we can know if the majority of Venezuelan people want the so-called Bolivarian Revolution that you so eloquently have praised.