Letters to the editor
Sir-- Presently the United States faces a disaster of such magnitude that a political spin has been inadequate in the face of this suffering. I have been in both man-made and natural disasters as a psychological first responder and I can state that the measures taken to deal with this disaster (Hurricane Katrina) are completely inadequate to its magnitude. The president has not mobilised the proper resources to deal with this crisis.
I remember well how he sat 11 minutes until told what to do on 11 September 2001. It is no surprise that the Democrats as well have missed taking the initiative to mobilise the federal assets available to the nation. The nation needs to mobilise 150,000 active troops that match the needs of the population in an area as big as Great Britain. The present efforts are focussed in the places were it is easy for the media to focus and in the meantime there are tens of thousands of persons perishing.
Sir-- The mayor of New Orleans asked why it was taking so long for the government of the US to respond to this unfolding disaster where millions of people, mainly people of colour, are being devastated by Katrina? The most likely answer is: we in America did not go rushing off to help the victims of the genocide in Rwanda even though we had full knowledge of the disaster taking place there. So why would we rush to help people of colour here in the US?
I'm sure many wonder why the US does not set up disaster camps in closed military installations around America and help their own people who have been wiped out by the storm. Well, maybe if this was Iraq we would move quicker and Congress would approve billions. But then again those in New Orleans have not offended President Bush's father nor do they have oil wells in their backyards or natural gas.
Baghdad is worse
Sir-- It is doubtful the tragedy in New Orleans will inspire Americans with sympathy for the ruin they have inflicted upon Iraq. An entire city is disintegrating before their eyes. There is no electricity, no communication, no pure water, little food and medicine, and for multitudes no means of timely rescue. Thousands may be dead. Law and order have broken down. Hospitals can't care for all the sick and injured. The government's clumsy response -- whether evacuating refugees or feeding and protecting those who remain -- is pitiable. Police are turning in their badges. Anarchy reigns.
Even so, the tragedy of New Orleans does not compare to the agony of Baghdad. Thousands have been slaughtered there not by any act of nature but in consequence of Bush's war. Residents are being blown to pieces daily. The Pentagon refuses even to count the civilian death toll lest it reveals the enormity of the tragedy. The residents of Baghdad, like many another Iraq city, are at risk every hour of the day. Children clustred to get candy bars may be blown to pieces. Understand this: Americans are only now turning against President Bush because of his inability to "win" the war in Iraq. Members of Congress are accusing him of "mismanagement", not launching an unjust war. If his troops had "pacified" Iraq, Americans would hail Bush as a genius.
The justice or injustice of the Iraqi aggression sadly does not trouble their sleep. Americans perceive themselves as heroic liberators, not as aggressors responsible for destroying 100,000 Iraqi lives. Americans in the past rationalised their destruction of enemy cities. During World War II, the US destroyed up to 95 per cent of 66 Japanese cities claiming approximately one million civilian lives.
In New Orleans, Americans now have the beginning of an idea of what happens when tragedy befalls a metropolis. It is an event unprecedented in their history. If only the agony of New Orleans would make Americans conscious of what they are inflicting on Baghdad.
Sir-- The rise in gas prices following Hurricane Katrina reveals once again the tendency of corporate America -- in this case the oil companies -- and the American elite, to convert every human disaster into a profit making opportunity, just like they are doing in Iraq.
This new human disaster also reveals the hypocrisy of the US mainstream media, which is condemning the looting by those who are stranded in the city of New Orleans -- most of whom didn't have enough resources to move out before the storm; disasters often don't affect the rich -- even as they ignore the larger scale looting that is going on all over the country by these oil companies. Quarterly profits for some of the top oil companies were up by over 50 per cent or more this year, yet they still use the excuse of "supply and demand" in justifying the high price, as if every one, including people struggling to pay their rent, are equal players in the oil market.
Bush's recent energy bill gives oil companies the biggest chunk of subsidies, amounting in the billions, to top off their profit figures, like icing on a cake. Oil, that is monopolistically supplied by a few dominant corporations and which has inelastic demand (because it has no substitutes in popular usage), and the sale of which results in record profits for its sellers, can never have simple "supply and demand" determining its rightful price.
Sir-- I was wondering how the world could help the refugees of Katrina and I thought of the wonderful and comfortable kaftans I bought when I visited Egypt back in 1977. I wore and enjoyed them for years. It would be a great gesture from Egypt and Egyptians to donate kaftans in all those wonderful colours and patterns I remember to the folks in New Orleans and the Gulf states.
You need to include a large number of extra large sizes.
Hope you come through.
Sir-- Your article 'What Elections' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 25-31 August) seems to find much fault in the current election process for president. True, there are many indications of some difficulty in persuading the Egyptian people that they have a real choice. Please be patient. The election process does work and the will of the people will eventually be successful in the long run. No matter who you are for, this is a start, a small beginning of great things to come in the future.
Sir-- There is no denying that the year 2005 is a year of elections in the Middle East par excellence. However, in view of its political weight in the Middle East and all over the world, the presidential elections in Egypt remain the most important ones. These elections which witness the participation of highly respected figures like Ayman Nour and Noaman Gomaa, the most important candidates competing with Hosni Mubarak for president. But Mubarak has a rich record full of achievements in all fields be they economic, social or cultural.
Personally, I think that Mubarak is an experienced leader capable of meeting the Egyptians' needs and improving their standard of living.
Sir-- The presidential elections in Egypt are of great significance. The significance lies in the intrinsic Egyptian- Egyptian relationship. Because this country has been ruled by imposed rulers since the Pharaohs, a public election of this scale is an unprecedented step forward in the history of this country. Regardless of the outcome, this step deserves applause.
Egyptians should seize this opportunity to vote. They should also bear in mind that true democracy is not and never will be a one-shot process.
Sir-- In Amal Catta's review 'Let's dance' of the upcoming Cairo Opera House programme, ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 1-7 September) she mentioned that the new Egyptian opera Miramar is based on the novel by Tawfiq El-Hakim. Miramar is by Naguib Mahfouz.