Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Should US know everything about its foreign visitors?

The USA is seeking to know more about passengers entering its territory. This has been the debate in the EU. So how far is this measure effective for both the US and the passengers coming from other countries?

The USA has the right to protect itself from terrorists becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to carry their threats. One terrorist is enough to cause havoc among all passengers. But security agents should have the skills to spot terrorists before they get on planes and enter the country. Passengers shouldn't have their privacy invaded as they are the citizens of their countries and not of the USA. Their governments shouldn't be agents for the US government providing it with all what it wants to know about the passengers. Checking bank transfer is only the tip of the iceberg to fight terrorism. The US should know about the tactics used by the terrorists which need little money.

To fight terrorism there should be deep cooperation between countries, especially between those harbouring terrorists and those likely to be attacked by them. But this shouldn't be at the expense of personal freedom and privacy. People should have the right to enter a country without being stripped from head to toes, metaphorically speaking. Not all the passengers are terrorists and therefore they shouldn't be subject to thorough investigation, including their bank accounts. The best thing people can do is to visit the US only under big necessity. As for tourism there are hundreds of destinations elsewhere offering high quality vacations with relatively reasonable checks for entry.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gambling, a question of intelligence or luck?

Gambling is risk taking that can lead to ruin. It is like a drug. Gamblers feel satisfaction by winning this way rather than through an economic activity. It’s a game for some that brings them lucky winning but at the expense of the losers. It’s a game that in most cases need intelligence, but luck remains the principle factor. Each day there are sensational scenes where there are dramatic losers and winners.

Gambling is in many cases the sport if the rich who don’t find what to do with their money but to risk it at the roulette in the hope of regenerating more wealth out of it. Perhaps it’s the easiest way to take interest on one’s income. There are no banks that can double and redouble your deposits overnight. Stock markets are a way of investing. Like gambling, they can bring immediate loss or win through the shares that change hands. But casinos can bring much more to the lucky.

For some states, there are no scruples about gambling as they generate revenues for the treasury. Like gulf and other rich men’s sports, casinos are a part of the tourist industries in many countries. However, the personal implications can be dire when one loses everything or the casino becomes the most frequented place at the expense of other ways of life leading to family break-up or running into huge debts.

For those who can’t resist gambling I think Gambling can be fun if a small money is risked from time to time but gambling should not become an addiction. The danger is when it leads to total ruin. It will be better if a good percentage of the revenues from gambling institutions is dedicated to charity organisations.

Personally, I don't like to have anybody's money. I'd rather get it downright from a job however small the amount may be. It doesn’t make sense to get rich by impoverishing the others or living off their money. Seeking a gain like this can destroy dreams. It's worse than buying lottery tickets which, in part, isn't as risk taking as gambling all for all.

I’d rather re-watch “Casino” in which Robert de Nero features or listen to Kenny Roger’s song “the Gambler” in the comfort of my modest room than take a stride in my thick shoes to be pick-pocketed, in case of loss, in an institution having the force of the law to do so

Monday, January 29, 2007

Radical young Muslims, identity crisis or search for justice?

Young Muslims in Europe and UK in particular are different from their parents. Their parents came to Europe in search for a living without seeking to engage in the politics of either their countries of origin or that of the host country. But in part they are responsible for what the young Muslims feel about themselves. The parents sticking to their traditions chose to live away from the mainstream society. Among the things they did was sending their children to Muslim schools which in majority teach values that are accepted in home country. Under tolerance and respect of difference, the government allowed them to practice their traditions like those about marriage in which girls in particular are forced to marry without their consent.

The young Muslims growing in an environment which apparently contrasts with their values have become more vocal about what they are concerned with. They seem to have identity crisis as they feel they live in an environment where they don’t fit or clashes with what they were inculcated. For them the means to have a sense of identity is to look to religious groups now spreading their messages in mosques and schools and also through media mainly Islamic channels and websites. The controversies that rise from time to time like the ban of the veil are likely to fuel their discontent as this can be seen as an interference with their inherent values.

The young are easy to influence especially when they seek an ideal. During the 60s, the youth in the West were revolted against the establishment using the slogan of peace and freedom. The Muslim youth are using the slogan of reverting to the past values in an attempt to confront the present. The danger that lurks behind such ideals is when these youth become potential suicide bombers considering such actions as a way of healing the ills in this life and martyrdom leading to paradise. But if they choose to live religion to the spirit, they are free to do so as Islam in essence doesn’t practically force anyone to embrace it.

Moderation is the best means to live in a world with different religious beliefs alongside those who have no religious belief at all. Trying to make the whole world according to one’s image is a call for an endless struggle that can lead nowhere as no one has the right to tell the others what to believe or not to believe.

Child education, homework, punishment and laxity

Child education is one of the problems facing societies around the world. In poor countries, a large percentage of children can’t have access to school. For these societies, they have the problem of building and funding schools and then campaigning among parents to send their children to school, especially girls.

On the issue of school homework children should do, it is essential for them to do it. Children today are exposed to many facets of life since their early years. At home they have TV and the Internet which can take too much of their time. As they are still young, they mustn’t be exposed to too many activities which will just make them lose focus on any particular thing. Homework, which mustn’t be stressful or too much time taking is the best way for them to develop skills and strategies later in their higher studies and when entering the labour market. It helps them to remain focused on the curriculum and to make the most of their studies.

Children in their education need guidance at home and at school. But there are families who leave it all to school to take care of their children. In some Asian countries like Singapore, children are under too much stress because their parents want them to be achievers by forcing them to keep studying for more than ten hours a day leaving them little time to enjoy their childhood by playing like children and not keep under stress like adults.

There should be a balance between leisure, school hours and homework to ease the stress on children. Laxity and punishment are the major threat to a child school achievement. Children should be taught to be responsible for what they learn. Children by nature are competitive. They don’t like to be losers even in games. Studies should be based on creating competition among them and helping those lagging behind. It is usually uninterested children who are the source of trouble in a school, as they have no other means to impose themselves but to create trouble. Physical punishment is no deterrent because of the legal implications. There can be other methods like suspending a child from school at least for a normal atmosphere for the disciplined one.

In education, there are no successful methods to teach concerning the how and what. Education is carried within a social reality that continues changing. The dilemma that remains is how educational methods should be reflective of social needs and how school should remain a space for learning and exploring one's potentials within a free and responsible atmosphere and not a ward where children are kept without understanding their basic needs.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Do Memorials Make Sense?

Memorials are a means to remember and to have experience from them for what they stood for. Some are reminders of glorious moments or people; others are reminders of tragedies. As a picture they can tell more than a book what they stand for. They remain fresh in mind. But too many memorials make some fall into oblivion or become insignificant. Just at present, how many national and international days are there that pass unnoticed? Let alone statues, tombs, buildings we pass by like passing in a street whose name we don’t know, care to know or remember even after getting its name.

There are memorials for the living as well as for the dead. Some dictators don’t feel at ease until they have their statues displayed all over the country in preparation for leaving them as memorials after they have passed away. Their omnipresence for them is an assurance of being eternally remembered. Needless to say some are scrapped from the ground as those of Saddam in Iraq and Lenin in former soviet republics. Even in democratic France, late French president François Mitterrand build pyramids in the Louvre Museum to be remembered by.

Posters and albums are a form of memorial. Some buy the poster of a star to keep them company as they keep albums for past moments to be relived again and again. In a sense, everyone has the means to have their memorials in addition to the “grandiose” ones about historical figures or events.

The “mania” for memorials isn’t over. It is a way to record history in a different way. Memorials can be a source for contemplation, a tourist attraction like the tomb of Karl Marx which is visited by communists and non-communists. The latest memorial in project is that of the executed Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein. Libya is going to build a statue in his honour along with another one for Libyan Omar Al Mukhtar, a historic a resistant leader during Italy occupation of Libya.

Maybe for a nation, memorials are a part of its history, to keep reminding people of what was an event like. But ordinary people, the anti-heroes have their own memorials like a picture of a memorable person on the wall that keeps gazing on them and refurbishes their existence with meaning.

Maybe it is impossible to live without a memory. The past is the essence of what we are as it shapes our attitudes and our view of ourselves. Memorials are instruments to live virtually past moments in which we haven't even existed. But we also need to live our present as we perceive it and not to be the prisoners of a past through excessive memorials that look like ghosts haunting our present.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nationalism and Identity

In response to a British report about teaching Britishness at schools.

Every country has to inculcate patriotism and citizenship among its members but not for propaganda. During the communist era, and it is still the case in some third world countries, citizenship means allegiance to the regime and its leaders. People become just parrots repeating anthems and slogans as thinking otherwise means dissent and treason.

Today’s youth are somehow disenchanted with established values as they seek freedom and new ways of seeing things. There is apathy towards elections as many have little faith in their government, as for them, electoral programmes are just old wine in new bottles. Perhaps the only events that raise patriotism in people are sport events. Hooligans express their patriotism by causing havoc during matches. Hooliganism, until recently was the shame of the British abroad.

What can make people good citizens of their country is to be ready to ask the famous question, “Don't ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” This can be possible when they feel there is justice, equality and freedom that can make their actions for their country worthwhile.

Another threat to national identity is globalization. Many values and traditions are being lost because young people are in majority exposed to commercial values whose interests are financial gains and not the cultural impact they can have. It will be dreary if one day people live in a country knowing about foreign stars and influenced by outside events while ignoring basic facts about their countries.

Democracy should be dealt with in a new way by offering people what to be active about, not in the archaic sense of just glorifying one’s country for self-deceit but to be involved in what is taking place while extending the hand of friendship to all people around the world.

On Britishness:

Britishness should be viewed in terms of the present. Britain shouldn't continue to be seen as a colonial power as colonialism is a matter of the past. British population has undergone diversity due to migration. Sections of British society should be seen as a part of the whole and not as sections set apart from the whole.

The British were successful in spreading their values around the world. Now the ball is in their camp. They should succeed in spreading the values of tolerance among themselves to set a good example on how to preserve national identity and harmony.

To paraphrase British Education Secretary Alan Johnson, people from all over the world, regardless of age, religion or race should think critically about issues of race, ethnicity and religion with "an explicit link" to current political debates, the news and a sense of national values.

Violence in Iraq, from Engagement to Apathy

The violent situation in Iraq is a flagrant example of “what man has made to man” to paraphrase Romantic poet Coleridge. Iraq has become the axis of conflicting forces from within and outside. There is the major conflict between the USA, the undisputed superpower in the world and the factions who are mounting a challenge to it. For that, they use all means by spreading terror through daily deadly bombing claiming tens of lives.

Iraq has become a card in the hands of Iran to offset the US threat hovering over it because of its nuclear program. For Iran the longer the worsening situation continues in Iraq, the more the US will think of a military strike or invasion as it can’t afford two major wars at the same time and in two bordering countries.

For the US, the war in Iraq is worthwhile as the insurgent are contained in it, not operating in its ally countries, especially the Gulf states. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that the investment in human lives in Iraq was worthwhile.

For the public, there is antipathy in most countries as what is taking place in Iraq as its people are made to pay in a conflict between irreconcilable forces, which makes of Iraq their battleground. But the situation is no longer a talking point with the same intensity, except when there is a major event like the execution of Saddam Hussein which brought an overwhelming reaction in every part of the world, from the public and the politicians alike.

As it seems, the Iraqis are left to their fate, exposed to a war that daily prove difficult to end as there is escalation from all sides to force events according to their agenda. During Saddam regime, many Iraqis sought refuge from his dictatorship in other countries. Now thousands of Iraqis are leaving their country in search, not for freedom but just to find a secure place.

Public demonstration, political condemnations from countries proved useless in preventing the US from invading Iraq. The same will be for any call to it to withdraw from it unless its long-term agenda in the Middle East is secured. As it is, violence will remain a daily recurrence in Iraq, drawing far less attention than it used. One day, the war in Iraq will be a forgotten war as long as US casualties are kept to minimum. Ironically, Iraqi victims are treated just as “the latest score of casualties in the ongoing violence in Iraq”. So no matter how many are killed will be forgotten overnight because a new wave of killing is to come soon.

Quite horrific of how light human life becomes when there is deep animosity. Only the likes of Coleridge will feel the grief of “what man has made to man” in an age considered as the apogee of human civilisation.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hrant Dink, a symbolic victim of Armenian genocide

The death of Hrant Dink shows that there is no free speech in Turkey, especially about its past regarding the Armenian genocide.

In countries where is there is free speech about national issues like Germany, the Germans are free to speak about the atrocities of the Nazis without being in danger of death threats as these atrocities were committed by a defunct regime. Turkey is sensitive about Armenian genocide because of its fear of political consequences like compensations for the families of the victims. Germany is still paying for the holocaust by giving a privilege to Jews as an apology for what they endured under Hitler.

Turkey to free itself from the ghosts of its past should be open about it for current and future generations. This murder is a test for Turkey how far it can protect free speech and crack down on those who stand in the way of a fully democratic Turkey.

When thoughts lead to death, this is as worse as a genocide. Hrant Dink was somehow the latest victim of Turkey alleged genocide in Armenia.

Hilary Clinton running for president, what if she and Barack Obama couldn't make it even if in the primaries?

US is back again for primary presidential campaign. There are many contenders up to now. Possibly more will join in the coming days. But these two hopeful candidates have been in the limelight more than others because of gender and colour: Senators Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Both have created a sensation as both decided to run for president. They both draw attention because of being exclusively representative of a section of American society which has never been in power. If either becomes president, it will be a historical turning point as in the USA never has a woman or a black person been in power as president.

Hillary Clinton is fit to run for president. She has experience in politics as she was US First lady for eight years. So she must be familiar with the intrigues of politics in the White House. As a senator she must have accumulated the experience of how to interact with the Congress. As a public figure she has her influence over many social issues. If she is chosen by the Democrats, she can rely among other things on her husband Bill Clinton, who was a popular president, to draw support for her. He must be considered as her big asset. She may use him to remind the Americans of the "golden" presidency under him. She can also exploit the disenchantment of the public with Bush foreign policy, especially in Iraq. Like the rest of the Democrats she has so much fire to charge at the Republicans whose only defence may be their argument about strengthening national security at home and abroad.

In this context, The US presidential elections is going to prove sensational, sensation coming especially from the Democrats who are historically faced with deciding over gender or colour in the persons of Hilary and Obama, should they remain in the final round after the elimination of other contenders. The Democrats will be in the spotlight more than the Republicans on this issue as this will give them more publicity on who should run for president. There may be the surprise of neither being chosen by the Democrats in the primaries. In this case the presidential campaign may lose some of its edge.

In this case both will go down history as having been the first of their kind to have attempted presidency evoking so much interest. In case neither is chosen it’s good for them both to say, “ It’s better to have tried and lost than not to have tried at all”

As an outside “observer”! (Please, forgive the term), I’d rather say good luck to all –Democrat or Republican, white or black, male or female. And let the best win.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Father's Wish to Have a Child after Death

Children are an instrument for continuity. Marriage without children seems barren for many. For a father ,as it is the case of Sergeant Kevin Cohen, to have a child posthumously should be seen in the context of the instinctive drive to continue existing and remembered after death. Ordinary people have only their children to be remembered by, by visiting their tombs or mentioning them from time to time. Historical figures perpetuate their names through their achievements.

Having children through frozen sperms and eggs is current. There are cases of surrogated motherhood for infertile women. But the case of the diseased soldier should be seen as a kind of resurrection after death through a child. The woman accepting pregnancy from the sperm of the dead soldier should be seen as heroine as it helped the mother to see the dream of her child come true. The soldier’s mother will surely feel as if her deceased child came back to her through the expected grandchild. His/her birth should be seen as a celebration of life and a triumph over death. The mother will have a chance to be in peace regarding her lost child. As this case has brought fame to the Israeli soldier at least in Israel and will have people around the world speak about his dream coming true, his spirit can then rest in peace.

Should US Give More Arms to Iraqi Government to End Violence?

The call of Iraqi PM Nouri Al Maliki to the USA to provide Iraqi army with more US weapons should be seen as another underlying level of differences between the Iraqi government and the White House. The US invaded Iraq in the first place because of allegedly possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It wanted to make of it a safe country for its interests and for the whole region. Ironically and metaphorically, Iraq is daily under the curse of WMD through the daily violence which up to now has claimed hundreds of thousands of people. The weapons used are simple in constructions but with devastating effects.

For the US, it will be a risk to arm the Iraqi forces as now it feels dissatisfied with the performance of the Iraqi government which has failed to unite sections of the Iraqi society. The Iraqi forces are still viewed as representing a section of society along religious grouping rather than a national force. In comparison the US forces are made of soldiers of different races and religion but they seemingly have allegiance to their country or at least act professionally.

The Americans are somewhat in control of the situation, suffering far less casualties in comparison to the Iraqi population. 600,000 are estimated to have died in violence compared to about 3,000 soldiers. Which means there is one American casualty for every 200 Iraqis. Such figures are possible because they possess key weapons. A scenario will be in case of arming the Iraqi forces as wished by PM Al Maliki, they can turn against the American forces, either because they don’t want to be under their command or they can be instigated to do so by a foreign country like Iran.

As there were warnings of a civil war in Iraq, more weapons will mean laying the basis for such a war. At anytime the forces can break up since there were instances of the forces deserting or acting in the name of their sectarian grouping. The US still needs to have a firm grip on Iraq. An Iraqi force with adequate and sufficient arms will be the last stage before a planned and final withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq is put in effect.

More weapons for the Iraqi forces has to do with the level of trust the Americans have in them. But as the Iraqi are still disunited, turning their guns and explosives at one another, for the US the safest way is to equip the Iraqi forces to the minimum. But what can bring security to Iraq is that the Iraqis as a nation should arm themselves with the will to solve their problems democratically. Continuous killing can’t be stopped as long as there is deep feud, simple ingredients for explosives and suicide bombers.

The help the Iraqis can get from the international community is that they should be given a chance to solve their problems without too much interference. Iraq shouldn’t continue to be a battleground between the US and those opposed to its wide presence in the Middle East. Iraqis once united should have the power to choose their path and not to be dictated what to do under the threat of no abating violence as a pressure to do what they are told from one side or another.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

UK Racism, an Example of Attitude and Identity

Racism is one of the attitudes that many societies in the world face because of their racial diversities. There is open racism manifested, for example, in Far Right parties, as there is implicit racism. This kind of racism shows itself when people of different races rarely mix socially each keeping to their own race despite aspects of courtesy and tolerance.

Britain as well as many countries in Europe is a multi-racial and multicultural society. It has been successful in being the home of people from all corners of the world, especially Asia and Africa. It respected the specificities of its minorities, which paradoxically made them look as societies within the major British society. This has made it look heterogeneous but not totally harmonious as there are incidences of racism that erupt from time to time in which black sport stars were the victims.

Britain is still facing racism because of the failure of the integration of minorities from Muslim countries whose some of its members refuse to join mainstream values. The most noticeable aspects of the rise of racism is the veil issue that raised a lot of debates in the UK and across the world. Terrorism is still considered attributed to Islamic fanatics. This makes people generalise their attitudes and consider Muslims as alien to their society.

Old habits die hard. There can be legislations guaranteeing the right of everyone to equal treatment. But there are the social attitudes that perpetuate racism. A person can be persecuted for showing racism. But there is no law to punish a person for refusing to make friends with another person from a different race. Despite efforts to eradicate racism there is always resistance on the part of some as they cling to their likes either because of their feeling of superiority or fear of being rejected by people of a different race.

Concerning the Indian actress who was the victim of racism, it must be remembered that Indians are still the subject of discrimination in their own country because of their social cast. Low cast Indians still live in medieval conditions despite India’s economic and technological boom.

Racism and discrimination are still obstacles to human harmony. They remain hard to end as long as there are those who hold them to feel distinction and to consider anyone with different values as not worth appreciating getting to know.

Barack Obama for US President, the Issue of Gender and colour

In the USA race, gender and religion are still considered of importance in politics. In the past 17 years or so, US politics looked as if breaking from stereotypes. In 1989, Colin Powel was considered as the first black to be Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then in 2001the first black Secretary of States. Madeleine Albright was the first female Secretary of States. Joe Lieberman was the first Jew to run as vice president with Al Gore in 2000. Condoleezza Rice is the first black female Secretary of States. Keith Ellision is the first American Muslim to be elected to the Congress. And the list goes on in the same way it did when during and after racial segregation a black was hailed as being the first mayor of a locality etc.

The US to show that it has shaken off its racial attitudes should be ready for a president regardless of race, colour or religion. Jessie Jackson couldn't get the chance of being a presidential candidate for the Democrats in 1986 presidential primaries because of his colour. The Democrats, in their next presidential primaries, may have to make a choice between a black candidate in the person of Barack Obama and a female candidate should Senator Hilary Clinton run for president. In this case, there will be a race between gender and colour to make of presidential elections a history in US politics.

Politically, the US does not seem to have exhausted all political possibilities for a president. But as long as there is still a racial majority of a section of US society, it will be unlikely a president will emerge from a racial minority. Only candidate personality and the acceptance of a person on their merit can make it normal to have whatever president accepted to be in the White House assuming responsibilities without attributing his/her possible shortcomings to race or gender

Monday, January 15, 2007

Nichane journalists fined over Islam jokes

The two Nichane magazine journalists Driss Ksikes and Sanaa al-Aji received their verdict. They have been fined for writing an article about religious jokes. They have been banned from working for two months and have been given suspended jail sentences of three years. The magazine is to be closed for two months. It was light in view of many compared to the uproar they caused among a large section of the Moroccan society. It also shows that the Moroccan government doesn't want to be seen as stifling press freedom with an iron fist. In this context both side wants to be seen as winning as there was no effective imprisonment as there was no acquittal. .

They were lucky as they had the support from Moroccan Press Association and Reporters without Frontiers. They got world publicity as their case was tackled on main news organisations like the BBC. Driss Ksikes, editor of the magazine Nichane wasn’t convincing, when on BBC World Haveyoursay last Monday, he said that he was free to publish jokes common in Morocco and people are free to or not to buy this magazine. The question about such jokes isn’t one can or cannot read them, but the impact they can have in society. It’s true that Moroccan tell jokes about religion and monarchy. But they do so in private. When a newspaper publishes such jokes this means the Moroccans can tell them in public loud. Other newspapers can use caricatures on this issue. For the government, not to allow such gate to be widely open is to set Nichane as an example to other journalists not to follow suit.

In Morocco religion is still a sensitive issue. By trivialising it in such a way there is likely to be an open backlash between the modernists and the Islamists. A scenario will be the Islamists attacking pubs and discos in response to jokes about their religion.

As we say one’s freedom ends when the freedom of others starts, it’s better to deal with religion or anything constituting the identity of a nation objectively without seeking to unnecessarily raise emotions.

Morocco seeks to be an open society but the old traditions are still entrenched in people’s mentality despite aspects of modernity and openness. Morocco needn’t be the scene of clashes because of attitudes to religion. Moroccans still have to clash with the causes of their economic and social problems.

Nichane’s journalists know this well about Morocco. It’s true Moroccans accept these jokes but when they are publicized they consider the publisher as making fun of what they are.

Nichane journalists have now got more publicity than they need. It’s better for them in their next issues to continue with their critical, humouristic and sarcastic style of depicting Moroccan society but not to the point of falling from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Condoleezza Rice Trip to the Middle East

Condoleezza Rice is starting a trip to the Middle East for a diplomatic push after the worsening situation in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

US policy in the Middle East has always been met with difficulties because it failed to reconcile the positions of the Israelis and the Palestinians. The US has always been seen as leaning to the Israeli side while being critical of the Palestinians because of the radical views of factions like Hamas. As Hamas and Fatah are still in deep disagreement about Israel, Rice will find it difficult to create a rapprochement leading to durable peace. Her trip will bring little results to the region.Concerning

Concerning her diplomatic initiative about IraqIraqi government and American policy.

As Rice isn't visiting Syria -one of the key players in the region because of its proximity to Iraq and a harbour to insurgents-her trip to the Middle East will have little impact. The other Arab states she is visiting are US allies with little influence on the situation in Iraq. These states (except for Kuwait) will be reluctant to show open support to US policy as they have to bear in mind public reactions which is in majority opposed to US presence in Iraq. What Saudi Arabia can do, for example, is to prevent its citizens from joining the Sunni insurgents or supporting them financially.

In general the trip is only a diplomatic manoeuvre for consultations and guaranteeing political alliance with these countries. It can also be just US assurance to these states about their stability in case the situation in Iraq worsens further.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Extra Troops for Iraq, Will it make a difference?

The security situation in Iraq has reached an alarming rate. Ironically, the US military intervention despite its sophisticated weapons and apparently well-trained soldiers failed to put an end to insurgency coupled with military operations that claimed lives on all sides.

The US has to get the job finished in Iraq. The dramatic situations in it have been unexpected as it was believed with the fall of Saddam, Iraq would be a model of democracy in the Middle East.

The US achievements in Iraq have been disappointing so far. Instead of planning phase withdrawal, the Bush Administration needs more troops in the hope of calming the situation in troubled areas, especially Baghdad.

Extra troops will be just instrumental in chasing and arresting insurgents. But Iraqi problem is deeper than planting check-points, raids and arrests. There are the hearts and the minds of the Iraqis that need ways to settle their differences sectarian, political or religious. The Iraqi must agree on what country they want to live in, federal, confederate or in a broken Iraq made of new countries representing the major sections of Iraqi population: Shiaas, Kurds, and Sunnis.

The extra troops can win their battles if the locals agree to cooperate with them helping them get their hands on the insurgents. But as there are still deep divisions among the Shiaas and the Sunnis fuelled by Saddam execution, the US army will have the hard task of finding reliable intelligence sources to carry out its raid missions with success. In Iraq, there is only an Iraqi credible force that can make the difference. This means the Iraqi forces remains doubtful as they are infiltrated by insurgents or members carrying violence on behalf of their sects.

When the Iraqis agree to unite politically or come to a durable political settlement, they can have a united security force ready to act for the country and not in the name of just one section of the Iraqi society. The role of the US military will be unnecessary as the majority of stable countries depend on their own task forces.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

US Strike in Somalia, Will it Achieve anything?

Somalia is the only country in Africa that has been unruly since the fall of Ziad Berri regime. The American involvement in 1994 ended without settling anything. Its withdrawal after the death of 14 of its soldiers in an operation against a warlord that went wrong was only a pretext, as it seems. The US didn’t want to risk more of its military personnel and equipment in a land not constituting a major threat to its interest in the Horn of Africa.

But Somalia remains a country only in name whose territory is divided between an internationally recognised government that had a sketchy control while the warlords roam the country, some of them using religion as their asset to have more followers. It’s no wonder if Somalia has allegedly become a refuge for Islamic terrorists as they feel surrounded in other parts of the world. What is striking is that such groups thrive in troubled lands like Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and in geographically difficult lands like the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US strike in Somalia put in question its increasing military involvement after its intervention in Iraq, which now needs according to Pt Bush more troops to stabilize the situation there. The risk is when the situation in Somalia worsens, needing more US military intervention, the US army will be overstretched.

This also brings into question US legitimacy to strike an apparently sovereign country without consulting the international community. It also shows the capability of the strong to strike wherever it pleases him. The US once again has shown it has a free hand on the international stage by carrying military strikes, invasions and pushing for sanctions against its enemy regimes, especially those in North Korea, Syria and Iran. So the cowboys who were running the Far West are still among us but with modern suits and sophisticated armours. It remains to see if such actions are still thrilling as they used to be on classical movies.

Coming back to Somalia, it is apparently an insignificant country because it doesn’t have oil among other things, such strikes didn’t get the international condemnation it should have had, had it been against another country with heavy political weight.

What is apparent is that strikes are unlikely to produce the desired effects as the insurgents have ways to escape and seek refuge. Somalia needs to return to normality and become a recognisable country with a central government all over the land.

By remaining an open gate to insurgents from different parts of the world and an easy target from the US most powerful army, its neighbour Ethiopia and by having its borders locked from Kenya, Somalia will continue to stifle, shrinking day by day. Currently its population are refugees in other countries and those staying are under the mercy of an inefficient transitional government or warlords for whom the life and death of the population is a part of their daily business.

The question remains when the Somalis will have the wisdom to unite without endangering anyone outside and inside their country. They can take the example of DR Congo and Liberia, whose respective warring factions finally agreed to democratic process instead of remaining at each other’s throats. By uniting, the Somalis can have intervention from the international community to help them rather than being rebuffed and sneered at because there is no international institution to take them seriously for lack of stability and credible regime.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Banning Nichane Magazine for Blasphemy

Should Nichane Magazine be banned?
I don't know free polls

Press freedom has evolved in Morocco in the past few years. Compared to the era when the press was directly controlled by the state in the person of the previous Interior Minister Driss Basri (dismissed in 1999), there is an era of relative freedom. Among the subjects that Moroccan press can talk about is monarchy. Journalists are relatively free to talk about monarchy under late King Hassan the Second and his Son the current King Mohammed the Sixth.

They write provocative articles such as the cost of monarchy. There were articles about scandals in the royal palaces. In the past years, the press was free to report about fund embezzlement in Agadir Royal Palace as well as the theft of precious items from Marrakesh Royal Palace. Such incidences used to be covered up. No Moroccan media could write about it.

In Morocco, many journalists exercise self-censorship. The good news for them is that they are no longer liable to imprisonment in case they are sued for what they have written. There is only a fine for them to pay.

Concerning Nichane magazine's editor and one of its reporters who are accused of defaming Islam and damaging public morality in an article about religious jokes.
these jokes because of which “Nichane” newspaper was banned and prosecuted , they are widespread in Morocco. (Personally I didn’t read the issue that has been banned). Generally, the religious jokes that are widespread in Morocco are about some Muslim clerics known for their greed or sexual exploitation of women and children. Such clerics are in most cases imaginary as they can be the stereotype of a certain category. There are jokes about the Day of Judgement

For “Nichane” newspaper, it seems to have crossed the red lines as it tackled a sensitive subject in Morocco, which is mainly religion. The Moroccan government is trying to curb the influence of Islamist extremists. By allowing such publications, it will give them an opportunity to win public support as for them the Moroccan government is pro-western.

Even the Islamist newspaper Attajdid was in the middle of media storm when it interpreted last Asia Tsunami as the wrath of God as this region was according to it a bastion for sex tourism. An Egyptian cleric Al Qaradawi was attacked in Moroccan media because of his fatwa (religious edict) allowing Moroccan Muslims to take loans with interests for having a house to live in. This was considered as interference with Morocco’s religious authorities. Moroccan airliner company La RAM (Royal Air Maroc) was open to criticism because it banned its staff from praying during working hours.

So religion remains a hot issue in Morocco mainly because the Moroccan government aspires to make Morocco a free and open society, not under the grip of a particular religious grouping or party. Paradoxically by banning a newspaper claiming to incarnate the era of press freedom, which is rare in the majority of the Arab world, it opens the gate of criticism about its implementation of free speech.

As religion is the affair of the faithful and not the agenda of the government, it’s better for Moroccan press to deal with it cautiously. The Moroccans are generally sensitive about international issues like the situation in Iraq and Palestinian territories. It can be difficult to calm them down when their religion is attacked or talked about jokingly in public press although a category find no embarrassment in telling jokes about their religion. The death threat the two journalists from Nichane received is an example of what “blasphemy” can lead to in Morocco.

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Should Nichane Magazine be banned?
I don't know free polls

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Gadgets, a Luxury or a Necessity?

Gadgets are still available only to a few people around the world. Many don't have access to the new technology because of their low income. Computers are still a luxury. In many schools chalk and blackboard are still used as the principle tools for teaching while other schools have multimedia facilities.

New technology is likely to deepen the divide between the rich and the poor as good quality technology is still the monopoly of rich nations and rich people who can easily afford it.

It will take decades before modern technology gadgets become accessible to everyone. These gadgets are still a luxury in poor countries. These countries don’t have electricity all over to make it possible for everyone to use these gadgets.

Gadgets can be frustrating. The newly acquired gadgets become quickly outdated due to constant innovations. The questions is if these gadgets are intended to make life easier or just urge people to be mere consumers, dissatisfied with what they’ve already got.


Blasphemy is still considered as an offence in many parts of the world, especially in Islamic countries. Selman Rushdie is still under threat because of his book "The Satanic Verses" considered as blasphemous. The cartoons about Prophet Mohammed are still fresh in mind.

The recent example was in Morocco. A newspaper "Nichane" has been banned and its site on the Internet blocked because it published an issue of 10 pages on jokes the Moroccans make about religion, politics and sex. So religion is still a sensitive issue.

Da Vinci Code was a controversial film because it put in question many held ideas about Christ and Christianity. The controversy it raised showed that blasphemy still matters as long as there are believers who don't want to be offended in their faith.

Many things were taboo including sex and blasphemy. But now due to the Internet it has become possible to publish anything including jokes about what used to be too sacred to talk about irreverently.

The danger is when blasphemy becomes so widespread, religion will become outdated forcing a new society whose members will have to find new ways to link for it not to break up totally.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Executing Saddam's Half-Brother

With or without mobile video showing the execution of Saddam, which contradicts the official version that it went according to the law the execution would have been controversial. Saddam supporters within and outside Iraq would have found other reasons to condemn it as they did before the publication on the net of that mobile video. The witnesses and the executioner pleasure wasn't a quiet execution but to express their feelings towards Saddam. When he was in power, it was frightening even to mention his name in public without reverence for fear of being persecuted.

There was the case of an Iraqi citizen who was brutally tortured because he was caught with a banknote. On the face of Saddam, he had written a phone number. The scene in the execution room was a way to show defiance in a vengeful way to Saddam. Now they could insult him in face after being liberated from his forces that were his eyes and ears in every corner of Iraq.

The execution of Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and former chief judge Awad al-Bandar will have little resonance as their arrest, trial and verdict didn’t get the same publicity as that of Saddam. The Iraqi government will be more careful about the scene of their execution as the mobile video about Saddam execution will make it take more precautions.

Cancelling their execution means cancelling that of those who committed lesser crime. But in view of the situation in Iraq and the Iraqi government intent on “opening” a new chapter, any leniency will be as softening on past atrocities that are still fresh in the memory of a large section of the Iraqi society.

Symbolically, any execution of this kind is an execution of a past. But the present has its daily atrocities incarnated in daily violence. Time will tell who are/were the best rulers of Iraq

Gangs , Gangsters and the Law of the Jungle

Many countries around the world have gangs rampaging the streets. One of the most notorious countries are the USA and Brazil .

Gangs are the result of social disintegration at family levels. The members of these gangs find no orientation in their families or schools. They're left to their fate as belonging to a gang fits the principle of the survival of the fittest. Defying law and order is the principle of these gangs as they can't survive in an environment where the law of the state is supreme.

What makes gangs worse is the rivalry that exist between them making each set on the destruction of the other and hence the ongoing violence. Some find belonging to a gang as heroic as it means a stature of a different kind. This brings in mind the sex strike women in Brazil staged to dissuade their husbands and boyfriends from being violent.

West Side Story is a commonplace story repeated over and over with different actions evolving with time. It's up to societies where gangsters roam to find appropriate ways to put an end to their threats. The critical period is childhood and adolescence that need particular attention at least to minimise the number of gangs.

Madrid Parking Bombing

The Madrid bombing must be seen as a blow to peace efforts to end the violent campaigns by separatist ETA for a sovereign Basque state. This will bring past efforts to square one, as a near settlement is unlikely in the light of the recent developments of events. The timing can be significant meaning 2007 will be different from the relatively peaceful and hopeful 2006 in which ETA declared a permanent ceasefire. The recent explosion will serve the sceptics who remain doubtful about ETA’s real intentions about permanent peace without achieving their ultimate goal for a Basque state independent of the Spanish government.

It’s better for both parties to return to negotiations as cutting all links will give ETA justification to escalate its bomb attacks and to the Spanish government an excuse to keep its detained members in its jails while keeping its hunt for the other members who are still free to plan attacks or make political speeches.

It is likely that there are hardliners on both sides, which has made final solutions hard to reach. A return to violence will just isolate ETA as today terrorism is widely condemned and international efforts are intensified to combat it. The Spanish government will have this as a winning card while ETA's arguments will fall on deaf ears as very few are today enthusiastic about this kind of struggle.

ETA should learn from the IRA, which finally put down its arms and has become a political party, whose members like Jerry Adams are showing their faces to the world rather than hooding them or remaining in hiding. The Basque region even after independence will need to unite with the EU through Spain and France. The best solution for the Basque region is having autonomy in the same way as Catalonia for peace to reign all over Spain after years of armed struggle that has led nowhere so far.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Saddam Execution

The execution of Saddam is the first of its kind in the 21stcentury as no other head of state has been executed in this century before him. As the start of 1991 Gulf War was the first war to be transmitted live, his execution, because of its kind, was the first to be televised around the world.

Whether the execution was justified, legally or politically, remains open to debates as each side has opposite views of Saddam. Many were shocked just by seeing Saddam brought to the gallows as for them that was a reminder of the Middle Ages in which people were beheaded or hanged in public.

The execution of Saddam is likely to fuel anti-American feelings among a large section of Muslims around the world. He will be seen as the martyr of the American crusaders who are in Iraq to fight Islamic movements. The sympathy he drew was because, in their views, he was murdered by the American Administration. This eclipses his alleged atrocities for which he was tried.

Saddam in his life succeeded in being dramatic since he came to power. As in a Shakespearean tragedy, his ascent continued until the wheel of fortune brought him from zenith to nadir, from the highest-ranking authority in his country to the fall in the gallows.

From the humiliating exposure of him on his capture in a cave, to his being brought chained to court for trial and then thrown in the gallows, these images remain vivid in the eyes of many as no other head of state misfortunes were so closely followed and transmitted. It may be true that power corrupts but the steep descent from authority to being paraded in public must be very humiliating.

Saddam execution was swift. But it is not the magic stick needed to change the situation in Iraq from bad to good. He will remain a martyr for many who will see him as a true patriot who devoted his rule for the glory of Iraq in face of US threats he defied to the last moment of his rule and then his life.