31 December 2005

War without end

Only justice, not bombs, can make our dangerous world a safer place

Robert Fisk

This was the year the "war on terror" - an obnoxious expression which we all parroted after 11 September 2001 - appeared to be almost as endless as George Bush once claimed it would be. And unsuccessful. For, after all the bombing of Afghanistan, the overthrow of the Taliban, the invasion of Iraq and its appallingly tragic aftermath, can anyone claim today that they feel safer than they did a year ago?

We have gone on smashing away at the human rights we trumpeted at the Russians - and the Arabs - during the Cold War. We have perhaps fatally weakened all those provisions that were written into our treaties and conventions in the aftermath of the Second World War to make the world a safer place. And we claim we are winning.

Where, for example, is the terror? In the streets of Baghdad, to be sure. And perhaps again in our glorious West if we go on with this folly. But terror is also in the prisons and torture chambers of the Middle East. It is in the very jails to which we have been merrily sending out trussed-up prisoners these past three years. For Jack Straw to claim that men are not being sent on their way to torture is surely one of the most extraordinary - perhaps absurd is closer to the mark - statements to have been made in the "war on terror". If they are not going to be tortured - like the luckless Canadian shipped off to Damascus from New York - then what is the purpose of sending them anywhere?

And how are we supposed to "win" this war by ignoring all the injustices we are inflicting on that part of the world from which the hijackers of September 11 originally came? How many times have Messrs Bush and Blair talked about "democracy"? How few times have they talked about "justice", the righting of historic wrongs, the ending of torture? Our principal victims of the "war on terror", of course, have been in Iraq (where we have done quite a bit of torturing ourselves).

But, strange to say, we are silent about the horrors the people of Iraq are now enduring. We do not even know - are not allowed to know - how many of them have died. We know that 1,100 Iraqis died by violence in Baghdad in July alone. That's terror.

But how many died in the other cities of Iraq, in Mosul and Kirkuk and Irbil, and in Amara and Fallujah and Ramadi and Najaf and Kerbala and Basra? Three thousand in July? Or four thousand? And if those projections are accurate, we are talking about 36,000 or 48,000 over the year - which makes that projected post-April 2003 figure of 100,000 dead, which Blair ridiculed, rather conservative, doesn't it?

It's not so long ago, I recall, that Bush explained to us that all the Arabs would one day wish to have the freedoms of Iraq. I cannot think of an Arab today who would wish to contemplate such ill fortune, not least because of the increasingly sectarian nature of the authorities, elected though they are.

The year did allow Ariel Sharon to achieve his aim of turning his colonial war into part of the "war on terror". It also allowed al-Qa'ida's violence to embrace more Arab countries. Jordan was added to Egypt. Woe betide those of us who are now locked into the huge military machine that embraces the Middle East. Why, Iraqis sometimes ask me, are American forces - aerial or land - in Uzbekistan? And Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, in Turkey and Jordan (and Iraq) and in Kuwait and Qatar and Bahrain and Oman and Yemen and Egypt and Algeria (there is a US special forces unit based near Tamanrasset, co-operating with the same Algerian army that was involved in the massacre of civilians the 1990s)?

In fact, just look at the map and you can see the Americans in Greenland and Iceland and Britain and Germany and ex-Yugoslavia and Greece - where we join up with Turkey. How did this iron curtain from the ice cap to the borders of Sudan emerge? What is its purpose? These are the key questions that should engage anyone trying to understand the "war on terror".

And what of the bombers? Where are they coming from, these armies of suiciders? Still we are obsessed with Osama bin Laden. Is he alive? Yes. But does he matter? Quite possibly not. For he has created al-Qa'ida. The monster has been born. To squander our millions searching for people like Bin Laden is about as useless as arresting nuclear scientists after the invention of the atom bomb. It is with us.

Alas, as long as we are not attending to the real problems of the Middle East, of its record of suffering and injustice, it - al-Qa'ida - will still be with us. My year began with a massive explosion in Beirut, just 400 metres from me, as a bomb killed the ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri. It continued on 7 July when a bomb blew up two trains back from me on the Piccadilly line. Oh, the dangerous world we live in now. I suppose we all have to make our personal choices these days. Mine is that I am not going to allow 11 September 2001 to change my world. Bush may believe that 19 Arab murderers changed his world. But I'm not going to let them change mine. I hope I'm right.

The Independent
© 2005 Independent News and Media Limited

30 December 2005

Find the Difference

Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.: Mahabharata 5:1517
Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.: Matthew 7:12
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what which he desires for himself. Sunnah
Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.: Udana Varga 5:18
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.: Talmud, Shabbat 31:a
Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.: Analects 15:23
Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.: T’ai Shag Kan Ying P’ien
Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself. : Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5
Thanks to Georgianne & Tom

26 December 2005

Nazem M. Bashir. (Rest in Peace)

Two weeks ago, on Tuesday December 13, my elder brother, Nazem felt pain in his chest and fell. He was rushed to the hospital but did not make it. He passed away in the afternoon of that day.

He was in Liberia, one of the few countries he went to seeking work. He was one of the thousands of young Lebanese who left their families and country to find work elsewhere. Why?... because of the absurd sectarian, pseudo-feudal, God-knows-what economic and political system we have here.

He was larger than life, very active, optimistic, fun loving and compassionate. Nothing could make him feel low. Only death did. He was 47. It is difficult to write about him in the past tense.

He loved life because he loved freedom.
His body fell but his spirit engraved itself on this world.
His memory lives on through his two children and those who love him.

On his tombstone is inscribed:
ناظم محمد بشـير

ء 23 تشرين الثاني 1958 - 13 كانون الأول 2005 ء

أحب الحياة لأنه أحب الحرية
وأحب الموت متى كان الموت طريقا للحياة
سقط جسده لكن نفسه
فرضت حقيقتها على هذا الوجود
ولن تزول
فالحياة له هي كلها
وقفة عز فقط

12 December 2005

Gebran Tueni Assassinated

Condemning these cyclic acts of political assassinations is becoming like a refrain from some lousy song. And this blog is becoming more and more like the obituary page in some low circulation newspaper.

The scenes from the blast site that killed the prominent journalist Gebran Tueni are reminiscent of sites from the civil war back in the seventies, as if showing us the shape of things to come.

I usually listened to Gebran and read his editorials. Although I did not agree with him on most of the issues and arguments that he raised, he was respected for his boldness and for the changes that he initiated at Dar Annahar, the publishers of An Nahar newspaper and Naharnet news web site.

Nobody deserves this. Lebanon does not deserve this. Every time we recuperate from a shock we get another. The situation is becoming very fragile.

My heart goes to Gebran’s father, Ghassan Tueni – a man for whom I have high regards – and to his wife and children. May God have mercy on his soul.

Another assassination attempt happened three days ago (on Friday) in the Bekaa. About 25kg of TNT was planted in the car of Hussein Assaf, a leading member of Hizbullah. The attempt failed and Assaf was unhurt because he left his car a few seconds before the bomb went off.

08 December 2005

Bent but not Broken

04 December 2005

Sign the Urgent Appeal: Please Release our Friends In Iraq

Arabic version at http://electroniciraq.net/news/2210.shtml

Sign the petition at http://freethecpt.org/

Four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), identified as James Loney (Canadian), Harmeet Singh Sooden (Canadian), Tom Fox (American) and Norman Kember (British) were taken as hostages this past Saturday, November 26, in Baghdad, Iraq. They are not spies, nor do they work in the service of any government.
They are people who have dedicated their lives to fighting against war and have clearly and publicly opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They are people of faith, but they are not missionaries. They have deep respect for the Islamic faith and for the right of Iraqis to self-determination.

Mehlis Refuses to Renew his Contract

Mehlis refuses to continue as the head of the investigation team into the murder of late P.M. Rafic Hariri. The person on the street here is saying that this is because of the witnesses, Siddiq and Husam on whose testimonies he based his report and indictment and who turned out to be liars. Not to mention the other witness who (maybe) died in a car accident. People in the street are saying it was a successful act of counter intelligence on the part of the Syrians.
The troubling news is that the investigative team were warned by western intelligence not to depend on either Siddiq or Husam but the advice was not heeded.
In fact the word on the street is that the team was “swayed” into using these potentially “devastating” testimonies by some Lebanese who are seekers of “the truth” behind the murder of P.M. Hariri.
I think Mehlis now knows why no prophet ever lasted long in this “land of prophets”.

Mass Graves in Lebanon

Mass graves in Lebanon. This was the last item missing in our collection. We needed this to make us in perfect homogeneity with the “third world” the so called “developing” nations. We expect more to be found. We expect some of them to go back to as far as 1975 civil war. But the shame is some are expected to date to the nineties.
The media here stated a few weeks ago that thousands are expected to be found in mass graves around the country and that the government is seeking the help of the UN to find them. But all this time I was wishing that this will turn up to be false.
Well it does not seem to be so. Maybe I was not a good boy last year, because Santa did not grant my wish this Christmas.
None of the officials of the government went to the site discovered in Anjar, nor did any of them comment. Only the mayor of Anjar who claimed that he reported his suspicion to the authorities two years ago, but nothing was done. Damn it man, mass graves in Lebanon, what can a person say!

*Update: Investigations showed that these were not "mass graves" but ordinary graves 50 to 350 years old.

02 December 2005

AIDS "The Silent Killer"

People who know they are HIV positive in Lebanon keep very quiet about the matter to avoid becoming social outcasts.AIDS is taboo. Anyone suspected of having the disease risks total rejection by their friends, family and colleagues at work.Sara, a 40-year-old office worker in Beirut, knows all about that. She has been living with AIDS for the past 15 years and manages to keep going with the help of life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. But the only person she has told about her condition is her sister... more here.

Statistics regarding the number of HIV-positive people in Lebanon are incomplete and unreliable because of the negative attitude that surrounds it. However, UNAIDS estimated that there were 2,800 people living with the HIV virus at the end of 2003, and that the real number is even three times more. What is worse is that the majority of persons with the virus -about three quarters - are not receiving treatment.

HIV awareness is still in its primitive stages here, this is why awareness campaigns are necessary. HIV patients are discriminated against at work at in the society, so some simply do not seek help, preventing them from having access to health care. Today patients with HIV can expect to live long and well because doctors have learned to combine drugs into regimens that successfully attack the virus at multiple places in its life cycle.

Some ngo's and other organizations are doing a lot in the area of campaigns of awarness. The ministry of health has proposed laws in the interests of the patients. Awarness forums at universities and in schools and other community based activities are taking place, but a lot is still needed on the ground to change the people's attitude.

Help fight AIDS by spreading awarness about this killer disease.

Support World AIDS Day

01 December 2005

Don't Bomb Us

Support a Free Press in the Middle East. Stand with the men and women of AlJazeera...

Visit Don't Bomb Us , A blog by Al Jazeera Staffers.

Heard the Word of Blog?

And if you are prepared to pay for the price of freedom then go here, join us and pledge to publish the Al Jazeera memo. ...

Heard the Word of Blog?


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