February 21, 2003

Of doves and hawks …

I first intended to make this entry a few days ago after having accidentally browsed over to the blog of somebody unknown to me. This person was so rabidly in favour of a war with Iraq and seemed to be going after anti-war protestors with such gusto, and the commentors on her site seemed to be of her own ilk and I just felt that I had to speak out about the phenomena. I mean about all these people sitting safely at home and throwing around labels like republican, democrat, liberal, right-wing, left-wing but in the end talking about killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to justify their political leanings. OK, maybe I’m a bit harsh there but all this political haranguing is not going to help any of us if it comes to a war. But before I get into that, I would probably have linked to this person’s site originally if I’d written this entry when I intended to write it but since then I’ve been to her site again and she says that she’s tired of the hate mail and people linking to her without understanding what she’s about. Personally, I feel that if you write about what you care and you do so without malice, you shouldn’t worry about what other people think – it should be your opinion about yourself that matters to you first and foremost. Plus, she has such slogans as "First Iraq, Then France" on her site and so I don’t see how she can claim to be a non-biased objective person and that she needs to be understood before people vilify her :p Whatever the case maybe, I decided that if she didn’t like to be linked to, then it wasn’t right for me to link to her – whatever my objections to her comments (and even more than hers, those of her commenters …) may be. But I will comment on some of the comments on her site and please bear with me for saying something but not providing any links to verify that what I said is true …

There were several things which set me off at this blog that I’m talking about – the first and foremost was the above mentioned "First Iraq, then France" slogan. These people claim to be objective, open-minded individuals who don’t really want other people to die but see no other alternative except for war. If they were as open minded as they claim to be, I don’t think they’d want to grind anybody who opposes their point of view under their heels – which is what the comment about France amounts to … at least to me. Some might argue that it is funny and that might be why it was on this blog but I’d say that it is still insensitive and I don’t see much difference these people’s attitudes and that of the Nazis, for instance. I don’t hate people who have an opposed view – I just hope that I can show them my point of view and that maybe they will understand where I’m coming from. Whereas they (or at least according to the slogan) seem to think that anybody opposed to their point of view needs to be considered an enemy. Where does that come from? Can you really call yourself objective after such invective?

Then there were several people who commented on this blogger’s post vilifying anti-war protestors. One guy said that he doesn’t hate anybody – Muslims, Iraqis whatever – but that they (meaning the US) needed to bomb Iraq because all the Iraqis hated him and his little daughter and wanted to slit their throats! My friend Robin says that you should respond to such utterly insane comments by being even more over the top like saying "Yeah, and we will disembowel you and use your head as a football" or something like that … But I don’t know … I feel that on one hand you are stooping to their level and on another, you lose the chance to reach that person in case there is even a slim chance of still reaching them through all this misinformation/hatred they seem to have surrounded themselves with. I told this particular guy that most Iraqi’s probably couldn’t care less about him or his little daughter because they were just trying to get through their day to day lives, just like him or me or any of us. He says that he’s spoken to several Iraqi’s in person (or maybe online I forget which now …) but I don’t see how he could make a blanket statement like "they all want to kill my little daughter" if he really knew any Iraqi’s.

Incidentally, this guy claimed to be a marine and said that what us "civilians" don’t understand about bombing is that the army does not go in and indiscriminately bomb everything – that it was all about precision work. I asked him whether this was the same precision work which resulted in "malfunctioning" missiles killing civilians in Afghanistan but of course, there was no answer to that. But one thing that seemed to come out of these comments was that a lot of people seemed to think that the anti-war protests are actually either anti-Bush, or anti-Semitic (this one really floors me … but more on this later) or anti-American. And a lot of these people seem to have the belief that anybody who is anti-war thinks that Saddam is an angelic choir-boy! What rubbish! Of course, we … OK, I can’t speak for everybody but at least I, know that Saddam is not free of blame but then again, who is? Can the US government claim to be free of guilt – of having bloody hands in having dabbled in the matters of so many other countries just because they wanted to control things? of having trained Osama Bin Laden and then had him turned against them? of having provided Saddam weapons when he was fighting against Iran? I don’t think so! But most of the above mentioned "hawks" seem to either dismiss all of this as "it’s America’s duty to make the world safe and spread democracy" (has anybody asked who asked America to do all of this except for the US government and it’s rhetoric?) or as blatant anti-American propaganda. What I oppose in this war (or in any war for that matter) is the unnecessary killing (mostly of civilians and bystanders – that often quoted "collateral damage") of people for political/economical/ideological reasons.

Then there was the whole anti-Semitic thing. I don’t even know where that came from … though I can guess. While it could be that some people again imagined things where nothing was (or thought that pro-Iraqi/Arab *has to* be anti-Semitic), it is also possible that some of the Muslim anti-ware demonstrators carried anti-Semitic messages and that started the whole Jewish community going. People, this is not about Islam or Judaism! If it comes to that, Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in the same God – or at least should! Don’t believe me? Most people don’t, they even argue loudly about this and say that this can never be but think … Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in Moses as a prophet and unless Moses was a polytheist (which would shake the foundations of all three religions), his God has to be God of all three religions – yes, the specifics might be different but the basics are the same. So why do Muslims, Christians and Jews fight each other in the name of their religion and God? Think people, think! I’ve been hearing this rubbish from Muslims for a long time about how the Qur’an says that Christians and Jews are our enemies (utter rubbish!) and now I hear that some Jews are saying that according to the Torah, all Arabs must be killed! I can only say, that if all these people followed the spirit of their religion instead of scrabbling through the words, they might find peace both within themselves and out in the world …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:21 am  |  1 Comment

February 19, 2003

Letter to the editor …

I was going to have another long rant today but then came across the following letter which I might find both enlightening and humorous :p It’s a letter to “The Observer” by Terry Jones called I’m losing patience with my neighbours, Mr Bush. While you can probably read it at The Observer site itself, let me reproduce it here verbatim and so escape having to write anything of my own today :p Actually, I believe it’s worth repeating since Terry Jones makes a lot of points that I totally agree with 🙂

I’m really excited by George Bush’s latest reason for bombing Iraq: he’s running out of patience. And so am I! For some time now I’ve been really pissed off with Mr Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I’m sure Mr Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven’t been able to discover what. I’ve been round to his place a few times to see what he’s up to, but he’s got everything well hidden. That’s how devious he is.
As for Mr Patel, don’t ask me how I know, I just know – from very good sources – that he is, in reality, a Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we don’t act first, he’ll pick us off one by one.
Some of my neighbours say, if I’ve got proof, why don’t I go to the police? But that’s simply ridiculous. The police will say that they need evidence of a crime with which to charge my neighbours.
They’ll come up with endless red tape and quibbling about the rights and wrongs of a pre-emptive strike and all the while Mr Johnson will be finalising his plans to do terrible things to me, while Mr Patel will be secretly murdering people. Since I’m the only one in the street with a decent range of automatic firearms, I reckon it’s up to me to keep the peace. But until recently that’s been a little difficult. Now, however, George W. Bush has made it clear that all I need to do is run out of patience, and then I can wade in and do whatever I want!
And let’s face it, Mr Bush’s carefully thought-out policy towards Iraq is the only way to bring about international peace and security. The one certain way to stop Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us.
That’s why I want to blow up Mr Johnson’s garage and kill his wife and children. Strike first! That’ll teach him a lesson. Then he’ll leave us in peace and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way.
Mr Bush makes it clear that all he needs to know before bombing Iraq is that Saddam is a really nasty man and that he has weapons of mass destruction – even if no one can find them. I’m certain I’ve just as much justification for killing Mr Johnson’s wife and children as Mr Bush has for bombing Iraq.
Mr Bush’s long-term aim is to make the world a safer place by eliminating ‘rogue states’ and ‘terrorism’. It’s such a clever long-term aim because how can you ever know when you’ve achieved it? How will Mr Bush know when he’s wiped out all terrorists? When every single terrorist is dead? But then a terrorist is only a terrorist once he’s committed an act of terror. What about would-be terrorists? These are the ones you really want to eliminate, since most of the known terrorists, being suicide bombers, have already eliminated themselves.
Perhaps Mr Bush needs to wipe out everyone who could possibly be a future terrorist? Maybe he can’t be sure he’s achieved his objective until every Muslim fundamentalist is dead? But then some moderate Muslims might convert to fundamentalism. Maybe the only really safe thing to do would be for Mr Bush to eliminate all Muslims?
It’s the same in my street. Mr Johnson and Mr Patel are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other people in the street who I don’t like and who – quite frankly – look at me in odd ways. No one will be really safe until I’ve wiped them all out.
My wife says I might be going too far but I tell her I’m simply using the same logic as the President of the United States. That shuts her up.
Like Mr Bush, I’ve run out of patience, and if that’s a good enough reason for the President, it’s good enough for me. I’m going to give the whole street two weeks – no, 10 days – to come out in the open and hand over all aliens and interplanetary hijackers, galactic outlaws and interstellar terrorist masterminds, and if they don’t hand them over nicely and say ‘Thank you’, I’m going to bomb the entire street to kingdom come.
It’s just as sane as what George W. Bush is proposing – and, in contrast to what he’s intending, my policy will destroy only one street.

Posted by Fahim at 8:18 am  |  2 Comments

February 17, 2003

The war for peace …

I’ve been watching the anti-war protests all over the world and I am happy to see that so many people all over the world do see the futility of another war but I find myself asking "will this be enough to tip the scales?" Somebody mentioned a statistic that I keep on coming back to – he said that if this war goes through, 30% of the children in Iraq will die. Is that something that we can actually live with? Not just those who actively supported the war or benefitted by it or participated in it, but those of us who stood by in the sidelines and did nothing?

Is there anybody who’s reading this who would step forward if I was to say that if somebody would step forward so that they and their families could be killed, the rest of the world … no that’s not right .. that’s too lofty and anyway does not provide a correct picture of the situation … that a country on the other side of the world can live without fear of attack? Is there any such person? If somebody like that exists, I might (and I said *might*) consider changing my opinions on this war but I don’t think anybody would like *their* families to be killed. So why are we doing nothing when somebody else’s family is being butchered in the name of something over which they have no control?

When the "war on terror" started and Afghanistan was to be attacked, I said "collateral damage" was not acceptable but a lot of people said "it’s unfortunate that these people have to die but those responsible for 9/11 have to be punished!". Well, time has passed, we’ve had collateral damage on both sides – the US has lost soldiers, young men who really had no idea of the battle they were fighting and the Afghanis have lost people, people who knew nothing about Bin Laden or 9/11 and probably had not even heard of the World Trade Center but has any justice been done? Not as far as I can see. Bin Laden still roams free and so many innocents have been killed on both sides just to make a point. All I see is injustice piled up on top of another injustice.

I watched the delegate from France make a strong appeal for not going to war at the UN and then later heard a commentator on CNN say that if the bullets started flying, you’d probably see France fighting shoulder to shoulder with US troops because France does not want to be left out when the oil fields are divvied up – cynicism, bitterness, reality, politics? I really have no idea – I wonder more and more if I understand humanity at all. All I know is that each and every individual, each and every family, each and every group and region and nation and continent, has the right to live without fear, the right to live peacefully. Nothing and I mean nothing is more important than that. But please don’t bring up that hoary old chestnut about how the US has the same right and this was is all about the people of the US might live without fear – open your eyes, stop listening to the politicians, start thinking for yourselves. People everywhere are people just like you and me – it’s the politicians who are a breed apart …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:32 am  |  1 Comment

February 14, 2003

Of Life, philosophy, idealism and other asbstracts …

I’ve not been at my computer much the last few days – the day before because it was one of the two festivals of the Muslims – the Haj festival – and I was with my family in Kurunegala and yesterday because I was at a workshop about peaceful co-existence for work. Both days provided me a lot of fodder for thought and obviously, I’ll be sharing some of that here :p

The day before yesterday, quite a bit of our family gathered together for the Haj festival and as is usual we had a group discussion going on various topics ranging from politics to cricket. Eventually of course, the talk turned to the current situation with Iraq and one of my cousins made a comment that set me off <g> He said that the world fears the Muslims and that’s why they are persecuted – incidentally, I should mention that a lot of Muslims believe/fear that they are being persecuted by the rest of the world because of their religion – and I said that the only reason the world fears the Muslims is because we are fanatics and that that is our own fault because some of our people kill others in the name of God when just that act proves that they are not Muslims nor have they understood the teachings of Islam. So the fault lies with us to a great extent – not the rest of the world. Then my cousin said something to the effect "but look at Israel and the Palestine. Israel gets everybody’s support".

Somewhere around this point I had an epiphany – well, maybe not really an epiphany since I think I’ve known this before but it suddenly became crystal clear to me as a fact and has since become part of my philosophy about the world and humanity. My response to my cousin was based on this insight – I said that most of the conflicts in this world are not based on religion but on politics. America does not attack Iraq because they are Muslims – it attacks Iraq for various political reasons, the fact that they have oil not being the least of them. Israel and Palestine are not engaged in a religious struggle – it’s purely political. Man is a political animal and while we would like to put the tag of "religious struggle" on a conflict, it is almost certainly not about religion but about politics. The Islamic fundamentalists who claim to wage a war in the name of God are also not in it because of God but because they want power – again politics.

I’ve been thinking about this after the fact and I realized that we find it easier to talk about religious struggles or to feel as if we are being persecuted due to our religion than to realize that it is all politics – so we turn a blind eye to the facts. We feel comfort in a way in thinking that all insert-racial-or-ethnic-grouping-here are persecuted because then we belong to a group and can feel safe and secure while we think about the persecution we face. It also makes sense from the other side. Would many people support the US government if it simply said, "we need Iraq’s oil. So we are going to war"? Hardly likely. But you say "we are going to war against terror. Support us" – can anybody refuse? Of course, the Muslims perceive this as a direct threat on "their" religion and that sparks a new wave of fundamentalist terrorists and so the business of politics keeps on rolling … sad …

I think I got a little bit carried away there and since the stuff about the peaceful co-existence workshop would probably take just as much space as this, I’ll reserve that for tomorrow 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:41 am  |  4 Comments

January 30, 2003

Make love not …

Why is it that we always tell our children "don’t fight", "violence is not the solution", "might is not right" and so on and then go and do just the opposite? Are we out to prove besides the fact that we are spouting hot air, that we are a bunch of liars and that it is also OK to lie? I don’t know … This is how it seems to me from a simplistic point of view. I know that there are times when war is inevitable but we should do all that is humanly possible before we resort to war.

OK now you know I am going to talk about the US :p So let me put in a few disclaimers and set the stage first. I know that there are a lot of people in the US who feel the same way as I do and I also know that most people online are aware of the fact that there is a world outside the US and that the US is not always right – so when I say something about US people generally, it might not mean *you* even if you live in the US :p The second thing is that when I say "the US" most often than not, I mean the US government and not the people of the US itself – not the average Joe on the street. Incidentally, it’s a curious thing but I’ve noticed that quite a few people from the US support any action by the government just because it’s done *by the government*. Now just because it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people does not mean that we should lose sight of one important fact – it is also a government *of* people. I mean it’s a government made up of people – people with emotions, feelings, prejudices; things that may colour their actions and may not make them always objective. I can’t say that I have a wide experience of the world but I don’t see that particular mentality (the idea that it’s OK because your government does it) in other parts of the world – certainly not in Sri Lanka where people always analyze the actions of the president and the government and look at it – if not fairly – at least critically.

There are many things I don’t understand about the US government’s insistence on war with Iraq. How come they want to fight Iraq over nuclear capabilities that have not yet been discovered (but that the US government insists are there) when they are bending over backwards to accommodate North Korea which openly declares that they are going to resume nuclear testing? Wasn’t North Korea part of George Bush’s "axis of terror"? Or is the *real* reason for going to war with Iraq something else altogether? When I hear all this stubborn insistence that Iraq has nuclear capabilities (with no concrete evidence as far as I know) I begin to believe the stories that I hear about the US actually having provided Iraq with nuclear armament by the US twenty years ago during the time of the Iran-Iraq war – how else can the US know with such certainty that Iraq has nuclear capabilities? I wonder …

There are many things which don’t make sense to me about this looming war. I don’t understand why human lives (does not matter which race, creed or nationality it belongs to) should be lost for political reasons. I wonder if this is just another instance of "Wag the Dog" – which incidentally is a brilliant piece of political satire as far as I am concerned. I didn’t understand when the US government went to war in Afghanistan saying that they were going to bring back Osama Bin Laden to trial – many human lives have been lost (both Afghan and US) but Bin Laden still roams free. If I could see that Bin Laden couldn’t be captured even then (I said so in my blog at that time …), how is it that the US government with all it’s highly-trained and highly-paid analysts couldn’t? Could it be that it was not about bringing Bin Laden to justice but about making a point? Why do we waste human lives for the sake of such pettiness? Is it because human lives (each of which should be so utterly precious) have lost all meaning and value in the world of today? If so, then maybe we do deserve to be wiped out in one big nuclear conflagration …

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Posted by Fahim at 9:17 am  |  3 Comments

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