Letters to the editor
Generous to a fault
Sir-- You have to admit that Bush is almost Christ-like in his ability to forgive the people around him who do terrible things to him. Take his National Security Advisor for example; even after she ignored explicit warnings from terrorists, thus allowing (some might say encouraging) 9/11 to happen, the president didn't fire her. He turned the other cheek.
He didn't fire his speech writer who accidentally left some lies in his State of the Union message, instead he was understanding and only said, "what the heck, it was just sixteen little words." Coincidentally, they happened to be the only sixteen words that could force the American people into a war with Iraq.
When the head of the CIA lied to him and promised we would find WMDs, Bush not only didn't fire him but thought the whole thing was so funny he joked about it at the Foreign Correspondent's dinner. When a double dealing double agent who is giving US secrets to Iran told Bush how "happy" Iraqis would throw flowers at our invading army, to this day Bush gives him $350,000 a month of taxpayer dollars. The fact that the Iraqis threw grenades and mortar rounds instead of flowers didn't change Bush's mind about his friend. "This guy has given me good stuff in the past," this generous president says, even though an admittedly delicious recipe for garlic roasted lamb shanks wasn't exactly what he had in mind.
That's not all, when his Chief Advisor thought it was a good idea for him to get dressed up like a pilot and land on an aircraft carrier to announce the end of the war at least a couple of decades early, Bush forgave him. He forgave this same advisor when he ousted one of his CIA agents and could have gotten her killed. This is hard to imagine, but when his Secretary of Defence caused the US the worst PR it's had in its history and set relations with the rest of the world back 200 years, Bush forgave him.
He could not be nicer to his vice president, a man who pushed him into this war, even though the vice president has obvious financial interests in giving his old company no-bid government contracts. There aren't enough trucks to back up to the oval office with bags of money for the VP, but Bush is loyal.
Honestly, our president is just like Jesus.
Sir-- I was really shocked by the human rights violations committed by the Americans in Iraq. I never imagined that the people who preached equality, liberty, justice, tolerance and democracy would one day commit such horrible atrocities that made our hair stand on end.
What happened in Iraq has totally destroyed US credibility in the Arab world, as well as in other regions. To millions of people around the world, including myself, the American drama has practically come to an end. What has been going on in Iraq in the last few months has dealt a death blow to any American endeavour to achieve political reform in the Middle East. Nobody will ever believe that the Americans are out there to do us any good. On the contrary, they are out there to torture us, humiliate us and finally enslave us.
Bush often passes himself off as a good Christian and many people are taken in by deceptive appearances. Good Christians never lie to others, but Bush lied to the whole world about the mass destruction weapons in Iraq. Good Christians never kill, but Bush's men killed, tortured and raped many people in Iraq.
Bush, we will never forgive you for what you have done in Iraq. Mr President, you have got to understand that your presence in Iraq is by no means justifiable or desirable. Leave Iraq to the Iraqis and get out of there before it is too late.
Essam Hanna Wahba
Sir-- Regarding 'Ghosts of Abu Ghraib' ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 20-26 May). As an American, what matters to me most is that our civil servants are doing their job in a responsive and responsible manner. We are a land of laws, with a constitution that requires certain checks and balances within the government and puts the "We, the people" at the helm of this nation.
The American people will not tolerate any behaviour that would sully our image and tarnish our reputation. If there exists systemic and human failures within this present political framework, then, they'd have to be dealt with swiftly and transparently. In so doing, we show the world that the US does not condone arrogant unlawful behaviour, and will consequently hold all those involved in such acts accountable.
In our zeal to advance an unwise international agenda, we have gone from initially just trying to win hearts and minds in Iraq, to now frantically attempting to salvage our moral standing on the world stage. What the neo-con ideologues failed to grasp, when they were bulldozing through the domestic and international political landscape, is that they were far from operating in a vacuum; they were, however, thinking in a vacuum, and therein unfortunately lies the source of friction.
Finally, and specifically to those who are still attempting to spin the current events, I'd have to say: stop using moral equivalency equivocations, and instead focus on upholding our laws and protect our moral and ethical patrimony.
Global security requires cooperation, not coercion.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- The treatment of Iraqi prisoners has sickened most Americans we know, and so many of us wish that we could somehow apologise to the rest of the world and to the Muslim world in particular for the inhumane actions of some of our soldiers. It is disgusting, and the feeble attempts to apologise by our leaders is an insult to all.
Obviously, it goes beyond the low ranking members of the service since this could not have happened without the knowledge of their superiors. We trust that the American public will defeat George Bush and his administration this November. Perhaps that will help to let everyone else know that this is not the kind of conduct we allow or encourage in our country.
From my roommate and dearest friend and myself, we humbly apologise and ask the forgiveness of those who were persecuted.
Merritt Island, FL
For oil, not democracy
Sir-- It's naive to assume that the Bush administration intends to build a democracy in Iraq. When has the US ever established a democracy anywhere on earth?
Iran is a case in point; the CIA overthrew a democratically elected government and installed a dictatorship headed by our puppet, the Shah. There are so many cases of this.
We invaded Iraq for oil since the Bush administration is the lackey of oil companies and such companies as Halliburton and Bechtel.
What America does best
Sir-- The latest pictures of tortures, humiliations, war-crimes and human rights abuse of Iraqi detainees by the "liberators", are of course sickening but not unexpected.
I mean, this is what America does best. What else were you expecting? Blair and Bush were abusive towards the UN right from the beginning. They did everything in their power to keep out the UN and the international community.
In the absence of any "genuine" neutral third party, the coalition forces have no limits. And contrary to what US and British politicians are saying, these are not some isolated incidents, these are common and these are happening everyday in Iraq. The reason why we don't get to hear of them more often is because the invading criminals have the power to seal-off entire towns/villages and do pretty much anything they want.
US soldiers using loudspeakers to play pop music near a mosque while people were offering their Friday prayers; naked and beaten detainees dragged like dogs; American liberators not only committing acts of great evil, but also they specifically committing such acts as are most humiliating to Muslims.
If these were done by Muslims, how many countries would have been bombed by now? How many sanctions would have been imposed? How many of those so-called experts would have presented their "analyses"?
But these are not the most important questions; what is important for Muslims now is to ask their leaders what to do about this. Will those leaders give some realistic and practical solutions, rather than their usual horse-manure "condemnations"?
Grief and shame
Sir-- After months of anguish and protests, after writing scores of letters and e-mails in criticism of the Bush administration's policies, I am writing today to tell the Muslim people that I am sorry for the inhumane treatment that the Iraqi people have received at the hands of the US military.
I grieve for this, and feel shame that the United States could be so poorly represented. I also know that many other Americans share this sorrow, yet may not know where or how to express it.
I pray that these incidents are dealt with swiftly and justly, and incite deep reflection by all nations on the horrors of war.
Sir-- 'Premeditated arrogance' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 May) is an excellent, clear, precise and to the point article.
It is also factually accurate, however, the sad circumstances in Iraq may not change any time soon.
Los Angeles, CA
Sir-- The hysterical condemnation of Al-Jazeera by the Bush administration reveals the organised hypocrisy that describes America's ruling elite. Claiming that Al-Jazeera, through its reports, is inciting violence in Iraq overlooks the fact that violence is primarily the result of the decision by the Bush Administration to occupy a sovereign country based on unverified and false claims -- something they are now accusing Al-Jazeera of doing in its reports (ie reporting unverified and false claims).
Equally hypocritical is the response of the US media to this condemnation when they abandon their widely advertised value of the freedom of the press, to follow the official line regarding Al-Jazeera and its reports. Those who know how the US media operates based on scientific studies (that are based on the products this media puts out and not conspiracy theories), clearly recognise that this reaction by them fits neatly into the bureaucratised (almost automatic) propaganda function that the mainstream media fulfills for its ruling elite.
For example, every political disturbance in the Middle East or the Philippines or Indonesia, etc is termed by this media to be done by "Islamic extremists" -- a convenient label invented to vilify to the public those whose political (not religious) motives differ from the US ruling elite. Also, problems and violence is blamed consistently on "terrorists" -- and who the terrorists are varies with the current official definition. Yesterday's friends are easily today's "terrorists".
Civilians on the "other side" who are killed indiscriminately (for example in the massive bombing of Baghdad and the several hysterical attempts to topple Saddam in the early phases of the war -- which are facts not exaggerations) are either ignored or blamed on "anti aircraft fire" of the "Dictator's regime".
With such a dismal journalistic record of the US mainstream media regarding the Middle East in particular, they are in no moral or professional position to point fingers at anyone.
Sir-- 'Flagging symbols' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 May) is well-written and cogent. Please know that there are many people in our country who have viewed with a mixture of profound dismay and increasing disgust over the past three years, not only the conduct of our current government, but the presuppositions underlying that conduct -- presuppositions that have to do with whether all human beings have intrinsic value or no.
My opinion that our current government is very dangerous is shared by others.
We have looked forward for a long time to this November's election to make our voices heard once again at the ballot box, and we hope that at that time there will be no question that these people do not represent the majority of our country's citizens.
I do not know what will happen if events of 2000 repeat themselves in some form.
Sir-- Azmi Bishara's article 'Flagging symbols' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 May) is an excellent observation of an insane situation.
Canadians intelligently kept out of the Iraqi conflict and were disgusted with American policy, long before this recent debauchery. The USA does not have the support of the world, and as its closest neighbour, I can assure you that even that historic relationship is very strained.
The Arab world has a tremendous amount of sympathy and support in Canada, do not assume we tow the American line, it's simply not true.
Robert Saint Amour
Grotesque and obscene
Sir-- In yet, another demonstration of arrogance and disregard for human sensitivity, George W Bush picked a time to speak before AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and to heap praise on Ariel Sharon and blame on Yasser Arafat. AIPAC has reflexively defended the illegal and brutal policies of the government of Israel toward Palestinians. But AIPAC has a lot of clout in Washington, and Bush was there to ingratiate himself with Jewish voters. The political nature of the visit wasn't lost on members of AIPAC, who broke out into chants of "four more years" when Bush was introduced, according to The New York Times. Bush laid it on thick.
"By defending the freedom and prosperity and security of Israel, you're also serving the cause of America," he told the AIPAC crowd, to applause. He added: "AIPAC is doing important work. I hope you know that... I thank you for doing your part in the cause of freedom." This would have been obscene and excessive eagerness, even under normal circumstances. But the date of Bush's speech made it grotesque and obscene and frightfully ominous of further atrocities yet to be fulfilled. It was Tuesday, 18 May, the same day Israeli troops killed at least 19 people in the Gaza Strip.
The very next day, an Israeli tank and an Israeli helicopter gunship fired into a crowd of protesters in Rafah, killing anywhere from 10 to two dozen Palestinians and wounding dozens more. Many of the victims were children. Even though the United States did not block a Security Council resolution condemning Israel's action, Bush could not bring himself to criticise Israel or Sharon directly. And then in bemused wonderment they ask why are the US disliked by the world's Muslims.
Bush long ago took up sides, and almost everything his "man of peace" Sharon and the Israeli military does are always supported by him. What Bush doesn't understand is that Palestine is the cause of the Arab people and Muslims everywhere, and the killing of innocent Palestinian kids enrages all of us.
What of the US?
Sir-- President Bush recently stated that Afghanistan and Iraq had both been liberated from evil and oppressive regimes.
We, Americans, want to know when will the US be liberated? America needs five new oil refineries to meet current domestic demand and bring gas as well as other fuel prices down; America needs doctors and staff at VA clinics and hospitals, instead of nurses attempting to treat America's veterans; America needs a national plan to keep companies and jobs in America, instead of relocating them overseas and eroding our tax base; America needs a national health care plan that will insure all Americans.
We ask in all honesty when will America be liberated?
St Louis, MO
Big Brother, Uncle Sam
Sir-- The shocking events that are happening in the world today, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought to my memory a book I read 35 years ago at the age of 13 entitled 1984 by George Orwell. I was appalled by the futuristic vision of a totalitarian state ruled by the fearful watchful eye of Big Brother. At the time, I understood that the writer was predicting the future of the Soviet Union, or at least that was the understanding of the readers as well as the writer himself.
If George Orwell was alive today, he would have seen his vision being realised 20 years later than the date he predicted and on a global scale. The main difference is that, to his great disappointment, Big Brother would turn out to be Uncle Sam.
Telling the truth
Sir-- I thank you for your article 'Why do they hate us' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 May). The truth obvious to anyone willing to admit the existence of the elephant sitting in the middle of the 50+- year-old living room. Palestinians are in the same situation as the native Americans were in 1860 -- facing total destruction. The terrible truth is that the world as currently organised is quite happy with that truth.
Thank you for telling the truth. It needs to be said.
Delta Junction, AK
Sir-- This is an open letter to Mr John Seidlitz who sent the letter 'Silence is over' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-19 May). First, thank you very much for this letter which made me feel that there's still a glimpse of hope in this world.
You said that you hope that we struggle non-violently and I agree with you, but in a different way; we must struggle violently against the soldiers who kill and torture us because it is unfair to let evil go unpunished. You also said in your letter that we must not "judge Christianity by the actions of the president I chose;" of course no one can connect these acts with Christianity which is originally based on love and forgiveness.
Concerning your struggle with us against the occupation, I assure you -- and all people like you -- that I will struggle here to convey the message that there are people like you in the US, who must never be regarded as "enemies" but rather as "brothers".
People must not judge the people of the US by the acts of Bush's administration, and I urge the Arabs to remember our long (and continuing) struggle after 9/11 to convince the West that not all Muslims are members of Al-Qa'eda.
Fraudsters must pay
Sir-- Thank you for your excellent article 'Not so quiet on the West Bank' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 February - 3 March). The El-Ramla area of Al- Boai'rat has become an unsightly concrete jungle which was illegally built. The houses touch each other, leaving no space for trees, and each building goes a bit higher than its neighbours to capture a glimpse of the Nile view. If the authorities do not step in, the whole west bank of the Nile as far south as the bridge will be completely spoilt. This is unacceptable. The lovely Nile side views must be regained and preserved.
Most of the buildings in El-Ramla have been financed with foreigners' money, but how many of them were told by their lawyers that building there is illegal?
Of the contracts that they obtained, how many have real legal value? When we started the Gezira Gardens Hotel early in 2001 (one of the first buildings there), in a 50 per cent partnership with Gamal Ahmed Mahmoud, we believed the correct papers had been drawn by the lawyer Ahmed El- Badry (then on the British Embassy recommended list). When specifically questioned on this point, he assured us that it was legal to build on the plot in El-Ramla.
The cost of the land and building were then deliberately inflated to our detriment, and later the profits of the hotel were diverted away from our pockets. We managed to terminate the partnership with the help of Sheikh Mohammed El-Tayeb (Sioul mosque), to whom we will be eternally thankful. How many of the Europeans in El- Ramla have stories similar to ours?
El-Ramla must be cleaned up; the individuals who make it their life's ambition to fleece foreigners must be eradicated. They give Egyptians a bad name abroad (a crying shame as most are such delightful people), and they discourage would-be investors who positively contribute to the economy of Luxor. The buildings must be pulled down, and the fraudsters made to pay compensation to the people they have tricked.
Mark and Claire Charlwood
Sir-- In 'Riding the Da Vinci wave' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 May), Lubna Abdel-Aziz, as always, hits the nail on the head when she identifies the controversy as being about veracity.
In contrast to 'Creationists', there are those whom I would call 'Concoctionists', who insist that the books of Moses were cooked up by the Jews during the Babylonian Exile, and that the doctrines of Christianity were similarly cooked up at Nicaea.
But though the doctrine of Christ's divinity was debated there, it is a fallacy to deduce from this that it was invented there. From an evolutionary point of view, it looks much more like the situation in today's Church of England, where mutant bishops are continually arising to challenge traditional Christian doctrine.
She is probably right, also, in assigning the quietness of academicians to learning from bitter experience. One gets nowhere in arguing with people who believe that Copernicus or Einstein were wrong, or who think that world governments are taking orders from flying saucers. And as for art, who would be without Shakespeare, but who now would take him as a teacher of history?
Sir-- I really enjoy the articles in Al-Ahram Weekly; they show that the world is not Americanised as we are led to believe.
I hope to read your paper for a long time to come. Thank you very much.
Jan van Schuilenburg