Inter Press Network

Friday, September 03, 2004

Sovereign Iraq Just as Deadly to U.S. Forces

With attacks more frequent, the hand-over of power has not mollified insurgents...

By Patrick J. McDonnell
Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Two months after the U.S. handed sovereignty back to Iraq amid hopes of reduced violence, more than 110 U.S. troops have been killed and much of the country remains hostile territory. The toll of U.S. dead since the war began last year is fast approaching 1,000.

Although attention in recent weeks has focused on Najaf, where U.S. forces battled Shiite Muslim militiamen, most of the deadly confrontations for American troops in newly independent Iraq have occurred in the Baghdad area and the so-called Sunni Triangle to the north and west.

The concentration of attacks in those areas is a reminder that the fiercest and most organized opposition to U.S. forces and the U.S.-backed interim government continues to be in Sunni-dominated cities, such as Fallouja. Nationwide, U.S. forces are being attacked 60 times per day on average, up 20% from the three-month period before the hand-over.

The occupation of Iraq has technically ended, but a U.S.-commanded multinational force of more than 150,000 is still there, tasked with providing security to the fledgling government. Ubiquitous graffiti denouncing the continued occupation indicate that insurgents see little change in their enemy — U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies.

With Iraqi security forces still largely in training, U.S. forces continue to run raids and conduct patrols in many areas, maintaining a very visible presence, especially on the roads. Pulling back to the garrisons now, commanders agree, would open the door to even more chaos and violence.

Although U.S. authorities did not expect casualties to plummet immediately after the transfer of power June 28, American, Iraqi and international officials expressed optimism that restoring sovereignty and officially ending the U.S. occupation would curb the violence.

"We hope that this is going to be a true beginning, and those who are opposing occupation will now consider that opposing occupation is not necessary anymore," Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy who helped select Iraq's interim government, said on the day of the transfer.

But many of the underlying grievances that have stoked the insurgency, such as the presence of U.S. troops and the slow pace of reconstruction, remain. The number of fighters — including loyalists of former President Saddam Hussein, religious militants and others dissatisfied enough to take up a gun or plant a bomb — shows no sign of decreasing.

"There was a government in South Vietnam all those years ago, and we lost a lot of people back there," noted U.S. Army Col. Dana Pittard of the 1st Infantry Division in Baqubah, a zone of conflict northeast of the capital.

In August so far, 63 U.S. troops have died, and 54 died in July, the first complete month after the hand-over of power. In June, 42 American troops died, according to Associated Press and the Pentagon.

Neither July nor August come close to the death tolls of April and May — 135 and 80 troops, respectively. Still, July and August rank among the deadliest months for U.S. forces in Iraq this year.

Overall, 974 U.S. troops had died in Iraq as of Monday, the vast majority — 836 — since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1 of last year, the Pentagon said. About 6,500 have been wounded. Since January, the majority of attacks on U.S. forces have come in the form of "indirect fire" — such as mortar and rocket strikes — along with homemade roadside bombs.

There is no reliable accounting of Iraqi civilian deaths, but some rough calculations top 10,000. The number of Iraqi military dead is in the 5,000 to 6,000 range, according to think-tank estimates cited by Reuters.

"There are munitions all over this country, remnants of the Saddam era," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy director of operations for the multinational forces. "So you can't expect to rid the country of all its weapons in a month or two."

Although daily attacks are up, debate continues over whether the armed insurgency is growing. U.S. officials have stuck with an estimate from last year that the number of hard-core insurgents remains between 4,000 and 6,000, a calculation others call low. The military has arrested more than 40,000 suspected insurgents, most of whom have been released.

"We're losing more people because the resistance is just firing more shots at us," said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington who supported the decision to go to war. "They are just hitting us hard and everywhere. The reason they are effective is because they just have more people shooting at us."

Pittard in Baqubah, like many field commanders, is openly skeptical of official U.S. estimates of the insurgency's size. He puts the hard-core support at about one half of 1% of the Iraqi population of 24 million — or about 120,000.

The fighting in Iraq has unfolded in stages, as insurgents have turned to different and often bolder techniques. The sovereignty era has seen a wave of takings of foreign hostages and attempted assassinations.

Efforts to kill government officials are so frequent that interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi remarked last week on the menacing messages he receives daily. "Every day there is a threat," he said. "One of them may succeed, I don't know."

Government ministers must travel with bodyguards and vary their daily routes. The government itself meets inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, protected by U.S. tanks and machine-gun nests.

Iraqi civilians have suffered tragically from the violence, with scores dying in bombings and other attacks directed at officials and police outposts.

Contributing to the U.S. death toll in August and the rise in daily attacks was the three weeks of intermittent combat in Najaf with Shiite militants that killed at least 10 U.S. troops.

"Not to be callous, but this is war. People get hurt," said Maj. Douglas Ollivant, operations officer of the Army's 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, in Najaf. "Once you start a war, you don't know where it's going to end. The enemy has a vote."

The fact that the Najaf battles didn't spark fierce uprisings in other areas of the country — as happened during the fighting in Fallouja and elsewhere in April — is viewed by some as a hopeful sign. "The people in Najaf, the people around the country, have grown more and more tired of the insurgency and the killing," Lessel said.

Muqtada Sadr, the militant Shiite cleric whose forces were battling U.S. troops in Najaf, ordered his militia last week to leave the city and has asked all of his armed supporters to cease fighting while his group makes plans to join Iraq's emerging political process. Still, much of the goodwill once enjoyed by U.S. forces among Iraq's Shiite majority — which was repressed during the rule of Hussein, a Sunni — has evaporated.

Efforts by Allawi to offer amnesty to former combatants and otherwise reach out to fighters have been less well received among Sunni insurgents.

The Sunni Triangle — more accurately a vast half-moon stretching from Baghdad to the west and north — remains a bastion of armed opposition to the U.S.-led coalition. The city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, has joined Fallouja as basically a no-go zone for U.S. troops and a sanctuary for insurgents.

Periodic violence continues to rack Ramadi, Baqubah and other Sunni-dominated areas. In the northern city of Mosul — a longtime stronghold of Hussein's Baath Party once heralded as an occupation success story — there are almost daily attacks and frequent bombings.

Iraqi security forces, though numerous — totaling about 240,000 — are still largely in the training stage, and there is no word on when their presence may result in a drawdown of U.S. forces.

U.S. commanders are hopeful that much of the country will be at "local control" — meaning that Iraqi forces will shoulder much of the security burden — by January, when elections are scheduled.

"Of course, the hope is to put the Iraqis out front — we're just not there yet," a senior Army official in Washington said. "This is going to take a really long time."

Times staff writers Edmund Sanders in Najaf and Mark Mazzetti and Esther Schrader in Washington contributed to this report...


Very Brief History: Begining with Origins of Zioinism and Acts of Terror and Espionage

By B.Syed

Member:Union of Concerned Scientists

1776, May 1. Beginning of One World movement or conspiracy, and also known as the birth of Illuminatti (or Mason Movement)

1790. French Revolution brought Weisshaupt's group evolved communism

1897 - First Zionists World Congress, Basle Switzerland, where Theodore Herzl laid out a plan for Jewish homeland in Palestine.

1905: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion appeared. Published in Germany by the former army captain Muller von Hausen (a friend of Ludendorff. The copy of the second edition (1905) of Sergei Nilus is in the British Museum Library.

1907: Zionist Palestine office established in Jaffa.

1916. May. A secret British-French accord was signed under the name of Sykes-Picot Agreement to divide Middle East between British and French occupied zones.

1917. Lord Balfour pledges the establishment of a national home for the jews in a letter to Baron Rothschild.

1917. First revolution in Russia - leaders Karl Marx , Outine, Hess Leibknecht, Bebel, Engels, Lassale, Lenin (real name Ulyanov), Trotzsky (real name Bronstei), Zinovieff (real name Appfelbaum), the anti-religious Jews start the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

1917, Nov. 7. Second Bolshevik Revolution in Russia was financed by American Jews through the efforts of Nathan Rothschild who in 1814 had vowed to destroy Czar.

1917. International Zionism was having another victory in getting the British to establish in Palestine a "national home for the Jewish people." This was the work of one man, Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) endeavored to establish a sythesis of both Zionist school of thought, and saw the opportunity to create a homeland for Jews.

1918: Hebrew University established.

1920. British Palestine Mandatewas recognized.

1922. Land East of Jordan was detatched forming a new state called Transjordan.

1933-1948 Jewish Agency sets up National Fund

1936-9. Civil War: The British administration of the Mandate by turns supported the Arab partisans and Jew. Haganah, the military voluntary Jewish underground formed to resist Arabs.

1939: Only 12% Jews in Palestine

1939: British plan (the White Paper) gave into Arab pressure.

1942. A Jewish Brigade of volunterers became part of the British Army (to gather intelligence). Jews trying to immigrate were sent to Cypress camps , which turned them to use terror as aweapon to get their way.

1944. The Stern gang, whose member wre Itzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin tried to kill Lord Moyne.

1946. Jewish pressure urged the opening of the borders to let more than 100,000 Jewish immigrants through.

1946, April 25. Stern gang kills 6 men from Sixth Airborne.

1946, June 22, King David Hotel blown buy Jerwish Terrorists of the Stern Gang and Irgun, killing more than 200 people.

1947. UN Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended partition of Palestine, approved by UN General Assembly and the Jewish Agency, but rejected by Arabs. This started an armed conflict and Arab Liberation Army occupied Galilee and attacked the Jewish Old City of Jerusalem.

1948. The British gave up mandate in May. Withdrawal of the British army and administration plunged the country into chaos and anarchy.

1948. Count Bernadotte, UN Official assassinated on Sept. 17.

1948, April 9. The worst and brutal massacre of Palestinian, men women and children occurred at the hands of Stern/Irgun terrorists killing more than hundred people and throwing their bodies in a well.

1948, 14th May. State of Israel declared, US was first to recognize and USSR the second.

1948-63. David Ben Gurion served as Prime Minister of Israel.

1949 to 1952. Chaim Weizman served as President of Israel.

1949. Separate armistice with Arabs signed. Jordan occupied the West Bank, and Egypt occpied Gaza.

1956, Oct. 29, Israel launches war on Egypt's Sinai, with the aid of British and French forces, a truce was signed Nov. 6.

1963. Pres. John F. Kennedy Assassinated in Dallas Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was later killed by a night club operator, Jack Ruby. Jack Ruby was terminated by induced cancer to leave no traces behind. Some people believe, Kennedy was assassinated because he was about to disclose the true nature of Dimona reactor as determined by U-2 aerial pictures (not a Textile factory as declared by Ben Gurion).

1967. June, Six Day War: Israel destroyed Egyptian Airforce, captured Sinia, West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, and Arab Jerusalem.

1967, May 7, US Navy Intelligence Ship USS LIBERTY attacked by Isrealis in International waters killing 34 Americans.

1976. Israel raids Entebba, Uganda to rescue hostages.

1973. Yom Kipur war. Egypt attacks and retakes most of Sinai.

1974, Nov. 13, Karen Silkwood, killed in a road accident while on her way to disclose New York Times Correspondent about 8000 pounds of missing Uranium/Plutonium at Kerr-McGee Plant in Oklahoma City, which was transferred to Israel.

1977. Egypt's signs an accord with Israel's Begin

1977-78. Dr. Zalman Shapiro, of NUMEC in Apollo, PA, was accused of transfering about 75 pounds of missing Plutonium to Israel, but no action was taken against him.

1978. Abook by Dennis Eisenberg and Eli Landau, "Operation Uranium Ship" was published describing how Israel hijacked a German freighter in Mediteranean, and transferred several tons of Uranium ore in Cypress to an Israeli ship and stole it to Haifa.

1978. Israel attacked Lebanon, and killed thousands of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps under UNRWA with the aid of Lebanese Philangists.

1979, April 6. Mossad operatrives blow up the core of a nuclear eactor at a French plant at Le Seyne-sur-Mere, near Toulon.

1979, Sept 22. VELA Satellite detects Israel Nuclear blasts oof the coast of South Africa in South Atlantic.

1980, June 14. Dr. Yahya el-Meshad, an Iraqi nuclear Scientists was found brutally assasinatedby Mossad agents in his hotel room, outside Paris, France.

1981, June 7. Israel bombs Osirak Nuclear reactor of Iraq.

1985, October 1, Israeli Mossad agents raid and bombed PLO headquarters in Tuniisia, killed 68 including top aid of Yasser Arafat.

1985, Nov. 18. Jonathan Jay Pollard and his wife arrested for spying, and transfering tons of Secret U. S. Intelligence Data to Israel through its Embassy in washington, DC. Convicted of spying and serving life sentence

1986. Olaf Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden Assassinated by Mossad agents.

1986, Sept 30, Isreali Nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu hijacked at Rome airport, Italy spending 18 years in Isolated confinment in Eshkelon Jail, and released in April 2004. he is still under house arrest and cannot speak to any foreign media folks.

1986, Oct. 5, Sunday Times published the photographs taken by Mordechai Vanunu at the Dimona Nuclear Bomb factory, where Israel is supposed to have amassed more than 300 nuclear weapons.

1990, March 22. Mossad killed Dr. Gerald Bull, a Canadian Ballistics expert, who was accused of building a supergun for Saddam.

1990. During Madrid Peace Talks, a right wing Mossad group planned to asssasinate George H. W. Bush (Papa Bush) according to Victor Ostovsky's book the Other Side of Deception.

1992, Dec. 7, Dr. Muayad Hassan Al-Janabi, an Iraqi nuclear scientist gunned down in Amman, Jordan in front of his familiy.

2001, Sept 11. Some sources reveal connivance of John O'Neill (who was killed in the twin towers of WTC) with Israeli intelligence, as acknowledged by his friends who were at the party till 2 AM with John on 9/11, who were told by John O'Neill that something spectucaltor was going to happen tomorrow. (Ref. Transcripits of "The Man Who Knew," on PBS-Frontline Program).

2004, March 22, Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas, assassinated by a missile rocket

2004, April 17, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. leader of Hamas assassinated with his two body-guards by a missile attack.

Moral from History: Violence in the genes of Zionists, also acknowledge in the Ptocols.

2004, August 27. CBS news announces presence of an Israeli Spy within Pentagon - Office of Dr. Douglas Feith, the # 3 man in DOD.


1.The Anchor Atlas of World History, Vol. II, Anchor Pres, New York
2.Stan Rittenhouse, "For Fear iof Jews," The Exhorters, Inc., Vienna, VA 1982


By Theodore Sorensen

Commencement address to the New School University in NY on May 21

This is not a speech. Two weeks ago I set aside the speech I prepared. This is a cry from the heart, a lamentation for the loss of this country's goodness and therefore its greatness. Future historians studying the decline and fall of America will mark this as the time the tide began to turn -- toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon.

For me the final blow was American guards laughing over the naked, helpless bodies of abused prisoners in Iraq. "There is a time to laugh," the Bible tells us, "and a time to weep." Today I weep for the country I love, the country I proudly served, the country to which my four grandparents sailed over a century ago with hopes for a new land of peace and freedom. I cannot remain silent when that country is in the deepest trouble of my lifetime.

I am not talking only about the prison abuse scandal -- that stench will someday subside. Nor am I referring only to the Iraq war -- that too will pass -- nor to any one political leader or party. This is no time for politics as usual, in which no one responsible admits responsibility, no one genuinely apologizes, no one resigns, and everyone else is blamed.

The damage done to this country by its own misconduct in the last few months and years, to its very heart and soul, is far greater and longer lasting than any damage that any terrorist could possibly inflict upon us. The stain on our credibility, our reputation for decency and integrity, will not quickly wash away.

Last week, a family friend of an accused American guard in Iraq recited the atrocities inflicted by our enemies on Americans, and asked: "Must we be

held to a different standard?" My answer is yes. Not only because others expect it. We must hold ourselves to a different standard. Not only because God demands it, but because it serves our security. Our greatest strength has long been not merely our military might but our moral authority. Our surest protection against assault from abroad has been not all our guards, gates and guns, or even our two oceans, but our essential goodness as a people. Our richest asset has been not our material wealth but our values.

We were world leaders once -- helping found the United Nations, the

Marshall Plan, NATO, and programs like Food for Peace, international human rights and international environmental standards. The world admired not only the bravery of our Marine Corps but also the idealism of our Peace Corps.

Our word was as good as our gold. At the start of the Cuban missile crisis, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, President Kennedy's special envoy to brief French President de Gaulle, offered to document our case by having the actual pictures of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba brought in. "No,” shrugged the usually difficult de Gaulle: "The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."

Eight months later, President Kennedy could say at American University:

“The world knows that America will never start a war. This generation of Americans has had enough of war and hate ... we want to build a world of

peace where the weak are secure and the strong are just."

Our founding fathers believed this country could be a beacon of light to the world, a model of democratic and humanitarian progress. We were. We prevailed in the Cold War because we inspired millions struggling for freedom in far corners of the Soviet empire. I have been in countries where children and avenues were named for Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. We were respected, not reviled, because we respected man's aspirations for peace and justice. This was the country to which foreign leaders sent not only their goods to be sold but their sons and daughters to be educated. In the 1930s, when Jewish and other scholars were driven out of Europe, their preferred destination -- even for those on the far left -- was not the Communist citadel in Moscow but the New School here in New York.

What has happened to our country? We have been in wars before, without resorting to sexual humiliation as torture, without blocking the Red Cross,

without insulting and deceiving our allies and the U.N., without betraying our traditional values, without imitating our adversaries, without blackening our name around the world.

Last year when asked on short notice to speak to a European audience and inquiring what topic I should address, the chairman said: "Tell us about the good America, the America when Kennedy was in the White House." "It is still a good America," I replied. "The American people still believe in peace, human rights and justice; they are still a generous, fair-minded, open-minded people."

Today some political figures argue that merely to report, much less to protest, the crimes against humanity committed by a few of our own inadequately trained forces in the fog of war, is to aid the enemy or excuse its atrocities. But Americans know that such self-censorship does not enhance our security.

Attempts to justify or defend our illegal acts as nothing more than pranks or no worse than the crimes of our enemies, only further muddies our moral image. Thirty years ago, America's war in Vietnam became a hopeless military quagmire; today our war in Iraq has become a senseless moral swamp.

No military victory can endure unless the victor occupies the high moral ground. Surely America, the land of the free, could not lose the high moral ground invading Iraq, a country ruled by terror, torture and tyranny – but we did.

Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein -- politically, economically, diplomatically, much as we succeeded in isolating Gadhafi, Marcos, Mobutu and a host of other dictators over the years -- we have isolated ourselves. We are increasingly alone in a dangerous world in which millions who once respected us now hate us. Not only Muslims. Every international survey shows our global standing at an all-time low. Even our transatlantic alliance has not yet recovered from its worst crisis in history. Our friends in Western Europe were willing to accept Uncle Sam as class president, but not as class bully once he forgot JFK's advice that "civility is not a sign of weakness."

All this is rationalized as part of the war on terror. But abusing prisoners in Iraq, denying detainees their legal rights in Guantanamo – even American citizens -- misleading the world at large about Saddam's ready stockpiles of mass destruction and involvement with al-Qaida at 9/11, did not advance by one millimeter our efforts to end the threat of another terrorist attack upon us. On the contrary, our conduct invites and incites new attacks and new recruits to attack us.

The decline in our reputation adds to the decline in our security. We keep losing old friends and making new enemies -- not a formula for success. We have not yet rounded up Osama bin Laden or most of the al-Qaida and Taliban leaders or the anthrax mailer. "The world is large," wrote John Boyle O'Reilly, in one of President Kennedy's favorite poems, "when its weary leagues two loving hearts divide, but the world is small when your enemy is loose on the other side." Today our enemies are still loose on the other side of the world, and we are still vulnerable to attack.

True, we have not lost either war we chose or lost too much of our wealth. But we have lost something worse -- our good name for truth and justice. To paraphrase Shakespeare: "He who steals our nation's purse, steals trash. 'Twas ours, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches our good name ... makes us poor indeed."

No American wants us to lose a war. Among our enemies are those who, if they could, would fundamentally change our way of life, restricting our freedom of religion by exalting one faith over others, ignoring international law and the opinions of mankind, and trampling on the rights of those who are different, deprived or disliked. To the extent that our nation voluntarily treads those same paths in the name of security, the terrorists win and we are the losers.

We are no longer the world's leaders on matters of international law and peace. After we stopped listening to others, they stopped listening to us. A nation without credibility and moral authority cannot lead, because no one will follow.

Paradoxically, the charges against us in the court of world opinion are contradictory. We are deemed by many to be dangerously aggressive, a threat to world peace. You may regard that as ridiculously unwarranted, no matter how often international surveys show that attitude to be spreading. But remember the old axiom: "No matter how good you feel, if four friends tell you you're drunk, you'd better lie down."

Yet we are also charged not so much with intervention as indifference --indifference toward the suffering of millions of our fellow inhabitants of this planet who do not enjoy the freedom, the opportunity, the health and wealth and security that we enjoy; indifference to the countless deaths of children and other civilians in unnecessary wars, countless because we usually do not bother to count them; indifference to the centuries of humiliation endured previously in silence by the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The good news, to relieve all this gloom, is that a democracy is inherently self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Inept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. Disastrous mistakes can be reversed.

When, in 1941, the Japanese Air Force was able to inflict widespread death and destruction on our naval and air forces in Hawaii because they were not on alert, those military officials most responsible for ignoring advance intelligence were summarily dismissed.

When, in the late 1940s, we faced a global Cold War against another system of ideological fanatics certain that their authoritarian values would eventually rule the world, we prevailed in time. We prevailed because we exercised patience as well as vigilance, self-restraint as well as self-defense, and reached out to moderates and modernists, to democrats and dissidents, within that closed system. We can do that again. We can reach out to moderates and modernists in Islam, proud of its long traditions of dialogue, learning, charity and peace. Some among us scoff that the war on jihadist terror is a war between civilization and chaos. But they forget that there were Islamic universities and observatories long before we had railroads. So do not despair. In this country, the people are sovereign. If we can but tear the blindfold of self-deception from our eyes and loosen the gag of self-denial from our voices, we can restore our country to greatness. In particular, you -- the class of 2004 -- have the wisdom and energy to do it.

Start soon.

In the words of the ancient Hebrews: "The day is short, and the work is great, and the laborers are sluggish, but the reward is much, and the Master is urgent."

About author:Theodore Sorensen was special counsel to President Kennedy

Governments should be held accountable by Muslims

By Mirza A. Beg
From United States

( It is a sad and unfortunate part of the human nature, that when oppressed by others, we appeal to humanity and justice, and fight against the oppression, as we should. Once we get the upper hand we turn around and inflict similar atrocities on others. All ethnic groups, religions and societies have been guilty of this evil.

In these ever-repeating tragedies, the innocents are the victims. Yet by their quiescence, when it happens to others, they are guilty of being enablers. Often the lament is what could an individual do? It is usually true, but not always. As the history is witness, not many but a few times, an average individual has made a difference.

It is important to speak out against all atrocities, even when one can not make a difference materially. It is more difficult, therefore more important to speak out against atrocities committed by one's own kind.

Recently the Asian Center for human rights reported, the land grab and killing of indigenous "Jumma" people in south-eastern Bangladesh (Chitagong Hills). The attacks are aimed at terrorizing indigenous people for their lands. In April 2003, the army and illegal settlers burnt down Jumma houses in Bhuiochari village after indigenous peoples asked the settlers to stop encroaching onto their lands, and to dismantle the houses they had built. The army encircled the village and forced the indigenous people out of their homes while the settlers looted and burnt down the houses".

Recall that Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971 because of the inequities and the maltreatment from the more powerful Western Pakistanis. Similar atrocities are committed by the Janjaveed (Nomadic Sudanese, claiming Arab decent) on the darker settled Muslims of Darfur region.

Muslims vocally, monetarily and emotionally decry and condemn, as they should, the atrocities and land grab against Muslims in Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Ughur, Kashmir, Gujarat and many other places. Such land grab, ethnic cleansing and genocide are occasionally even gingerly condemned by the supposedly Islamic governments, though not too vocally lest their own record may be examined more closely.

Yet, when Muslims oppress people of other religions or even other Muslims in the same manner the criticism at most is muted. For example the persecution of Muslims and non-Muslims by the erstwhile Talibans in Afghanistan, Kurds by Arab regimes, Jumma people in Bangladesh, Qadianis in Pakistan or tribal cleansing in Darfur region of Sudan and Acheh in Indonesia.

To their credit many Muslim journalists have taken pains to write about it with passion. Bangladesh Observer wrote a very strong editorial, but the governments, social and political organizations and individuals remain generally silent or perfunctorily shake their heads.

Often governments justify their actions or inaction by pointing to the follies and deviance of the people being oppressed. These are more self-serving than real. Even when true, the duty of the government is to treat all its citizens with equality and justice. The miscreants should be brought to the court of law. Governments that suppress civil descent and practice oppression in effect invite rebellion.

Unfortunately it is true that some in the western media with an anti-Islamic agenda would take the Muslim condemnation of other Muslims for their own purposes. It should not deter us, because it has been going on for a long time. Our timidity and non-condemnation only helps the evil forces within our communities. Paucity of reform and negation of such heinous forces from inside the community bring condemnation and pressure from outside. It only helps to advance the agenda of those outside forces that are malicious towards Islam for their own vile reasons. It is always better if the opposition springs from within the community. It is more effective and conducive to thoughtful change.

The idea that "true understanding and adherence of religion would ameliorate these problems", have been bandied about in all religions since time immemorial. It has only produced more discord and arguments about the true meaning of the religion.

In public discourse we never tire of pointing out that Islam stands for peace, mercy and compassion' and it does! Oppression breeds extremism. When extreme becomes common, the normative base of the society is severely injured. Such perversity of beliefs must be opposed by the civil society, especially one that claims a moral high ground.

When others practice cruelty and mayhem against Muslims, it hurts and we resist and fight against it. When Muslims do it, we need to fight even harder. We should condemn it, resist it and fight against it with even greater resolve.

The question that is staring us in the face and tugging at our conscience is - Do we practice Islam as a religion of morality without exception as it ought to be, or simply as an extension of local tribalism into a super tribe? Should only others be condemned for inhumanity, but people in our own super-tribe are ours therefore should be supported lest they grow even weaker or at worst should be gingerly criticized so that others may not see what we refuse to acknowledge?

It is a shame that the central tenet of Islamic ethos based on Justice is so cavalierly and nonchalantly being violated by many Muslin governments to some degree, and we are mute, observers at best and by our quiescence collaborators at worst.

Mirza A. Beg encourages your comments


Gandhi's Grandson Visits Gaza Through Video-Conference, Describes Occupation as 'Ten Times Worse than Apartheid'

The International Press Center (IPC)


The peace advocate Dr. Arun Gandhi, founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and grandson of the legendary peace icon Mahatma Gandhi, addressed the members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in Ramallah, and Gaza members through video-conference.

During his speech, Dr. Gandhi asserted that his recent visit to the Palestinian territories has put the picture in its right perspective, saying that many people around the world and especially in the United States, where he lives, have a distorted image of the Palestinians s a terrorist nation, created mainly by the American media.

"I had a very distorted vision when I came here, mostly generated by the media of the United States. When my friends in Memphis, Tennessee, heard that I was going to Palestine, they all came to me with a worried look on their faces and said to me that you're going to a terrorist state, you'd better be careful or they'll kill you," Dr. Gandhi told the PLC members.

Mahatma Gandhi's grandson reaffirmed that nonviolence was the only option for the Palestinian people to reclaim their rights, as it made both moral and practical sense. "I don't think Palestine has the economic capacity or the military capacity to face a huge state like Israel, which has far more military, far more arsenal, and powerful friends, and they can, in1967 , win a war."

Dr. Gandhi maintained that the culture of nonviolence is present and taught in every nation and culture, but it is being suppressed and not expressed properly, as sporadic nonviolence does not make any difference. He stressed the necessity to learn nonviolence well before carrying it out as means of resistance.

"Nonviolence understood properly and used effectively can make a big difference in impacting the oppressor … people think when we talk about nonviolence that it's the non use of physical force, so as long as we're not at war or not killing each other or not beating each other, we're not violent, but that's not nonviolence. Nonviolence is much deeper than that. It's a much more powerful philosophy than that, and that's what we need to understand," Dr. Arun Gandhi said.

Addressing the situations he had encountered during his trip of the occupied Palestinian territories, Gandhi said that what he saw here was ten times worse than the peak of the Apartheid era in South Africa, where he was raised.

"When I come here and see the situation here (in the Palestinian territories), I find that what is happening here is ten times worse than what I had experienced in South Africa. This is Apartheid," he said.

Gandhi continued by referring to the Israeli Apartheid Wall, being built around West Bank cities and towns, saying that "I realized that the Wall is not a wall of security to keep out terrorists, it is a wall to create Bantustans. It is a wall that is isolating communities here, so then these communities can be frustrated and eliminated, not physically, but people can get totally demoralized and leave the town, and that's basically what they (the Israelis) want."

Gandhi pointed out that the occupation of Palestinian land and the manner in which Israel has taken over the Palestinian territories and spread illegal settlements indicates that what is happening is a de facto a part of Israel.

"We are going to recognize this fact, and we're going to rebel against it, not rebel violently and give them the opportunity to crush us, but rebel nonviolently and show the world the injustice you're suffering," Gandhi advised the PLC members.

Gandhi's grandson further mentioned that the more Palestinian people become helpless, the more the world would believe that they are silent and doing nothing towards their injustice, which only means that they are enjoying their life and are happy about it.

"We should not feel helpless, and I think it's the responsibility of you as leaders of the community, to give proper leadership to the community, to make them realize that we have means to fight this kind of situation," Dr. Arun Gandhi spoke to the Palestinian MPs, referring to the famous Berlin Wall, which was created when Adolph Hitler rose to lead the then crushed German people, who were so helpless that they followed anyone, and then brought more misery and oppression on them, and lead to the creation of this Wall.

Dr. Gandhi said that in a few days he would return with his peace delegation to the United States, in order to rectify the image of the Palestinian people in the minds of people there.

"(the Palestinian) people are not terrorists, people are not violent, people are people, people are loving, people are warm-hearted and people want peace and freedom like everybody else."

Revealing a plan he had imagined similar to his grandfather's famous "Salt March" in India, Dr. Gandhi proposed that Palestinian refugees from neighboring Arab countries could march nonviolently back to their homes in Palestine, in order to show the world that they want their freedom and land back.

"What would it look like if there was something equivalent of the 'Salt March' … in 1930 my grandfather launched a salt march, and he marched for 247 miles along with tens of thousands of people following him … what would it look like if a group of leaders from Palestine would lead those50 , 000men, women and children in a march back to Palestine, and let the world know you're coming back to your homes, not to a foreign country nor violating any country's border … maybe the Israeli army would shoot and kill several people, they may kill a hundred or two hundred people; men, women and children, and that would shock the world, and the world would get up and say what's going on. That's the kind of electrifying action that needs to be taken."

Concluding his speech before the PLC, Dr. Arun Gandhi expressed his gratitude to the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people for their hospitality and warmth, and he ascertained that some of the members of his delegation would come back here, hoping that their return would be to a free Palestine, where all Palestinians can freely move between their communities.


Al-Sistani again shows he's most powerful political figure in Iraq

By Nancy A. Youssef

Knight Ridder Newspaper

BAGHDAD, Iraq - By ending the country's most dangerous political standoff after just one brief round of negotiations, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani proved again this week that he's the most powerful political figure in Iraq.

In a single day after returning from medical treatment in London, al-Sistani halted three weeks of fighting in Najaf, an achievement that had eluded the Iraqi government, the U.S. military and its Iraqi allies, and Muqtada al-Sadr, the rebel Shiite Muslim cleric who had taken refuge at Najaf's Imam Ali shrine.

It wasn't the first time that al-Sistani, a revered leader of Iraq's 11 million Shiites, had stifled violence. In April, he also negotiated an end to fighting in Najaf.

Last October, his intervention put an end to talks by al-Sadr to draft his own constitution. And al-Sistani repeatedly thwarted U.S. plans for a transitional government in Iraq while pushing for direct elections at an early date.

Al-Sistani's trump card is his ability call tens - even hundreds - of thousands of his supporters to the streets. Many of them say they'd pick up arms and fight for him, although he has never asked for that.

Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population, and al-Sistani has patiently pushed for direct elections with the knowledge that the country's long-oppressed Shiites almost certainly would control a majority of any government.

He has shown an uncanny sense of timing. In the days leading up to Thursday's negotiations, some Iraqis were tearing up photos of al-Sistani in the streets of Najaf, out of anger that he hadn't saved the city. But on the day that al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia left the shrine, Iraqis called al-Sistani's timing perfect, saying he had intervened while al-Sadr was surrounded by U.S. and Iraqi forces and would have to respond to his peace plan, said Fakbri Karim, an independent politician and the editor of the newspaper al Madeh.

While al-Sistani was strengthened by the crisis, the impact on al-Sadr and the U.S.-backed interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, is less certain.

Some academic experts said the agreement for al-Sadr's forces to vacate the shrine still left room for him and his extremist forces because it didn't shut them down. Others said al-Sadr was humiliated.

Al-Sadr mobilized a radical group of Shiites - often poor and young - who oppose the American presence in Iraq, and he was admired by his followers for forming an army that confronted the United States.

Al-Sadr and al-Sistani don't oppose each other, said Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Michigan who specializes in Shiite Islam. Their shared objective, Cole said, "is the end of the American occupation."

In fact, al-Sadr's extremism might be useful to al-Sistani because it puts pressure on the United States and the interim Iraqi government.

But Karim said al-Sadr lost because the agreement was what the government wanted, not what the cleric wanted. "Those who wanted to transfer the holy shrine into a place they can hold weapons lost. Those who want to reconstruct the country and for sovereignty to prevail won," Karim said.

There was similar debate over how al-Sistani's involvement affected Allawi's leadership. The standoff with al-Sadr forced Allawi to choose between ceding control of a national treasure to a rebel leader or storming the sacred site at the risk of widespread condemnation. While Allawi and several Iraqi political leaders made statements trying to end the standoff, the situation only escalated.

Allawi's decision Thursday to turn to al-Sistani helped him, said Nabil Mohammed Salim, a political science professor at Baghdad University, because the secular leader recognized the importance of religious leadership.

"In some circumstances, it is very difficult to solve something by force, so you have to use wisdom," Salim said.

Others disagreed, saying it showed the impotence of a secular government in Iraq.

"They came off as thugs and lackeys of neo-imperialists," Cole said.

At Um al Qura Mosque in Baghdad, Abu Mohammed, 45, said the need to call on al-Sistani to stop the crisis proved that the American-backed government couldn't govern.

"The government failed to do its duties in solving this problem, and this proves again that Iraq is a pure Islamic country where the main role is for religious leadership, either Sunni or Shite," Mohammed said.

Two state ministers declined to talk about the effect that al-Sistani's involvement had had on their government. Allawi's spokesman, George Sada, couldn't be reached.

Where al-Sistani wants to push the government isn't clear. He's a highly conservative religious leader, although a relative political moderate. While he backs strong Islamic influence on the government, he opposes Iranian-style rule by clerics.

He's a reclusive man, reaching his populace with occasional statements through spokesmen, not with a grandiose public presence.

"He only speaks when there is necessity," said Sayed Kashmiri, an al-Sistani spokesman. "The religious leader is not influenced by government or any other forces. When he has a religious duty, he comes up with an initiative."

Although widely respected as a religious leader, al-Sistani stayed far from politics when Saddam Hussein was in power. As a leader of the marginalized Shiites, he spent most of the 1990s under house arrest until Saddam was overthrown in April 2003. Al-Sistani - as well as al-Sadr - emerged as a national leader after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam's regime.