Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 March 2005
Issue No. 734
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

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A done job

Sir-- Condoleezza Rice echoes President Bush's threats of sanctions against Iran, unless they halt their uranium enrichment programme. This admonition, again, highlights an ongoing hypocrisy at the heart of international relations. It is thus: despite the fact that Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons but also regularly violates the rights of Palestinians, it continues to enjoy the widespread support of the international community. Aren't these similar to the charges levelled at Iran? How can the people of the world continue to allow these double standards to exist?

A similar hypocrisy can be seen in the faces of many Israelis today; European faces which still assert their somewhat tenuous link with the original inhabitants of Canaan. These same faces cry anti-Semitism at any hint of criticism, whilst the atrocity that was the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust is used to embolden any contemporary claim on nationhood.

I no more fear a nuclear attack from Iran than I did from the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Sanctions and the desired abolition of the Iranian nuclear programme will not make the Middle East and wider world one jot safer. However, the return of all Palestinian refugees, the equating of their rights with Jewish citizens of Israel, and the withdrawal of Israel to its pre-1967 borders would.

Unfortunately, with the international community's continued support for one illegal regime so institutionalised, what chance does Iran have? It's already a done job, as we say in the UK.

Justin Garwood

Stop the torture

Sir-- With each passing day, new information about the institutionalised use of torture by the US in the Middle East is coming to light. The gangrene is more widespread than had been previously recognised. Torture practices trace back directly to the Bush White House; the US has also been turning over "extreme rendition" Muslim captives to Egypt, Syria, and several former Soviet republics, where tortures reminiscent of those of Stalin's dictatorship are inflicted.

Captives tortured by the Bush administration cannot be put on trial with any prospect of conviction. Judges would dismiss the charges against them, thus the president's henchmen are holding them in prison without charges. A thousand years of Common Law evolved by the West touching on the rights of mankind have been scrapped. The New Yorker, in its 14-21 February issue, provides many details, some based on interviews with released prisoners. Similar interviews have appeared in The New York Times as far back as 17 September of 2004. It may be only a matter of time before the practices of the Bush administration are employed at home against the president's political opponents. Gangrene spreads.

Although the US increasingly styles itself as Christian, it has a poor record of treating foreigners with anything remotely resembling the compassion expressed in the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. During WWII, for example, the United States reversed its policy against bombing civilians -- officially stated by President Roosevelt in 1939 -- and, together with Britain, wiped out an estimated 800,000 German civilians, about 20 per cent of them children. The US firebombed 66 Japanese cities in 1945, culminating with the nuclear incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All told, perhaps one million Japanese civilians were killed. The US role in overthrowing Latin nations is well documented, just as America's role in Iran.

To protest the further spread of torture by the United States, Egypt's public would do well to consider nonviolent action such as the boycott of American goods and services. Although Hitler, Tojo, and Stalin are gone from the world scene, the administration of President Bush today is restoring their totalitarian practices.

Sherwood Ross
Founder, League for Nonviolent Solutions
Coral Gables, FL

Covert genocide

Sir-- Mass mortality in an occupied country constitutes "passive genocide" when it derives from inadequate provision by the occupying powers of medical and other services required for human survival.

In Occupied Iraq, the per capita medical expenditure is about 100 times less than in the occupying country of Australia, and this is reflected in a 100-fold greater infant mortality rate under the age of five in Iraq.

The post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Iraq of 0.4 million -- including 0.2 million under-five infant deaths -- is "passive genocide" by the occupying powers.

Gideon Polya

Silent League

Sir-- Thousands of Somalis demonstrated against sending Ethiopian troops to Somalia as peacemakers. Many Somali intellectuals and former politicians wrote letters opposing Ethiopian intervention forces. Western think-tanks and members of the international community expressed their concerns regarding the inclusion of Somalia's hostile neighbours to the peacekeeping forces. The United States government warned against the dangers that could arise should Ethiopian forces enter Somalia. Yet, the African Union authorised the troops of Somalia's hostile neighbours (Ethiopia and Kenya) to enter the country as peacemaking troops.

To the surprise of many Somalis, the Arab League is silent about the current issues unfolding in the Somali peace process. The Arab League should speak out about the Somali peace process. One reason that Ethiopia undermined the former Transitional Government and the Cairo Peace Accord in 1997, was to establish a pro-Ethiopian and anti-Arab regime in Mogadishu.

As the Security Council has confirmed, Ethiopia has been involved in the Somali civil war for the past 14 years by sending weapons and ammunition to the warlords it supports. Moreover, Ethiopia was the main obstacle to peace in Somalia as it subverted Cairo Peace Accord in 1997 and Arta Peace Agreement 2000.

The Arab League can help rescue the faltering Somali peace process. Since more than 20 Arab nations are members of the United Nations, these countries can pressure the UN to lead the Somali peace process. It can also pressure the international community in ending Ethiopia's meddling. Most important of all, the Arab League can come up with its way of ending the Somali conflict.

Afyare Abdi Elmi
Knoxville, TN

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