Monday, November 29, 2004

National Adoption Month

November is the National Adoption Month, and Minnesota Public Radio had a great program today about adoption patterns in the US: “There are more than 100,000 children in foster care nationwide. Nearly half of those waiting to be adopted are African-American. What role does race play in adoption?” There were also discussions on how many Americans tend to adopt children from other countries like China, Russia and South Korea, while there are many black children in the US waiting for homes. Reasons are a blend of racism and the long & expensive adoption process in the US. Surprisingly, many black children in the US are being adopted by families in Canada and Europe! The program also discussed issues on willingness to adopt babies compared to older children in foster care, the pros, cons and challenges of trans-racial adoption, and how one get more informed. MPR has various useful web links on this topic if you are interested. Where does Islam stand on adoption?

I’m sure opinions vary but a quick search came up with this from
IslamOnline.net: “Islam's stance on adoption rests on the necessity of keeping the biological parents of the child always in picture. Keeping the original name of the child, and letting him know who are his real parents are some of the conditions stipulated by the Shari`ah when legalizing fostering. The reasons are; in Islam, children have automatic rights to inheritance, they can not marry their Mahrams (unmarriageable persons) and they can marry from their foster family if no suckling took place. The issue of hijab [head cover for women] in the house is also given due regard between the non-related sisters and brothers, etc. All these rules have to be taken into consideration in this case…Islam prohibits adoption but allows Muslims to raise children who are not theirs. Muslims can fully raise these children, look after them, and support them, but the children must be named after their real fathers…In a case when the father is not known, as with abandoned babies, the child should still not be named after the person raising him or her. In a case such as this, the children may be called brethren in Islam (Mawali).” However, although the adopted child does not automatically inherit the wealth of his or her parents, it can be willed to him or her. I tend to disagree because I am in strong favor of providing a home to children in need. This explanation also does not make it clear that if a woman is able to breast feed the adopted baby, it becomes part of the family. Prophet Muhammad was in fact adopted when he was a young child although some may argue that it was during pre-Islamic times when the practice was widespread & before Allah revealed specific laws. The problem before Islam was also “the Arabs had prohibited the man from marrying the divorcee of his adopted son. Islam prohibits a man marrying the divorcee of his son. However, in Islam, a man can marry the divorcee of the man he raised, who is not his son by blood; this is declared explicitly in the Qur'an.”

On issues of terrorism, an interesting article from the
Christian Science Monitor states: “the US Defense Department released a report by the Defense Science Board that is highly critical of the administration's efforts in the war on terror and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.' The Pentagon released the study after The New York Times ran a story about the report in its Wednesday editions.”

In Iraq, there are continuing tensions over elections, with many Sunni parties calling for a boycott of the upcoming elctions and requesting a postponement. From Informed Comment: “Sunni Arabs have a big stake in the permanent constitution. Will it give Kirkuk and its oil to the Kurds, depriving Arabs of any share in those revenues? Will it ensconce Shiite law as the law of the land? Will it keep a unicameral parliament, in which Shiites would have a permanent majority, or will it create an upper chamber where Sunnis might be better represented, on the model of the US senate? If all those issues go against the Sunnis because they aren't there to argue their positions, it would set Iraq up for guerrilla war into the foreseeable future. And that is why Khatami's hopes that an elected government will be more stable are unrealistic. It isn't that the government is elected that lends stability, but rather widespread acceptance of the government's legitimacy. The Sunnis are unlikely to grant that if they end up being woefully underrepresented.”

Also by
Juan Cole: “The Red Crescent has finally been allowed into Fallujah (its earlier exclusion was probably a violation of international law). Its spokesman is saying that less than 200 civilian families appear to still be there. If this estimate is true, it suggests that by the time of the U.S. assault, only about 5,000 persons were left in the city. At least 2,000 were killed, some 1,400 captured, some escaped, and a handful of civilian families remained. If Fallujah was a ghost town before the assault, that would help explain the repeated U.S. military assertion of virtually no civilian casualties (which is still not entirely plausible). But it would also raise a question as to the effectiveness of the assault. Fallujah's population was estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000. If only 5,000 or so were left, then obviously a great many guerrilla fighters, whether full- or part-time, escaped. The few remaining civilian families suffered from lack of food… Since there are an estimated 250,000 tons of explosives and munitions missing from the prewar Ba'ath stockpiles, I fear that whatever was found in Fallujah was a drop in the bucket. And a lot of Iraqi cities must be full of such material. And, contrary to the "broken back" imagery, a confidential Marine report suggested that the guerrilla war would grow in intensity and breadth in the buildup to the Jan. 30 elections… Not only were many Iraqis disturbed at the way the Fallujah campaign was conducted, but they were upset about the assault by Iraqi National Guardsmen and U.S. troops on the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad last Friday. Mosque preachers, both Sunni and Shi'ite, universally condemned the raid yesterday in the Friday sermonsThe London Times reports that nearly 700 persons die under suspicious circumstances (most of them from bullet wounds) every month in Baghdad. These are not, at least mainly, victims of the guerrilla war. They are mostly victims of crime or revenge.”

I have not heard this story before, but according to a
NY Times columnist: “Thanks to Claudia Rosett, an enterprising reporter writing in The New York Sun, the world now knows that some information put out by Secretary General Kofi Annan about his son's involvement with a Swiss inspection company at the heart of the U.N. oil-for-food scandal is untrue. At a luncheon at "21" in New York this summer, Annan came over to me to complain politely that my series suggesting U.N. maladministration was unfair. When I asked about the consultant fee paid to his son Kojo that may have influenced the award of a U.N. contract to Cotecna Inspection, the secretary general said that the allegation (originally reported in The Sunday Telegraph in London) had been "thoroughly investigated" by the U.N. and there was "nothing to it."… When confronted with the falsity of previous U.N. denials, the secretary general's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, pleaded: "There is nothing illegal in this." You see, um, the payments to Annan's son were part of an "open-ended no-compete contract." After all, what could be illegal about getting paid for not joining a competing inspection company, which Cotecna probably took as assurance that nobody else would get the inside track? "We previously thought they had ceased," Annan's embarrassed aide said of the payments. He stuck grimly to the line that U.N. officials "who gave Cotecna the contract had no idea that Kojo Annan worked for Cotecna," but carefully left himself an out: "and that continues to be our belief." In the same way, there are still officials of the oil-stained U.N. Secretariat who profess to believe the repeated denials of Benon Sevan, the longtime right-hand man of Kofi Annan put in charge of what became history's largest swindle.”

A major issue after 9/11 has been the restrictions of visas issued to foreign students. From the NY Times: “Last year, the number of foreign students at American colleges and universities fell for the first time since 1971… The costs to the American economy are significant. Educating foreign students is a $13 billion industry. Moreover, the United States does not produce enough home-grown doctoral students in science and engineering to meet our needs. The shortfall is partly made up by the many foreign students who stay here after earning their degrees. Equally important, however, are the foreign students who return home and carry American ideas with them. They add to our soft power, the ability to win the hearts and minds of others. As Secretary of State Colin Powell put it, "I can think of no more valuable asset to our country than the friendship of future world leaders who have been educated here." … Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, getting an American visa has been a nightmare of red tape, and the hassle has deterred many foreign student applicants. Horror stories abound, like the Harvard postdoctoral student in biochemistry who went home to Beijing for his father's funeral, then waited five months for permission to return. And China, of course, had nothing to do with the attacks on Sept. 11. In an effort to exclude a dangerous few, we are keeping out the helpful many. Consular officials know that they face career-threatening punishment if they are too lax, but face little sanction if they are too strict. Add to those perverse incentives, the need to coordinate with the extensive bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security, and you have a perfect recipe for inertia. More resources can help speed the process, but little will happen until Congress and the Bush administration make the problem a higher priority.”

Also in relation is cutting financial aid for college students. From the NY Times: “The pending cut could cause as many as 1.2 million low-income students to have their grants reduced - and as many as 100,000 could lose their grants altogether. That inevitably means that students would either drop out or take longer to finish their degrees. The Pell program, which is meant to help students pay for tuition and other expenses, like books and housing, has been gravely underfinanced for a long time. Congress has tried to mask the problem by tricky bookkeeping. In particular, Congress failed to revise the maximum grant to keep pace with rising costs. Left untouched for a decade, the aid formula is still capped at around $4,000 a year - far less than what it takes to support a college student. The Republican leadership tried to cut the Pell program by changing the formula for distributing the money in a way that would cut out students who had higher - although still inadequate - family incomes. The leaders backed off when middle-income families protested and student aid threatened to become an issue in the presidential campaign.”

Also from the NY Times: “Two more senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine service are stepping down, intelligence officials said Wednesday, in the latest sign of upheaval in the agency under its new chief, Porter J. Goss. As the chiefs of the Europe and Far East divisions, the two officials have headed spying operations in some of the most important regions of the world and were among a group known as the barons in the highest level of clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations…A former intelligence official described the two as "very senior guys" who were stepping down because they did not feel comfortable with new management…Many of the agency's top officials, including John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director, and A. B. Krongard, the No. 3 official, have stepped down or announced plans to do so since Mr. Goss took office in September. The upheaval has been most extensive in the operations directorate, made up of spies and spymasters who have made careers out of stealing secrets. The clandestine service is a proud closed fraternity and one that sees itself as fiercely loyal and not risk-averse. It is also a group that has recoiled in recent weeks at the criticisms leveled at the agency, including comments this month from Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who accused the agency of acting "almost as a rogue" institution. Mr. Goss is a former spy and a member of the clandestine service who worked in Latin America in the 60's. More recently, he was a Republican congressman and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and he has made plain his view that the current crop of case officers is not bold enough… Under Mr. Goss, it is a cadre of former House Republican aides, not Navy officers, who dominate the new management team.

This month, they have toppled Mr. Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, in a way that former intelligence officials say has shown little regard for the tradition-bound clandestine service which has always prized rank, experience and lines of authority… Under Mr. Goss, the extent of the rebellion in the ranks is not clear. Much of the anger has been focused on a former Congressional aide, Patrick Murray, the chief of staff, who is said to have raised the hackles of some station chiefs around the world. The atmosphere has so deteriorated in the agency that some career officers have begun using derogatory nicknames for Mr. Murray and his colleagues… Mr. McCain, in suggesting that the agency had been disloyal, has singled out the disclosure of intelligence reports about Iraq whose conclusions were at odds with administration assertions about the war. In a rare public rebuttal, John E. McLaughlin, a career C.I.A. official who is stepping down as the agency's No. 2 official after less than two months as Mr. Goss's deputy, wrote in an op-ed article on Tuesday in The Washington Post that the accusation was unjustified. "C.I.A. officers are career professionals who work for the president," Mr. McLaughlin wrote. "They see this as a solemn duty, regardless of which party holds the White House.”

Another interesting piece of news for me since I studied In Jordan last Fall is from the
BBC: “Jordan's King Abdullah has stripped his half-brother Hamzah of the title of crown prince, overriding the dying wish of their late father King Hussein… It would "allow you more freedom to work in any tasks I assign to you", the king's letter said. Analysts say it shows how the king's command has grown since coming to power in 1999 without political experience. Crown Prince Hamzah was a favourite of King Hussein, who often described him in public as the "delight of my eye". However, he was seen as too young and inexperienced to be named successor, when the dying king dismissed his brother Hassan as crown prince in favour of his son, Abdullah… King Abdullah's statement said the position of crown prince would be kept vacant - but analysts say he is expected to appoint his own son, Hussein, now aged 10, at some point in the future… The king said the title of crown prince was an "honorary position, which does not give authority for its holder nor does it give him any responsibility". "That had prevented me from assigning you certain responsibilities." He said this would make it possible for Prince Hamzah "to take up other posts, something which was not possible as crown prince". A graduate of the UK's Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Prince Hamzah is a captain in the Jordanian armed forces… Correspondents say there has never been any visible rivalry between Abdullah and Hamzah. The king hosted a gala reception for him in May 27, when the royal family officially celebrated the prince's marriage.”

Is Israel trying to improve its image? From the BBC: “A reality TV show may not seem the most obvious answer to the problem, but that is where the new, high-profile series The Ambassador comes in. The winner will become the ultimate Israeli ambassador, travelling the world to burnish Israel's image. The contestants were drawn from several thousand applicants who answered an advertisement in the Israeli press for a job in media relations in New York… Each week, they will be set a different task in a different country to test their ability to present Israel in a positive light… A third task is to make a one-minute commercial advertising the delights of Israel to be aired on MTV… The producers originally wanted Israel's foreign ministry involved, but it withdrew, citing a conflict of interest with its own diplomatic training scheme…Now, a US-based group called Israel At Heart is providing the final reward an all-expenses paid year based in New York as a high-profile media director and spokesperson. … is run by a New York businessman, Joey Low, who came up with the idea of sending presentable, articulate young Israelis around the world to put the country's case after watching an Israeli government spokesman stumble and make little impact on an American news show three years ago.

  

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Some unconventional thoughts on Thanksgiving

This weekend, most Americans will sit down with their families & friends around a turkey, mashed potatoes & pumpkin pie. The real Thanksgiving Dinner however was very different. From the History Channel: “it's safe to say the pilgrims weren't gobbling up pumpkin pie or playing with their mashed potatoes...the only two items that historians know for sure were on the menu are venison and wild fowl, which are mentioned in primary sources…Vegetable dishes, one of the main components of our modern celebration, didn't really play a large part in the feast mentality of the seventeenth century. Depending on the time of year, many vegetables weren't available to the colonists. The pilgrims probably didn't have pies or anything sweet at the harvest feast. They had brought some sugar with them on the Mayflower but by the time of the feast, the supply had dwindled. Also, they didn't have an oven so pies and cakes and breads were not possible at all. The food that was eaten at the harvest feast would have seemed fatty by 1990's standards, but it was probably more healthy for the pilgrims than it would be for people today. The colonists were more active and needed more protein.”

Some people are against celebrating Thanksgiving due to the way Native Americans were treated later as the United States was formed and expanded. While some who are vegetarian have a different menu – check out this letter in my university newspaper: “During the holiday season, many people will say no to factory farming and animal suffering by centering their holiday meals on something other than a tortured bird. Factory farming, as many now know, causes turkeys and many other animals to suffer greatly. Turkeys live their whole lives in confinement, undergo mutilations without anesthesia, are transported in extreme weather conditions and are abused by factory workers. If they survive all this, they are shackled by the legs at the slaughterhouse and go on to either be hacked to pieces or boiled alive. Such practices take place behind closed doors and are purposely unexposed to the public. This year, Americans can give thanks without contributing to the suffering and slaughter of billions of sentient beings. Contrary to the popular tradition of centering a Thanksgiving feast around a turkey, people all over the country are demanding more health-conscious and, of course, cruelty-free choices to replace the main course. Products such as Tofurky brand meatless Thanksgiving roast and UnTurkey brand meatless roast offer everything the traditional feasts did before plus more.”

Another tradition the day after Thanksgiving is to flock down to retail stores early in the morning for sales – I did that once & don’t ever want to do it again! It’s too early in the morning (6am), crowded with people and you end up spending more than you intended. Target stores has even arranged wake-up calls for people at 5am, so they can get up & shop!! The other annoying thing is the blast of Christmas commercials trying to get you to buy something or the other. The best commercial I have seen is www.ThanksandGiving.com through St. Jude Children’s Hospital asking “to give ‘Thanks’ for the healthy children in our lives, while ‘Giving’ to help children everywhere who are desperately ill and battling to stay alive. This national event was created to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—the world’s epicenter of pediatric medical research that was founded by the late entertainer, Danny Thomas… St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is where doctors send their sickest patients and toughest cases. It is a place where pioneering research, revolutionary discoveries, and miracles happen every day. St. Jude is more than a cancer facility. We research, treat, and cure many types of childhood diseases, including sickle cell, AIDS, tuberculosis, influenza, and others.” They have been using famous personalities such as Robbie Williams and Jennifer Aniston to spread their message.

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? I googled for some information and here is a site that captures the story as it goes: “The story of Thanksgiving is basically the story of the Pilgrims and their thankful community feast at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims, who set sail from Plymouth, England on a ship called the Mayflower on September 6, 1620, were fortune hunters, bound for the resourceful 'New World'. The Mayflower was a small ship crowded with men, women and children, besides the sailors on board. Aboard were passengers comprising the 'separatists', who called themselves the "Saints", and others, whom the separatists called the "Strangers". After land was sighted in November following 66 days of a lethal voyage, a meeting was held and an agreement of truce was worked out. It was called the Mayflower Compact. The agreement guaranteed equality among the members of the two groups. They merged together to be recognized as the "Pilgrims." They elected John Carver as their first governor. Although Pilgrims had first sighted the land off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they did not settle until they arrived at a place called Plymouth. It was Captain John Smith who named the place after the English port-city in 1614 and had already settled there for over five years. And it was there that the Pilgrims finally decided to settle. Plymouth offered an excellent harbor and plenty of resources. The local Indians were also non-hostile.

But their happiness was short-lived. Ill-equipped to face the winter on this estranged place they were ravaged thoroughly. Somehow they were saved by a group of local Native Americans who befriended them and helped them with food. Soon the natives taught the settlers the technique to cultivate corns and grow native vegetables, and store them for hard days. By the next winter they had raised enough crops to keep them alive. The winter came and passed by without much harm. The settlers knew they had beaten the odds and it was time to celebrate…However, the third year was real bad when the corns got damaged. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer, and rain happened to follow soon. To celebrate - November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the real beginning of the present Thanksgiving Day. Though the Thanksgiving Day is presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November. This date was set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941). Earlier it was the last Thursday in November as was designated by the former President Abraham Lincoln. But sometimes the last Thursday would turn out to be the fifth Thursday of the month. This falls too close to the Christmas, leaving the businesses even less than a month's time to cope up with the two big festivals. Hence the change.”

Well, I will be joining my friends & family for a dinner on Saturday. Over the weekend, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is holding their conference in Minneapolis, and I will be attending. Their theme is “Our Youth, Our Family, Our Future.” I won’t be back to blog until Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

  

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Creationism vs Darwinism in American science classes

This site showing pictures from Fallujah has become a cyber hot spot – viewer discretion is advised due to the nature of the photographs. As you scroll down, you will come across an interesting hate mail post.

Apart from issues such as gay rights and abortion, something that many conservatives don’t like is the science taught in public school – i.e. the evolution theory & Darwinism. The Christian Science Monitor reports that one school board in Pennsylvania is changing that after the victory of conservative Christians on Election Day: “By mandating that ninth-grade biology teachers include "intelligent design" in their instruction, board members set a precedent last month. Never before has a school district decided to offer intelligent design, which suggests that only the action of a higher intelligence can explain the complexities of evolution…Near Atlanta, in suburban Cobb County, the local school board demanded that teachers put stickers inside the front cover of middle and high school science books. They read, in part: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact." In rural Wisconsin, the Grantsburg school board voted last month to allow teachers to discuss various theories of creation in their classrooms, opening the door to intelligent design…Since the United States Supreme Court in 1987 outlawed the teaching of creationism in public schools on the grounds of separation of church and state, anti-evolution activists have all but dropped divine creation and instead focused solely on discrediting Darwin…But where most scientists see a series of fits and starts - evolutionary trials and failures - eventually leading to life as we know it, proponents of intelligent design see the guiding hand of some greater wisdom…For example, natural selection is not enough to explain the "eerie perfection" of the genetic code, says John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network, an advocacy group in Shawnee Mission, Kan. Something so flawlessly "designed" could not be the product of random actions, he says.” My opinion? I think both ideas should be taught simultaneously & the children should be told about the conflicting views about science. I believe in God’s creation, but I understand if someone doesn’t. Just as creationism is an imposition on those who don’t believe in God, Darwinism is an imposition on those who do. That is why both sides of the story should be taught to allow students to make their own minds.

I also want to clear up the controversy about the board members of the Progressive Muslim Union. Apparently, private letters were leaked creating rumors and speculations about the board members. Some of the individuals under attack publicly were NOWHERE tobe found on the official list (Seeme and Malik Hasan, Fareed Zakariya, Nawal El-Saadawi). Others that were mentioned ARE on the list (Muqtedar Khan, Ziad Asali).From an e-mail I received on a statement by Ahmad Nassef, one ofthe founders of the PMU: “The PMU Advisory board features prominent Muslims who have endorsed the organization’s objectives and who have made themselves available for advice and consultation regarding PMU's long-range policies. Advisory Board: Ali Abunimah, a writer and commentator on Middle East and Arab-American affairs, lives in Chicago. He is co-founder of Electronic Intifada and Electronic Iraq; Akbar S. Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and professor of International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. Dr. Ahmed is a distinguished anthropologist, writer and filmmaker. He has been actively involved in inter-faith dialogue — and his work to bringunderstanding between Islam and the West has included three appearances on Oprah and a BBC news series called "Living Islam"; Ziad Asali Ziad J. Asali, MD is the President and founder of the American Task Force onPalestine and past-president of the American-Arab Anti-DiscriminationCommittee (ADC), the largest Arab-American grassroots civil rights organization in the United States; Muqtedar Khan is Director of International Studies and Chair, Political Science Department at Adrian College in Michigan. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC; Scott Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle is Assistant Professor of Religion at Swarthmore College. His research focuses on the intersections between Islamic mysticism (Sufism), Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), and Ethics, including a special focus on gender, sexuality and the importance of bodies in Sufi devotional practices; Tariq Ramadan A Swiss national, Tariq Ramadan is a professor of philosophy at the College of Geneva and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg. In fall 2004 Ramadan was appointed Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Dr. Ramadan has written more than twenty books exploring reinterpretation and reform within Islam itself and between the Islamic world and its neighbors around the globe; Amina Wadud is Islamic studies professor in thedepartment of philosophy and religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is nationally and internationally known for her ground breaking book Qur'an and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, the first interpretive reading of the Qur'an by a woman.”

High level talks between India & Pakistan has also been garnering attention. From the Christian Science Monitor: “Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's first-ever visit to India on Tuesday to meet with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh further advances hopes for peace, reports The Times of India. The ostensible purpose of Mr. Aziz's visit is to discuss mutual economic interests in southwest Asia, such as "plans for a pipeline that will bring natural gas from Iran through Pakistan to energy-hungry India," reports ABC news. Pakistan has "has been keen on the project for years but it has not made much headway because of political tensions." But analysts confide that the real talks between the two ministers will begin and end over Kashmir. Neither side expects major breakthroughs, but given recent developments, both are cautiously probing to see if the peace process can be furthered. In the last month Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf indicated that Kashmir should be de-militarized, and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that he would unilaterally cut troops in Kashmir…Aziz's visit is even more noteworthy, given that it takes place less than a week after Mr. Singh rejected any redrawing of India's borders or a further division of Kashmir. The statement had the effect of "pouring cold water" over Mr. Musharrat's proposals, says the Times.”

Poverty in Israel from Haaretz: “There were 1,427,000 people living below the poverty line in Israel in 2003 - some 22.4 percent of the population, according to the National Insurance Institute annual report on poverty published Tuesday. “Israel is becoming poorer and poorer," said NII Director General Dr. Yigal Ben Shalom during the presentation of the report. The data also shows that around 652,000 children in Israel can be defined as poor, a total of 30.8 percent of the children in the country. Almost 83,000 of the poor are elderly…Among Arab households the poverty rate reached in 2003 48.4 percent. 27.6 percent of single parent families are below poverty line.” Also from Haaretz: “After four years of intifada, nearly 50 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line, and 16 percent cannot afford even the basic necessities, according to a report to be published Tuesday by the World Bank. Entitled "Four Years - Intifada, Closures, and Palestinian Economic Crisis," the report states that a quarter of the Palestinian workforce is unemployed, and the income of the remainder has dropped by a third compared to the situation before the intifada. The report attributes the economic crisis to Israel's closure policy, which limits the movement of people and merchandise from the territories to Israel and the settlements…The World Bank estimates that immediate removal of the closure will increase GDP by 3.6 percent, but will not affect the poverty and unemployment rates…The crisis could end if Israel opens the Palestinian Authority's borders to foreign trade, which would enable GDP to grow by 9.2 percent by 2006, reducing unemployment by 23 percent and cutting the number of people living below the poverty line from 56 percent today to 46 percent. If donor countries increased their aid to the PA by $1.5 billion, the number could drop further to 37 percent. To encourage a growth-oriented economy, the report says reforms in the Palestinian Authority should increase transparency in the management of finances and include the creation of an independent auditing mechanism, the privatization of public enterprises, and adherence to existing laws on public procurement. There is also a need to improve the infrastructure of the court system and to reduce the wage bill.”

Following up on the report of an Israeli soldier killing a 13-yr old girl – from Ali Abunimah from Electronic Intifada: “this story was first reported, the occupation army claims to have "investigated" the incident, and of course cleared itself and its personnel from any wrong doing, as usual. It appears that only the existence of a tape has forced them to take action. Unfortunately there are no tapes in more than 500 cases of children murdered by the Israeli army in the past four years.” From Haaretz: “An indictment was handed down in the Southern Command's Military Court yesterday against Captain R., a Givati company commander accused of illegally using his weapon to kill 13-year-old Imam al Hamas, a Palestinian girl who was on her way to school near the Girit outpost in southern Gaza. Military prosecutors issued a five-count indictment against the officer, including two counts of illegally using his weapon, and one count each of obstruction of justice, conduct unbecoming an officer, and improper use of authority…The accused officer initially said he came under fire fromPalestinian gunmen at least 300 yards (meters) away as he approached the girl's body and shot at the ground to deter the fire, a military official said. The official could not explain why the officer shot into the ground rather than at the source of the fire.The military prosecutor said the military law does not include "verification of the kill" as a crime, so they decided to charge R. with "illegal use of a weapon." He is not being charged with manslaughter since there is no evidence that R.'s bullets were those that killed the girl. The decision not to charge the other soldiers at the outpost was because they acted on the assumption that the suspicious figure was a terrorist and not a young girl. R. however, is heard in the tape specifically saying he shot "the girl," and had heard on the communications radio that the figure was a young girl.”

  

Monday, November 22, 2004

NBC Photographer in Fallujah speaks up

Here’s a detailed report from the NBC reporter that captured the footage of the unarmed Iraqi being shot by a Marine: “This week I've even been shocked to see myself painted as some kind of anti-war activist. Anyone who has seen my reporting on television or has read the dispatches on this website is fully aware of the lengths I've gone to play it straight down the middle -- not to become a tool of propaganda for the left or the right…Immediately after going in, I see the same black plastic body bags spread around the mosque. The dead from the day before. But more surprising, I see the same five men that were wounded from Friday as well. It appears that one of them is now dead and three are bleeding to death from new gunshot wounds. The fifth is partially covered by a blanket and is in the same place and condition he was in on Friday, near a column. He has not been shot again. I look closely at both the dead and the wounded. There don't appear to be any weapons anywhere…In the particular circumstance I was reporting, it bothered me that the Marine didn't seem to consider the other insurgents a threat -- the one very obviously moving under the blanket, or even the two next to me that were still breathing. I can't know what was in the mind of that Marine. He is the only one who does…it appeared to me very plainly that something was not right. According to Lt. Col Bob Miller, the rules of engagement in Falluja required soldiers or Marines to determine hostile intent before using deadly force. I was not watching from a hundred feet away. I was in the same room. Aside from breathing, I did not observe any movement at all. Making sure you know the basis for my choices after the incident is as important to me as knowing how the incident went down. I did not in any way feel like I had captured some kind of "prize" video. In fact, I was heartsick…In war, as in life, there are plenty of opportunities to see the full spectrum of good and evil that people are capable of. As journalists, it is our job is to report both -- though neither may be fully representative of those people on whom we're reporting…

When NBC aired the story 48-hours later, we did so in a way that attempted to highlight every possible mitigating issue for that Marine's actions. We wanted viewers to have a very clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding the fighting on that frontline. Many of our colleagues were just as responsible. Other foreign networks made different decisions, and because of that, I have become the conflicted conduit who has brought this to the world. The Marines have built their proud reputation on fighting for freedoms like the one that allows me to do my job, a job that in some cases may appear to discredit them…I interviewed your Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl, before the battle for Falluja began. He said something very powerful at the time-something that now seems prophetic. It was this: "We're the good guys. We are Americans. We are fighting a gentleman's war here -- because we don't behead people, we don't come down to the same level of the people we're combating. That's a very difficult thing for a young 18-year-old Marine who's been trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and close combat. That's a very difficult thing for a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel with 23 years experience in the service who was trained to do the same thing once upon a time, and who now has a thousand-plus men to lead, guide, coach, mentor -- and ensure we remain the good guys and keep the moral high ground." … So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility. The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.”

From Chicago Tribune: “In a fence-mending gesture to the Jewish community, elders of Fourth Presbyterian Church launched a plan Sunday to channel church funds to companies that strengthen the infrastructure of Israel. The governing body of the affluent 5,300-member congregation unanimously agreed to adjust its financial portfolio following a national church decision to divest from companies that enable Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. "It's Fourth acting faithfully and forcefully as a peacemaker," said Rev. Bob Reynolds, head of the Chicago Presbytery. "They're doing that by investing in the products of peace at the same time the church is also divesting from the weapons of war." A Presbyterian Church (USA) committee this month began determining which companies in the denomination's $8 billion portfolio qualify for divestment. If the companies do not conform to the church's policy, the denomination could withdraw funds by 2006. Tension between Jewish groups and Presbyterians and among churches in the denomination has escalated since the divestment resolution was adopted by the national church's General Assembly in July. Some Jewish leaders called the policy an attack on Israel's economy and right to exist. Some Presbyterian congregations denounced the policy. Anger intensified last month when shortly after a visit to Chicago, a Presbyterian theologian accompanied a church delegation to Lebanon to meet with leaders of the militant group Hezbollah. Local Jews were offended by his comments that Islamic leaders were easier to talk to than Jews. Rev. John Buchanan, Fourth Presbyterian's senior pastor and a former moderator of the General Assembly, said the Chicago church's investment strategy is not a protest against divestment. "…divestment is not aimed at Israel's existence or Israel's economy but Israel's policies regarding the conduct of actions with Palestinian people," Buchanan said.”

On the Palestinian elections from The Daily Star, “Palestinians began registering candidates on Saturday for a presidential election to replace Yasser Arafat, while officials warned the vote may be delayed if Israel does not halt military activities. Palestinian election officials urged Israel to ensure a free and fair ballot by redeploying troops away from Palestinian population centers and curtailing military operations…Israel has promised to do "everything that is needed" for democratic Palestinian elections, including probably allowing Palestinians from East Jerusalem to participate in the ballot. Acting Palestinian President Rawhi Fattouh called on Israel to redeploy to positions held before a Palestinian revolt began in 2000. He hoped international monitors would oversee the vote. "We urge the international community to pressure Israel to allow Palestinians to practice their election rights," he said. The ruling Fatah faction was due to discuss on Sunday whether the new head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mahmoud Abbas, would run as its sole candidate.”

More from the Christian Science Monitor: “…excluding from the vote those Palestinians living outside the homeland is a deeper and potentially more serious problem. The current plan is to hold the election under rules defined in the Oslo peace process in 1993. Back then, excluding diaspora Palestinians from the rolls might have been forgivable, because the election envisaged there (which was duly held in 1996) was for head of the Palestinian National Authority - a body that everyone agreed was only temporary. But the Oslo process has been defunct for a long time. Even President Bush has said that his goal now is not just an "interim" body, but the creation of a full-fledged Palestinian state… In nearly all other transition-related elections in the world in recent years - in South Africa, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq - provision has been made to include in the vote those made refugees by the preceding years of strife and conflict. Palestine's refugees, inside and outside the occupied territories, deserve no different. Enfranchisement would give the refugees a solid sense of political inclusion, and involve them constructively in the search for a workable solution. Excluding them - as happened throughout the Oslo process - would probably once again be a recipe for failure… But is there still time to include diaspora Palestinians in the Jan. 9 election? Yes, there is one easy way that a sizable portion of them - including those who are now the most vulnerable and needy - could participate. The UN relief agency - UNRWA – maintains up-to-date lists of all the "registered Palestinian refugees" in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, and has networks of schools and clinics in those three countries. UNRWA's name lists, identity cards, and physical facilities could be used to help run the election. Arranging that need not take more than four or five weeks. Indeed, persuading Israel to allow the freedoms needed for a fair election inside the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) might take longer than making the arrangements for these diaspora Palestinians to vote.”

From Informed Comment: “World revulsion against the US attack on Fallujah reached a crescendo during the past five days, with significant street protests breaking out in the Middle East and Latin America. Turkey, Palestine and Libya in the region, and Chile in the New World saw thousands of angry protesters come out against the US. The brutal way the US conducted the assault, and the continual aerial bombardment of civilian neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to the attack, suggested to many observers that the operation was intended as a form of collective punishment against the people of Fallujah, and a warning to the residents of other Iraqi cities not to let the guerrillas operate freely in their urban areas. Collective punishment is forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 governing militarily occupied territories…[on Saturday] Iraqi security forces backed up by US troops raided the famed mosque of Abu Hanifa on Friday and arrested its prayer leader, Shaikh Muayyad Adhami. They set off stun grenades and appear to have killed two of the worshippers. Abu Hanifa founded the Hanafi school of Islamic law, one of 4 major Sunni schools, which is particularly popular in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Central Asia.” Also from Informed Comment: “The interim government of Iyad Allawi set the elections for Jan. 30, on Sunday. Even as the announcement was made, major violence broke out in Ramadi and Latifiyah, strong Sunni Arab areas, leaving some 22 persons dead on Sunday. The next stage is the meeting of the neighboring states plus Egypt at Sharm al-Sheikh, where the Bush administration is finally seeking to internationalize the Iraq crisis instead of keeping it for Washington. The conference will be expanded on Tuesday. Iran says it will attend, but will insist on calling for a US withdrawal from Iraq. In contrast, Egypt is afraid that a sudden US withdrawal would leave Iraq in chaos. Alissa Rubin of the Los Angeles Times has a good summary of issues around Grand Ayatollah Sistani's formation of a Shiite super-party and his relations with the Sunnis.”

From Electronic Intifada: “On Sunday, November 21 at 7:15AM, bulldozers and armed security guards arrived at the home of Al-Helou family in Jerusalem to announce that their land will be confiscated for the expansion of the university dormitories. Al-Helou family is among seven families whose houses are trapped among the university dormitory buildings. They have lived in this area, called Ard Al-Samar, since 1948 when they were forced out of the Jerusalem village of Lifta. The dormitory buildings have been closing in on the families, who are now confined in small pockets of land surrounded by the fences. Shirabe Yamada witnessed the destruction.” I am a big suppoter of Arts & films as a means to educate people about politics.

Also from Electronic Intifada: “Winner at festivals in Marseille and Jerusalem, Simone Bitton's Franco-Israeli "Mur" (Wall), is about Israel's Apartheid Wall. EI's Arjan El Fassed saw this documentary during the seventeenth international documentary filmfestival in Amsterdam (Netherlands) which opened on 18 November. Mur ("Wall") is nominated for the Amnesty International-DOEN Award, one of the awards presented at the festival. After the screening the audience got to ask Bitton some questions. "The moment I heard about the barrier going up, June 2002, I had to make this film," she said.”

From Agence France Presse: “US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on his first visit to the region in 18 months for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said Monday there was a "moment of opportunity" for Middle East peace. "This is a moment of opportunity as we look forward to the Palestinian election," said Powell, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "We're going to do everything we can working together to see that these elections are held in a peaceful way," he added. On Sunday, UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen also urged Israel to pull back from West Bank towns "to facilitate free and fair elections". After meeting Sharon, Powell met Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and held joint news conference, before travelling on to the Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jericho. His contacts were also set to cover Israel's plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005 and Palestinian political and security preparations to make sure that the so-called disengagement plan proceeds smoothly. Powell will also visit a registration office for the Palestinian vote, before flying to Egypt to brief the three other powers behind the roadmap peace plan -- the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- on the sidelines of a conference on Iraq. The peace blueprint set a 2005 target date for Palestinian statehood but has made virtually no progress since its launch last year and the United States is now aiming for a state several years in to the future.”

  

Friday, November 19, 2004

My former home demolished...

I have recently learned that the apartment I lived in for seventeen years of my life in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will soon be demolished to pave way for more modern buildings. Why you ask? From what I can remember and analyze, the government of Dubai after the death of founder Sheikh Rashid, became more capitalist in nature and overturned many policies such as affordable health care and affordable housing. Several people who cannot afford the escalating rents or standard of living have had to move to shabbier cities, moved out of the country or continue to accumulate debt. For those of you who are unaware of policies of many Gulf countries: expatriates cannot be citizens even if they were born there, like me. We are not allowed to own property nor do we have any guaranteed rights. We all have visas issued in our passports; that too only if the breadwinner of the family earns a certain amount of money as dictated by the government. Many other laborers who do not make the mark, live part from their families for several years. People wonder why I detest the country I was born in, so much: to me, it is an artificial country created for the sole purpose of modernization and tourism for foreigners. It is great for shopping & touring but not living’ since education is not free and other aspects of living are costly, life is pretty miserable unless you earn a lot of money! Compared to the Arabs who live in the Gulf countries, expatriates (mostly Asian from India & Pakistan) are considered as second-class people. It is funny but although I have lived in Minnesota for only five years, I consider it my home more than I ever regarded Dubai as one…

For those of you who love candles, you may be interested in the Jerusalem Candle of Hope: “The Business Council for Peace, a group of American businesswomen, came up with the idea of bringing Palestinian and Israeli women together to make a product that could enhance their mutual understanding and improve their economic condition…A council team, which included Eziba's Amber Chand, traveled to the Mideast and linked an Israeli candle factory in Nazareth that employed Russian immigrant women with a Palestinian embroidery shop in Bethlehem to create the candle…Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Parents' Circle, an organization of Israelis and Palestinians who lost family members in the conflict as well as bonuses for the women's families.”

From the
Associated Press: The Israeli army is looking into allegations that combat soldiers desecrated the body of a Palestinian in Gaza and posed for a picture alongside the ravaged corpse. The army announced the investigation after the Web site of an Israeli newspaper (Yediot Ahronot) released an advance portion of a larger article to be published Friday. The article quotes unnamed soldiers as testifying that they posed for pictures and desecrated the bodies of Palestinians. In general, the military condemned such incidents. But the army challenged the accuracy of some of the newspaper's account. In one incident, the report says, an unnamed soldier described how the body of an unarmed Palestinian killed in Gaza was brought to the army outpost and soldiers posed with the body. They took souvenir photos and gave him the nickname "Inny" for "innocent civilian." Personal note: the similarity to the pictures from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal is worth keeping in mind. Torture & even genocide studies repeatedly show that people who commit such crimes are not necessarily “evil,” but orders from above/authority, bad circumstances like war & poverty, dehumanization of the “other,” all contribute to violations of human rights and crimes against humanity; eg: Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Holocaust, Iraq, etc. On a similar note, from BBC News: “The Israeli military is seeking to exhume the body a 13-year-old Palestinian girl killed by Israeli forces in October…Army lawyers want to examine Iman's body to gather evidence in the case against the officer. Soldiers from the Givati Brigade fired at Iman as she approached an observation post in the Tel Sultan area of Rafah. They believed she was planting a bomb but her family maintained she was on her way to school. The soldiers said the officer walked up to the girl after she was hit and riddled her body with a burst of automatic fire, in an outlawed practice called "verifying the kill". It is not known whether the girl was already dead when he shot her. Palestinian hospital officials said the girl was shot at least 15 times, mostly in the upper body…the girl's family, said they had so far refused the request. Autopsies are seen by many Muslims as shaming and forbidden. "Also, the family does not have much faith in the army," …the army had agreed to have Palestinian and Arab pathologists present should the examination take place. Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed during the intifada, often in clashes between Israeli troops and stone throwers. The military rarely launches investigations into the incidents.”

More on new leaders from Palestine from NY Times: “Of all the men who would be leaders of the nation that would be Palestine, he is the most popular, his personal story the most compelling, his command of Hebrew and understanding of Israelis the most sophisticated. Yet for Marwan Barghouti, the odds of succeeding Yasir Arafat appear, for now, to be the longest. Mr. Arafat was accused by Israel of terrorism and kept a virtual prisoner in his compound here. Mr. Barghouti was convicted by Israel of terrorism and is an actual prisoner in an Israeli jail, where he is serving five life terms plus 40 years. Still, from prison, Mr. Barghouti, a sharp, charismatic man of 45, is weighing a run for one of the jobs vacated at Mr. Arafat's death, the presidency of the governing Palestinian Authority. The arc of Mr. Barghouti's career - from prisoner to peacemaker to prisoner -tracks the course of Israeli-Palestinian relations. His prominence in the political considerations of Palestinians reveals the generational, institutional and personal crosscurrents roiling Palestinian society since the death of Mr. Arafat. Running through the political chatter among both Palestinians and Israelis since Mr. Arafat died a week ago has been speculation electrifying to both - that Israel would pardon Mr. Barghouti or release him in some sort of prisoner exchange. That possibility is extremely remote, Israeli politicians and analysts say. An Israeli court has found Mr. Barghouti to have blood on his hands. But some Israelis also remember him for his support of a two-state solution and his formerly close relationships with Israeli politicians, including some right-leaning ones…As a Palestinian legislator, Mr. Barghouti was a frequent critic of governance under Mr. Arafat…In internal deliberations, some senior Palestinian officials are arguing that Mr. Barghouti should be the faction's candidate, to emphasize the plight of Palestinian prisoners and to end the mixing of institutional roles under Mr. Arafat. They say the Palestinians should turn the presidency of the Palestinian Authority into a largely symbolic role, like the presidency of Israel, and let Mr. Abbas focus on the more overarching duties of chairman of the P.L.O., which represents the millions of Palestinians overseas as well as those in the West Bank and Gaza. Some Palestinians believe that Israel chose to arrest Mr. Barghouti in April 2002 and then give him a very public trial in order to burnish his credentials as a leader among Palestinians while preventing him from further tarnishing his credentials among Israelis…During this uprising, which began in September 2000, Marwan Barghouti called for violence but insisted that he remained "a politician, not a military man." He said he supported attacks only against Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied territories, violence that he argued was condoned by international law…In an interview with The New York Times in March 2002, while he was in hiding, Mr. Barghouti said that all his efforts were in pursuit of a lasting peace. Israel had shown that only violence would prompt it to agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, he said. He said that by conducting sensational attacks, Fatah had restored its popularity with average Palestinians, who he said were otherwise turning to militant groups like Hamas that were dedicated to Israel's destruction. "We were very brave to fight for peace, and I received a lot of criticism from our side," he said, referring to his support of Oslo. "Now we are brave enough to fight for peace again - but with different tools.'"

From Agence France Presse: “PLO leader Mahmud Abbas stepped up calls Friday to end "armed chaos" in the occupied territories, as the new Palestinian leadership prepares the ground for presidential elections in January. Continued lawlessness is "in the interests of no one," he said, also citing the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as the biggest obstacle to holding the leadership election, scheduled for January 9. "The Palestinian leadership has opened contacts with different countries so that the obstacles, particularly the occupation, be eliminated so that the election can go ahead normally." Abbas is expected to wrap up talks in Gaza on Saturday, ahead of the intended arrival of outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell for two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Sunday. Fears that Arafat's death last week could worsen the already fragile security situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were underlined Sunday when gunmen opened fire inside a mourning tent for the late Palestinian leader. The gunfight erupted shortly after Abbas, Arafat's replacement as Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) chairman arrived on the scene…so far his track record on security has been marginal. He resigned as Arafat's first prime minister in September 2003, after a bruising row with the late leader on trying to reform the sprawling Palestinian security apparatus. During his brief stint as premier, he also failed to persuade militants to lay down their weapons. Despite securing an agreement among factions to halt anti-Israeli attacks, the ceasefire broke down after just seven weeks. Qorei has also been consistently rebuffed in his efforts to institute a ceasefire by the likes of Hamas.”

An article on Electronic Intifada talks about the obstacles to fair & free elections in Palestine: “Elections are virtually impossible because the area that is supposedly under the Palestinian Authority's administration is not a single, contiguous territory, but rather, 55 different bantustans, surrounded by heavy military fortifications, divided and redivided by Jewish-only access roads, and monitored by a fearsome occupying army that attacks civilians and protects violent settler communities, all in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These bantustans are reinforced by an imposing Wall that snakes past people's homes…The occupying Israeli military prohibits any possibility for free elections by prohibiting movement and routinely arresting Palestinians on orders of administrative detention for even the slightest infraction…the international community should not insist upon this. Instead, the international community -- in particular those countries part of the so-called "Quartet" (the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations) -- should insist upon two main conditions that will ensure a free election and a lasting peace, namely the cessation of the occupation and the guarantee of participation of all Palestinians in a free and fair election of a new leadership of the Palestinian people…This includes Palestinian refugees, not only in the occupied territories, but in the diaspora as well. A free election may also demand that Israel release thousands of Palestinian detainees, many of whom are political prisoners in administrative detention, and some of whom may indeed be future leaders.”

Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-state? From the Christian Science Monitor: “An annual United Nations' survey released Thursday in Brussels finds that opium poppies are being grown in record levels across Afghanistan…Opium from Afghanistan this year accounted for 87 percent of world supply, up from 76 percent in 2003. The BBC also reports that during the reign of the Taliban, poppies were grown in only four or five provinces of Afghanistan. That number has grown to 28 out of 32 since the US-led coalition invaded the country in 2002. Radio Free Europe reports that opium is now the "main engine of economic growth" in Afghanistan and "the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples." The UN report says this illegal drug trade accounts for more than $2.8 US billion annually, or "more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's 2003 gross domestic product." …The Seattle Times reports that on Wednesday, US drug enforcement agencies asked Congress for an additional $780 million to fight the "expanding drug trade" in Afghanistan. The US plan calls for eradicating an area five to seven times larger than the nearly 10,000 acres of poppy fields destroyed this year. The destruction is to be offset by more than $100 million in aid to Afghan farmers to plant wheat, barley, corn and other crops and for other rural economic-development projects. The BBC reports that US officials, who were focused on the recently completed presidential elections in Afghanistan until this point in time, feel they are now free to give more attention to the drug problem. Other aids groups have proposed different solutions, including a program to replace opium product with the growth of industrial hemp.”

In his second term, President Bush has the chance to replace three-four justices in the Supreme Court, which is a crucial move since these are lifetime appointments. From NY Times: “Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican under attack by some conservatives as too liberal to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee, won the unanimous backing of the panel's Republicans on Thursday, a move that appears to guarantee that he will become chairman when the new Congress convenes in January…Mr. Specter, a supporter of abortion rights, remarked that the Senate would be unlikely to confirm "judges who would change the right of a woman to choose.'' …He vowed to consult his colleagues on legislation before the committee, including bills that would limit certain lawsuits, an issue he has not always championed. He promised not to use the committee to bottle up constitutional amendments, an allusion to the proposed amendment banning gay marriage, a measure Mr. Specter has said he opposes. But perhaps the most significant part of the statement involved the filibuster, a tactic that Democrats have used to block some of President Bush's more contentious judicial nominees. A filibuster can be broken with 60 votes, but Republicans will have only 55 seats in the new Senate. "It is my hope and expectation that we can avoid future filibusters and judicial gridlock with a 55-45 Republican majority and election results demonstrating voter dissatisfaction with Democratic filibusters,'' Mr. Specter wrote. "If a rule change is necessary to avoid filibusters, there are relevant recent precedents to secure rule changes with 51 votes.''… Reporters asked Mr. Specter if he had been pressured into issuing the statement. The senator insisted he had not and took pains to say that he was not taking a position on changing filibuster rules.”

More on voting fraud during the elections, this time from renowned Berkeley University: “Today the University of California's Berkeley Quantitative Methods Research Team released a statistical study - the sole method available to monitor the accuracy of e- voting - reporting irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000-260,000 or more excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida…The research team formally disclosed results of the study at a press conference today at the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center, where they called on Florida voting officials to investigate. The three counties where the voting anomalies were most prevalent were also the most heavily Democratic: Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, respectively. Statistical patterns in counties that did not have e-touch voting machines predict a 28,000 vote decrease in President Bush's support in Broward County; machines tallied an increase of 51,000 votes - a net gain of 81,000 for the incumbent. President Bush should have lost 8,900 votes in Palm Beach County, but instead gained 41,000 - a difference of 49,900. He should have gained only 18,400 votes in Miami-Dade County but saw a gain of 37,000 - a difference of 19,300 votes…The research team is comprised of doctoral students and faculty in the UC Berkeley sociology department, and led by Sociology Professor Michael Hout, a nationally-known expert on statistical methods and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center.”

On Fallujah from Informed Comment: “Among the justifications given by the US for its campaign against guerrillas in Fallujah was that it would prepare the way for elections in January. It was said that elections could not be held as long as major cities were not even in government control. It seems likely, however, that the Fallujah offensive has so deeply alienated the Sunni Arab populace of Iraq, which is probably 4 million to 4.5 million strong, that it has ensured that they will boycott the polls as American-sponsored…Al-Hayat says the radical Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah group announced Thursday that it would blow up polling stations on election day, and called on Muslims to boycott the American-sponsored elections…The heightening of sectarian tensions was underlined recently when Shiites in Basra formed the Fury Brigade, aimed at using paramilitary means to protect Shiites from Sunni Arab attacks in the Latifiyah / Mahmudiyah area south of Baghdad. The Furty Brigade insisted that the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, and the al-Azhar Seminary/ University in Cairo, issue formal legal findings (fatwas) that it is wrong for a Sunni to kill a Shiite…The Guardian speculates that pressure is now building to postpone the elections. This move is supported by the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni fundamentalist group still more or less committed to encouraging Sunni participation. Its leader, Muhsin Abdul Hamid, predicts a near-complete Sunni Arab boycott if the elections are held in January…In contrast, the major Shiite parties insist that the electoral timetable be adhered to. They are following the line of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, that elections must be held as early as possible at all costs, to produce a legitimate Iraqi government. They say that if the elections are not held in some places of the Sunni Arab heartland, that is not important. But they are wrong. The Americans crafted the election as a national one, in order to make it more difficult for strongly local and sectarian political forces to do well. The party lists that fare best will be those with strongest national support. The down side of this plan is that if a major constituency, such as the Sunni Arabs, boycotts, then they will get virtually no seats and the legitimacy of the resulting parliament would be weakened…Al-Hayat reports that the Allawi government threatened some mosque preachers with arrest if they continued to agitate against participation in the elections and to instigate violence against the multinational troops.”

  

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The controversy on "Progressive Muslims Union"

I came across this really interesting article on BBC News: “The fourth world toilet summit opens in Beijing with declarations that having a loo is a human right…The founder of the World Toilet Organisation, Jack Sim, said that when it came to sanitation, people ought to demand more.”

A new organization that has been causing quite a stir amongst Muslim circles is Progressive Muslim Union (PMU). It’s mission is: “to provide a forum, voice and organizing mechanism for those in the Muslim community who wish to pursue a progressive religious, intellectual, social and political agenda. Progressive Muslims have not yet developed sufficient platforms from which to advocate their views within the Muslim community and to the broader North American society.” They welcome Muslims from all backgrounds and walks of life including gays. I’m sorry, but just because one supports gay rights, does not make him/her progressive. The media has caught on this organization really quick and many Muslims are quite disturbed because they don’t represent many “progressive” Muslims. This calls to question what exactly does progressive mean & does it have to fit the Western model? I believe that progressive means when Muslims are willing to interpret Islam according to changing circumstances; but just because one is secular doesn’t pray, fast, wear Hijab or drinks alcohol, doesn’t make them “progressive” & other Muslims who abide by Islamic laws “regressive.”

I have received 2 conflicting e-mails about who the board members are. One says, “ Hussein Ibish is probably the most visible and recognizable face of the Arab community in the US and Canada; Omid Safi is author of the book, "Progressive Muslims" and is professor of religion at Colgate University; Sarah Eltantawi was until recent, the Communications Director of MPAC--Muslim Public Affairs Committee; Mona Eltahawy is a columnist for the London based Sharq AlAwsat and writes for the Washington Post; Ahmed Nassef is Editor-in-Chief of MuslimWakeUp.com and has written for the Christian Science Monitor; Aimen Mackie is a young lawyer; Naeem Mohaiemen is editor and publisher of Shobak.org and the producer of a film on the persecution of Ahmadiyas in Bangladesh; Gina Rauf is an artist and was featured in a NYT story; Tarek Fatah. The other e-mail stated that a few progressive scholars & activists were denying the invitation to be on the board because of the selection of individuals such as, “Seeme and Malik Hassan, founders of Muslims for Bush, who have praised Daniel Pipes. Their campaign included an article on Beliefnet.com, `The Muslim World Savior,' (referring to Mr Bush) wherein Seeme Hassan writes "I believe Bush is bringing liberation not war”; Farid Zakaria from Newsweek whose public imperialist credentials are impeccable and whose only problem with the empire is that it is doing an inefficient job; Nawaal al-Sadawi who has campaigned for the enforcement of the ban on hijab (head scarf) in French public schools; Ziyad Asali who, at a UN/NGO conference on September 2002, publicly denied the right of return to Palestinian exiles and refugees; Muqtedar Khan, who wrote that "as soon as it became clear that Muslims were behind 9/11, I told my wife `there goes my chance to be this country's first Muslim Henry Kissinger.” It goes to show that Muslims in North America are not a homogenous group and hold different religious, social & political views. All I hope is that PMU won’t be sought by politicians & the media as a representative for all Muslims in this part of the world.

Juan Cole on the resignation of Powell & the Rice’s appointment: “Powell wanted to devote great energy to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after September 11, and for a brief moment seemed to have Bush's ear, but then Bush capitulated to hard line Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Powell was never able to make any headway…Powell was not enthusiastic about a war on Iraq, and his own doctrine called for the US to go in with massive force if it did go in. Instead, Rumsfeld sent in only 100,000 troops, laying the ground for the subsequent disaster…I saw Lawrence Eagleburger on CNN Monday evening say that he thought Condi Rice was not right for Secretary of State because she had been in the White House for four years and, he implied, would be incapable of offering George W. Bush independent advice…Rice seems to me to have two major drawbacks as Secretary of State beyond her inability to challenge Bush's pet projects. One is that she is an old Soviet hand who still thinks in Cold War terms. She focuses on states and does not understand the threat of al-Qaeda, nor does she understand or empathize with Middle Easterners, about whom she appears to know nothing after all this time. The other drawback is that she is virtually a cheerleader for Ariel Sharon and will not be an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Powell was much more fair on such issues, though he wasn't exactly pro-Palestinian either.”

From Informed Comment on Fallujah: “Propaganda reared its ugly head on several occasions. US-installed CIA asset Iyad Allawi, the "prime minister," said he was sure there had been no civilian casualties in Fallujah…it is impossible that there aren't civilian casualties, and probably quite substantial ones. In addition, some reports speak of Marines using heat detectors and shooting at any buildings they think inhabited…The generally pro-American Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, has a long piece on the sufferings of civilians in Fallujah, based on telephone interviews and eyewitness accounts by Iraqis. The article is extremely suspicious of American motives in having taken the Fallujah hospitals and in having kept the Red Crescent and other aid agencies away from the city…As for the apparent murder of a wounded guerrilla by a Marine, it was horrible. I fear that the attitude of the other troops, which wasn't exactly shock, suggests that these sorts of murders of prisoners are not uncommon…It does concern me that the wounded and bleeding guerrillas were just stacked up in that mosque awaiting medical attention, apparently for days…Ash-Sharq al-Awsat writes of Fallujah, and I paraphrase: Whatever the number of families that stayed in Fallujah, they are suffering now from lack of food, water, and aid. Although the US and Iraqi military authorities insist they have taken the city with the exception of some pockets of resistance, they refuse to allow Red Crescent aid trucks even into the areas they say they control.” From Electronic Iraq on the issue: “At least 800 civilians have been killed during the U.S. military siege of Fallujah, a Red Cross official estimates. Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of U.S. military reprisal, a high-ranking official with the Red Cross in Baghdad told IPS that "at least 800 civilians" have been killed in Fallujah so far. His estimate is based on reports from Red Crescent aid workers stationed around the embattled city, from residents within the city and from refugees.”

In other news from Iraq, “US forces arrested on Tuesday the deputy head of Iraq's interim parliament and a high-ranking member of a Sunni political party after a dawn raid on his Baghdad home…The arrest was linked to pressures exerted on the Iraqi Islamic Party because of its opposition to the military offensive against Fallujah…Last week, the Iraqi Islamic Party withdrew from the interim government in protest over the US-Iraqi full-scale assault on Fallujah.” More heartbreaking news from Iraq is the murder of the murder of Margaret Hassan, the head of the relief group CARE. From the Christian Science Monitor: “the EU's departing development commissioner condemned the execution of Mrs. Hassan, and says that, "This kind of savagery makes it almost impossible for relief agencies to continue their crucial work in Iraq." …Hassan had lived in Iraq for 30 years, had married an Iraqi, and had been an outspoken opponent of US sanctions against Iraq…Sir Harold Walker, former British ambassador to Iraq and former chairman of the board of CARE said that aid workers would be unwise to continue in Iraq for the time being…The Scotsman reports that other humanitarian experts believe that the murder of Hassan "confirmed warnings" of the politicization of aid by the US government in Iraq. Politicization of aid has become an issue of increasing concern among aid groups…the intentional politicization of aid by the US-led coalition in Iraq and beyond, in the post 9/11 world, has destroyed this neutrality. This neutrality used to be the best guarantor of our safety and allowed us to work with all people in need.” French President Jacques Chirac told BBC News: “he is "not at all sure" the world has become safer with the removal from power of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In a BBC interview Mr Chirac suggests the situation in Iraq has helped to prompt an increase in terrorism…He also signals that be believes Britain's support for the US-led war has brought few dividends…Speaking in Washington on Monday, Mr Blair called for Europe and the US to bury their differences over Iraq.”

In Palestine, from the Jordan Times: “HAMAS ANNOUNCED TUESDAY it would boycott the election of a successor to Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority, further clearing the path for Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Mahmoud Abbas in January's contest…"This election is a continuation of the Oslo process which has already failed and is finished." … The smaller Islamist movement Islamic Jihad had confirmed on Monday that it would not contest the election slated for Jan. 9. The decision by Hamas is a major boost to Abbas' hopes of being elected to replace Arafat…while polls show that Fateh remains the most popular of the Palestinian parties, its support has been eroded in recent years amid growing disillusionment at the performance of Arafat's administration. Some polls have shown that Hamas now enjoys more popularity than Fateh in its Gaza stronghold.”

  

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Condoleezza Rice: the next US Secretary of State?

After celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadhan, over the weekend, here is my long entry with some the latest news & analysis:

I have to admit I was shocked by the news of the resignation of Colin Powell. With his remarks following the elections, it seemed as though he would stay on for the next four years. My feelings about him are mixed: I lost respect for him after his false elaborate presentation to the UN about Iraq’s WMD program. And, I felt like he sold out to the hawkish members of the Administration instead of maintaining his earlier anti-war stance. I also don’t believe he had the political clout and was largely marginalized by Bush and others, so I’m wondering if that played a role in his resignation – I’m really fearful of Rice taking up the job though. In a
BBC analysis about Powell’s role: “Colin Powell was no dove. He too believed in US power and influence but where others saw certainty, he saw complexity. This slowed him down and gave them the edge. He seemed to find it more natural to follow an order than to give one. And in the end, he lacked the ear of the president, without which a secretary of state is powerless. The result was disengagement…In all this, he never acted disloyally…Liberal black Congressman Charles Rangel said of him: "Colin Powell is a military guy, and he doesn't care who he works for, he just salutes." … His lack of diplomatic dynamism left him with no counterbalance when the neo-conservatives led by Vice-President Cheney, Defence Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz weighed in. It is doubtful whether the neo-conservatives had their own disengagement plan for Colin Powell. He was a very useful presenter of US policy, given that he has been the first African-American secretary of state. But they will probably not be too sad to see him go.” From BBC News Online: “Ms Rice is seen as a more abrasive character than UN ambassador John Danforth who was earlier also tipped as possible Mr Powell's successor…The president's choice will say much about how he intends to approach the world in his second term…Ms Rice is a trusted member of President's Bush innermost circle… She is also said to share many of his views, and is described as driven and highly ambitious…As the first black female secretary of state she would win a place in the history books. Much of the foreign policy focus in the second term is likely to be firmly on the Middle East but Miss Rice's background as a Russian expert would also prove useful at a time of concern about President Vladimir Putin's handling of political and civil rights.” Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and Education Secretary Rod Paige also announced their intention to step down.”

From
BBC News Online: In Iraq, The US military is looking into whether an American marine in Falluja shot dead a severely wounded Iraqi insurgent at point-blank range. Television footage shows US soldiers entering a building as injured prisoners lie on the floor. The soldier, from the 3rd battalion of the US marines, has been removed from the field and faces possible charges. More on Fallujah from Informed Comment: “Most Americans do not realize that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraqi history and poetry for its defiance of the British in the Great Rebellion of 1920. The 1920 revolution against the British is key to modern Iraqi history…The Guardian hints around that the number of civilian casualties in the US assault on the city is enormous and will only come out as hospital authorities begin counting the dead and wounded…Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, th leading Shiite spiritual authority, called Friday for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Fallujah. His representative in Karabala, Ahmad al-Safi al-Najafi, said that the position of the grand ayatollah toward the bloody events in some regions of Iraq is that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is requird. Speaking before thousands of worshippers at the Mosque of Imam Husain in Karbala, he said that the grand ayatollah had the same attitude to the fighting in Fallujah as he had had to that in Najaf, that is, the implementation of a peaceful solution on the basis of the sovereignty of the regime, law, and the evacuation of foreign forces and of gunmen with unlicensed arms. Sistani also condemned all loss of innocent life. Sistani has been criticized recently for not speaking out against US attacks on Sunnis in the way he had with regard to Najaf, a Shiite center. Sistani likes to present himself as concerned for the welfare of all Iraqis, not just of his Shiite followers. But he has only called for peace in Fallujah when the fighting is already largely over with. That move will look cynical to a lot of Sunni Arabs…It is a good thing that Bob Dylan has US citizenship, otherwise he might be in the same fix as Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam). The mere singing of a 1963 song, "Masters of War," at a Colorado High School brought in the Secret Police. Now we know why Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri haven't been caught. The US security services are busy sifting through old lyrics looking for the real terrorists.”

The death of 78 Muslims in Thailand did not make headlines, but here is a
report by the Christian Science Monitor: “As Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visits the troubled southern region of Thailand, more than 100 Thai academics have called on him to apologize for the deaths of 78 Muslims who died in late October while in custody of the Thai army, reports BBC… Thaksin expressed regret at the deaths and admitted that security forces had made mistakes when handling the protesters. He said that fasting for Ramadan played a role in the deaths, as CNN reports. "There are some who died because they were fasting, and they were crammed in tight," Thaksin told reporters [on Oct. 26]. "It's a matter of their bodies becoming weak." Thaksin has received criticism for implying that the detainees may have died from fasting… Tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in southern Thailand have been simmering for decades, but have taken a turn for the worse this year. More than 400 people have been killed so far. A Los Angeles Times editorial criticizes Thaksin for making "a potentially explosive situation much worse." The Times writes that "Thaksin's blindness could push moderate Muslims not yet demanding more autonomy or independence for the south toward radical action" and suggests that he "has to include the south in the nation's plans for economic development, getting more of the region's unemployed and undertrained young people into the workforce." But many of Thailand's Buddhists, especially in the troubled south, feel that Thaksin should crack down even harder on rebellious Muslims, reports CNN. "We are being treated like second-class citizens here," a Buddhist woman shouted at Thaksin during his visit to a Buddhist temple, reports Reuters. "We have been given false hopes by the government. I am urging you Mister Prime Minister to take drastic and decisive actions against those who have been behind the violence." … Most of Thailand's six million Muslims live in the south and many feel alienated by the Buddhist administration in Bangkok and by Thaksin's confusing approach to handling the crisis, switching from tough talk one week to soothing words promising aid the next.”

A non-conventional
report on Darfur by Mahmood Mamdani, a Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director, Institute of African Studies, at University of Columbia, New York: “Sudan is today the site of two contradictory processes. The first is the Naivasha peace process between the SPLA and the Government of Sudan, whose promise is an end to Africa's longest festering civil war. The second is the armed confrontation between an insurgency and anti-government militias in Darfur. There is need to think of the south and the west as different aspects of a connected process… The government in Khartoum is also divided, between those who pushed the peace process, and those who believe too much was conceded in the Naivasha talks. This opposition, the security cabal in Khartoum, responded by arming and unleashing several militia, known as the Janjawid. The result is a spiral of state-sponsored violence and indiscriminate spread of weaponry. In sum, all those opposed to the peace process in the south have moved to fight in Darfur, even if on opposing sides… all parties involved in the Darfur conflict - whether they are referred to as 'Arab' or as 'African' - are equally indigenous and equally black. All are Muslims and all are local…I suggest a three-pronged process in the Sudan. The priority must be to complete the Naivasha peace process and change the character of the government in Khartoum. Second, whatever the level of civilian support enjoyed by militias, it would be a mistake to tarnish the communities with the sins of the particular militia they support. On the contrary, every effort should be made to neutralize or re-organize the militia and stabilize communities in Darfur through local initiatives…We should work against a US intervention…The lesson of Iraq sanctions is that you target individuals, not governments. Sanctions feed into a culture of terror, of collective punishment. Its victims are seldom its target. Both military intervention and sanctions are undesirable and ineffective…Of particular importance is to recognize that the international community has created an institution called the International Criminal Court to try individuals for the most heinous crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and systematic rights abuses. The US has not only refused to ratify the treaty setting up the ICC, it has gone to all lengths to sabotage it. For Americans, it is important to get their government to join the ICC… For the African Union, Darfur is both an opportunity and a test. The opportunity is to build on the global concern over a humanitarian disaster in Darfur to set a humanitarian standard that must be observed by all, including America's allies in Africa. And the test is to defend African sovereignty in the face of official America's global 'war on terror.'

This report by the Christian Science Monitor,
India eases tensions in Kashmir states: “The announcement by India on Thursday that it will unilaterally reduce its troop deployments in the disputed territory of Kashmir this winter was greeted as a "great leap forward" by Pakistani officials and Kashmiri separatists, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP)…The announcement comes in advance of scheduled talks in December on resolving the dispute between the two nuclear rivals, reports Pakistan's Khaleej Times. Even though the reduction in forces would be small, the symbolism would have a far greater impact, reports Indo-Asian News Service (INS). India has approximately 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. The move is the first "major show of flexibility" by India, says Kashmiri political analyst Tahir Mohiudin. "I think it is the outcome of behind-the-curtain diplomacy between India and Pakistan," he told AFP…Kashmiri separatists greeted the troop withdrawal announcement in a much more cautious manner. Amanullah Khan, chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) said that only the liberation of Kashmir as an independent state would be acceptable to the Kashmiris, reports Asian News Service (ANI). Both India and Pakistan should "evolve strategies and devise formulas to solve the Kashmir imbroglio in a manner that would be acceptable to the 30 million Kashmiris living on both sides of the Line of Control," said Mr. Khan. Khan also criticised both India and Pakistan for acting "under pressure from Western powers" to "hurriedly" find solutions to the dispute without taking into account the aspirations and willingness of the Kashmiris," reports ANI. "Kashmir was not booty to be shared as spoils between India and Pakistan." Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said the announcement of a troop reduction in Indian-administered Kashmir would be inconsequential unless it withdrew the Disturbed Areas Act, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces, reports the BBC…There is considerable ground to be covered before any realistic and long-term solution can be found.”

The debate on headscarves for Muslim women in Europe continues - from
BBC News: “The southern German state of Bavaria has become the latest of the country's federal states to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing headscarves. The Bavarian parliament approved the measure after Culture Minister Monika Hohlmeier argued that the headscarf was a symbol of the repression of women… More than three million Muslims live in Germany and many have complained that the laws restrict their freedom to express their religion.”

Also, an interesting article by Rashid Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian-American scholar,
Fallujah 101: “The British sent a renowned explorer and a senior colonial officer who had quelled unrest in the corners of their empire, Lt. Col. Gerald Leachman, to master this unruly corner of Iraq. Leachman was killed in an altercation with a local leader named Shaykh Dhari. His death sparked a war that ended up costing the lives of 10,000 Iraqis and more than 1,000 British and Indian troops. To restore Iraq to their control, the British used massive air power, bombing indiscriminately. That city is now called Fallujah. Shaykh Dhari’s grandson, today a prominent Iraqi cleric, helped to broker the end of the U.S. Marine siege of Fallujah in April of this year. Fallujah thus embodies the interrelated tribal, religious and national aspects of Iraq’s history. The Bush administration is not creating the world anew in the Middle East. It is waging a war in a place where history really matters…It does not matter what you say you are doing in Fallujah, where U.S. troops just launched an attack after weeks of bombing. What matters is what you are doing in Fallujah—and what people see that you are doing…By invading, occupying and imposing a new regime on Iraq, the United States may be following, intentionally or not, in the footsteps of the old Western colonial powers—and doing so in a region that within living memory ended a lengthy struggle to expel colonial occupations. They fought from 1830 to 1962 to kick out the French from Algeria. From 1882 to 1956 they fought to get the British out of Egypt. That’s within the lifetime of every person over 45 in the Middle East. Foreign troops on their soil against their will is deeply familiar…“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster. Our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad but the responsibility, in this case, is not on the army which has acted only upon the request of the civil authorities.” T.E. Lawrence, The Sunday Times, August 1920. For more publications on various Middle Eastern issues visit Middle East Institute Publications & Middle East Institute Transcripts & Speeches.

I recently received an e-mail claiming voting fraud in Ohio & Florida on Election Day. I’m not a big supporter of conspiracy theories, but it may very be possible that the fraud a- la-2000 did occur this time, but was well disguised. Here’s the report,
The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy: “Professor Steven Freeman, a statistician at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a disturbing answer. Looking at the exit polls and announced results in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, he concludes that the odds against such an accidental discrepancy in all three states together was 250 million to one. "As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error."