Letters to the editor
Down Abu Ghraib
Sir-- The American occupation forces should destroy the Abu Ghraib prison as a gesture of goodwill towards the Iraqi people.
Sir-- I read a recent article on yahoo.com that had quotes from Al- Ahram Weekly. Many Americans are ignorant because our media here filters so many things that no one knows the truth. The war in Iraq is a waste of money for Americans. I am 23 and I have the rest of my life to pay off a debt I never created and I never wanted to happen. I wish my government had people in it who could understand cultural differences; I have travelled around the world and understand cultural differences.
I want to tell the people of the Middle East that many people my age do not support President Bush. He lies all the time and he never even reads the newspaper. I am glad people call him out in the Middle east; in the US many journalists are scared to call him out. Most of the things he says are just to make sure he gets elected again. He should apologise to the people in Iraq, but like most Americans he is ignorant. The pen is mightier than the sword, but not in his eyes.
I am sorry about everything that is going on in the Middle East, and I hope this election year Mr Bush will leave office.
Sir-- What is your opinion on the private security forces being used in areas of Iraq.
This use of corporate armies, made up of Cold War discards, bothers me because I see some very unpleasant side-effects reminiscent of the corporate armies of the last century used on the people of this country.
The treatment that has been inflicted on the people of Iraq is just the beginning, I believe.
Sir-- The actions of the American soldiers at Abu Ghraib were certainly ignoble, cruel, unwarranted and not what God would have us do; such men and women are not living in obedience to God. However, most of them have not claimed to follow or obey God. They are simply lost men and women doing evil. Even if the American government fails to hold them accountable, God will hold them accountable on Judgement Day.
What is actually far more disturbing to me is five Muslim men, doing ignoble, cruel unwarranted deeds in the beheading of a young man. These men are saying they are in submission to God, declaring "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great) as they do a horrible deed. That is far more evil -- to do evil and say you are doing it in submission to God. May God hold them accountable.
Let us not excuse evil deeds, or say that evil is done in obedience to God.
Sir-- There are many anomalies surrounding the death of Nick Berg. Arab linguists have said the man posing as the Jordanian Zarqawi did not speak with a Jordanian dialect; Zarqawi was missing one leg and had been outfitted with an artificial leg that did not fit properly and therefore was unable to walk or stand normally. No man in the group showed evidence of such an infirmity; the man who is purported to be Zarqawi is wearing a gold ring which is absolutely proscribed by Islamic law; numerous indigenous sources have said Zaraqawi was killed by a US helicopter attack months ago.
As any surgeon will testify, a beheading would result in a tremendous amount of spurting blood, but when the alleged executioner holds up Berg's head immediately following what is represented as an actual decapitation of a living person, there is no significant blood flow from the neck or blood splatters showing anywhere on the executioner. This suggests that Berg was already dead at the time of the alleged decapitation, which indicates that the captors opted to fulfil their assignment quietly and with the least amount of gore.
The orange jumpsuit which Berg wore was standard US military issue to men in custody, implying that maybe there was an immediate transfer of Berg from the US military to unknown persons, thus preventing Berg from discarding his US prison garb; the US military stated that Berg was never in US custody and the Iraqi police adamantly deny he was ever in their custody. On 1 April, an e-mail from Beth A Payne, the US consular officer in Iraq, was sent to the Berg family stating that Nick was in the custody of the US military. We have to conclude that either the e-mail was bogus or the US military has been lying.
Several of the men in the film were fat by Iraqi standards. If they were Feyda'een or mujahadeen, they probably have been living underground since the first days of the occupation and unlikely to be well fed; some men had what can only be described as pasty-white hands -- one would be hard pressed to find an Iraqi with pasty-white hands.
The scream that is heard has been interpreted as a woman's scream by many viewers. Videotape cognoscenti have further said the scream was amateurishly added to the tape; the US government translation of the statement: "Does Al-Qaeda need any further excuses?" is a falsification. The actual statement urged fellow insurgents to get off their hind ends and do something, which suggests the US government wanted to inject an alleged Al-Qaeda group into the murder of Nick Berg; Iraqis are universally saying the men in the film are not Iraqis, perhaps because the speaker does not employ an Iraqi dialect. Where does their certainty come from?
Firearms experts have stated the AK-47 carried by one man was a "Gilal" which is actually an Israeli-made weapon that improves on the famous AK-47. Fedayeen and other insurgents almost universally use AK-47s; the chair that Berg was seated in during the filming was a standard issue military chair of the exact same kind as seen in a colour photo taken at the Abu Ghraib prison. The chances a terrorist cell would be using this same chair are minimal at best.
Sir-- The killing of Nick Berg was blamed on the Bush government by Berg's family.
They felt that the US government sacrificed their son for propaganda against Muslims and Arabs.
Heal thy self
Sir-- The whole Middle East is up in arms because of torture and other horrible deeds committed against Iraqi prisoners by a handful of US soldiers. But where was the outcry against torture and murder against the Iraqi people that was the style of the Saddam regime day in and day out for nearly 30 years?
I suppose now we have the semblance of a free press in Iraq and the beginnings of democracy, otherwise none of this would have reached the media of the world. This, at least, is something to be grateful for.
I have heard said by some that it is worse to be tortured and humiliated by foreign forces or an invading army, than it is by your own people and government. I can't help feeling the exact opposite of this. In my opinion, nothing in the world is more demoralising, painful or unforgivable than being tortured, mistreated, humiliated and wrongfully condemned by your own people.
We in the Middle East are guilty of this; maybe we should not be so self-important and self- righteous when criticising others. Let us work on ourselves before we rush to judge others.
House of glass
Sir-- The abuse of prisoners by American forces in Iraq have correctly bought condemnation worldwide. However, the outraged cries from some in the Arab world will never be taken seriously by most Westerners when it is widely believed that prisoners in many Arab countries are subject to different, but equally serious, abuse without any significant public complaint.
Worse yet, when a civilian who went to Iraq not with a gun but to help rebuild it is brutally decapitated on video, the reported reaction of many Arabs suggests they find it understandable.
Such sentiments reinforce the impression that the Middle East still struggles to find its place in the modern world, and that dialogue is impossible with those who would excuse the brutal killing of someone who came in peace.
Sir-- When one contemplates what happened and what is going on now in Iraq, one remembers the most famous tragedies of Shakespeare like Othello, Hamlet and King Lear. Like them, all the protagonists meet their bad end. Saddam -- the previous king rather than the president of Iraq -- lost his sons and was easily caught in a place which resembles an animal trap. The Anglo-American army has been suffering a lot since they conquered Iraq last year and many Sunni and Shia members of the resistance have been killed.
One thing remains to be said. In most of his tragedies Shakespeare let a minor character tell the tale to the coming generations. But the storyteller this time will be the main character because it will be the Iraqi people themselves.
Humbled by knowledge
Sir-- The president of our country does not speak for all of us, nor do his administrators in Washington. I do not see the Palestinians as the sole obstacle in obtaining a peaceful outcome. Government-sponsored murder, the type Israel openly engages in, is murder nonetheless. It will take both sides, the Israelis included, to turn away from violence before peace is possible. But leaving the peace process itself aside, I would like to comment on the American public in general. We are a people in unique circumstances and I'm afraid we are failing in our unsolicited (somewhat) responsibility.
The cold truth is that the majority of US citizens know little about the truth behind the Middle East and the American historical role in it. Consider my example, it wasn't until I recently began attending graduate school and signed up for a Middle East Relations class that I had any clue about the conception of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians. Even though I had a degree in Political Science, I had no idea that Israel was actually created just 50 years ago. I had assumed, as most Americans surely do, that the country had always been around and the Palestinians were simply trying to take it over.
The problem isn't that Americans aren't compassionate with Arabs, the problem is that they are mostly ignorant to the world beyond our shores. For that, I humbly offer my most sincere apologies. We should take it upon ourselves to be more informed but unfortunately there are too many in this nation who believe what our leaders tell us. It is naive, yes, but most Americans simply can't imagine that our elected leadership would contort the truth in order to serve an agenda. If the American public knew the facts that our government actively discourages us to see, things would be different.
I pray someday the killing will end for all of us, especially for the Arab world. You have been put through too much already.
Persona non grata
Sir-- Re: "The boy who cried wolf", ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 May). As an American in favour of the removal of George W Bush from office, along with the rest of his neo-cons, I must suggest Egypt ask Ambassador Welch to leave your country. He comes off as arrogant as Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush.
Throw him out; America and its representatives must learn to respect the rights of other countries.
Sir-- Increasingly the "Arab street" is venting rage at the American presence in Iraq. Indeed it is time for the United States to heed the will of the people.
America should restore Saddam Hussein to power and leave the governing of Iraq to his benevolent regime. Certainly I do not want to see any more taxpayer money wasted on introducing democracy to people who do not wish it.
Then, when the Iraqis have their beloved leader back in place, all warring factions will stop their violent behaviour and recite love poems in the cafés.
West Paterson, NJ
Sir-- I took a look at Al-Ahram Weekly, and it felt like I was reading the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. So many stories about the Palestinians and Israel; most of the rest dealt with Iraq.
With a population many times larger than that of the Palestinians and Israelis combined, one would think that Egypt itself would be able to generate more front-page local news stories.
Berel Dov Lerner
Sir-- As a child of Egyptian Jewish parents, I follow news from our former home with interest. I notice that almost all of your articles are about Israel.
It seems to me that your obsession with Israel is unhealthy. Israel is not the cause of all your problems, and conflict with Israel has not solved any of them.
The chance of a brighter future for Egypt lies inside the country, not across its Eastern border.
In all honesty
Sir-- It's been almost 30 years since the day I sat on my father's lap and read my first words in a newspaper; and it's been 30 years of the same. Yes, major world events took place during those troubled years, but our most esteemed writers still have the same outlook and still write the same old ragged analysis -- same style, same arguments, same words and, not very surprisingly, the same people. Don't they get bored? What has Egyptian penmanship achieved in those years?
Consequently, I very rarely read newspaper articles; a quick scan of the headlines suffices. The content, more than not, is predictable and lacking in substance. Arab culture, whether we like it or not and whether directly and/or intentionally or not, is being challenged. Events in the past 30 years show that this great culture is facing threats to its very being from the inside, as much as the outside. The Bin Ladens of this era, the illiterate 45 per cent of the Egyptian population, the technological dependency on the West, and the stagnant economy are signs of a culture unable to rejuvenate or devise innovative solutions to deep-rooted social problems.
Egypt stands as a potentially great economic power; a population that is willing and able to shift to industry, accessible and cheap trade routes, a large margin of the population that is at the productive age (61.9 per cent of the population is at the age range of 15-64 with a general median age of 23.1 years), rich and varied natural resources, and a government that has managed so far to guarantee some political stability and maintain good relations with world powers -- benign and malevolent alike. Basically, everything you need to make that great leap forward, to quote Chairman Mao of China.
However, Egyptians seem unwilling to confess their sins. Unlike Mao, they are not prepared to undertake the elimination of the hundred flowers, as he called the unacceptable practices of the Chinese society of his time. For a start, let's stop saying that we are a kind, honest and hospitable nation. We all know what happens to those poor tourists who end up here from the very inhospitable reception they receive in the dingy visa office in their home countries, to the groping of their womenfolk in the streets of Cairo and the unbelievably expensive taxi ride to the airport. I suspect you know the rest of the list and that you are aware that absolution starts by confession.
It is time our writers faced up to the challenge instead of wasting their time and talent on stating the obvious, and attacking those who truthfully report the nation's dire straits.
Sir-- It was very striking to see that while the FIFA inspection report had put Egypt as a strong second, ahead of Morocco, Egypt did not manage to get a single vote from the 24 FIFA executives votes, whereas Morocco managed to collect 10 votes.
It seems that there are other factors that determine the winning country, which may well be the most crucial factors adopted by FIFA. However, the question is what was the need for such a thorough inspection report, and why was it necessary to rank the five contending countries in the report executive summary if FIFA executives would eventually consider other factors when casting their votes?
I believe that if FIFA executives eventually consider other factors that are not closely examined in the report, the report itself should be very concise and only indicate whether a country is capable of hosting the World Cup (according to FIFA requirements) or not. And the answer to such a question should be a firm Yes or No; there should be no grey answers. Ranking or grading should not be allowed.
Otherwise, and if such a thorough inspection report is essential, the host country should be selected based on the inspection report, meaning that, the country which is ranked first in the inspection report gets to organise the World Cup. For instance, it would be very strange to select a country that can only organise a "good" World Cup (according to inspection report), if you have another country that can organise an "excellent" World Cup. This wouldn't make sense and shouldn't be allowed by FIFA, even if it was only hypothetical.
Sir-- Our shock as Arabs was great upon hearing FIFA President Joseph S Blatter announcing that the 2010 World Cup will be organised by South Africa; Blatter fulfilled his promise by giving South Africa the honour to host the World Cup 2010.
We all know that when South Africa failed to host world cup 2006, Blatter promised them that the World Cup 2010 will be organised by South Africa. This shows that he is biased towards South Africa and the whole world bears witness to the fact that Morocco and Egypt presented strong portfolios. However, the members of the FIFA executive committee headed by Joseph Blatter and affected by his decisions, took sympathy and affection as a measure in selecting the country that will host the 2010 World Cup.
We should not also deny the fact that South Africa won the hosting of the 2010 World Cup at the expense of division among the four Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. That is to say, if the four Arab countries agreed on choosing one Arab country to host this international event, then our chances would have increased more.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of good sportsmanship we should accept FIFA's decision and congratulate South Africa for winning the bid to host the international event. In the end, the winner is the African continent.
Mixing and mingling
Sir-- I have read your newspaper for a while now, as I plan to retire in your beautiful country. However, I note that all the advice you give in 'Holiday FAQs' in the Travel section is for people to buy into an international community.
Why do you encourage foreigners to keep themselves separate? What is so disadvantageous to a foreigner to settle in an existing city, let's say Cairo, where the people are friendly and the newcomer can quickly come to grips with the Egyptian way of life.
Surely your suggestions will keep them apart and they will always be foreigners in Egypt, not new Egyptian citizens.
Let's see more stories from those who have successfully integrated.