Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Exploiting 9/11 In New York

As expected, the Republican National Convention in New York, exploited 9/11 to justify the hawkish policies of the current Administration. I agree with Juan Cole, that it was wrong because 9/11 affected ALL Americans, not just Republicans. The Christian Science Monitor has a great article on some interesting aspects from the floor. Arizona Senator John McCain (moderate Republican & a good friend of John Kerry & a war hero) & Former NY Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani were the main speakers last night.

The investigation on a possible Israel related espionage case by an analyst at the Dept. of Defense is still under way. I'm not sure how much farther it will go consider the close ties with the US has with Israel. There was an embarrassing case in 1987 when Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst was arrested & convicted for spying for Israel. The best detailed report I have read so far is by Juan Cole, published by Electronic Intifada.

Two suicide bombers have managed to kill about 15 people and injuring dozens in a twin bus bombing in Israel. Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack. I am sure we can expect to see a reciprocal attack by Israel in the next few days, probably on one of the defenseless refugee camps. I wonder how many of these attacks will be thwarted by the so-called "Security Wall."

Today is my last day as an intern for Friends for a Non-Violent World, where I was mainly working on the Roadmap out of Iraq Campaign. My feelings are mixed: I'll miss the place but not the long bus rides to work & I think it's time to go back to university, which starts next week. Speaking of Back to School, I can't stand the ads for new clothes for children from Target to K-Mart to Kohls to JC Penny's. I have always been in favor of uniforms, so that children understand that they go to school to study & be a productive member of society - not to parade in a fashion show!


Monday, August 30, 2004

Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention begins today in New York, where George W Bush will formally accept the nomination for a second term. Over the weekend, thousands of protesters gathered around to voice their opposition to the Administration's policies. Minnesota Public Radio did a great story on the history of the Grand Old Party (GOP), and it's inception as a group that as anti-slavery. In fact, they began as a pro-civil rights party, and produced presidents such as Abraham Lincoln. It was in the late 19th & then early 20th century where they became more conservative & today's party is dominated by the neo-conservatives of the 60's. The Republican Party has always been more disciplined compared to the Democratic Party, is strongly influenced by Christian (mainly Protestant) values & is deemed as more patriotic.

The FBI is investigating disturbing reports of a spy for Israel who worked closely with the Secretary of Defense & was giving valuable information about Iraq & Iran. I have not followed it too closely, but it looks like AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) was connected. I don't know how much the mainstream US media is covering the issue, but here are reports from the New York Times & Washington Post. Here's a report from Israeli liberal newspaper, Haaretz and by Juan Cole.

The Olympics ended on Sunday with great finesse. I watched the marathon & was upset by the brief episode when Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima was pushed by a protester into the crowd & lost his lead. However, he was a great sport & celebrated his bronze medal with great joy. Brazil is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reconsider the results.

And the results are finally in for the popular music show of the Arab World. The winner of the Superstar is Libya's Ayman al-Aather. The two finalists came on stage carrying each other's flag in a show of unity. I apologize for saying earlier that Ayman is from Lebanon - the show is based in Lebanon.

Another interesting article by the Christian Science Monitor on the continuing problems in Afghanistan.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Peace deal in effect in Najaf

The violence in Najaf has finally come to an end through a deal brokered by Ayatollah Sistani. I agree with Juan Cole's assessment that "the big losers from the Najaf episode are the Americans. They have become even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists.The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf. For Muqtada, it is a wash. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened."
Although the quiet sure is a welcome, many people have died & suffered due to the siege. The infrastructure & scores of homes were also destroyed as this Washington Post article reports.

The hunger strike by over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisoners is on it's 11th day, although it has not received much attention from the US media. Electronic Intifada reports that Aron Gandhi, the grandson of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, who arrived in the region this week, called for putting an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. He announced that he would launch a hunger strike tomorrow in support of the Palestinian prisoners.

More on the popular music show Superstar in the Arab World - the winner (either Ayman from Lebanon or Ammar from Palestine) - will be determined by thousands of voters from the Arab World on Sunday. A few critics are suggesting that people are voting for Ammar just because he is Palestinian is pulling at people's heart strings. Others are weary of the whole show & would rather see the money spent on the show in something more beneficial for Arabs in the various countries. Some even see it as Western cultural invasion on Arabic values & morals, while others are angered that the coverage on Ammar is taking away from the plight of the Palestinian prisoners & the hunger strike.

My take? I understand all the concerns, but with the kind of life most Palestinians live, Ammar's success is a rare ray of happiness in their dire lives. In addition, Ammar is a student wanting to become a dentist, so singing is not his career - I think he will serve as an inspiration to hundreds of Palestinian youth that violence is not the only way of life.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

John Kerry in Minnesota

I have a long bus ride to work, so Minnesota Public Radio is my savior. Today, they broadcasted live coverage of John Kerry's visit to Minnesota where he held a health care forum with mostly undecided voters. If you still believe that there is no difference between Kerry & Bush, I wish you had listened to Kerry today. He outlined his health care policy in great detail, and I'm no expert on the crisis in health care, but unlike Bush, Kerry has a plan that makes sense & is an attempt to solve the rising costs & get health insurance to the 40 million people who don't have any. He also answered questions about transportation, tobacco, religion, K-12 education & since it was an informal conversation, he sounded extremely personable. I have never heard Bush address any of those issues with such sincerity.

Somebody asked him of what he made of accusations that he was a flip-flop. His answer was that he has voted on issues such as NAFTA and No Child Left Behind, with the intention that it would be administered properly, but it hasn't & that is why he is critical now. I guess that's his reasoning for the war resolution in Iraq too. Is it justified? No. But again, listening to him reassured me that the US could head in a better direction than we are now.

It looks like the violence in Najaf has been quelled by the Ayatollah Sistani's intervention. He is greatly revered and yields enormous influence as is evident by the number of people who joined the peace march today - unfortunately, it was marred by violence and scores were killed & injured. The details of the cease-fire in Najaf are not clear yet. Juan Cole, blogger of Informed Comment & professor at University of Michigan, will be on CNN either from 6-6:30 or 6:30-7 CST. Someone forwarded a great article that talks about the difference between Shiasm & Wahabbism, The Good Ayatollah.

Iraq's soccer team lost to Paraguay 3-1 ending their fairy tale. However, they still have a chance at the bronze medal if they defeat Italy in the next match.

This piece of breaking news just came in: the Supreme Court in Chile has ruled to strip Pinochet of his immunity from persecution of human rights abuses during his military rule. The BBC reports that ruling means Gen Pinochet could now face trial for charges of human rights abuses committed during his 1973-1990 military rule.During this time, more than 3,000 supporters of the previous government were killed, thousands more tortured, and many thousands more again forced into exile.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ayatollah Sistani returns to Iraq

As the battle in Najaf continues, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani has returned to Iraq after his brief stay in the UK for medical reasons. He is planning to go to Najaf to use his influence to end the violence, the futile death of innocent people & more destruction of the city & the shrine of Imam Ali. Shias all over the world will be celebrating Imam Ali's birthday on Sunday, August 29, which will be Rajab 13 on the Islamic calendar. Rajab is one of the holy months for Muslims and comes 2 months before Ramadhan - the month of fasting. Interestingly, it is Iraqi forces that are approaching the shrine in attempt to quell the rebellion & many are hesitant to hurt their fellowmen.

However, Defense Minister Hazim al Shalaan said at a US army base outside Najaf. "If they do not, we will wipe them out." On al-Jazeerah, he said, "If Muqtada al-Sadr will surrender himself, that would be superb. He will be given safe passage and treated with perfect respect. But if he refuses, he will face either death or prison." or words to that effect. Obviously, the al-Hayat report that PM Iyad Allawi was trying to rein in Shaalan was incorrect; either that, or Shaalan has more pull with the Americans than Allawi does (from Informed Comment). Will be interesting to see the turn of events.

The Kerry campaign is being haunted by the swiftboat ad & trying to counter it in several ways. A NYT report suggests that the Bush campaign's top outside lawyer said Tuesday that he had given legal advice to the group of veterans attacking Kerry's Vietnam War record and antiwar activism in a book, television commercials and countless appearances on cable news programs.Read John Kerry's testimony against the Vietnam War in April 1971. The passion is unquestionable, and I agree that since then, he has lost much of his liberal politics. However, when I compare him to Bush, his words back then sound like music to my ears & give me hope that a Kerry Administration will have more to offer than the current one.

Grim news continue to come in as the investigation into the torture at Abu Ghraib has been advancing. I still beleive the humilitaing tactics were sanctioned from the Penatgon's top officials. I hate to allow Hollywood movies to taint my opinions, but the story in A Few Good Men, was pretty clear about the secrecy involved in certain military practices. One also cannot ignore that prisoner abuse accusations are also coming in regarding detainees in Guantanamo Bay & Afghanistan.

On a lighter note, here's an article about being opinionated: is it good or bad? What are the cultural & societal ramifications? Is it tolerated from men more than from women? Check out Gosh, I wish I hadn't said that!


Monday, August 23, 2004

Are college & university professors too liberal?

I would have not been involved in progressive politics if it had not been for my professors, but I guess that's what happens when you are a Liberal Arts student at a state college or university in Minnesota. This topic is very much debated: I have always believed that the more an individual is educated in history, politics & other social sciences, he/she tends to be liberal because he/she is not ignorant anymore. When one looks at revolutions & other social movements, professors, educators & students are usually in the forefront. Many right-wingers, such as David Horowitz, find this a problem & believe that conservative voices in educational institutes are drowned out. Read this article about the importance of retaining academic freedom - after all the media is already censored!

The latest reports are suggesting that the US is going to turn a blind eye to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. This is in complete violation of the US backed so called "road map" to peace in the region. The settlements are part of a larger political strategy by Israel so that a two-state solution is not viable.

In other news, a Palestinian singer, Ammar Hasan, was one of the finalists for the widely watched singing contest, Superstar. It is akin to the American Idol in the US. When I was in Jordan last year, Jordanian singer, Diana Karazon had won & she was rewarded generously.

Is Darfur the new Rwanda? I sure think so. When we commemorated the 10th year of the genocide, leaders all over the world promised to be more vigilant about crimes against humanity. Yet, Sudan is taking the backseat in world affairs. As in the case of other genocides, politicians are debating whether it is genocide, what thew word means, etc. After all, if it is not genocide, does it really matter that thousands have suffered due to the conflict?!

The violence in Najaf has yet not been assuaged & I have a gut feeling that we won't know the details of the situation until much later. Juan Cole of Informed Comment did a great entry on Monday, Aug 23, on George Bush's youth & problems with drugs and anger. In fact, Newsweek reported that during the siege of Fallujah, his command was, "Let heads roll!" I sure don't want a president with that kind of attitude...!


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Go, Go, Goal!!!

Iraq's success story continues as they defeated Australia on Saturday in an exciting match 1-0. They will play Paraguay in the semi-finals. It was a nail biting match, and towards the end, I went to my room because I wouldn't have been able to bear to see them lose. Unfortunately, doping accusations continue to pile on athletes - this time a Greek & Russian.

The violence in Najaf continues although it is hard to trust any of the US media outlets on the situation - I would urge all those interested to keep reading Juan Cole's
Informed Comment. He reads a variety of reports especially from the Middle East & gives a better analysis of what is going on.

Violence has also erupted in Bangladesh - since I'm ignorant about the political scene there, all I can offer is this
BBC report.

Check out this
amusing story about a painting stolen in broad daylight from a Norway museum!

Thanks to those of you who provided me with positive feedback over the weekend - it is much appreciated...


Friday, August 20, 2004

Dirty campaigning

I do not watch much TV, so I hardly get to see the Bush/Cheney & Kerry/Edwards campaign ads. But, they're definitely making headlines. The latest controversy revolves around an ad about Kerry's story about the swift boat & the rescue mission. A Texas based organization helped put it up, although it is being discredited by many even Arizona Republican Senator McCain. An interesting development has been third party putting up ads either for Bush or Kerry - if it works for the candidates, great; if it doesn't, they can conveniently say they're not directly involved with the ad! Look here for some great satirical ads on Bush. Speaking of ads, Bush has used the Olympic Iraqi soccer team's success on an ad praising his "success in bringing freedom" to Iraq & Afghanistan. Sports Illustrated reports that the Iraqi team is not very happy about this.

A new report on Abu Ghraib does not bring any more good news. This article relays more top-down controversies. A University of Minnesota professor has been talking about how some military doctors aided in the torture or helped cover up cases of homicide.

Airport security has been a major issue for many Arabs, Muslims & other foreigners. My family & I were also "randomly selected" for a security check on our way to LAX in June. Well, guess what? Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts was not spared either. NY Times reports that "between March 1 and April 6, airline agents tried to block Mr. Kennedy from boarding airplanes on five occasions because his name resembled an alias used by a suspected terrorist who had been barred from flying on airlines in the United States." I had to laugh when I read this - so much for effective security!

Living in the West as Muslims is no easy feat, especially after 911. However, the strained relationship between the East & West is not new, when one looks at the Crusades and more recently colonization. National Public Radio has initiated a series called, The Middle East & the West: A Historical View. Most of it is audio, but they do have text links - you can also request transcripts. The special series can be heard during All Things Considered around 5pm CST.

The situation in Najaf is raising a lot of confusion about whether the standoff in Imam Ali's shrine has ended or not. Looks like we'll have to watch the news as more developemnts are reported.

Have a great weekend y'all!


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Interesting observations

It's really hard to understand what is going on Najaf. I still don't see the point of the US going there & trying to win a battle it clearly has not been successful at. Is it so crucial to Iraq that the "insurgency" in Najaf be quelled? To me, it looks like the violence that has erupted in the past 10 days is de-stabilizing the whole country & halting all efforts to normalcy for the Iraqis. Every time the US comes closer to destroying the shrine of Imam Ali, hundreds of Iraqis side with Sadr. Maybe it's me, but I don't really get the logic of this operation. Read this article from the Christian Science Monitor about the diversity, coordination, and mixed signals of the Mahdi Army. Here are more developments from the BBC.

I had the most amazing experience yesterday - I was invited by a Jewish woman to a gathering she has organized in the past two years for Muslim & Jewish women to come together & just talk. I am continually amazed at the similarities of religious practices between Judaism & Islam, Hebrew & Arabic. Islam is so much closer to Judaism than Christianity although the religion of Jesus came after that given to Moses. Historically, Jews and Muslims have formed strong alliances under Christian domination and persecution for example, during the Crusades & the Spanish Inquisition.
Amin Maalouf, the author of 'The Crusades through Arab Eyes,' 'Leo the African' & 'Samarkand', explores this relationship & the history of the Arab world in great depth & is a fascinating read. Even in former Palestine, Jews & Muslims lived harmoniously; "anti-Semitism" was not something the Muslims practiced unlike many Europeans and Americans in the past centuries. Ghada Karmi, author of In Search of Fatima, talks about her experiences of childhood in Palestine until 1948, and her immigration to London into a Jewish neighborhood. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about Palestine in the early 20th century, Palestinian exodus and identity conflicts. It is a narrative of the conflict that involves real people instead of a boring history book filled with facts and figures. Karmi is a great writer!

Wanted to share these two articles celebrating Palestinian resilience:
Lanterns light up Ramallah (about a Palestinian musical performance) and Refusing to be blinded in the other eye, by Amira Hass - an Israeli peace activist.


Why I love the United States

I have lived in the US for about five years and am very critical about the government and this country's foreign policies. Some people wonder why I live here and tell me to "go back where I came from." My response: I criticize the government because America is not fulfilling its promises to its people and the world. It hurts me to see the ideals of this country & the hard work & sacrifice of many Americans go in the drain. I wear my patriotism in my heart, not on my sleeve.

In the United Arab Emirates (where I was born), political activism was not an avenue one could pursue. Unlike in the United States, I could not be critical of the government’s actions or the biased press coverage: you just accepted the status quo. This country opened up doors to me that had been previously closed for me. Through my grassroots work this summer, I have met several of Minnesota's elected leaders on our plan about Iraq: both Democrat & Republican & it continues to amaze me that these politicians set aside time to listen to constituents. They may disagree, but they devote that time to their citizens.

I met Congresswoman Betty McCollum on Monday - she has recently arrived from Iraq & talked about her experiences & perspective on the situation. She was exhausted from her trip, yet patiently listened to all those who raised their hands and asked her questions & made comments. She urged us to hold our elected officials & our President accountable because that's what a democracy is about. In the US & other Western democracies, people may take all this for granted. I have never lived in a dictatorship, but I know what it feels like not being able to freely express your opinion. I may not be a citizen yet, but I pay taxes and have the right to demand it be used appropriately. And I will.


Monday, August 16, 2004

Politics galore

Juan Cole of Informed Comment had some great comments on the situation in Iraq while responding to online queries. My favorite one is: "If a Muslim group stormed (and damaged) the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome to remove a band of, say, IRA terrorists who had holed up in it, do you really think Western Christians would side with the Muslims?" More on abuse & theft by US soldiers.

Palestinian prisoners in several Israeli detention centers are on a hunger strike protesting humiliating & unfavorable conditions that they are held in. The Israeli authorities in turn are waging a psychological war on the prisoners by baking fresh bread, barbecuing & eating in front of them.

Can voters from abroad determine the elections? With about 4 million to 10 million American citizens living outside the US, this article suggests so.

Staying with news on the Olympics, the Iraqi soccer team is on a roll - they defeated Costa Rica 2-0 & are now in the quarter-finals. Here is another interesting article on Nassim Hassanpour, a teenage markswoman in the 10 meter air pistol event - the sole female athlete the Islamic Republic of Iran sent to the 2004 Olympics.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

It Takes a Following to Make an Ayatollah

Juan Cole, blogger of Informed Comment published a great article on Shiite leadership today in Iraq in the Washington Post today. He has some detailed info on Shiism & the current situation in Iraq, esp the role that Ayatollah Sistani & Mokhtadar Sadr have played in the political spectrum.

On a happy note, the Iraqi soccer team defeated Portugal 4-2 which is a great accomplishment since Portugal was a gold contender in the Euro Cup a couple months ago. I have always believed that Arabs in general are very strong people because they have seen so many wars & still manage to smile & are so hospitable. My experiences in Jordan confirmed it & I think the same, if not more, can be said for the Iraqis. I'm really happy that the people of Iraq have something to celebrate despite the dire situation in their ravaged country.

People say the solution to resolving conflict is dialogue. On Friday, I met with a great woman who has organized an apolitical monthly Muslim-Jewish woman discussion group over the past 18 months. I've been invited to one on Wednesday and I'm really excited to meet the Muslim & Jewish women who are trying to bridge the gap of hatred & misconceptions. I also came across an event that will take place in September in Duluth, Minnesota. It has been organized to facilitate dialogue between Palestinians/Muslims & Jews - I talked to the organizers & I hope to make it in spite of my busy schedule during the school year. What I'm really looking forward to is a play that has been organized by Muslims, Christians & Jews called, "Children of Abraham." News can get so depressing & it is people & events such as these that revive my hope & inspiration...


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Olympics 2004 - Athens

The 28th Olympic games opened today with great splendor. I missed a lot of the dances & other presentations but I did get to watch the march of the thousands of participants from the 202 countries - I was pretty embarrassed to find out the number of countries I had never heard of! I love the Olympics because it is truly a global event where politics, religion, culture, race & language are set aside for the true human spirit. Also, it was a momentous occasion for the Olympics to arrive back in Athens - where it all began almost 3000 years ago!

I was watching it on MSNBC, and I commend the commentators for their brave (though at times biased) political comments, here is what I learned & observed:

  • I was surprised by the techno music that was being played while the parade took place. I quite enjoy techno - it has an energetic yet soothing effect.
  • It was heartening to see participants from war-torn Afghanistan & Iraq. It was the first time Afghanistan was participating because they were banned due to Taliban's oppressive rule over women - 2 women for the first time were part of this year's team. Iraqi players for the first time in a long time don't have to fear torture by Udeh Hussein (Saddam's son) if they don't perform well or win. I wonder if Iraq was ever banned in the Olympics games for human rights abuses.
  • From the snippets I caught, it looks like an Iranian boxer (or some other sport) has refused to play in the opening game against his Israeli opponent because Iran does not recognize Israel's right to exist. I'm sorry - although I understand the sentiment, it's time Muslims & Arabs accept that although Israel's establishment is unjust, it is here to stay. The only way to progress is through friendship & dialogue - let's keep politics & animosity out of the games shall we?! I guess some could see it as a form of protest to Israel's policy, just like a boycott...
  • I was pleased to hear the Olympics recognizing "Palestine" as opposed to merely "Palestinians" or "Palestinian Authority." There are 2 Palestinian participants this time - Sanaa Abu Bkheit, an 18-year-old 800-meter runner and Raad Aweisat, 17, swims the butterfly. Neither of them expects to win, but they & other victims of war & violence have to be admired for their hardwork despite their limited resources! In 1972, radical Palestinians had killed 11 Israeli athletes - I truly pray that a terrorist attack does not take place during these games. The other inspiring aspect of tonight's event was seeing North & South Koreans walking together as Korea!
  • I may be reading too much into this, but what I noticed when the American participants walked in, they didn't wave any flags - maybe they thought it may not be such a good idea considering what the rest of the world thinks of the US government?
  • Pakistan for the first time has a women swimmer because she will be wearing a special swim suit that will not expose skin like traditional swim suits, thus respecting Islamic traditions. I was impressed to see several women from Egypt, Iran & other Muslim countries, participating while observing Hijab (headcover & modest dress).
  • The commentator remarked that South Africans don't feel that this year's team represents their country because most of them are white.
  • Interesting facts: 1000 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea; Paraguay is the only UN member, whose flag is different on the back & front; speaking of flags, New Zealand is thinking of changing its flag because many feel it looks too much like the UK's or Australia's & does not represent modern New Zealand. As a young teenager, I loved the NZ cricket team - go Kiwis!

From The Daily Times: the athletes’ village is comprised of 366 buildings with 2,292 apartments made up of 8,814 rooms and 17,428 beds. After the games, the complex will be converted to housing for 2,500 families.

I'll never forget the awe I felt when I watched my first Olympics opening ceremony in 1996 held in Atlanta. It was the first time I go to hear Martin Luther King Jr's, "I Have a Dream," and some beautiful music from various white & black American artists. My best moment was when the doves were realeased - here's to a more peaceful tomorrow. Peace should not just be a dream because it is a possible political reality...


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Why Radicals should start registering voters?

A friend of mine e-mailed me this article, 'Why I’ve Stopped Protesting and Started Registering Voters' and I completely agree. It's a great read about how the author voted Nader in 2000, but he'll be voting Kerry this time. He also emphasizes the importance of turning out a massive base for Kerry by registering voters & making sure that more common people get involved in politics because it's the only way the Democratic party can be truly liberal in the future. Another great read is from Shadi, Is There a Difference Between Kerry and Bush on Foreign Policy?

Speaking of Kerry, my friends I visited the Kerry-Edwards campaign office in Minnesota, today to sign up for volunteering, & it was bustling with activity. It is located at the old campaign office for dear Senator Wellstone, who was killed in an airplane crash in 2002. They are organizing by congressional district & we have contacted someone who is going to help us do voter registration & get-out-the-vote for Muslims & Arabs - very exciting!

In other news, the situation in Najaf has not gotten any better. Some analysts are suggesting that Ayatollah Sistani must have suspected the conflict & left for his safety & to avoid a direct confrontation with radical Sadr. The short-sighted American policy doesn't help either- attacking the holy shrine of Imam Ali will be their biggest mistake.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

New 'Muslims for Kerry' website

The Muslims for Kerry website was recently launched & I am very excited to see Muslims finally organizing politically. It really irritates me when Muslims complain about political issues & yet don't want to lobby, contribute financially or politically to campaigns, write or meet their elected officials or even vote! Why should candidates woo the Muslim vote if we don't give them an incentive? This is the first time we are getting an opportunity to make a small dent in the political spectrum & we better not lose it - if Muslims vote for Nader, we will lose support from both parties. This is the time to make sure that from now on, Democrats and Republicans pay attention to us, not ignore us.

Unfortunately, the violence in Najaf has not been quelled. A massive offensive operation by the US has been temporarily halted sparing the residents more suffering. The open markets have been completely destroyed & the continued aerial bombing of the cemetery is not going to win the US any brownie points. This
BBC report suggests that the governor of Najaf, Governor, Adnan al-Zorfi, may give the US permission to attack the holy shrine of Imam Ali - if they do that, all hell will break loose & will end up with more volunteers for Sadr.

Here's an interesting
article on terror & it's relation to mosques in the US.

As for the weather in Minnesota today, I'm disgusted! We have dropped from about 80F on Monday to around 50F today - I know the weather in MN is unpredictable, but it shouldn't feel like mid-October in mid-August!


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"Coalition of the unwilling"

Before the US led invasion of Iraq lat year, President Bush boasted about the number of countries supporting his just cause in the "coalition of the willing." Well, a year later, they don't seem to be willing anymore. Yesterday, Poland announced that it was handling over control in two provinces due to worsening security. This adds strain to the already thinly spread US troops in the region. Earlier in the year, Spanish troops pulled out when Prime Minister Zapatero defeated Aznar. And last month the Philippines 50 some troops pulled out after President Arroyo caved into the demands of a Filipino hostage. It looks like a UN peacekeeping mission is the only alternative, but it is going to be extremely difficult to garner international support after the Bush Administration ignored warnings & snubbed the international community.

The violence in Najaf has worsened. As one report suggested that it is pretty much a leftover from previous months. What is annoying is that the US fails to see that until the roots of the problem: unemployment, security, electricity & water, are not solved, the violence will continue. These temporary truces do no good to the Iraqi people.

George Tenet, the former CIA director resigned last month after scandals regarding intelligence that led the US to the war in Iraq. Bush has nominated a new one, Congressman Porter Goss. I don't know anything about him, so it will be interesting to see if he will be confirmed by the Senate.

The Daily Star has an article about Salem Chalabi, the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi. He is being accused of murder. Interestingly, he is the Iraqi lawyer heading the tribunal for Saddam Hussein.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Sharia law in Canada

Just came across this article about some Canadian Muslims trying to implement sharia (Islamic) law. Although I respect Islam & some of its laws, I believe in the separation of state & church & do not support this notion as it leaves plenty of room for abuse.

Fierce fighting continues in Najaf as Allawi tries to quell the Sadr insurgency. Apparently, US troops have been shooting into a cemetery where Al-Mahdi fighters seem to have taken refuge & hide their weapons. Here's a bird's view of the situation by the only Western journalists in the area. Who is to blame for this latest round of violence depends on whom you ask.

Regarding the arrest warrant for Chalabi, how long will it be before the US get tired of Allawi & try to get him arrested too?! The US claims that Iraq is sovereign, so I wonder who is responsible for the one-month closure of Al-Jazeera in the country!


Bush's folly in handling intelligence information

One of the hot news this weekend has been how the Administration blew the cover of a double agent, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. According to several news reports that I have read, he was working as an Al-Qaeda member but providing vital information to counter-terrorism forces in the US, Pakistan & the UK. Both the UK & Pakistan have been very annoyed at the US Administration's insensitive way of handling this issue. From what I understand, the UK govt was forced to arrest 12 members prematurely because of this, but do not have adequate evidence to press charges. Other Al Qaeda members fled when this information was leaked. What this means is that Bush is ready to sacrifice important counter-terrorism efforts in order to raise alerts for the American people - so it looks like he is strong on the "War on Terror" and he has a better chance to be re-elected.

How many times have we heard our dear President make statements about how great the economy is doing? Well, I've got news: on Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that only 32,000 jobs were created last month. As this
article outlines, for a huge economy like America, that is bad news. The number of people & families filing for bankruptcy & in dire economic stress has increased dramatically.

Thirty years ago, Nixon resigned. His presidency reminds me a lot of Bush: corrupt & insincere. Just as he continued to engage the US in Vietnam, Bush is doing so in Iraq. Yesterday's, Henry Kissinger & Robert McNamara have been replaced by today's Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle & Condoleezza Rice. Nixon changed what Americans thought about the government - they lost a lot faith & were less active on the political scene. On the other hand, people were no longer afraid to question their government & their president. This
BBC report provides a good synopsis of the chaos at the time.

In other news, the 2004 Olympics in Athens begin this week. Unfortunately, 2 of
Greece's baseball players tested positive on a drug test. It is so sad to watch such a great event tainted by drugs.


Friday, August 06, 2004

Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Today, 59 years ago, the United States successfully ended WWII - by dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan, creating a devastation never known before and killing more than a hundred thousand at the spot. Hundreds suffered later from injuries and side effects. Nagasaki witnessed a similar fate on August 9, 1945. People who support the attacks claim that it was necessary to end the war. This is not true. Many historians now agree that the war was already coming to an end because Japan had suffered heavy losses, and the attack was carried out merely hasten the end of the war. Some of the forgotten victims are N.Koreans who lived in Japan at the time as forced labor or sex slaves and were returned during the 50's.

There has been severe fighting in Iraq, in the Shia holy city of Najaf. It horrifies me to even think about the scores of innocent civilians that die in the crossfire. Figures vary, but the number of Iraqis killed since the invasion is anywhere between 15,000-30,000. What also bothers me is when US journalists use the word "enemy" or "insurgents. " That is not being objective & merely being Pentagon's mouthpiece. Just as in Vietnam, the "Vietcong" were nationalists who wanted the occupiers out, many of the "insurgents" in Iraq are angry at the occupation, the human rights abuses and the frustration of not having food, electricity and water. Basra is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.

Speaking of crisis, it is sad to hear that Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) is pulling out of Afghanistan after 24 years due to lack of security. Here’s a great article by the UN under-secretary general of humanitarian affairs, about why that was a bad idea.

In other news, Grand Ayatollah Sistani has arrived in London for treatment of a heart condition. I am usually weary of Shia clerics, but I have been so impressed by his moderate views & diplomatic approach to the situation. I pray he will recover soon.

From Informed Comment: in a recent interview, former President Clinton outlined the 5 major threats the US faces:
1. Al-Qaeda
2. Middle East bloodshed (i.e. the Arab-Israeli conflict)
3. The India-Pakistan conflict (i.e. Kashmir)
4. North Korea's nuclear program
5. Iraq

Yet, President Bush is obsessed with waging the "War on Terror" in Iraq. Here's his latest bluff speech where he erroneously said, "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people - and neither do we."


More issues on Palestine & Israel

The Presbyterian Church of the United States recently voted 431-62 to divest - halt all investments - to Israel due to their illegal occupation & unjust policies towards Palestinians. Although it is a small step towards the right direction, it is one of the best news I have heard in a long time. I do believe that if religious & political groups come together to support Palestine, they will make a difference like they did in South Africa.
Here's an article about a
march by Jews Against the Occupation in New York, calling for the right of return of Palestinian refugees. This is a bold move from many other Jews on the left.

Israel has finally opened up the Egypt-Gaza border after leaving Palestinian refugees for nearly a month. In other developments, the Israeli government is going ahead with plans to build new settlements in the West Bank, despite US objections & in clear violation of last year's road map - or whatever is left of it. I wonder how much the US government realizes that Israel is like a spoiled child, who will not heed to its command unless it is severely reprimanded. Unless a stricter policy towards Israel is adopted, Sharon's govt will blatantly to continue human rights abuses and building illegal settlements. The lack of US condemnation for the apartheid wall being built on Palestinian territory, despite the UN ruling, is just one example.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Moderate Republicans voting for Kerry?

Today, several of my colleagues and I met Rep. Ramstad, my US Congressmember & discussed the Road Map out of Iraq, which I have been working on with my organization. I was very impressed by his moderate views & his open criticism of neo-conservative policy. Although I'm disappointed how he has been voting party-line on foreign policy, he's not a scary right-winger. There are many Republicans supporting Kerry because they feel alienated by Bush - that will be an interesting development!

In other news, the situation caused by the closure of Gaza has been affecting hundreds of Palestinian refugees, stuck by the Egyptian border, including the old, young children, pregnant women and the disabled. The recent anarchy in Gaza and the West Bank, involving Arafat & corruption within the Palestinian Authority (PA) has left much to be reformed. There have been allegations that some PA members have been involved with the sale of cement to Egypt & Israel - some even claiming that it is this very cement that is being used to build the apartheid wall! The anger & resentment sowed over the past 4 years is not going to go away soon if true reform does not take place. It works against the Palestinians for the world to see fighting within the people. A peace deal cannot be brokered until there is unity, visionary leadership, and sincerity - something Arafat & his cronies cannot offer. Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine, has commented that Arafat should step down. All I can say it's about time!


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

More on the Democratic National Convention

My boss, Phil Steger, was at the convention in Boston and here is his view of what happened & how we can move forward to make Kerry's campaign successful.


Human Rights abuses in Sudan & Iraq

For people who are feeling helpless and want to contribute to Iraq & other efforts financially or through activism, please visit Life for Relief & Development, Education for Peace in Iraq Center, Iraq Occupation Watch or Global Exchange.

I have failed to understand the reason for the rally against intervention in Darfur when everything I read sounds like a genocide is taking place. "Never Again" has become a mantra for politicians referring to genocide & promising to avoid such tragedies at all costs. However, just in the last decade, we witnessed as the world stood silent as genocide took place in Rwanda and the Balkans (Srebernica and Bosnia). Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell talks about the failure of the US in particular to intervene. The question that arises is what about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan? Will we just say sorry again like we did after the last genocide? Why do we bother to sign the Genocide Convention if we are so hesitant to do anything about it? Nicholas Kristoff from the NY Times has written extensively on this topic in light of his visit to the Sudan/Chad region.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Private Lynndie R. England as her role in the prison torture scndal unravels. The Christian Science Monitor today published an article about children detainees in Iraq, which goes on to prove the failure of US authorities to establish any credibility in the country.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Colors of Fear

A great news source on the Middle East is Informed Comment, a blog by Juan Cole, a professor at University of Michigan.

What am I supposed to make of these color-coded threat alerts? I am not really sure. A small part of me wants to say it is propaganda by the Bush Administration to be constantly in fear of an unknown threat from an unseen enemy. This Washington Post article states that most of the intelligence information for this alert came in before 9/11! I don't want to undermine the threat the US faces from terrorists, but Bush has become so untrustworthy in face of the several scandals in the past few months, that it is hard to believe any statement from his Administration. He says he supports the 9/11 commission suggestions, but facts reveal otherwise.

We were promised that after Iraqi power would be transferred to the newly appointed government, Iraq would be sovereign & a lot safer. The spiral of violence this past week with the latest bombings of the churches, seem to indicate the contrary. Christians in Iraq have always been a protected minority & to blame it merely on "insurgents" is inaccurate. I don't think it is normal Iraqis perpetrating the attack but terrorists who have infiltrated through the porous Iraqi borders from the region. The lack of security, economic opportunities (approx. 60% unemployment rate), and self-governance has led to rising anger in Iraqis and a perfect breeding ground for terrorists & a spread of radical Islam. It is not their goal to see a unified & peaceful Iraq, but an unstable one for them to continue their activities. Leading Muslim & political leaders, including Grand Ayatullah Sistani and radical Moqtadar al-Sadr, and Arabic press have condemned the attack. Although there are allegations about evangelical Christians from the US trying to promote Christianity & discord, to see Iraqi Christians as representatives of the West is ridiculous and unfair.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

Oh, how my heart cries....

I watched Fahrenheit 9/11 today. I'm not a big fan of Michael Moore because I think he is very confrontational. I have to agree that his latest movie is a brilliant documentary though. The footage and research showing the ties between the Bin Laden & Bush families are extremely disturbing. The number of key politicians, soldiers & other people he has interviewed to get his point across, impresses me. The 9/11 commission has confirmed several facts. Unlike right-wingers, I think he has great honor for the troops by showing people how unfair it is that it is the poor & disfranchised that mostly go to war. What is a unpatriotic is sending them on harm's way by lying to them & not caring adequately for the troops. I do however agree with one critic that Moore brands the Saudi Royal family as "The Saudis" making it sound like all the people in Saudi Arabia are a part of the conspiracy.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm not Arab. But after studying the Middle East for the past 2 yrs & having spent 4 months in Jordan, that region has captured a piece of my heart & it bleeds in pain when I watch the news. Every time, I think circumstances in the Middle East have hit rock bottom, a new crisis emerges. Like the Palestinian issue was not enough, the world now has an unstable & bloody Iraq on its hands. I want to share this poem by Nadeen Al-Jijakli published by Mizna - their latest issue was dedicated to Edward Said, a prominent Palestinian scholar who passed away last year. Sadly, this poem could very well have been talking about Iraq...

Free Palestine

I want to talk about
a truth that isn't heard
ideas that are absurd
a battle that isn't equal
a media that is deceitful
a conflict of political agenda, not religion
foreign policy with precision
the causes of this struggle
the forced nature of this trouble
a youth that doesn't play childhood
a father prevented from providing food
a family trapped in the confines of a home
the gunpoint facing the dome
a soldier spitting on a grown man's pride
a community with no place to hide
an incessant attack on people, not a cycle of violence
international opinion smothered in silence
a mother who holds back a cry
children leaving the house to die
a sun that never shines
I want to talk about