Al-Ahram Weekly Online   20 - 26 March 2003
Issue No. 630
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Spinning out of control

Sir-- Mr Edward Said has precisely identified what is happening inside my country's government today with his article 'Who's in charge?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 March).

While we are presently a country that appears to be spinning farther and farther out of control, the movement behind this government -- which dangerously combines military action with religion -- will eventually fail and fail badly, like all ideological movements before it. My fear is that at the point this movement fails, the damage for everyone may very well be like nothing the world has seen before.

Marc Charon
San Diego, CA

Confronting the apes

Sir-- Edward Said's article 'Who's in charge?' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 March) is sad but true. I pray that he is also doing whatever he can locally to encourage, hearten and lead Americans into political confrontation with the minions and monkeys of the Bush Cabinet (should it be called a Closet instead?).

It is well to inform your readers of this depressing state of affairs, but this will not put signatures on the e-mail UN petition. I'm sure many must wonder what the point of that petition would be, even as they agreed and did it. Who will remember 100 years after we are all dead? I do not have to remember for that long; I only have to remember that inaction puts me in the closet with the rest of them.

Robert Rands

Web of lies

Sir-- Professor Said is a voice that should be heard in our media; but our media does not like voices of reason. They much prefer the pseudo discussion shows with hosts and guests shouting at one another, or the purveyors of hate such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. It has reached a point where the lies of our leaders go unchallenged.

Little was made of Prime Minister Blair and Secretary of State Powell presenting a plagiarised out-of- date paper as the latest intelligence from M15 and M16. Recently it was revealed that the reports of Iraqi uranium buys were frauds. No one dares to directly accuse the US and Britain of the forgeries, but who else would have done it? Does anyone believe they were duped by some unidentified third party?

Perhaps most shocking of all is that our leaders knowingly and without shame lie and lie and lie again. They fear no retribution because they will not be called on it . Twice now the inspectors have certified that the aluminum tubes were not for nuclear weapons development, yet after they spoke, Powell maintained they were.

Our president refers to Sharon as a man of peace, yet here is a man who incites murder against his own people. When, as recently, there have been long periods without suicide bombings, he constantly provokes attacks by escalating the use of the IDF and assassinating Palestinian leaders. He wishes to provoke terror against his own people to maintain his power and hide the failures of his government; but none of this gets coverage in our media.

Robert E Reynolds
Orange Park, FL

Drawing parallels

Sir-- I enjoyed very much Mona Anis's article 'Full moon in March' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 March).

However, it would have been appropriate to elaborate more about Mou'awiya's regime, which was also a dictatorship like Saddam's.

Mehdi Azimi
Newport Beach

The full story

Sir-- Ms Mona Anis's piece 'Full moon in March' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 March) was wonderful.

As an Iranian Shi'ite, I can say that in that short essay, she did justice to the narrative of Al- Hussein's martyrdom.

Fareed Marjaee

Paid in blood

Sir-- Regarding Mona Anis's 'Full moon in March' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 March). Don't you think the Iraqi nation is still paying for the blood of Al-Hussein?

Those who either participated in killing Al-Hussein or stood silently watching the tragedy unfold?

Mohammad Al-Amin

Uncertain outcome

Sir-- The United States military is coming to Iraq and will provide an immediate environment for a democratisation process to begin.

The real question is whether all the free people of Iraq will take advantage of the opportunity afforded them, or instead will in-fighting and racial hatred remain the norm.

Matthew Brown
Chicago, IL

Say it with candles

Sir-- This is a letter to the Federation of Iraqi Women:

I write on the eve of war as my country readies to attack yours. There may be a way out of this crisis -- and the moment of opportunity is yours. Now is the time for you to voice your desire; now is the time for you, in your vast numbers, to signal your president, my government, and the world.

Show us a sign to say: Don't Attack. Show us a sign to ask for the one thing that could end the standoff: Free Elections. Tell your dictator to take you out of harm's way by arranging fair elections and an orderly transfer of power; signal President Bush that the only US assistance you need is in election monitoring and the transfer of food and medicine. Remove his last excuse for attack, tell him to respect your own brave and self-determined steps to liberty.

The signal would come in the form of a candle in the window of your homes, from your families. And in solidarity with you, candles in the window of homes throughout the Arab nations together with American families and families worldwide. This action will remind all who have given up hope that we must rely, not on deadly war, but on one another for salvation. Your risks are the highest and there are no guarantees of success, but are the risk of candle- voice more dangerous than the wars and puppet regimes to come?

I am far away. I can send food; I can write to world leaders to ask them to support you; I can join the street protest against the impending attack. But I cannot stop the war without you.

So I put a candle in my window and I hold you in my heart and in my prayers. The next brave step is yours -- come out of the darkness and light the way to peace.

Donna Baranski-Walker
Redwood City, CA

In cold blood

Sir-- There was only one precondition to war -- that Saddam Hussein failed to present documentation and failed to destroy his weapons of mass destruction. The time after the Gulf War was insufficient, the time after Security Council Resolution 1441 was insufficient, and this last window will likely prove insufficient too. So in addition to his past violations -- the murder of hundreds of thousands of Muslims -- he is about to strike again.

For his own glory, he is about to sacrifice his own people. Deliberately, coldly and with full knowledge. The power to avoid all this is entirely in his hands, and he laughs and laughs and laughs.

David Lockhorn
Cincinnati, OH

Contempt for humanity

Sir-- The latest US/UK demand for a Security Council resolution to invade Iraq demonstrates again the contempt of these governments for their allies and for human life. Given the inconclusive nature of Dr Blix's inspection report, the US/UK demand for a second resolution demonstrates the unwillingness of these governments to maintain the international solidarity that was laboriously constructed with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. It is clear from this request for a new resolution that the US/UK goal in Iraq is not disarmament or even regime change, but the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The US and UK through their request for Security Council authority to invade Iraq are demonstrating their unwillingness to keep their word. The US/UK invasion will force the Iraqi regime to use whatever weapons of mass destruction it may possess to defend itself from the aggression of the US/UK. The US/UK shock and awe bombing campaign will massacre tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians whose only "offence" is that they live in a country the US/ UK are invading.

No fair-minded person can accept the cowardice and disregard for the lives, property and rights of others that the Bush/Blair coalition has demonstrated in regard to Iraq. This is why millions are protesting the Bush/Blair invasion plans on the streets of US/UK cities.

Egyptians should be proud of their government's assistance in the war on terrorism, but their pride is far more justified in their government's opposition to the US/UK plan to invade Iraq.

Robert Chapman
Half Moon, NY

Threat to his neighbours

Sir-- Saddam Hussein has invaded two of his neighbours, has without a doubt developed substantial biological and chemical weapons inventories as well as aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme and long range delivery systems for each of these weapons platforms. He has done all this in direct defiance of more than 12 years of UN mandates. Only when threatened with immediate and devastating force does he ever so slowly pull back the shroud of deception surrounding these programmes.

My question to Arabs of the region is simple: He can't directly strike the United States or Europe with them, so why develop such an inventory? Since coming to power Saddam has aggressively pursued weapons programmes that would provide the Iraqis with clear and undeniable military superiority over all other governments in the region.

What I find interesting, is all the sympathy he receives from those in the region. Pay off a few Palestinian suicide bombers, which he could care less about, and all of a sudden he is a hero; take up the mantle of Islam, even though he probably doesn't even know where his copy of the Qur'an is, and he is now a defender of the faith. These attempts of currying favour are extremely transparent, but apparently working.

Saddam Hussein and his government are the most destabilising force in the region, and left unchecked would do anything in his power to further intimidate, destabilise and topple governments of the region. In 20 short years, Iraq, as well as Iran (and formerly Afghanistan), have been reduced to suppressive and dictatorial regimes when they were once some of the most enlightened and educated populaces in the region. Only Egypt remains as a beacon for forward thinking Arab nations. I long to visit Egypt, but fear the feverish pitch of anti- American sentiments now engulfing the region.

Robert Hutchens
Saint Louis, MO

Rising above

Sir-- Al-Ahram Weekly succeeded in promoting different view points, especially in these difficult days as war threatens our region. Many thanks to peace lovers in the USA and everywhere; you are not alone, we support you and your stand will never be forgotten.

Regarding the annoyed comment of Mr Robert Williams in 'We shall avenge' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 January). I would like to draw his attention to the fact that most Muslims strongly oppose terrorism and extremism, and that the tragedy which happened on 9/11 was condemned by every true Muslim. It is a big mistake to blame the innocent instead of the sinners, who may be affiliated to Islam.

Islam recognises Christianity and Judaism, every Muslim must believe in the two religions to be a true Muslim. His remark to destroy Mecca and the holy sites of Islam is a great wrong because these sites are God's houses built for worship. Muslims are not savages or uncivilised people, but are positive partners who work with the UN to achieve world welfare.

Do not help terrorists and extremists by stirring up religious sentiments to plant hatred and hostility among people, that's their aim and what they are working for.

Said I Moussa
Port Said

Clean up your mess

Sir-- Let me begin by stating that I read your Web site on a weekly basis, and it has helped me, as an American, become a more informed person. However, I must say, there is always a puzzling dichotomy of opinion pieces that seem to contradict each other on a weekly basis. I can read one article calling for peace for sensible reasons, stating the plight of the Iraqi citizen or the poverty of the Palestinian. Five minutes later, I'm reading a terrible piece of propaganda referring to Americans as oil- hungry warmongers, and comparing Sharon to Adolph Hitler. I'm not quite sure what you are trying to accomplish here, especially when it comes to your portrayal of Americans, so let me try to clear some things up for your readers.

Whether you like him or not, by referring to our president or any member of his cabinet as a "cowboy", you are making a racist statement. America does not wish to take your oil or push its social agenda on everyone; we wish the entire world could feel the freedom we feel every day. How many Arab nations can truly say "for the people, by the people" with a straight face?

Maybe if Arab leaders put some pressure on Saddam and forced him out, we wouldn't feel the need to come in and handle the job for you. If the Arab world were willing to roll up their sleeves and exterminate the problem, maybe you wouldn't be worried about the plight of Iraqis because there would be no plight. Saddam Hussein is a disease that has spread through the Middle East, but you all turn your head and pretend he's not there.

Guess what Arab countries, America doesn't like to pretend. Clean up your own mess, and you'll have nothing to complain about. If you don't, we're sending in a mighty powerful housekeeper, because now our lives are affected too.

Jason Kennedy
Boston, MA

Naked truth

Sir-- I wish to declare my great respect for the office of president and the people of these United States. However, I must declare my profound mistrust and personal disgust for the conduct of Mr George W Bush. It is my opinion that Mr Bush is morally, politically and intellectually unfit to serve as the leader of this country.

During a press conference on 14 February, Mr Bush invoked the blessing of God on the so-called work the administration now contemplates. Presumably, that work includes the forecasted "Shock and Awe" bombardment of the citizens of Baghdad, the majority of whom are women and children. Such an invocation of God's blessing on an act of premeditated murder is revolting and reprehensible.

It is also my opinion that Mr Bush is politically inept. The world wide compassion and solidarity for US actions following the spilling of innocent blood in New York on 11 September, 2001 has been squandered. The honour and integrity of this nation is insulted by the administration's arrogance and ineptitude, by not making a clear convincing case for military action against Iraq among the community of nations.

Further, Mr Bush is the leader of a group of former disgraced advisors complicit in the Iran Contra drug trade. He must either suffer from selective amnesia or be so weak of mind that he believes the citizens of this country can not recognise or remember that gang of thieves. Perhaps the administration's Office of Homeland Security has a Machiavellian game plan in place for those citizens who muster resistance that may transcend Mr Bush's line of respectful disagreement.

I urge the citizens of this nation to stand in firm opposition to Mr Bush's pre-emptive strike against the people of Iraq. His actions demonstrate a naked lust for power that is clear to those who see him with open eyes. He is not protecting or defending the Constitution of these United States, rather he is protecting and defending the interests of his cronies while putting our nation in peril.

John Milliken
Portland, Oregon

Marking their territory

Sir-- It pains me to see the level of hypocrisy and irrelevancy in the belligerence and war rhetoric. The world is inundated with ebb and flows between the US and Iraq and fails to see the war behind the words. The US has had absolute power and dominance over the Middle East for over three decades now, and it has more than enough oil whether in its own reserves or those spread all over the world.

Iraq, on the other hand, is an irrelevant subject matter here, whether in its shear weakness or its deteriorating government and economy. The war is fought between the US and its allies against the other European states who newly covet control over the region. Control they seem to have lost over the years after the colonial times. The US fears the increased distress of the Arabs -- people not governments -- and is afraid the "other European" countries might take their place in empathy, which might lead to their control.

The war is a struggle for interests, not between Iraq and the US, but between the US and the "old Europe". Ergo, no real war will be fought on the ground, but it will remain a war of rhetoric. And the US will continue to spread its army around the region like a beast urinating around its territory of control. Ironic but true.

Leo Kazitsky

Our undoing

Sir-- We Americans have spent a lot of time and effort trying to understand the terrible events which occurred on 9/11; however, I think there is a question that begs an answer. What motivated the terrorists to sacrifice their lives in an attack on America? Getting a man to go to war is one thing, but to arouse his anger and hatred to a point where he is willing to commit suicide in order to hurt an enemy is something else.

Within days after 9/11, President Bush addressed the nation and told us that the terrorists wanted to destroy America, our freedoms, and our way of life. Unfortunately, he missed the obvious. The terrorists wanted revenge; it is as simple as that. There was no master plan; they knew they could not destroy a nation as powerful as ours, but their hatred compelled them to take a shot.

If we, as a nation, take the time to try to understand the reasons why these men were willing to sacrifice their lives we might be able to spend less money and time on Homeland Security and more on our conduct as it relates to countries and peoples in other parts of the world, and especially the Middle East. If we can solve this international puzzle, the men and women who gave their lives so tragically on 9/11 will not have died in vain, but if we refuse to face the truth then we are most assuredly going to see many more 9/11s.

William F Pittenger
Garden City, Idaho

Why give them space?

Sir-- I am an avid fan of Al-Ahram Weekly. I always enjoy reading it on my visits to your wonderful country, while the arrival of your on-line edition to my home provides me with immense pleasure. I particularly enjoy reading your articles on Iraq and Palestine and find them much more balanced and insightful than most of what I read on this side of the world. It is an honour to be able to read true intellectual writers such as Edward Said and Noam Chomsky and their inclusion represents all that I find wonderful about your fine journal.

I am concerned, however, that you allow the likes of Condolezza Rice and Colin Powell to use your paper to promote their rhetoric and propaganda.

Trish O'Rourke

We want more

Sir-- I am so glad that I found your Web site. North American news is controlled by the policy makers, which does not always give both sides of the story. I rarely see much coverage about the Palestinian side and your articles seem well researched and well-written.

There is a huge majority of Canadians that see the government of the United States for what it really is. I look forward to reading your articles because it makes a difference. Keep up the good work.

Judy Bewick
British Columbia

Change of heart

Sir-- I used to be rabidly pro-Palestinian and I'm still disgusted that Israel has kept the Palestinian people under marshal law for almost 40 years.

Today, I'm ambivalent, at best, about the situation for these reasons: First, Arafat and his thieving cronies; second, suicide bombers. It's as simple as that.

Roger McKinney
Broken Arrow, OK

Justice for all

Sir-- When will the world take notice and stop the misery in Palestine, whether it is the individual terrorists in the form of suicide bombers of the state terrorists in the form of bulldozers grazing houses and bullets fired at teenagers?

The United States has always championed freedom and democracy; now is the time to be honest in our foreign policy and stop the pains of the distraught people of the world who have time and time again sought your help, beginning in Palestine.

Don't we find it amazing how we are so willing to help end the oppression of the Kurds under the Iraqi regime or the Afghans under the Al-Qa'eda-Taliban regime, but not the nearly four decade occupation of Palestine for which the United Nations has passed hundreds of resolutions, upon which we can enact an initiative?

While we are willing to act on rumours and speculations without an UN mandate, we neglect the real mandates of the global community. Why isn't it the case that what is good (peace, democracy, human rights and modernity) for Afghanistan and Iraq is not good for Palestine?

Hekmat Sadat
Los Angeles, CA

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