Inter Press Network

Monday, July 26, 2004

Blond, blue eyed and human Rights

by Murad Hoffman

Why should we accept declarations of human rights drafted by the same
powers that colonized and pillaged our countries? --- Shirin Sinnari

Where there is smoke, there is fire, the saying goes. This folk wisdom
forces Muslims to prove a negative: they have to disprove three major
accusations leveled at them by the West, i.e., that (1) Islam has
prevented them from respecting human rights, (2) especially the basic
rights of women, and that (3) Muslims have yet to show that they, are
capable of democracy. In essence, these are questions of morality, not
theology, but sooner or later they become the focus of every
Islamic?Christian dialogue.

This is quite obvious as far as the West is concerned. However, a
productive discussion of these three topics is a prerequisite ?
conditio sine qua non ? for any normalization of relationship with
Islam. What happens in these three fields is of even greater importance
for the Muslim side since the global future of Islam itself may hinge
on it. On the other hand, as Neil Hicks sees it, it is also quite
evident that certain forces in the West have a vested interest in
perpetuating the myth of Islam's incompatibility with human rights and
democracy.2 It is never easy to prove a negative; however, this chapter
sets out to demonstrate that Muslims are indeed not incapable of
protecting human rights, for human rights are a distinctively an
integral, Islamic issue.

WHEN discussing human rights, Muslims often discover to their surprise
and dismay that their Western interlocutors believe to have both
invented and patented the subject. People in the Occident really expect
that human rights are respected only in the West, as a matter of
principle, and generally disrespected, again as a matter of principle,
all over the Muslim world.

The first conviction is quite understandable, because it was indeed the
Occident ? notably England ? where a specific human rights codex
emerged that was designed to protect the individual citizen from State
abuse, essentially as defensive freedom from something. Back then, in
the 17th and 18th centuries, it had not yet occurred to anybody to
demand from the monarchs the very civic entitlements which have become
so important today, the active freedom of something.

Important landmarks in the Western history of human rights were the
British Magna Charta Libertatum (1215), the Act of Habeas Corpus
(1679), the Bill of Rights (1689), the American Declaration of
Independence of 1776 (making reference to God), and the French
Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789 (less explicit
about God). The famous, but not binding, Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, was exclusively based on
these Western precedents. It was not much different from the two
(binding) International Pacts on Civic, Political, Social, Economic,
and Cultural Rights of December 19, 1966 and also from the human rights
instruments of the European Council.

And yet these developments became possible not due to Christianity, but
in spite of it. Up until Pope John XXIII in the past century, the
concept of human rights was condemned as secularist, laicistic, and
naturalist. Only with his Encyclical Pacem in Terris of April 11, 1963,
were human rights finally admitted into the Vatican.

This history does not imply that Islam did not possess any legal
concepts comparable to human rights, notably based on the Qur'an. The
Western pride of invention and ownership of human rights, is an
assertion which simply ignores the fact that, throughout history, the
states have always and everywhere disregarded the rights of ordinary
people, also in the Christian Occident. Even today, the state of human
rights is deplorable worldwide, also in ? but not limited to ? Muslim
countries; Amnesty International maintains depressing files.

Fairness requires non?Muslims to admit that violations of human rights
in nominally Islamic states, such as torture, police brutality,
election fraud, censorship, and infringements on religious freedom are
neither motivated by Islam nor legitimized by it. The fact that jails
in the Muslim world are primarily populated by Muslim activists of
strong religious convictions proves the contrary. One should accept
once and for all that a country like Turkey, with a Muslim population,
is not necessarily an Islamic state, just as a country like Spain,
populated by Christians, must not necessarily be called a Christian

Western human rights experts cannot be spared answering the following
question repeatedly asked in this book: have there ever been worse
violations of human rights, in quantity as well as quality, than during
the two World Wars, with the use of chemical and nuclear weapons;
during the Stalinist terror regime and the Holocaust; under apartheid
in South Africa and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo? Muslims
committed none of these atrocities. The noted Kenyan social
anthropologist, professor, Ali Mazrui at Binghamton University, in the
State of New York says: "If Islam in the twentieth century has not
always been the most fertile ground for democracy, it has also been
less fertile ground for the greatest evils of this century: Nazism,
fascism, communism, and genocide .... Muslims are often criticized for
not producing the best, but they are not congratulated for having
standards of human behavior that avert the worst. There are no Muslim
equivalents of Nazi concentration camps, American racial lynching,
apartheid under the Dutch Reformed Church, Japanese racism before the
Second World War, or genocide under Stalin and Pol pot. '13

Even so, Western interlocutors still claim the moral high ground,
demanding the worldwide implementation of a Euro?American value system
of individual human rights under penalty of canceling their
developmental aid. Given the two widely differing yardsticks with which
Western people judge themselves and others, they should not be
surprised when young Muslims cynically observe that human rights
probably are "blond and blue?eyed."

Human rights, whether blond and blue?eyed or not, can be wielded like a
club. Therefore, Parvez Manzoor was correct when stating, in 1994, that
"Human Rights talk is power talk. 114 This is the reason why there are
still voices heard ? although they are fading out ? who talk about
Islam or human rights, as if they were opposites. They consider human
rights a "holy cow of modernity ... which should not be blindly
worshipped, but subjected to critical scrutiny ... especially since the
the Shari'ah offers solutions to every issue, independent of time and
place. "5

But no use complaining, Muslims have to take a stand. Most Muslims
states belong to the group of Third World countries euphemistically
called "developing countries", even those basking in a warm petrodollar
rain. These Third World countries, inclusive of Muslim ones,
traditionally defended their human rights record by pointing towards
the interdependence of civil rights on the one hand, and social,
economic and cultural rights on the other hand. They convincingly
argued that elections amount to little more than the confirmation of
tribal chiefs as long as voters remain illiterate. It may not fit into
the political pigeonhole of Third World ideologues but, according to
Panajotis Kondylis, it is self?evident that "human rights, which
promise each individual autonomy and dignity equally, can only thrive
in societies where a highly differentiated division of labor atomizes
the collective, and where mass production and consumption are running
in high gear. "6 It is equally undeniable that democracy needs a civil
society which, in turn, is . only possible when structural poverty is

By using such arguments, Third World countries have managed to slip in
a catalog of their own particular human rights, such as the right to
education, work and livelihood, into some of the more recent human
rights treaties.

The same countries think they can ward off the human rights by
questioning their universal validity. (This is their second line of
defense.) In effect, they characterized the existing human rights
statutes as Euroand ethnocentric, and therefore as alien to other
cultures, such as those of Asia or Sub?Saharan Africa. Behind the
theory of universality they even detected Francis Fukuyama's flawed
assumption that history had come to an end by endorsing the Western
model of civilization, once and for all.7

This view of human rights may be correct as far as inflamatory and
stylish legal innovations are concerned, such as the "right to be
afraid" (of all things nuclear), the "right to intoxication" (by means
of legalized drugs), or the "right to homosexual marriage." The
assumption of a cultural limitation of human rights is, however, not
correct in respect to the classical core rights, such the right to
life, and freedom from torture, freedom of opinion, conscience,
_expression and religion, and the personal liberties (freedom of
movement, assembly, association, etc.).

Muslims damage their own cause whenever they get carried away towards
questioning any of these core human rights. In particular, they should
not exploit for their own purposes Samuel Huntington's pessimistic
assessment that worldwide unanimity on human rights exists in but one
point: the total reprehensibility of torture.'

A far better strategy would be to deal with the human rights phenomenon
in the framework of Islamic jurisprudence, i.e., on the basis of the
Qur'an and the sunnah. Of course, the term "human rights" was not
developed by Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Indeed, if this modern
term were found in any holy scripture, it would be a glaring
anachronism betraying forgery. The absence of the term "human rights"
in religious discourse is due as well to the following: the very idea
that a created being could be possessor of rights evidently goes
against the grain of people ? Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike ? for
whom God, the Creator, is the sole source of rights. Divine rights for
individuals: yes. Rights of the individual: no. It was, after all, only
logical that the formulation of the concept of "human rights" had to
await a historical period, i.e., the 18th century Enlightenment, during
which man was proclaimed to be the autonomous measure of all things.
For people with transcendental links this was, and continues to be, a
downright blasphemous piece of irreligious fiction.

Muslim jurists have been particularly handicapped: given that the
entire Shari'ah is divine law, attempts to give particular norms, such
as human rights, higher rank or greater importance cannot be justified.
Muslim jurisprudence, to this day, has therefore resisted a
prioritization of norms. Muslims consistently refuse to establish a
normative hierarchy by distinguishing, according to human fancy,
between divine rights of a higher and lower order. Non?religious legal
systems like Roman Law, Civil and Common Law, French and German law,
deal with such a normative hierarchy, starting at the top with (a)
international law, and cascading down via (b) constitutional law, (c)
statutory law, to (d) decrees (d) government regulations, and (e)
administrative directives. Muslim jurists cannot, and do not, follow
suit. They continue to accord equal rank to all the norms set by the
Shari'ah, from the rules for ritual ablution to the prohibition of
earning interest. Thus there is no conceptual room for a particular set
of superior "human rights".

Although the term "human rights" is thus both absent and theologically
flawed, a positive Islamic approach to the human rights phenomenon
would yet have been possible. The fact that this opportunity was missed
opened Islam up to the nasty suspicion that it was hostile to human
rights and failing to take the protection of individuals from despotism
seriously enough. In fact, just a little ingenuity would have gone a
long way towards showing that Islam, from the very beginning 1400 years
ago, has not only known but substantially protected the core human
rights, and that Islam has anchored these rights more solidly in its
divine prime sources, the Qur'an and the sunnah, than the Occident
could with any number of man?made treaties.

The evidence is right there: take the statutory prohibition of murder
in Surah an?Nisa (4: 92) and Allah's equating the murderer of a single
person with someone killing the entire human race in Surah al?Ma'ida
(5: 32). While not specifically spelling it out, both passages
indirectly ?as a legal reflex ? permit one to discover in the Qur' an a
God?given right to life, enjoyed by all human beings. Take Surah
ash?Shura (42: 38) with Allah's commands the Muslims to settle their
affairs through mutual consultation. This obligation, phrased as a
duty, can be taken indirectly as implying the right to political
participation. The fact that the first three caliphs were elected into
office without being blood?relatives of Muhammad is sufficient evidence
to prove that an Islamic state could be a republic and need not be a
monarchy. Along these lines it can be shown that the protection of
individuals against abuse is an original Islamic concern. Should it not
then, also be possible to reinterpret the offensive terminology of
human rights as being consistent with the Qur'anic rights of man?

It should be evident that rights laid down by God are more securely
rooted than rights merely granted by treaties and hence subject to
negotiations and social change. In the West ? whether in the former
Soviet Union or in the United States ? the beautiful catalogues and
bills of human rights oftentimes were hardly worth their paper in
actual practice. Do not ask the Klu?Klux?Klan, ask African?Americans
and North American Indians.

It cannot be denied that mankind never succeeded in finding a
universally acceptable system of "natural rights", either from
observing nature or by sheer force of reasoning.9 This may be one of
the reasons why former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt (Hamburg) and
former professor of Catholic theology Hans Kung (Tiibingen) are working
towards a United Nations declaration on human obligations. Obviously,
human rights are insufficiently secured without correspondding duties
and need further buttressing by more and more paper! When will people
realize that human rights cannot stand the test of time unless solidly
founded on divine revelation?

In the wake of the above mentioned, somewhat self?righteous Occidental
human rights offensive, the Organization of the Islamic Conference
(OIC), the most important Muslim intergovernmental organization,
finally got its act together. On August 5, 1990, as regional
sub?organization of the United Nations, it issued the "Cairo
Declaration of Human Rights in Islam", a document not legally binding,
but of political significance only." Of even lesser legal weight had
been the proceeding "Declaration of Human Rights" issued on September
19, 1981, by an "Islamic Council of Europe", a rather obscure outfit of
dubious legitimacy.

Important Islamic personalities and scholars have also entered the
human rights debate, among them individuals as influential as Muhammad
Hamidullah, Abul 'Ala Mawdudi and Prince Hassan of Jordan. During a
round table conference for the purpose of "Promoting the Universality
of Human Rights", which he had convened in `Amman from December 10 ?
13, 1994, Prince Hassan said, "Regarding human rights, we absolutely
need a global consensus ( . . . . ). The Universal Declaration on Human
Rights circumscribes the minimum standards of human life. I believe
that my faith, Islam, pursues the same goal. Each of the 30 articles of
the Declaration corresponds to a passage in Qur'an, Hadith, and sunnah
of the Prophet." The first conclusion drawn at the conference was:
"Human rights dwell in all human beings.""

THE foregoing observations will make it easier to delineate those few
differences which appear to distinguish the catalog of Islamic human
rights from the Western ones. At issue are (a) apostasy, (b) slavery,
(c) law of asylum, (d) the status of women, and (e) corporal
punishment. If current efforts (ijtihad) towards a better understanding
of the relevant Islamic sources, wholeheartedly supported by me, are
successful, the positions of both sides will become far closer than
they now appear to be. Required was, and is, a contemporary exegesis of
Islamic sources by major scholars like Muhammad Asad (1900?1992),
Rashid alGhannoushi, Hassan and Mather Hathout, Alija Izetbegovich,
Jeffrey Lang, Fathi Osman, Yusuf al?Qaradawi, Fazlur Rahman
(1919?1988), Mohamed Talbi and Hassan al?Turabi.

Concerning apostasy, any conflict with international law disappears
once the Muslim side recognizes that neither the Qur'an nor the sunnah
specify any punishment in this world (fl?d?dunya) for merely breaking
with Islam.12 The Qur'an describes no less than 13 cases of apostasy;
invariably severe consequences are announced, but only for the
afterlife. Earlier, the universally valid maxim "no compulsion in
matters of religion!" (la ikraha fi?d?din; 2:256) had been interpreted
as applying only to the relationship between Muslims and non?Muslims.
In this day and age, however, all Muslims should admit that this
fundamental rule of religious tolerance must form the relationship
among Muslims as well. Should they not be at least as tolerant among
each other as they are bound to be toward outsiders? Those who deny the
universal application of the Qur'an verse 2: 256, among them many an
overzealous Muslim, forget that "no compulsion in matters of religion!"
also restates that, given the crucial importance of intention (niya),
coercion in matters of personal conviction means attempting the
impossible. Muslim states can enforce proper behavior except when its
validity requires personal assent. Pummeling the faithful into praying
and fasting should become a thing of the past.

Originally, apostate ex?Muslims were only prosecuted, and rightly so,
if in addition they also committed high treason (ar?ridda), i.e., if
they actively fought against the Muslim community in the sense of Surah
alMa'ida (5): 33. High treason includes hurting the cause of Islam by
withholding legitimate taxes, espionage, sabotage, counter?propaganda,
and any other way of "causing mischief on earth".

It remains true, however, that apostates under an Islamic community are
discriminated against in matters of inheritance, because according to
the sunnah, Muslims and non?Muslims cannot inherit from each other.l3
Here, being a member of the Islamic community is equated to modern
citizenship, and international civil law, as a matter of principle,
sees nothing wrong in tying inheritance to citizenship.

The problem of slavery can be defused in' similar fashion. The Qur'anic
provisions in that regard (which only served to humanize the existing
practice of slavery) can, of course, not be deleted. In fact, they
still help to protect people who, if not de jure, are de facto enslaved
and disenfranchised. Slavery is, after all, still suspected to be a
fact of life in remote areas of Mauritania. On the whole, the Qur'anic
provisions for slavery suggest, however, that Allah intended the
(gradual) abolition of slavery as a legal institution. Thus slaves had
to be given the opportunity to buy their freedom; releasing a slave was
declared a good deed, and frequently prescribed as an act of
penitence." It follows that a Muslim state without any reservation can
endorse international prohibitions of slavery.

Islam's pronounced protection of ethnic groups, religious minorities
and the status of women will be discussed in more detail in the
chapters "Similar or Identical?", "Colorblind", and "What are they here
for?". Relevant for the present discussion is the fact that religious
minorities in the Muslim world would feel today like second?class
citizens if they did not enjoy full citizenship but simply remained, as
in the past, "under protection" (dhimmi).

According to Fathi Osman and others, there is no legal obstacle to
granting non?Muslims full citizenship, if they so wish, as long as
Muslim countries organize themselves as nation?states, and not as
religious One innovation follows from the other. An
important aspect of the Shari'ah's minority statute is that it assures
a specific standard of protection without capping allowable rights. The
dhimmi status is the minimum, not the maximum, to be granted to
non?Muslim subjects.

The Muslim Brothers in Egypt, too, no longer dispute full civil rights
for the large Coptic minority. 16 As full citizens, as a matter of
course, nonMuslims lose their special privileges and are thus subject
to both general taxation and the military draft.

The next logical step is to question whether or not it is compatible
with international law if a Muslim state excludes a non?Muslim from
becoming head of state. Although logically compelling, this question is
without practical relevance. It is, after all, unlikely that a
non?Muslim could get elected state president in a truly Muslim country.
But if this were to happen, the country in question could no longer be
considered `Muslim' anyway, so that the election would have to be
honored on that ground.

The corporal punishments foreseen by the Shari'ah's penal provisions
(hudud) are deemed cruel and demeaning by Western human rights
standards, hence a violation of international law. On trial here, in
particular, are the stoning or flogging of adulterersl7 and amputations
for theft. 18

Westernized Muslims panic easily apologetically whenever this subject
comes up. Rather they should call attention to the fact that even the
self?appointed paragon of Western morality, the United States of
America, clings to the death penalty, executing hundreds of people
(mainly black) year after year, by hanging, lethal injection or the
electric chair. Execution is arguably the most gruesome of all corporal
punishments ? and demeaning to boot. As long as this is so, it appears
hypocritical to complain about Islam, especially since the Muslim
judicial practice differs widely from what is theoretically permitted
under Islamic law. This also pertains to capital punishment, which
Qur'anic law permits, but does not necessarily demand, as the most
severe punishment for murder, robbery, and high treason. 19

It should also be pointed out that the deterrent effect of penal law is
recognized in the West, as well, even though the prospect of punishment
seems not to make an impression on every single type of criminal.
Nowadays however, in the West, particularly in Europe, penal codes are
no longer implemented in such a way that they would deter. Even
convicted murderers are hardly doing more than a handful of years,
"languishing" in prisons of bed?and?breakfast quality. Even a major spy
can expect weekend passes for good behavior. Early release has gone
from being an act of mercy to being an entitlement. "Violence against
property", graciously sparing people, is being trivialized.

In contrast to all that, the deterrent effect of the Islamic penal code
definitely provides higher public safety, mainly for women, and also
reflects a higher regard for personal property. These positive effects
endure for a while. even in places where Qur'anic law is no longer
applied. Thus in Istanbul, a city of 15 million people, the streets are
still largely safe, even at night.

I am not alone in holding that there is no Islamic justification for
stoning. In fact, a provision for stoning married adulterers cannot be
found in the Qur'an, but only in the Bible, in the Fifth Book of Moses
(Deuteronomy 22: 20?22). This Biblical norm is not binding for Muslims
any more, since it is superseded by Surah an?Nur (24: 2) ? a typical
lex posterior generalis.

It was always questionable in terms of Hadith scholarship whether such
a far?reaching penalty stoning could be admissible in contradiction to
Surah an?Nur (24: 2), since the sunnah, according to Taha Jabir
al'Alwani's convincing arguments, cannot alter the Qur'an. The purpose
of the sunnah ? as legitimized by the Qur' an ? is to explain and
supplement the teachings of the Qur'an, not to supersede or cancel
them. The sunnah cannot derogate the Qur'an,20

In case of adultery, this conclusion is even more valid, because the
stoning of the guilty party had been justified in the past by what
amounts to weak traditional records. 21 It is not even clear whether
the stoning incident mentioned in Hadith literature and the Prophet's
reported acquiescence took place before or after the revelation of the
Qur'anic verse dealing with adultery.22 If the incident had taken place
before the respective revelation, the sunnah in question would have
been overruled by the Qur' an as a procedural matter.

In view of the fact that the Qur'an does not prescribe stoning for any
crime whatsoever, it is curious but legally irrelevant that the Second
Caliph `Umar spoke of a "verse of stoning". That stoning for adultery
is not envisaged by the Qur'an should at least be accepted on the basis
of Verse (4: 25). This verse reduces the penalty for adultery by "one
half' whenever slaves are the culprits."

At any rate, the standards of evidence in the Islamic law of criminal
procedure are so exacting that hardly anybody can be convicted of
adultery who is not out to provoke his or her conviction. Normally,
except in cases of pregnancy, adultery can only be proven through
voluntary confession. (ex?President Clinton would have fared far better
under the Islamic rules of evidence for adultery 21 than under the
American system.)

In order to understand the Qur' anic punishment for theft and its
deterrent effect in Surah al?Ma'ida (5: 38), one first has to grasp its
socio?economic function. It is important to know how much the social
security of women, especially their old?age insurance, in regions under
Islamic law depends on their ability to safeguard their life?time
savings of cash and bridal gifts of gold, silver and diamonds, they had
received and not having any of that stolen. Except for modern credit
card societies functioning with little cash on hand, theft has to be
considered as a severe attack against the social foundations of the
entire community.

In a humanitarian spirit, Islamic jurisprudence has, nevertheless, bent
over backwards in order to limit the prosecution of this criminal
offense to exceptional cases. In this endeavor it has succeeded so well
that presently, one can spend years in the Muslim world without ever
encountering someone who has lost a hand for theft. This has less to do
with a shortage of thieves, than with the liberal legal definition of
what constitutes the type of theft mentioned in the Qur'an.
Accordingly, theft presupposes the stealing of well?guarded assets of
more than petty value that are not public property. In times of
economic crisis the prosecution of thieves had already been suspended
under the Second Caliph `Umar. A society cannot punish thieves produced
by its own neglect! In addition, the Islamic statute of limitations for
theft is extremely short, running out within a few weeks. Consequently,
conviction for theft is rare in the Muslim world, and execution of the
harsh Qur'anic punishments for theft is even rarer.

Whenever critics of Islam find attractive regulations in the Qur'an
?such as the command of tolerance in Surah al?Baqara (2: 256) and Surah
al?Ma'ida (5: 48) ? they tend to dismiss these and other impressive
norms by arguing that they do not square with Muslim reality. However,
wherever they find a Qur'anic provision distasteful to them ? like the
punishment for theft ? they exclusively focus on these norms without
regard to everyday practice. Holding the normative treatment of theft
against Islam without simultaneously considering its humane
implementation in real life is a stark case of double standards.

This overview (and the discussion of the status of women in the
subsequent chapter "Similar or Identical?") leads to the conclusion
that Islamic law does not fully accord with the 1966 Human Rights Pacts
of the United Nations. In view of that, some Muslim countries ratified
them with the proviso that the Shari'ah remains unaffected. But surely,
as we have seen, the areas of conflict are so limited in scope that
people of good will can acknowledge Islamic law as a complementary
system of human rights.

As far as the areas of conflict are concerned, I have tried to
demonstrate that while all differences cannot be resolved, at least
they can be narrowed down thanks (i) to a reinterpretation (ijtihad) of
some source materials, fully in conformity with the principles
(maqasid) of the Qur'an and the sunnah, and thanks (ii) to strict
adherence to Islamic criminal procedure. But this approach has its
limits because ultimately, as divine law, the Shari'ah is not subject
to human yardsticks. That is how it is, regardless of whether
manipulation of that law would appear to serve public interest
(maslaha) or improve the image of Islam in the West.

What good would Islam do the West (and Muslims, too) if it were no
longer different?


1. Sinnar, "Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights", in: Commentary, no. 19, Petaling Jaya,
Selangor, Malaysia, December 1998, p. 1?5.
2. Hicks, p. 1
3. Mazrui, "Islam and the End of History", in The American Journal of
Islamic and Social Sciences, vol. 10, no. 4, Hemdon, VA, 1993, p. 534;
Mazrui, "Islamic and Western Values", in: Iqra, San Jose, CA, January
1998, p. 13?18.
4. Manzoor, The Muslim World Book Review, vol 15, no. 1, Markfield,
LE (UK), 1994, p. 9.
5. "Islam oder Menschenrechte", in Explizit, Vienna, December 1998,
p. 12?15.
6. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 28, 1995.
7. Manzoor, p. 8.
8. Berliner Zeitung, Magazin, June 28/29, 1997.
9. With the possible exception of the principle that contracts are
binding, pacta sunt servanda, cf. Friedrich Berber, Lehrbuch des
Vdlkerrechts, vol. 1, (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1960), p. 165.
10. Printed in "Zeitschrift der WeiBen Vater" Gazette of the White
Fathers, CIBEDO, Frankfurt 1991, pp. 178.
11. See periodical Ma'ab, vol. 6, no. 18, `Amman 1995, p. 6.
12. Osman (The Children, 1996), p. 30; Lang (1995), p. 195?199;
al?Turabi (1992), p. 41.
13. al?Bukhari, no. 6764.
14. Cf. 2:177; 4: 36; 5: 89; 9: 60; 58: 3.
15. Supported by Osman (The Children, 1996 ), p. 20, 43; and (Human
Rights, 1996), p. 19.
16. Cf. "Biirgerrechte auch fur Kopten" [Civil Rights also for Copts],
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 19, 1997.
17. 24:2 prescribes 100 lashes.
18. Verse 5: 38.
19. Sahrour, p. 7.
20. al-'Alwani, Preface to Ahmad 'Ali al?Imam, Variant Readings of the
Qur'an, p. XIV
21. Abu Dawud, Sunan, Hadith No. 4405; al?Bukhari, no. 8805 and 8810;
Muslim no. 4191?4225; al?Nawawi, no. 220.
22. al?Bukhari, vol. 8, no. 804 and 830, and vol. 9, no. 281.
23. 4:25; Osman (1997), p. 914, rejects the stoning for adultery for
this and other reasons.
24. Verse 24:61.
------------ ------------------------ --------------------
Published in:
Religion on the Rise,
Islam in the Third Millenium

By Murad Hoffman
Amana Publications, USA

Abducted, beaten and sold into prostitution: two women's story from an Iraq in turmoil

By Victoria Firmo-Fontan in Mahmoudiya,Iraq

When the gunmen came to the gate of their Baghdad home, the lives of the sisters-in-law Huda, 16, and Sajeeda, 24 - the names they wish to be known by - were about to change for ever. It was 17 September 2003. "We were cleaning the front porch when five armed men came in, seized us and put a cloth over our mouths," recalls Huda.

After losing consciousness, she remembers waking up in the house of Um Ahmed, a female pimp, in the Saidiye district of Baghdad. "At first, I thought it was a nightmare, then I realised I was on a bed that was not mine, my sister-in-law Sajeeda was with me, and we were alone."

Sajeeda had been married only five weeks earlier.

Then came the beatings and the journeys between different houses and apartments in the city, orchestrated by Um Ahmed and her husband. Huda and Sajeeda were hidden in different locations across Baghdad, without food or water. "We tried to escape many times," Sajeeda says. "But they hit us and threatened to kill us. There was nothing we could do."

Meanwhile Huda's mother, Aisha, was searching for them. She went to her local police station, to the Baghdad police anti-kidnapping unit, all to no avail.

Ten days later, Um Ahmed sold the girls to an Egyptian man called Mohammed Hassan Khalil. "Because I was not married, I was sold for $6,000, and Sajeeda for $3,000," says Huda. "My hymen had a price - this is when we realised that we were going to have to do bad things with men. We were terrified."

The women's new "owner" drove them, with another Iraqi woman, to Syria. All were given new names and passports to cross the border. With no American soldier in sight, Huda and Sajeeda - renamed Haura abdel-Hamid and Rent Laith for the occasion - left Iraq. They arrived at Damascus airport to fly to Yemen.

"When we passed through customs to take a flight to Yemen, we told a Syrian official that we did not want to fly, that we had been abducted," says Huda. Khalil was beaten and taken for questioning, to the relief of the three women. "We thought we were going to go home, but then he was released. He beat Sajeeda so much that evening that she could not walk any more, she was in so much pain," recalls Huda. "He left us in a flat in the city centre, and went to see a Syrian customs official that he knew he could bribe. We had to wait a week for Sajeeda to get better, then we flew to Yemen."

When the women arrived at Damascus airport, the corrupt official was present, and accepted Khalil's claim that the three were willingly travelling with him.

Khalil's version of events has been accepted by Colonel Faisal, head of the Baghdad anti-kidnapping unit. In an interview given in March, Col Faisal dismissed the girls' ordeal by saying that "those girls eloped with two young men who offered to marry them". He added that "there is no widespread abduction wave in Baghdad".

Khalil's wife, Um Issam, an Iraqi, met the women at the airport in Sana'a. She took them to the el-Diafe Hotel in Aden. There, Huda looked after her sister-in-law's beating injuries and both were assigned cleaning tasks in the hotel until Sajeeda was able to do other work. "One day, Um Issam came to my room. She said that she had paid a good price for us, and that is was time to do real work," Sajeeda says. It meant what the other 180 Iraqi women and girls were doing in the hotel, selling sex. Huda says: "All those Iraqi women and girls, the youngest of whom was only 11 years old, were forced to have sex with men from Yemen, America, and the Gulf states. They worked day and night, for no payment, and when they refused, they were locked up in a toilet for 10 days, forced to drink water from the toilet bowl to survive."

The women challenged Um Issam's orders. They were beaten so badly that Sajeeda had to have hospital treatment. After this episode, unable to do "other" work, both girls were permanently assigned cleaning duties in the hotel.

Tips from customers allowed the women to save up money to call their mother, Aisha, in Iraq on a neighbour's satellite phone. "They were begging for me to save their lives," Aisha says. "I told her that I would save them, no matter what."

After receiving no assistance from the Baghdad anti-kidnapping unit, Aisha turned to the Americans for help. She found a sympathetic ear in the person of Sergeant First Class Troy EStewart at the headquarters of the 1st Armoured Division Artillery in Baghdad. He could not do much, but wrote to the Yemeni embassy urging it to facilitate Aisha's travel to Yemen. She recalls that Sgt Stewart was so moved by her story that he took her picture to show his wife and daughters in the US.

"When I collapsed in despair one day, he dispatched a car to drive me home, he was always so kind to me," she says.

Week after week, Aisha went to the Yemeni embassy and to members of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council until a deal was finally negotiated with the Yemeni government for the release of all the women detained in the el-Diafe Hotel. The scandal was embarrassing the Yemeni government.

"One day in early April, they raided the hotel and put us all in a bus to Sana'a," Huda says. "When we arrived at the airport, the police said that the women who could afford a plane ticket could go back to Iraq, and that the others would have to marry and stay in Yemen." These 180 women had never been paid, had been abducted from their homes and trafficked out of Iraq with fake passports. None had the money or any identification to fly out of Sana'a that day, nor any other day.

Huda and Sajeeda rang the Iraqi "madame" in Yemen, Um Issam, and begged for help. "Some women were married off by Um Issam, for a large sum of money, under the promise that they would get back to Iraq at a later date, but we decided to get back to Iraq, and promised to work for Um Issam there," says Huda. "Mohammed sent us passports, and two days later we came back to Baghdad through Amman." When they arrived in Baghdad, the girls were scared to go home. "Um Issam told us that we had tarnished our family honour, that our families would kill us," Sajeeda says. "We then realised that we would have to work as prostitutes, and we would have rather died. So we escaped and came back home."

The two young women talked to The Independent at Huda's home in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. Huda was welcomed with open arms by her parents. Sajeeda, however, was in hiding from her family after her own brother vowed to kill her if she refused to divorce her husband. In her brother's mind, she had cast shame on to her family, and had to be kept under lock and key for the rest of her life. When asked if the US-led occupation was to blame for their ordeal, Huda, Sajeeda and Aisha all answer that organised crime existed long before the arrival of the US in their country. Aisha explains: "I wanted to meet US soldiers again to ask for help but the Iraqis refused that; no one but the Americans had helped me."

Mohammed Hassan Khalil, who took the girls to Yemen, was arrested in Baghdad in April but released without charges. Um Ahmed and her husband fled to Jordan, and Um Issam is still in Yemen, her business flourishing. As Aisha puts it: "The criminals who took my daughters are Saddam's heritage." So is the New Iraq legal system, it seems.
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First published in the Independent,UK on 24 July 2004

No Shortage of Fighters in Iraq's Wild West

RAID: An Iraqi teenager is held after U.S. Marines entered his Ramadi home looking for evidence of insurgent activity.
Marines in the key city of Ramadi dig in and wait anxiously for the battle to come to them. The goal isn't victory; it's to stave off chaos

By Patrick J. McDonnell

RAMADI, Iraq — Hunkered down in the turquoise-domed Islamic Law Center, a dozen Marines wait for the enemy to make its inevitable move. Insurgents equipped with Soviet-made sniper rifles keep the building in their cross hairs. Assailants with AK-47s and grenade launchers regularly peer from nearby alleys and roofs. Attacks can come from any direction.

The wait is unnerving, but it's better than being in the streets of this turbulent western city. A Marine convoy was attacked here Wednesday with a roadside bomb and as many as 100 insurgents unleashed a barrage of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in rolling firefights that lasted for much of the day. Thirteen Marines and one soldier were injured, and the U.S. military reported killing 25 fighters.

"When you walk on the streets, they can hide in every nook and cranny and you can never find them until they start shooting," said Marine Cpl. Glenn Hamby, 26, who heads Squad 3 of Golf Company. "Here, they have to come right to us."

This is what the war has come down to in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, where providing tenuous security harks back to America's 19th century Indian Wars — a time when the cavalry set up outposts and forts in decidedly hostile territory. Ramadi is Indian Country — "the wild, wild West," as the region is called.

Half a dozen or so Marine observation posts dot Ramadi's main drag, linking heavily fortified bases and helping to keep the inhospitable city from turning into a Fallouja-like sanctuary for insurgents.

U.S. troops have walked away from Fallouja, 30 miles to the east. But here in the capital of strategic Al Anbar province, the fight goes on day after day.

The aggressive patrols that marked the Marines' arrival this spring were met with frenzied and bloody insurgent attacks, leading to some of the heaviest U.S. losses of the Iraq conflict. Since the patrols gave way to the more modulated "outposting" strategy, however, American deaths have declined dramatically.

Marines say the scaled-back blueprint has worked in other ways: Unlike Fallouja, Ramadi still has a U.S. military presence designed to keep open the city's main artery, back up Iraqi police who protect the heavily fortified Iraqi government center and prevent the city from falling into complete chaos or insurgent control.

The reduced U.S. visibility here also coincides with the return of sovereignty to Iraq and a nationwide push to keep American troops in the background as much as possible. Still, no one doubts that Iraqi security forces would be outmatched here if not for the U.S. military presence.

"We've had some success — Highway 10 is open, and we're seeing the Iraqis take more and more charge of their own security," said Capt. Christopher Bronzi, who heads Golf Company from the frequently attacked Marine base known as the Combat Outpost, a former Iraqi army facility along Highway 10, the city's main drag. "People in Ramadi are ready for us to be less a part of their country."

Even beyond the evolving strategy, the story of Ramadi is in sharp contrast to that of Fallouja.

Although it has acquired great symbolic potency as a symbol of armed resistance, Fallouja is basically a backwater with no strategic significance. Ramadi, on the other hand, with 450,000 residents, is the economic and political hub of the Sunni Muslim heartland.

Ramadi also is the gateway to Syria and Jordan, brimming with potential recruits for the jihad against "infidel" invaders. Marines in Ramadi did not have the luxury of walking away.

Since arriving in March, the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment based in Ramadi has lost 31 troops and suffered almost 200 injuries, most during a series of fierce but largely unheralded urban fights in early April.

Before the Marines' arrival, the commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., declared that Al Anbar was "on a glide path toward success" and pronounced the insurgency here in "disarray" — far from the situation faced here today by the Marines who took over from Swannack's soldiers.

The Marines' initial strategy of high-profile patrols was far more aggressive than the Army's limited-engagement efforts. The violent backlash demonstrated that the insurgents in Ramadi had never been vanquished, Marines say, and probably had been consolidating forces during the Army occupation.

The fierce house-to-house combat of April taught the Marines a hard lesson: The kind of "hearts and minds" campaign that many had envisioned while preparing at Camp Pendleton was not going to fly in the core of the Sunni Triangle, where resentment against the U.S. presence is pervasive and unlikely to diminish, many Marines acknowledge.

The thin-skinned Humvees that made up much of the Marine fleet this spring have been largely replaced by the tank-like "up-armored" version — but only after many casualties resulted from the lack of armor, Marines say. "We ask ourselves all the time why they didn't come earlier," one officer said.

Still, little here is completely safe, no matter how much armor is used. Venturing outside a base in Ramadi is a gut-clenching experience, even though the fortified outposts have helped reduce the prevalence of roadside bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices.

"We heard about IEDs before we got here, but nobody realized that Ramadi was just saturated with IEDs," said Capt. Rob Weiler, who heads the battalion mobile assault company.

One of the main tasks of the observation posts is to spot and kill bomb-emplacement teams, while also being alert to mortar men, car bombers, ambush squads and other attackers.

The insurgents know exactly where the Marines are and regard the posts as prime targets: Four Marines were killed last month in Ramadi when their post was overrun in the early morning darkness; stunning images of the sniper team's dead and bloodied bodies sprawled on a rooftop were captured on videotape and broadcast worldwide. Marine commanders decline to provide details on how the post could have been taken — apparently by surprise, with no time for backup to arrive.

The ferocity of the fighting in Ramadi and the tenacity of the mujahedin — as the insurgents are widely known, though one commander favors the snappier "Johnny Jihad" — have produced a very specific view of who the enemy is here: A mostly home-grown mix of anti-U.S. nationalists, loyalists of Saddam Hussein's former regime and a seemingly endless supply of part-time fighters — many former members of the Iraqi army — willing to pick up a rifle or grenade launcher to fire at U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies.

Most insurgents here, the Marines say, are natives of the Ramadi area, where the insular tribal culture and tradition of cross-border smuggling have fostered an undercurrent of violence and suspicion of outsiders. Even Hussein's regime had difficulty exerting full control.

Neither foreign fighters nor religious militants drive the insurgency here, commanders say, though both strains are present. "It's one big overlapping mishmash," said Maj. Michael P. Wylie, battalion executive officer.

The cell networks can be virtually impenetrable, and seem to regenerate quickly after leaders are arrested during Marine raids.

"It's not as if we have foolproof intel — we're dealing with a different language, a different culture," said Capt. Kelly Royer of Echo Company, which has lost 18 Marines — by far the most of any company.

Marines speak of a classic urban guerrilla force — a transient, elusive enemy that quickly melts into the population, spiriting away all evidence of its presence.

"It's like ghost fighters," Cpl. Hamby said. "You can get into a firefight, and afterward when you go to the exact spot you were firing at, you won't find any shell cases, bodies, nothing. They grab everything and they're gone."

The insurgents are believed to have used captured U.S. materiel against the Marines, including a lone Humvee seen wandering about like a phantom ship — though the latter accounts have acquired the feel of an urban legend.

There are few illusions among U.S. troops here about being liked in a city where ubiquitous graffiti extol the exploits of the "brave" mujahedin and declares, "Down With the U.S.A."

"They pretty much hate us here," said one Marine commander as his Humvee maneuvered through the dangerous side streets of Ramadi's explosive south side, where fighting was intense in April. Slim youths approached with smiles on a recent morning — and then let loose with a barrage of stones.

Arriving at the Islamic Law Center, where the Marines of Squad 3 were pulling a 12-hour shift the other day, is an unequivocal war zone exercise: Several Humvees block all traffic along Highway 10 and form a safety cordon with machine guns at the ready, while other Marines dismount and train their weapons on buildings, passersby and vehicles. Relieving troops sprint the final 10 yards or so to the metal front door, which is quickly opened and shut.

The four-story brick and concrete structure offers a strategic perch near downtown. Claymore mines are laid within the walls of the now heavily damaged center, where junked computers still sit in a classroom and bookshelves brim with law books in Arabic, English and French.

Marines say their task here is mostly about waiting, watching for insurgents planting bombs or laying ambushes, and then repelling the assault.

That morning, men with AK-47s were seen mingling among civilians at a taxi stand across the street to the north. A pickup truck disgorged more fighters from the east. At least three attackers were killed in the ensuing, adrenaline-charged 10-minute fight, the Marines say; no Marines were hurt. Marines fired half a dozen rockets, destroying the taxi kiosk, which lay in a ruin of bricks and mortar.

The months of fighting have made it clear to these Marines that they are in an inhospitable place where much of the population would like to see them gone — and many want them dead. A decisive military victory here is widely viewed as unlikely, Marines say.

The recent hand-over of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government was generally welcomed as the first step in an exit strategy that eventually will remove the incendiary presence of U.S. troops — and put Iraqis in the front lines of their own fight.

"Personally, I see this as a stalemate: We could keep fighting in this same manner forever," said Lance Cpl. David Goward, 26, who had a copy of "The Great Gatsby" to read in his spare moments. "They have no shortage of weapons. And neither do we. As long as Americans are here, they're going to keep on fighting."
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Eros Hoagland is the Staff Writer of The Times

Iran's Next

by Gordon Prather

For at least two years the Bush-Cheney administration has been demanding that the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors judge Iran to be in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Should the IAEA Board make such a judgment, it would then be obliged to report that to the UN Security Council. It would then be up to the Security Council to decide what action – if any – was appropriate.

If the Council concluded that Iran's nuclear program constituted a danger to peace in the region, it could pass a resolution that Bush-Cheney could use – once reelected – as an excuse to do unto Iran in 2005 what they did to Iraq in 2003.

But, first, Bush-Cheney has to get IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to report that Iran is not fulfilling its NPT obligations.

The IAEA was made the international "Safeguards" inspectorate under Article III of the NPT:

Each non-nuclear-weapon state party to the treaty undertakes to accept Safeguards [as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency's Safeguards system] for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under the treaty, with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

As it became obvious to Iran and to North Korea that Bush-Cheney intended to invade Iraq – purportedly to eradicate Saddam's illicit nuke program – they reacted very differently.

The state-run Korean News Service of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea issued this statement on April 6, 2003, just days after Bush-Cheney invaded Iraq:

The United States is gravely encroaching upon the sovereignty of Iraq for the purpose of removing the present leadership of Iraq – in defiance of even the elementary international code of conduct – and, furthermore, putting the Mideast region under its control.

The present Iraqi crisis teaches a serious lesson: that the imperialists' inspection of weapons in sovereign states leads to disarming, it spills into a war and any concession and compromise with the imperialists allow the sovereignty and interests of countries and nations to be encroached upon and, in the long run, they will fall victim to imperialism.

The U.S. intends to force the DPRK to disarm itself.

The Iraqi war shows that to allow disarming through [UN] inspection does not help avert a war but rather sparks it. Neither international public opinion nor the UN Charter could prevent the U.S. from mounting an attack on Iraq.

Only the physical deterrent force – tremendous military deterrent force powerful enough to decisively beat back an attack supported by any ultra-modern weapons – can avert a war and protect the security of the country and the nation. This is a lesson drawn from the Iraqi war.

However, by the time Bush-Cheney invaded Iraq, Iran was already committed to the UN inspection route so disdained by the DPRK.

As ElBaradei reported to the Board last November, "Iran has committed itself to a policy of full disclosure and has decided, as a confidence-building measure, not only to sign the Additional Protocol – making way for more robust and comprehensive inspections – but also to take the important step of suspending all enrichment related and reprocessing activities and to accept IAEA verification of this suspension."

Furthermore, Iran thought it had an agreement with UK-Germany-France that by committing itself to that policy and pursuing it, UK-Germany-France would ensure that the IAEA would never make a report of NPT non-compliance to the Security Council.

So last month Bush-Cheney attempted to take things directly to the Security Council. They got the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries – which includes UK-Germany-France – to demand that Iran comply with the NPT.

How did Iran react to this Bush-Cheney attempt to end-run the IAEA?

They've resumed enrichment-related activities. The Israelis claim they'll have nukes by 2007.

Bush-Cheney also got the G-8 leaders to call on North Korea to "visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs."

How did the DPRK react to the Bush-Cheney attempt to end-run the "six-party" talks? From the Korean News Service:

Do the countries styling themselves "advanced nations" like so much to spark the same miserable crisis as that in Iraq?

The paragraphs related to the DPRK in the document adopted at the G-8 summit only provides it [DPRK] with enough justification to increase its [DPRK] nuclear deterrent force for self-defence with the help of strong catalyst.

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Written for on July 26 2004

Do We Want a War Criminal as President...?...The 'Anybody But Bush' movement is morally and politically bankrupt

by Justin Raimondo

Antiwar activists who thought they were going to be able to communicate their views to Democratic party delegates in Boston this week are in for an unpleasant surprise:

"Protesters for the next few days will be enclosed in a shadowy, closed-off piece of urban streetscape just over a block away. The maze of overhead netting, chain link fencing and razor wire couldn't be further in comfort from the high-tech confines of the arena stage where John Kerry) is to accept the Democratic nomination for president during the four-day convention that kicks off Monday. Abandoned, elevated rail lines and green girders loom over most of the official demonstration zone that slopes down to a subway station closed for the duration. To avoid hitting girders, tall protesters will have to duck at one end of the 28,000-square-foot zone. Train tracks obscure the line of sight to much of the Fleet Center. Concrete blocks were set around streets in the area, a transportation hub on the north side of downtown."

Wall them off, get them out of our sight, cage them – the Democratic party isn't interested in antiwar protests. Their candidate is for the war: he voted for it (but not to fund it), he wants to expand it (by sending in at least 40,000 more American troops), and his only argument with the Bush administration is over which direction to escalate. The Bushies want to invade Iran, and perhaps Syria, while the Kerry-ites are straining at the leash to go after Saudi Arabia, as evidenced by Kerry's pronouncements and the Democratic party platform, which threaten to impose draconian sanctions on the Kingdom.

Rand Beers, Kerry's foreign policy chief, is a longtime veteran of the national security bureaucracy, having served under the last four Presidents in some capacity or other, including Special Assistant to the President for Combating Terrorism, under George W. Bush. Reporting on a Kerry speech in which the candidate called "for a harder line toward Saudi Arabia and a softer approach to Iran," the New York Times cited Beers as saying that "thousands more new coalition troops were needed to stabilize Iraq and that Kerry would not rule out sending more Americans as part of that mix."

While working in the current Bush administration, Beers was the foremost advocate of supporting the repressive government of Colombia and conducting a campaign that basically involved poisoning coca farmers to death. He once testified to Congress that the Colombian rebel faction, known as FARC, had received training from – dum ta dum dum!!! – Al Qaeda, an assertion that was met with incredulity on Capitol Hill:

"'There doesn't seem to be any evidence of FARC going to Afghanistan to train,' a U.S. intelligence official said. 'We have never briefed anyone on that and frankly, I doubt anyone has ever alleged that in a briefing to the State Department or anyone else.' [...] 'That statement is totally from left field,' said a top federal law enforcement official, who reviewed the proffer. 'I don't know where (Beers) is getting that. We have never had any indication that FARC guys have ever gone to Afghanistan.' [...] 'My first reaction was that Rand must have misspoke,' said a veteran congressional staffer with extensive experience in the Colombian drug war. 'But when I saw it was a proffer signed under oath, I couldn't believe he would do that. I have no idea why he would say that.'"

Bush lied, and Colombian peasants died – thanks to Rand Beers.

John Kerry's foreign policy chief honcho has a lot of 'splaining to do to all those Anybody But Bush (ABB) types, whose mindless support for the warmongering Kerry is based on an addled but sincere desire to at least mitigate the immense evil now emanating from Washington.

The only problem with the ABB strategy, however, is that the man they want to replace George W. Bush with is potentially even more of a monster. After all, Kerry personally cut the throats of a great many Vietnamese during our losing war in Southeast Asia: listen here as he confesses to what he himself describes as "war crimes."

As part of the murderous "Phoenix" program, designed to dry up the pool of support in which the Viet-Cong was submerged, Kerry and his cohorts unleashed a reign of terror, killed many thousands of Vietnamese villagers, most of them ordinary peasants, including women and children. He brags about his three Purple Hearts, and his campaign compares his military record favorably to the AWOL Bush, who managed to stay well out of it, while the Bush-haters screech that the President is a "chickenhawk" because he wasn't eager to become a mass murderer.

In the partisan heat of a presidential election, great hunks of the "antiwar" movement go off on a frighteningly pro-war tangent, pouring their hopes, and their financial support, into a man who, if elected President, may turn out to be the Lyndon Baines Johnson, and not the Kennedy of the new millennium, in terms of foreign policy.

Kennedy, you'll remember, is thought to have wanted out of Vietnam, and I tend to sympathize with those who opined, upon his assassination, that they offed him because he was "turning pro-American" and seeking an honorable way out. When Johnson took over, the War Party was back in the saddle, and ready to roll, as the Johnson-Humphrey-"Scoop" Jackson-dominated Democratic party led the way to escalating the Vietnam conflict, with more troops and more bombing. Like Kerry, Johnson vowed he wouldn't "cut and run."

Upon Kerry's election, the Iraq war will become Kerry's war – and I wonder how many of his current "antiwar" supporters will suddenly discover that the "democratization" of the Middle East at gunpoint is an "idealistic" project, one requiring the expenditure of billions in tax dollars and untold buckets of blood.

This election year is a conundrum that is baffling the antiwar Left, and the great debate over whether or not to support Nader is separating the wheat from the chaff. As I noted in a previous column, the self-promoting and largely self-appointed "leaders" of the "progressive" movement – i.e. what used to be called liberals – are fanatically devoted to Kerry, and denounce the Naderites with the same mindless ferocity as the old Nation magazine used to denounce the Trotskyites as "wreckers," "splitters," and "agents of Hitler and the Mikado." Uncle Joe Stalin may be long dead, but his spirit lingers on in the mindset of the ABB'ers, even down to mimicking the vicious smearing campaigns that were the hallmark of the Stalinist propaganda machine.

Speaking of Stalin, the Kerry camp will be delighted to hear that they've been endorsed by: the Communist Party USA, the "official" Commie party in the United States, which gives voice to the ABB movement on the Left. While Kerry's economic platform is "not as dramatic a program as we would place, but one that goes in a significantly different direction," on the other hand, say the Commies:

"He is the vehicle by which George W. Bush, representing the most extreme reaction, can be defeated. A Kerry presidency by itself will not bring the changes, it will undoubtedly require huge mass pressure to bring the changes. In this regard ..., a Kerry election presents the possibility for greater struggles to undo damage and move forward.

"There is concern in many quarters that Kerry has not taken a strong enough stand, especially on issues of race and on the war in Iraq. Placing this criticism, Julian Bond said at the Take Back America conference, 'Too often the opposition party has been absent without leave. When one party is shameless the other can't afford to be spineless.' Yet, he concluded, given the threat to civil rights enforcement on every front and right-wing control of all branches of government, 'The consequences of loss are too high to bear. We have to ensure every citizen registers and votes and guarantee the theft of Black votes never happens again.' These formulations speak volumes to those within peace and left organizations who insist there is no difference between Kerry and Bush. On the basis of the record alone, this is not the case.'"

It isn't surprising that a party that could ignore the crimes of the gulag would subordinate the deaths of thousands of Iraqis to the issue of how many chads were counted in Florida. As a way to prove their complete lack of any moral sense, not to mention their slavish devotion to the Democratic party machine, such a stance is stroke of strategic genius on the part of these latter-day Leninists.

I guess the Commies will be among the "protesters" at the Democratic national convention, which we'll be subjected to all week, and I had to laugh when I read the complaint of the protesters' leader, Medea Benjamin at being caged up in Boston:

"We don't deserve to be put in a detention center, a concentration camp. It's tragic that here in Boston, the birthplace of democracy, our First Amendment rights are being trampled on."

Even more tragic is that self-proclaimed leftist leaders such as Benjamin – a founder of the trendy-lefty Global Exchange, as well as "Code Pink," a women's antiwar group, and a former Green Party candidate –are supporting Kerry, sliming Nader, and basically taking the CPUSA "united front" line of Anybody But Bush. No, Ms. Benjamin doesn't deserve to be put in a concentration camp: nobody does. But she does deserve a pointed reminder that Iraqi lives are valuable, too. Sadly, the necessity of such a reminder underscores the imperialist arrogance that pervades our political discourse, and can infect even the "antiwar" movement of an imperialist country.

The antiwar Right is even more confused, given their electoral choices this year. Anti-interventionist conservatives and libertarians face an even bleaker prospect: without even the luxury of having a major party opponent of the Warmonger-in-chief, the Anybody But Bush League of the Right has a plethora of bad options. They can choose one of the right-wing splinter parties on the ballot this time around, all of which are opposed to the Iraq war: unfortunately, the Libertarian candidate, in the unlikely event that he wins, could possibly be arrested for tax evasion before taking office. That leaves the Constitution Party candidate, what's-his-name, who would probably have me arrested for just a few of the activities around my house this weekend. Which is not necessarily, in my view, a complete non-starter, because – oh well, we won't go there. Suffice to say that, in any case, the right-wing ABB'ers are in a right quandary.

The Bush supporters among the antiwar rightists rationalize away the admittedly horrific consequences of a Bush victory by claiming that the President is balking, and, as Pat Buchanan puts it, the high tide of American empire was reached at Fallujah, where the Americans backed down and the insurgents held their ground. Bush, Buchanan avers, has become a realist: "We are on the way out." If only it were true. The problem is that the same neoconservatives who seized control of the government after 9/11 will keep the levers of power within their grasp after November. They will claim that, by reelecting George W. Bush, the new President will be getting a mandate for war, and phase two of the Great Mideast War will begin.

It will begin in any event, no matter which of the two major party candidates wins this November, because wars, once started, have a momentum of their own. The disaster that antiwar commentators predicted prior to the invasion and conquest of Iraq is now unfolding, in all its bloody futility and moral squalor. Short of a massive vote for, say, Ralph Nader, or any of the other antiwar third party candidates, the upcoming election won't moderate the consequences of our actions in the slightest.

We are in for a very bad time, and there isn't any way out of it. The electoral system is rigged against the expression of antiwar sentiment through any "legitimate" channels, and, thanks to Congress, our rights to assemble, to organize, and to protest the actions of our government, without being harassed, spied on, and otherwise intimidated into silence, have been signed away. But, as Ralph Nader points out, our "representatives" are safe in their gerrymandered districts, while the corporate sponsors of both parties feed at the public trough.

What Nader calls "corporate socialism" rules the day – and the uncomprehending silence that greeted Nader's denunciation of it at a San Francisco rally last week just underscores how clueless much of the Left is to what's really going on in this country. Nader's rhetoric was greeted with a single cry of "Down with corporate socialism!" that rang out over the stunned audience. I couldn't help but burst out laughing, and my loud applause startled the people sitting in front of me enough to crane their necks to see who was causing this unseemly outburst.

It's too bad the Democratic party was so successful in its "dirty tricks" campaign against Nader, keeping him off so many state ballots that he won't be on but a dozen or so. He could have given voice to a large constituency of antiwar voters, and given his own unique – if not always correct – analysis of what empowers the power elite.

I'm afraid that we're just going to have to grit our teeth, endure the next few months as best we can, and wait out the partisan static until the air clears after November. Then we can face what has to be faced and move forward from there.

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Written on July 26,2004 for

Saddam's people are winning the war...Misunderstanding Iraq

By Scott Ritter (TMSI)

WASHINGTON: The battle for Iraq's sovereign future is a battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. As things stand, it appears that victory will go to the side most in tune with the reality of the Iraqi society of today: the leaders of the anti-U.S. resistance.

Iyad Allawi's government was recently installed by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to counter a Baathist nationalism that ceased to exist nearly a decade ago.

In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's regime shifted toward an amalgam of Islamic fundamentalism, tribalism and nationalism that more accurately reflected the political reality of Iraq.

Thanks to his meticulous planning and foresight, Saddam's lieutenants are now running the Iraqi resistance, including the Islamist groups.

In August 1995, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. Fourteen months into the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Kamal's testimony that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed in the summer of 1991 has taken on new relevance, given the fact that to date no WMD have been found.

More important is Kamal's self-described reason for defecting: Saddam's order that all senior Baath Party officials undergo mandatory Koranic studies. For Saddam, this radical shift in strategy was necessary to his survival, given the new realities of post-Gulf War Iraq.

The traditional Baathist ideology, based on Iraq-centric Arab nationalism, was no longer the driving force it had been a decade prior. Creating a new power base required bringing into the fold not only the Shiite majority - which had revolted against him in the spring of 1991 - but also accommodating the growing religious fundamentalism of traditional allies such as key Sunni tribes in western Iraq.

The most visible symbol of Saddam's decision to embrace Islam was his order to add the words "God Is Great" to the Iraqi flag.

The transformation of the political dynamics inside Iraq, however, went largely unnoticed in the West. It certainly seems to have escaped the attention of the Bush administration. And the recent "transfer of sovereignty" to Allawi's government reflects this lack of understanding.

One of the first directives issued by Paul Bremer, the former head of the CPA, was to pass a "de-Baathification" law, effectively blacklisting all former members of that party from meaningful involvement in the day-to-day affairs of post-Saddam Iraq. The law underscored the mindset of those in charge of Iraq: Baathist holdouts loyal to Saddam were the primary threat to the U.S.-led occupation.

Senior Bush administration officials recognized their mistake - though a little too late. In April, 2004, Bremer rescinded his "de-Baathification" order. The Pentagon today speaks of a "marriage of convenience" between Islamic fundamentalists and former members of Saddam's Baathist regime, even speculating that the Islamists are taking over Baathist cells weakened by American anti-insurgency efforts.

Once again, the Pentagon has it wrong. U.S. policy in Iraq is still unable or unwilling to face the reality of the enemy on the ground.

The Iraqi resistance is no emerging "marriage of convenience," but rather a product of years of planning. Rather than being absorbed by a larger Islamist movement, Saddam's former lieutenants are calling the shots in Iraq, having co-opted the Islamic fundamentalists years ago, with or without their knowledge.

One look at the list of the 55 "most wanted" members of the Saddam regime who remain at large reveals the probable chain of command of the Iraqi resistance today. It also underscores the success of Saddam's strategic decision nearly a decade ago to disassociate himself from Baathist ideology.

Keep in mind that there was never a formal surrender ceremony after the U.S. took control of Baghdad. The security services of Saddam's Iraq were never disbanded; they simply melted away into the population, to be called back into service when and where they were needed.

The so-called Islamic resistance is led by none other than former Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, an ardent Iraqi nationalist, a Sunni Arab and a practicing member of the Sufi brotherhood, a society of Islamic mystics. His deputy is Rafi Tilfah, who headed the Directorate of General Security (DGS), an organization that had thoroughly penetrated Iraqi society with collaborators and informants during Saddam's regime.

As a former UN weapons inspector, I have personally inspected the headquarters of the DGS in Baghdad, as well as the regional DGS headquarters in Tikrit. The rooms were full of files concerning those who were working with or on behalf of the DGS. There is not a person, family, tribe or Islamic movement in Iraq that the DGS does not know intimately - information that is an invaluable asset when coordinating and facilitating a popular-based resistance movement.

I also interacted with the former director of the Special Security Organization, Hani al-Tilfah, on numerous occasions during 1997-98, when he was put in charge of riding roughshod over my inspections. Today he helps coordinate the operations of the Iraqi resistance using the very same officers.

Tahir Habbush headed the Iraqi Intelligence Service that perfected the art of improvising explosive devices and using them to carry out assassinations. In the months prior to the U.S.-led invasion, he was ordered to blend his agents back into the Iraqi population so as to avoid detection by any occupying force.

The recent anti-American attacks in Fallujah and Ramadi were carried out by well-disciplined men fighting in cohesive units, most likely drawn from the ranks of Saddam's Republican Guard.

The level of sophistication should not have come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the role of the former chief of the Republican Guard, Sayf al-Rawi, in secretly demobilizing select Guard units for this very purpose prior to the U.S. invasion.

The transfer of sovereignty to the new Iraqi government of Iyad Allawi is a charade that will play itself out over the next weeks and months, and with tragic consequences. Allawi's government, hand-picked by the United States from the ranks of anti-Saddam expatriates, lacks not only a constituency inside Iraq but also legitimacy in the eyes of many ordinary Iraqi citizens.

The truth is that there never was a significant people-based opposition movement inside Iraq for the Bush administration to call on to form a government to replace Saddam. It is why the United States has instead been forced to rely on the services of individuals tainted by their association with foreign intelligence services, or drawn from opposition parties heavily infiltrated by agents of Saddam's former security services.

Regardless of the number of troops the United States puts on the ground or how long they stay there, Allawi's government is doomed to fail. The more it fails, the more it will have to rely on the United States to prop it up. The more the United States props up Allawi, the more discredited he will become in the eyes of the Iraqi people - all of which creates yet more opportunities for the Iraqi resistance to exploit.

We will suffer a decade-long nightmare that will lead to the deaths of thousands more Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. We will witness the creation of a viable and dangerous anti-American movement in Iraq that will one day watch as American troops unilaterally withdraw from Iraq every bit as ignominiously as Israel did from Lebanon.

The calculus is quite simple: the sooner we bring our forces home, the weaker this movement will be. And, of course, the obverse is true: the longer we stay, the stronger and more enduring this byproduct of Bush's elective war on Iraq will be.

There is no elegant solution to our Iraqi debacle. It is no longer a question of winning but rather of mitigating defeat.

Scott Ritter, a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, is the author of "Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America." This article was distributed by Global Viewpoint for Tribune Media Services International.

Scott Ritter, a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, is the author of "Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America." This article was distributed by Global Viewpoint for Tribune Media Services International.


Former French PM: Creation of Israel by Balfour Declaration a Historic Mistake

GAZA, June 19, 2004 (IPC + Asharq Al-Awsat)-- The former French Prime Minister and current member of the European Parliament, Michel Rocard, blasted Israel as an "abnormal case in the world", describing its creation by the 1917-Balfour Declaration as a "historic mistake".

Rocard, who is also a well-known member of the French Socialist Party, was delivering a lecture at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on June 16, in which he said that the Balfour promise England gave to the Jews to create a national homeland for them in Palestine was a "mistake".

He also described the Israeli state as a "unique and abnormal condition because it was created with a promise, and that millions of Jews gathered from all around the world, creating an entity that continues to pose a threat to its neighbors until today."

Rocard also drew attention to the fact that Israel was also historically created on a racist basis, depending on armed conflict to set its borders. Rocard referred to the colonization of the Arab world, of which his country was involved in, as the main reason behind the current state of violence and conflict in the Middle East.

However, Rocard warned that delaying a peace agreement between the Arab states and Israel would "greatly increase violence in the region," pointing out that the long-demanded reforms in the Arab states stemmed from the inside, not imposed by outside forces.

"Peace must spring from a religious base … all reforms can be made possible through the teachings of our divine religions. To pray to God is accepted, but violence is not,” concluded Rocard.