The politics of fear
Thursday, November 4, 2004, 00:55The reversal has happened: in 2000, Bush won neither the popular vote, nor the electoral vote (really, now, let’s not go there anymore). Last night, Bush overwhelmingly won the popular vote, and of course the electoral vote as well. The moral of the story? Scaremongering works well.
Be afraid, be very afraid. Be afraid of those who wish to scare you, that is, for they are on both extremes of the world, and they are more and more successful.
Rulers of the Middle East have been doing it for years, and the tactic now worked wonders in the Midwest. Frighten your people, make them believe they are under constant attack by enemies of mythical proportions, real or imagined (Israel, religious extremists, terrorist networks, axis of evil members, freedom haters, people with dodgy moralities, liberals, rogue states, etc.). The more frightened they are, the more they will support you and overlook your glaringly obvious intellectual, professional and moral inadequacies. Not to mention your original illegitimacy.
Achieve “security” by arming yourselves to the teeth, be suspicious of all the people who fit the profile of the enemy (basically anyone who even remotely disagrees with you), and volunteer your children for the glory of the nation. Mere details like justice, the economy, jobs, financial well-being do not count, and only cowards, spies and traitors would really dare question the absolute ruler’s motives and efficiency. Welcome, Americans, to the destiny other people have been enduring for decades; hopefully, you will soon snap out of it and at least manage to dig yourselves out of that self-made hole - others haven't been so lucky.
For the rest, be disappointed by the (re-)election of Bush if you must, but don’t be surprised; it was bound to happen. The politics of fear have won.
[ 1 comment ]
100,000 dead Iraqis and counting, but without Fallujah
Monday, November 1, 2004, 00:57While the world’s media was focused on Arafat, the real breaking news of the week, indeed of the last few months, should have been the report estimating that nearly 100,000 Iraqis had been killed since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
The study was carried out by the Johns Hopkins University, based on a small sample; since its publication by The Lancet, a British medical journal, the study has made the news, but not quite as the first item. In fact, when mentioned, it has mostly been in a critical way, the media having chosen to cover the criticism of the study, rather than its potential veracity.
Even if the number of Iraqi casualties is impossible to prove for the time being, it is still incumbent on the media – let alone the governments which caused all these deaths, and more to come – to give this report the importance it deserves. Instead, Allawi's chilling warnings to Fallujah's helpless residents (whose dead have not even been included in this study) have been given top billing, as the 24-hour media networks await one more big story to cover before the US elections completely take over the airwaves.
[ add comment ]
Media circus over Arafat’s illness
Monday, November 1, 2004, 00:25There are so many questions about the future of Palestine that dwelling on the past at length seems untimely now; suffice it to say that I am not a fan of Yasser Arafat, something I have published and broadcast enough times, but certainly not for the reasons spread by Israeli propaganda. For all the Israeli and American claims to the contrary, Arafat did not miss an “opportunity for peace” in 2000. Rather, he finally held back at the last minute from liberally sacrificing even more Palestinian rights, after having bent over backwards since Oslo to give in to Israeli and American demands, at the expense of his people.
With so much interest in the last few days about Arafat’s health and the question of succession, one would have thought these issues had been studied before. However, most of the questions raised by journalists (in over 15 interviews I have given over the last couple of days, and to other analysts) demonstrated a surprising lack of knowledge about the inner workings of Palestinian networks and institutions, let alone the history of the problem. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that Arafat had resisted naming a successor; thus, most people surmised, his death would result in a complicated (if not bloody) struggle for the leadership of Palestine.
Few are giving Palestinians the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their ability to carry on, no matter what the circumstances, and no matter who leads them. True, those loyal to Arafat (from the “Tunisians” to the locals) are the ones who are most likely to take over from him, in spite (or because) of the fortunes they have built and the corruption they have helped spread, and in spite of the fact that some of them have even assisted the occupation. But there are enough others.
There are two people officially involved with Palestinian infrastructure who could have - and should have - played a leading role in their nation’s development; one is the late, regretted Faisal Al Husseini, whose untimely death in 2001 deprived Palestinians of an honest, intelligent and dedicated advocate of their cause, and the other is the equally respectable Marwan Barghouti, whose unjust detention in an Israeli jail shows that at least the Israelis know what they are doing. By putting away the most decent and popular alternative to Arafat, they tried to ensure (but hopefully will fail) that Palestinians remain entrenched in internal squabbling while the creeping annexation of their homeland goes on.
It is the Israelis who have tied the Palestinian cause so closely to the person of Arafat. While he undoubtedly helped bring this cause to the world’s and the media’s attention, it will continue to be a cause until it is settled. Still, it will be interesting to follow Israeli rhetoric when Palestinians have a new leader; will there still be no negotiating partner then?Israel has done eveything possible to prevent the Palestinian Authority from carrying out its responsibilities; even the PA’s building was bombed, as seen in this photo. What else will Sharon come up with now?
[ add comment ]
Born-again nationalist, or simply ungrateful puppet?
Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 03:37I first thought it was a mistake, or that I had read it wrong; could Iyad Allawi now be biting the very hand that fed him? See for yourself: Allawi blames the US for the ambush in which 50 American-trained Iraqi soldiers were killed, or rather executed.
Having not minced his words with his own people, Allawi has for the first time dared to voice criticism of the people who brought him to power. "It was a heinous crime where a group of National Guards were targeted," Allawi said. "There was great negligence on the part of some coalition forces. It seems there was sort of determination on doing Iraq and Iraqi people harm."
Had it not been for this last sentence, one would have really thought Karl Rove was giving the whole “sovereign Iraqi government” thing one more try before next Tuesday. Could Allawi now be thinking of other so-called elections now, and going for statements with popular support?
[ add comment ]
Media and Israel on unilateralism
Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 03:23Most of the media (in the West at least) seems to be celebrating Sharon's "victory" in the Knesset on Tuesday,“allowing” him to withdraw from Gaza, after weeks of hopeful analysis that this would indeed happen. The front cover of the current edition of The Economist features the same Sharon, also known as the Bulldozer, laurel leaves inserted between his teeth and calling him Israel’s unlikely dove!
Dove? Sharon a dove? Has the media actually been following the media? Has anyone been paying attention to what Sharon himself is going out of his way to repeat at every occasion, probably surprised that nobody is taking him at his word?
It is a mystery that Sharon’s actions are interpreted as being a step in the right direction, or a step on the roadmap to peace. It is even a mystery that all continue to qualify and support Israel’s eventual withdrawal from Gaza as a unilateral step. UN Resolution 242, dating from 1967, obliges Israel to withdraw from territories (all of them, in view of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, and in spite of the pedantic arguments by successive Israeli governments) it captured illegally in June 1967: that means Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
No matter how Israel withdraws, it is not a unilateral decision (since it is obliged to), and it should not be portrayed as such. Withdrawing from Gaza is only a small step for which Israel should not be thanked. On the contrary, every pressure and every sanction which the US and the UN so freely impose on other countries must be used to ensure that Israel complies with the other obligations enumerated by UNSC Resolution 242 – and dozens of others Israel has flouted for decades.
Israel should be in no position to dictate the eventuality, the manner or the timing of its withdrawal from occupied Arab territories. If any other country in the world had dared to act in a similar matter, it would be isolated from the international community, heavily punished, and maybe even visited by around 150,000 American soldiers.
[ add comment ]
“Death is covering Iraq like fine dust”
Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 00:51Yesterday, Arab channels showed a crowd of Iraqi men in Fallujah, seething with anger and chanting slogans against the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. They were shouting “ya Allawi ya jaban, ya ‘amil al amrican” (Allawi you coward, you American collaborator).
It’s not necessarily the opinion of all Iraqis, but pro-Allawi demonstrations shine by their absence. Perhaps most object to the fact that nothing is really improving in Iraq, in spite of all the “good news” that pro-US parties keep peddling. For example, the LA Times will have us know that Iraqis are now learning baseball. How reassuring.
In the meantime, for the rest, it’s still mostly chaos, murder and mayhem,as Haifa Zangana soberingly describes in today’s Guardian.
[ add comment ]
Fighting for the Palestinian cause in American campuses
Saturday, October 23, 2004, 04:06The late and very regretted Columbia Professor Edward Said endured a lifetime of hateful campaigns attempting to blacken his name and hinder his cause. Many professors of Arab origin, or others who have simply attempted to bring some balance into the teaching of Middle East history and politics, have been similarly targeted by pro-Israeli individuals and groups which have shamelessly peddled outright lies to ensure that American students never got the facts about the conflict.
Campus Watch, a despicable and relentless pro-Israeli, Zionist propagandist website set up by Daniel Pipes and his likes to gag the academics who dare to speak the truth, keeps adding names to its list of non-kosher scholars.
Professor Joseph Massad has been attacked on Campus Watch for a long time. But in the past few days, calls for his expulsion from Columbia have been spreading in New York’s most sensationalist publications – not least of which is the rabidly Zionist, anti-Arab New York Sun, which is partly owned by Hollinger International, the company once led in all its extremes by Conrad Black, who needs no introduction, and edited by Seth Lipsky.
The New York Sun’s raison d’être is undoubtedly Israeli and Jewish causes. In its launch edition in April 2002, the editorial, titled “The War Against the Jews,” linked the Holocaust to pro-Palestinian demonstrations, claiming the latter support anti-Semitism. The rag’s extremist and racist positions are easily documented with a quick internet search.
In yesterday’s editorial, Columbia professors Joseph Massad and Rashid Khalidi are described as “the professors whose loathing of Israel, dismissal of Israel's security concerns, and contempt of Israel's democratic values cannot be explained or rationalized but are best understood as irrational expressions of anti-Semitism.” How original.
Calling on Columbia president Lee Bollinger to take action, the editorial actually suggests honoring Ariel Sharon, of all people, amongst the following measures: “The way to begin correcting the situation would be with a grand gesture. A Columbia honorary degree for Prime Minister Sharon would be one way to do it. So would firing Mr. Massad, or giving back the money from the United Arab Emirates, or disciplining Mr. Khalidi for the errors in his book. Then Columbia could set about hiring some teachers who display genuine critical judgment.”
This worthless newspaper is thankfully insignificant because of very limited readership, but it perfectly embodies the Zionist witch-hunt mentality which threatens to overtake even more American circles. These rags, and pathetic projects like Campus Watch, are trying to indoctrinate America’s leaders of tomorrow, terrified by the increased opportunities students now have to really learn facts, rather than the fiction Lipsky, Pipes and their cabal of extremists have been marketing.
[ add comment ]
Israelis dare to preach about Gaza homes sanctity
Friday, October 22, 2004, 19:25How touching: Israeli soldiers are speaking out about the criminality of depriving people from their homes. As quoted by the Christian Science Monitor, a 25-year old reservist says: "Chasing someone from their home constitutes a criminal act even if the Knesset [Israel's parliament] approves it."
Of course, he and his colleagues are not referring to Palestinians, God forbid. They are fair game: they can not only be chased from their homes with the approval of the Knesset (not to mention many rabbis), but they can even be given mere minutes (if they’re lucky) to run for their lives as Israeli bulldozers flatten the makeshift homes they’ve been reduced to inhabit for decades of dispossession.
It is the 8,000 illegal Jewish settlers in Gaza, who have been guarded by over 20,000 Israeli troops, to whom soldiers, rabbis and other Likudniks are referring. Only their homes, built on stolen land, are sacred.
[ add comment ]
Soldier cleared after shooting Palestinian child 20 times
Friday, October 22, 2004, 19:15As already mentioned in this blog on October 5, a 13-year old Palestinian girl was savagely shot 20 times by an Israeli soldier as she walked home from school. The incident even sickened his fellow soldiers, who didn’t hesitate to tell their superiors about this brutal murder. The latter, however, cleared the officer, obviously finding he had done nothing wrong.
Imam Al Hams was only one of 140 Palestinians who were killed in Israel’s disgusting “Operation Days of Penitence” in Gaza.
[ add comment ]
“Elections” in Saudi: late, sexist and patronizing
Friday, October 22, 2004, 15:43Surely it didn't come as much of a surprise to anyone when the Saudi government recently decided that "democracy" (or rather, an extremely limited form thereof) is really only for men. In the "elections" that will take place between February and April 2005, it was announced by the Minister of Interior, Nayef bin Sultan, that only men would be allowed to participate in the vote for the municipal councils. Women are clearly not considered mentally capable of making such choices.
If that weren’t frustrating enough, the government has now added insult to injury by announcing that women could be appointed to municipal councils, rather than elected. In other words, not only are women not considered capable of making decisions in an electoral context, but neither are most men, who apparently cannot be trusted to choose women for public office - should they ever be allowed to present themselves.
1425 years after Islam gave women a great number of rights not enjoyed in the West until well into the twentieth century, Saudi women have been transformed into amorphous forms with no voice, no presence and seemingly no viable future. The scary part about Saudi Arabia is that this is not even the worst aspect of the country: the prejudice goes beyond the confines of sexual discrimination and into every aspect of life.
It is easily arguable that there are many more pressing matters in the Arab world than achieving direct, representative democracy, especially when a majority of the region’s 300 million people now live in conditions befit for serfs in the time of czars. If we could begin with equal rights, equal shares in the region's wealth, and true justice, in all senses of the word, then democracy might not seem so unattainable.
[ add comment ]
Friday, October 22, 2004, 15:32It’s difficult to find the time to continue updating blogs during travel, especially when on a multi-leg journey, and even when there is so much to say. A visit to the Gulf and the Levant over the last couple of weeks reminded me of the other gulf, the one between opposite ends of the Middle East: one awash with money, whose rulers live in obscene wealth but at least spend reasonable amounts on very visible public infrastructure and projects; the other, awash with another kind of money, whose rulers also live in obscene wealth which remains their exclusive property, while the population can only watch in despair.
[ add comment ]
Without justice, only counter-terrorism will follow state terrorism
Friday, October 8, 2004, 01:57For the past week, Israel has resorted to its age-old tactics in Gaza: killing (over 100) and wounding (hundreds more) of Palestinian civilians, including many children, demolishing houses en masse, and arresting “terror suspects” – including United Nations employees. At the same time, similar actions have been continuing in the West Bank, albeit on a lesser scale for the time being. Israel is continuing to illegally appropriate land from its rightful owners, uprooting entire olive groves and evicting Palestinians to dispossession hell.
Israel has even assassinated Palestinian leaders in other countries, including in Syria on September 26. These atrocities are happening continuously.
Not a single one of these actions merited “breaking news” treatment on any of the Anglo-Saxon media, or was even the first item on hourly news broadcasts. To hear first hand about this continuous carnage, you’d need access to Arab media. Palestinians are desperately calling for the world to intervene, to no avail. As has been detailed in this blog and in numerous other places, Ariel Sharon is boasting about his plans to “freeze the peace process” (assuming there had ever really been one) and continuing Israel’s occupation of all other Palestinian (and Syrian and Lebanese) land. This is not a benign occupation, but a brutal, violent, racist one.
While Gaza is ablaze, around 10,000 Israelis have been vacationing in Egypt, during the Jewish holiday of Succot. Those in Taba have just been targeted in what appears to be a terrorist attack which has partially destroyed the Hilton hotel where they were staying. As of this writing, 30 Israelis are reported killed, many others wounded. No word yet on any Egyptian casualties, although it’s difficult to imagine that hotel employees (or other tourists) couldn’t have been hurt.
Analysts are so far assuming that Palestinians are responsible for this atrocity, and the story has received “breaking news” coverage since it broke, rightly so. The Israeli victims today have just paid the ultimate price for their government’s inhuman actions. If Palestinians have really committed this crime, they are going to pay an even heavier price ... on top of the price they have already been paying for decades, just for being Palestinians.
Nothing can ever justify the killing of civilians.
Therefore, the world must intervene to stop this terrorism – the Israeli one, and the Palestinian one. If the world remains silent, Israel will continue occupying Arab lands, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, even assassinating Palestinians outside Palestine. And Palestinians will continue resorting to terrorism to try to make it stop, and even begin to assassinate Israelis outside Israel. Like today.
It’s as simple as that.
[ add comment ]
Is Bush a dope?
Friday, October 8, 2004, 00:34Most people already know the answer to that, but the Los Angeles Times is asking the question in all sincerity in today’s lead editorial. Gracefully, it delays giving its own answer until Friday’s second presidential debate. But this sentence says it all:
“It isn't routine political mendacity that makes many people — many more than will admit it — wonder about Bush's mental engagement. It is a combination of things: his stumbling inarticulateness, the efforts his advisors make to protect him from unscripted exposure, his extreme reluctance to rethink anything.”
Not enough people in the world have the chance of choosing their own leader. What should have been a right for every human being has become a privilege. The lucky ones should use this privilege wisely.
[ add comment ]
It IS the occupation, stupid!
Thursday, October 7, 2004, 14:31It’s one thing for Al Jazeera to cave in to American pressure and tone down the criticism a bit. It’s quite another to start changing facts, and become more royal than the king.
News presenters have already been referring to American and British troops in Iraq as “multinational forces.” Which they are in a very limited sense, if one is to be only partly accurate. Now, editors of the station’s English-language website have laid down the law: Al Jazeera’s staff is henceforth not allowed to describe US-led military "presence" in Iraq as occupation.
UN Security Council resolutions (beginning with UNSCR 1483) have already defined it as an occupation. The US has described it as an occupation by sponsoring the resolution. The word “occupation” is not a qualifying one, it is an accurate depiction.
If that’s what they’ve managed to do to Al Jazeera, even after banning it from Iraq, imagine what they are doing to other “independent” media.
A few weeks ago, during an interview I was taping for BBC television on various aspects of Iraq, I used the offending word where appropriate. The interviewer, very nicely and believing he was actually helping me, stopped the recording and asked me earnestly: “You DO realize that you are saying 'occupation' about the US, don’t you?”
[ add comment ]
Cheney asks audience to check Soros website
Thursday, October 7, 2004, 13:59I never thought I’d enjoy anything Dick Cheney said, but he made many people’s day when he mistakenly directed millions of people to an anti-Bush website during Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate.
By urging them to go on FactCheck.com, he was sending them to a website run by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who has made it a priority to get Bush out of the White House. That’s all because the webmaster of FactCheck decided to redirect all these incoming hits to georgesoros.com, as explained here by CNN.
What he really wanted to say was FactCheck.org. Thanks, Dick, keep up the good work.
[ add comment ]
Take out these Fallujah civilians, dude
Thursday, October 7, 2004, 00:18Last night, Channel 4 (a British terrestrial channel) dared to go beyond the self-imposed restrictions most Western media are applying on Iraq (and Palestine). In the main news broadcast at 7 PM, Channel 4 showed the incredible cockpit video footage (which the Pentagon has confirmed as genuine) from inside an American F-16 fighter jet decimating a crowd of Iraqi civilians in Fallujah as they ran for safety. The whole incident took 32 seconds. After the huge explosion, the co-pilot lets out an admiring “oh, dude!”
Channel 4 interviewed an Iraqi doctor who had been on duty that day at the nearest casualty center, and who confirmed that many of the victims were women and children.
The carnage took place in April 2004, when Fallujah was being heavily attacked by US forces. How many times have such incidents taken place? How many innocent civilians are being used as target practice? And how many American or British soldiers, pilots and commanders are held to account for these war crimes?
[ add comment ]
No evidence of Iraqi WMDs ... duh!
Wednesday, October 6, 2004, 23:56Brace yourselves, the Iraq Survey Group has spoken: Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Not a single WMD. No WMD program. No WMD stockpiles.
However, he had the “intention” of developing WMDs, one day, somehow. In fact, brace yourselves again, Tony Blair said today that Saddam was “doing his best” to get around the sanctions.
Well, when you put it in this context, that really does justify invading Iraq. Doesn’t it?
[ add comment ]
Israel reiterates its disdain of the roadmap
Wednesday, October 6, 2004, 23:39Three weeks ago (as mentioned in this blog’s entry of September 17), Ariel Sharon declared he would not follow the roadmap and continue to occupy the West Bank. Today, Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s Chief of Staff, explained to those who still didn’t believe it that the whole point of eventually withdrawing from Gaza was to completely freeze the peace process and avoid the establishment of a Palestinian state. Many of us had already figured it out, of course.
In the meantime, not a peep from Washington, which seems to have given its blessing to an illegal plan that defies the roadmap imposed by the US itself.
One wonders how things could possibly get worse for the Palestinians. The UN said today that nearly 70% are living in poverty (with less than $2 a day) as a result of Israeli policies and military operations. Tens of thousands have been made homeless (again), and chronic child malnutrition is rampant. How many more warnings must the world receive before these deliberate Israeli crimes against humanity are stopped?
[ add comment ]
Veto on Palestinian lives
Wednesday, October 6, 2004, 00:17No surprise from the US, but shame on the UK, Germany and Romania! The previous blog entry stated the obvious: it was highly unlikely that the US would dare to vote for a resolution condemning Israel. Apparently, it’s unbalanced! This begs the question: how many Palestinians must die before balance is achieved?
All casualties are a tragedy, but this one deserves a particular mention if only to illustrate how Israel tackles “terrorists.” Yesterday, a 13-year old Palestinian girl was shot 20 times (of which 5 bullets in the head) from the safety of an Israeli army observation tower. She had wandered from her normal path to school; the trigger-happy soldiers, apparently, thought she was about to “attack” them.
In addition to children, international civil servants in Palestine are also guilty until proven innocent. The Israeli army today arrested 13 UN employees for suspected links to terrorism! Israel first claimed they were carrying a rocket on their stretcher; they are now “reviewing” the case.
[ add comment ]
“Eye for eye” according to Likudnik algebra
Tuesday, October 5, 2004, 02:29You do the math, if that’s what we have come to. After all, Israeli officials simply love to project their own casualties in terms of other nations’ larger populations.
4 Israelis killed last week (including 2 soldiers). Over 70 Palestinians killed and 648 wounded in the last five days (mostly unarmed civilians), as of this writing. But the month is still young; with 112 Palestinians killed in September, the potential is sadly huge for October.
Israel’s typically violent attack has been given an unbelievably arrogant code name: “Operation Days of Penitence.” In the Jewish faith, the ten days which fall between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (which ended recently) are days of penitence, during which people should be seeking God’s forgiveness for sins committed in the past year, searching their souls and apologizing to those they have hurt. Could Sharon be referring to next year’s days of penitence, when he might be repenting for his sins? Perish the thought.
Together, Sharon and his soul mate Bush, just like the Islamic extremists they abhor, have broken more divine commandments than they will ever have time to repent for, assigning godly attributes to their nasty actions. (Remember the original "Operation Infinite Justice" in Afghanistan?)
If Sharon’s attack on Gaza is called “Operation Days of Penitence,” then Bush’s onslaught in Iraq might as well be called “Operation Love Thy Neighbor.” Naturally, they both expect their victims to respond with “Operation Turn the Other Cheek.”
While Israel roams free in Gaza, the US has turned a blind eye, as usual. Western media has relagated the story to “other items in the news,” as usual. And the ever useful Arab League is trying to push for yet another resolution condeming Israel, yet another resolution which, in the unlikely event that an American administration doesn’t veto it, daring to displease an important constituency so close to the elections, will be openly flouted by Israel. As usual.
[ add comment ]
Some dead bodies are more newsworthy than others
Tuesday, October 5, 2004, 01:00Guess which ones make the news.
On Sunday, one of the international news networks which regularly interviews me left a message which I could only return hours later. The producer explained that news had broken earlier in the day that two bodies had been discovered in Iraq, one of a beheaded man, the other of a woman who had been shot dead. They would have wanted my comments and analysis.
But by the time I had called back, the producer informed me that they turned out to be Iraqis.
“So you’re simply not going to cover the story then, obviously, since they're not foreigners,” I said.
“Point well taken,” he replied.
[ add comment ]
Look who's talking
Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 01:40If it weren’t so irritating, it might have been amusing to hear one Arab ruler after another opine on the elections, or lack thereof, in Iraq. Notice how they rarely stop to ponder on the readiness of their own people for democracy, but I digress.
The latest authority on democracy to speak his mind was King Abdullah of Jordan, who told Le Figaro during his visit to France this week that elections could not (and should not) be held in Iraq under such circumstances. Really? What a bombshell. And how convenient for the US when its allies in the region now begin explaining how and when things should develop.
Abdullah didn’t miss the opportunity to blame Ahmad Chalabi (who’s been sentenced for embezzlement in Jordan) for dismantling the Iraqi army, an exploit for which Paul Bremer is really to be “credited.” The only way to fix this was to bring back not the generals, said Abdullah, but the middle ranking officers who could reconstruct the army and help bring stability back to Iraq.
He also (naturally) gave his support to an international conference on Iraq, as "requested" by the Iraqi government - no interim for him. (“Nous soutiendrons donc tout ce que voudra le gouvernement de Bagdad.”)
His comments on the Palestinians’ situation were most noteworthy, as he explained that they had succumbed to internal struggles and that the onus for building a state fell on them. (“A cause de leur combat fratricide, les Palestiniens sont tombés dans le piège que leur ont tendu les Israéliens.”)
An interesting sample of Jordan’s positions on a wide array of issues, for all French speakers who are interested in how the US recycles its demands for the region before they are passed on further down the line. Or you can read a brief account of the interview on the BBC's website.
[ add comment ]
Four more years? Hopefully not for the Palestinians
Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 23:42It’s been four years, but few today found this sad anniversary worthy of mention. Since September 28, 2000, the day Ariel Sharon barged into the most sacred Muslim site of Palestine accompanied by 1,000 Israeli soldiers, Palestinians have been regularly and systematically killed (3,227 in four years, 64 this month alone) and injured (27,624). Even today, Israel killed a mentally-ill Palestinian man in Jenin.
The immediate, enraged reaction to Sharon’s provocation was dubbed the Al Aqsa intifada, an uprising by desperate Palestinians who had seen the years pass and Israel’s oppression increase, in spite of the “peace process” and agreements like Oslo which were supposed to bring them a fraction of their human and national rights but which were continuously flouted by Israel. During the years of “negotiation,” there were hardly any manifestations of Palestinian violence, a fact that Israel conveniently forgets to mention.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that “1,008 people died” in that same period because of Palestinian violence; reading the site in detail, however, reveals that this figure includes not only Israeli soldiers inside the Occupied Territories, who are legally distinguishable from unarmed civilians (as Israel likes to point out when it targets Palestinian “militants” and “terrorists”), but also includes Israelis killed outside Israel (not by Palestinians), and includes – surprise surprise –the three Americans killed in Gaza.
Still, Israeli civilians have paid a heavy price for the brutalities committed by their government, which has pushed its persecution of Palestinians to new levels. The latter are increasingly dispossessed and repressed, unable to see any hope when their society is falling apart, politically, economically and socially.
While most Anglo-Saxon media completely ignored this day and the tragic events of the last four years, Israeli media today spoke of those Israelis who have again dared to speak the truth and defy their superiors. Four Israeli military officers in an elite commando have condemned military tactics in the Palestinian territories, denouncing the “systematic harassment of the Palestinian population” which includes the widespread demolitions.
These officers knew what they risked professionally by condemning the Israeli government for its actions, but their integrity was more potent than their fear. When will the media, which technically faces no such constraints, follow suit?
[ add comment ]
Spot the difference
Sunday, September 26, 2004, 03:07The casualties:
A woman is rushed to hospital after American jets made a “precision air strike” to kill “terrorists” in Fallujah on Saturday. A man is rushed to hospital (dying shortly afterwards) after an Israeli helicopter fired a missile into a refugee camp in Gaza on Saturday.
A child attempts to gather some belongings in a blanket after Israeli bulldozers razed her family’s house in Gaza on Saturday. Two men attempt to gather some belongings in a blanket after American jets flattened their house in Fallujah on Saturday.
[ add comment ]
And Bush campaigns for Al Qaeda
Sunday, September 26, 2004, 02:45The British ambassador to Italy, Ivor Roberts, caused a fury when something he had said under the Chatham House rule (in a closed meeting) was leaked to the Corriere della Serra, which couldn’t wait to print it. “George W. Bush is the best recruiting sergeant for Al Qaeda. If there is anyone ready to celebrate his eventual reelection, it is Al Qaeda,” he said.
So what else is new? Many had already said more or less the same thing before, with few people protesting or finding it hard to believe. In fact, it was Gary Trudeau – as usual – who said it first and best in his Doonesbury strip of July 11, 2004.
[ add comment ]
6 million unregistered Americans abroad prevented from voting?
Friday, September 24, 2004, 16:12So you thought it was mostly in Florida that you had to worry about your ability to vote? Wrong! As already announced in the International Herald Tribune on Monday, the Pentagon has begun to restrict international access to the official Web site intended to help overseas absentee voters cast ballots.
The Pentagon claims it is trying to protect the site from hackers. Nonsense, said an official who obviously chose to remain anonymous, to Salon. “The official -- a self-described Democrat who adheres to requirements of non-partisanship as a voting officer -- could see no explanation other than pure political trickery in the Pentagon's decision to block the FVAP Web site. ‘There is no way in hell that this is not a deliberate partisan attempt to systematically disenfranchise a large Democratic voting bloc,’ the official said.
The Salon article elaborates: “It's easy to see why the Bush administration might be worried about the prospect of huge numbers of American civilians living abroad exercising their right to vote. In efforts to register Americans living overseas, the official has come across a host of people who say they're signing up specifically to hasten Bush's defeat.”
I imagine everyone should be up in arms about this. Such a blatant contravention of the sanctity of the democratic electoral process should worry every American, in the US and abroad, every democrat, republican and independent. And why exactly is the Pentagon dealing with this issue in the first place? Americans, please beware!
[ add comment ]
Allawi campaigns for Bush in Congress
Friday, September 24, 2004, 15:14Only 40 days before the American presidential elections, Iyad Allawi has officially signed up to the Bush-Cheney campaign, as expected, giving a speech in Congress that was just as worthy of a fiction prize as every other speech the Bush administration gurus have written before. The only thing missing was a statement from Dubya saying: I am George Bush, and I approve this message.
Allawi tried his best to adapt his rather unrefined mannerism to the picture of Iraqi utopia he was conveying, striving to make the words of Karl Rove’s team seem natural, but it’s clear there were many terms slipped in by the Bush campaign manager that he had never heard before. Naturally, this is also a problem with Bush.
It’s a pity that most Iraqis couldn’t watch the address live, being without electricity for long stretches of time, and thus couldn’t hear him as he thanked America for the amazing feat of invading and occupying Iraq, and as he described the imaginary progress and reconstruction now taking place there.
In fact, Iraqis might well have wondered what Allawi meant by “we’re succeeding.” If “they” are succeeding, what exactly was the plan? If it included turning Iraq into a bastion of violence, fear and despair, then Allawi is justified in boasting about it.
As always, it was Donald Rumsfeld who, somewhat like Ariel Sharon, was refreshingly candid when he explained the prospective Iraqi elections to a Senate committee hearing. "Let’s say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn’t because the violence was too great. Well, so be it. Nothing’s perfect in life, so you have an election that’s not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet."
That, of course, is not a surprising attitude, given the Bush administration’s position on Florida’s election fiasco in 2000. Or on American voters' rights outside the US (more on that later). So be it.
[ add comment ]
Terrorists' new tactics
Thursday, September 23, 2004, 00:55The debate on the tragic hostage situation in Iraq has been raging in Britain over the past couple of days. Should the government negotiate with the terrorists? Should it simply give in (leaving the interim Iraqi government to comply with the demands) while still pretending to be tough? Or should it abandon the hostages to their fate?
Two Americans hostages have already been murdered, and the Bush administration is in no mood to negotiate (not that it ever was), that much is clear. The British are living their first real emergency situation and seem uncertain about how to proceed. True, a British journalist was held recently, but he was released promptly after the intervention of Moqtada Sadr. Could this not indicate that having good relations with people of influence in Iraq can only help everyone involved? The Americans (and the British) do not think so: in the midst of this new crisis, they have launched a new attack on Sadr City in Baghdad.
The kidnappers, members of the group Tawhid wa Jihad, have demanded the release of all women prisoners from Iraqi jails. Lo and behold, the Americans and the British retorted that firstly, the issue of prisoners was under the Iraqi government’s control, and secondly, there were only two women remaining in Iraqi jails – two who happen to be Saddam’s top scientists, labelled by the media as Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax. No independent organization can confirm this fact. Nor is these scientists’ potential danger really plausible.
(In the meantime, to remind ourselves of the brutality of Abu Ghraib, and the effect abuses there had on Iraqis – a story that has conveniently slipped off even the middle pages in the media - read this account of Huda Alazawi’s solitary confinement there, in Monday’s Guardian. This might help explain why imaginations in Iraq run wild at the thought of women’s emprisonment.)
Today, the interim Iraqi Justice Minister, apparently having interpreted the Anglo-British buck passing as a go-ahead for him and his colleagues to act, and as a reiteration of their “sovereignty,” declared that Dr. Germ was going to be released anyway – a decision supposedly taken on Sunday. If that were true, why wasn’t this announced earlier to try save the American hostages?
But the two American hostages had already been savagely murdered, and the Americans felt it was safe to show who was really the boss again. Furiously, they declared that the two scientists were under American custody, and that they would not be released. So we’re back to square one, and so much for Iraqi sovereignty. In the meantime, the British hostage’s direct appeal to Tony Blair is likely to remain unheard, as Blair will want to prove his determination not to negotiate. No matter the outcome, this will greatly affect his stature.
Very importantly, the terrorists seem to be following a new strategy. They are clearly already well acquainted with new media’s potential, using the Internet to communicate their demands and to display their gruesome actions, dressing their helpless captives in Guantanamo Bay style orange bodysuits.
Even more importantly, they have now begun to demand concessions that are technically feasible; rather than demanding an immediate end to the occupation, they now demand less major but more easily delivered results, such as the freeing of prisoners. While the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, like the overwhelming majority of people around the world, is outraged and sickened by the barbarity of their actions, the terrorists are managing to bring old issues (like Abu Ghraib or Um Kassar’s prisoners) back to the front pages.
So the questions go beyond whether or not to negotiate. Most governments do negotiate, usually through interlocutors, while pretending not to. But should governments publicize the extent of the efforts they are extending for the safety of their citizens? The French government did not hesitate to go to extreme lengths to try to secure the release of two French journalists, to no avail for the time being. The Philippino government did not hesitate to pull its troops out to save the life of one of its citizens. Are these governments, ultimately, not really the ones doing the job they were elected to do?
The argument that giving in to the terrorists will only encourage them to commit further atrocities holds little water; they have been doing their dirty work anyway.
What does hold water is the argument that terrorists are now using their despicable methods to confront issues that most Iraqis hold dear; the matter of prisoners is only the beginning, and there will likely be more demands that many Iraqis will find “reasonable” while objecting to the means This is true shock and awe. And it’s working.
[ add comment ]
Gaza's homeless and hopeless
Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 02:21While the world continues to ignore the plight of Palestinians, Israel continues to raze their homes to the ground. This Palestinian family stands in the rubble of their destroyed house under the watch of an Israeli tank in the village of Al Mugrakha, south of the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, in the central Gaza Strip. (Photo from Associated Press)
[ add comment ]
A hierarchy of suffering
Monday, September 20, 2004, 23:46Israel did it first of course, reserving for itself alone the position of Victim Number One and launching systematic propaganda campaigns against anyone daring to point out to its more obvious position as a top aggressor. Still, many (myself included, for example in this article) have dared to point out that Israelis do not hold the monopoly on suffering, in spite of all their efforts to portray themselves as victims of mythical proportions.
Now, as Gary Younge argues powerfully in The Guardian today, America is demanding that same right since 9/11, using victimhood as “the moral basis for redress, retaliation and even revenge in order to right any given wrong - real or imagined.”
It is time to re-examine the systematic abuses that the Bush administration, successive Israeli governments and other bullies have been allowed to get away with for so long. In the meantime, most of the world’s real victims remain nameless, and voiceless.
[ add comment ]