Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 December 2009
Issue No. 977
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

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For love of land

Sir-- Ramzy Baroud quotes US President Roosevelt in 'A people's history of Thanksgiving' (3-9 December, Al-Ahram Weekly): "The European settlers moved into an uninhabited waste... the land is really owned by no one... The settler ousts no one from the land. The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil."

Roosevelt was right. Native tribes (I am a citizen of the Choctaw Nation) did not own land. They considered it impossible to own land. Anyone could farm any land that was not being used by someone else. There was plenty of unused land for the European settlers to occupy and farm without displacing any natives because North America was sparsely populated by native tribes. The more peaceful tribes, such as the Choctaw, welcomed white settlers who obeyed the law and willingly let them marry Choctaws. However, tribes did mark territory for hunting and jealously guarded it against other tribes. In fact, native tribes regularly massacred each other over claims to hunting grounds or simply the desire to loot another tribe. Each tribe considered all other tribes to be animals worthy of slaughter like buffalo. They only united against the European Americans in the early 20th century.

The US government treated native peoples terribly and is guilty of many crimes against them, not the least of which is murder. But the analogy between Native Americans and Palestinians is false. Native Americans had no concept of property in land and there was a lot of empty land with room for European settlers.

Roger McKinney

Chechnya stays

Sir-- Re 'Nothing comes from nothing' (3-9 December, Al-Ahram Weekly) "this latest incident is a serious blow not only to Putin's strategy of holding on to Chechnya at all costs, but to overall Russian security."

Rather it is a serious blow to the Putin-Medvedev attempt to control the situation by European human rights- style methods. Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1998 and is therefore bound to all sorts of commitments on human rights whilst at the same time having to deal with serious internal security problems. As Britain, the US and Israel, to name but three, have found, this can be inconvenient and makes it difficult to take a hard line. There is not the slightest chance that any current Russian leader, let alone Putin, will consider for a moment not hanging on to Chechnya. Just look at the map, the pipelines and Russian history.

I should be very interested to know what you think Israel has to do with it all. The US of course has its nose in other peoples' business everywhere. I wonder what will be revealed in 50 years time about all these destabilising events in Russia. Today in truth we have no idea who is behind them. We can only speculate.

The Russian Federation is in fact the last of the European empires, and sooner or later it will go the way of other multi- national entities in Europe. I think the Russian leadership knows that but, in a Russian version of the domino theory, they have hung on to Chechnya essentially for the oil and mineral wealth located in so many of the non-Russian parts of the federation. Once Chechnya goes, they reason, Ingushetia and Dagestan will quickly follow, then the other Muslim peoples (watch, in particular, the Tatars), and then the Far East, where the economy has, in practice, already been largely taken over by the Chinese anyway. And then, of course, Russia can join the EU.

Michael Kenny
New York

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