Monthly Archives: December 2007

Musharraf–Uniter-In-Chief?

The tragic death of Benazir Bhutto has left her nation in shambles as members of the Pakistan Peoples Party march through the streets shouting slogans about the “General Killer” who they blame for her assassination. The out pouring of sympathy and respect for the brave Pakistan leader has, unfortunately, transformed a flawed person into an heroic icon. Ms. Bhutto, as prime minister, supported formation of the Taliban and undoubtedly was well aware that nuclear knowledge was being conveyed to other parts of the world. But, she did possess the quality of bravery and this is something President Musharraf must now demonstrate during the long night his nation now confronts.

What can President Musharraf do in order to unite his grief stricken country? He must first recognize that a victory for his Pakistan Muslin League in next week’s election will only further fracture Pakistan. Musharraf must rise above party concerns and reach out to the PPP and his opponent, Nawaz Shariff. A plea from the president to his countrymen to vote for PPP candidates and those of Shariff would resonate with people chanting hatred toward him. This approach would cast him as a statesman who has abandoned partisan party politics in order to unify his divided nation. He could appoint a bipartisan commission to thoroughly investigate and reform the notorious ISI which is believed by many to have had a role in the assassination. Regardless of whether the rumors are accurate, the leadership of the ISI must be thoroughly revamped in order to restore public confidence.

President Musharrf has never displayed statesmanlike qualities because in his heart there is a hunger for order and control. He may wind up selecting the road of authoritarianism or he can walk down the more precarious road to democracy. If PPP candidates and Shariff win control of Parliament, they can unite with the president and address issues of poverty and terrorism. The alternative is further division, further chaos, and further terrorism.

Mitt Romney- A Man For All Seasons

As voters prepare to cast their ballots in Iowa this week, the candidacy of former Governor Mitt Romney will be a centerpiece for Republican hopes. His campaign is well funded since he has the necessary money to present his views, but more important is the continual ethical issues presented by his candidacy. While Rudy Giuliani is frequently attacked for bombastic boasting, Romney increasingly raises eyebrows for his tendency to say whatever will please voters, regardless of the fact the day prior he said something different. As governor of Massachusetts, he supported Bush tax cuts, and never came out against legal or illegal immigrants. Last week, when asked if he would attack Senator John McCain on immigration, Romney indcated he would hold off, but yesterday his ads blasting away at McCain on immigration were being shown all over Iowa.

Earlier this year, Romney claimed to be a hunter all his life, but investigation revealed he had only hunted three times and didn’t even possess a rifle. He claimed to have support from the National Rifle Association in his gubernatorial campaigns, but later admitted that mainly consisted of a few NRA members doing pone calling. There is no question Romney is a clean-cut man who has never been involved in any scandals, but the continual petty distortions and and switching of positions will undoubtedly doom his chances for obtaining the Republican nomination. He is a man for all seasons, he is a man for all voters, he is a man for all viewpoints, he is a pandering man, and he has now run smack into a Huckabee whose humor and refusal to alter views will probably lead to victory over Romney this week.

In a sense, Mitt Romney’s campaign has run into the same problems as has Hillary Clinton’s pursuit of the nomination. Both come across as seeking votes rather than as presenting views in which they believe even if sticking to principles loses votes. This year, the American voter seeks candidates who adhere to principles and are willing to place the interests of the nation before anything else. Perhaps, a loss in Iowa will give Romney some additional time to go out hunting with his non-existant rifle in a forest of lies and distortion. Mitt, you had a good shot at the nomination, but you just fired blanks.

Dueling Election Numbers in Kenya Cause Chaos

Kenya conducted a democratic election which was supposed to produce a president who had clearly gained a majority of the vote. Unfortunately, there are widely different vote results at this point in time. The opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement, claims the vote results are 4,215,000 for its candidate Raila Odinga and 3,715,000 for the incumbent President KIbaki. However, the Election Commission is offering a different set of numbers claiming the vote is 3,880,000 for Odinga and 3,842,000 for President Kibaki. There are some reports of violence in Nairobi although, overall, the election was conducted in a fair manner.

One problem about the Election Commission results is that at least 20 top level ministers in the current government were defeated for seats in parliament. Ordinarily, when a government suffers such dramatic loss among its top leadership it is indicative that the electorate is voting for the opposition. The nation of Kenya waits anxiously for final figures and if they reveal a victory for President Kibaki, one can expect justifiable complaints from the opposition.

Is Israel A “Jewish State?”

The history of Zionism and the quest for a homeland for Jewish people contains an underlying concept that such a homeland would be home to people of various faiths besides Jews. Until President Bush made his recent controversial remark that Israel was a “Jewish state” there is little evidence of such a feeling among prior efforts to establish peace between Israel and Muslim nations. This claim was never brought up during negotiations with the PLO, with Arafat or the Palestinian Authority. It was never raised during discussions with Egypt and Jordan when peace treaties were being hammered out with those nations. No such claim was ever made during the famous Camp David discussions between Sadat and Begin. As always, George Bush displayed his propensity for ineptitude, by introducing a concept that was never on the table for negotiation regarding the future of Israel.

Arabs have good reason to reject this concept, particularly since 20% of Israel’s population is composed of Muslims and Christians. The remark is racist in nature and denies the rights and humanity of 20% of the population. American Jews are furious when Christian religious leaders make reference to the United States being a Christian nation. Jews are 2% if the population, not 20% but they react with anger and horror at such remarks. How can Jews use similar expressions to deny the humanity of Muslims and Christians residing in Israel? A modern state is not a theocracy, it is an area in which people of divergent– or no faith– live in harmony with one another and do not allow religious figures to make decisions regarding national goals and aspirations. During the past few thousand years Jews have fought against religious authorities making decisions about other groups in society. Certainly, the same should hold true in Israel.

Many analysts believe the ready acceptance of the Bush blunder is being used by Israeli leaders to ward off claims by Palestinian Arab refugees for the right to return. Reality is that Israel can not absorb such large numbers of refugees anymore than Arab nations which witnessed the departure of Jews from their lands in the 1950s will ever allow them to return. The issue can be resolved with compromise and common sense on both sides.

Jacob Zuma Faces New Corruption Charges In South Africa

Last week, the African National Congress selected Jacob Zuma as its leader, which ordinarily, given the party’s domination of South African politics, is a first step toward becoming president of the nation. However, South African prosecutors yesterday levied new charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and racketeering to go along with and earlier indictment of fraud and corruption. President Mbeki, a political opponent of Zuma, had fired him as the deputy leader of the nation after he was acquitted on rape charges, but his financial advisor was sent to jail for soliciting bribes. The new indictment was denounced by many sectors of the African National Congress as stemming from a vendetta by President Mibeki.

Ironically, all players in this crime drama belong to the same political organization– the African National Congress. Zuma’s trial will begin in April, 2008 and he has promised to step down from running for the presidency if he is convicted. Although, he has made that promise not all observers believe he will carry it out. Jacob Zuma plays the role of radical reformer who is on the side of the average African. This performance has gotten him popularity, but along the way, there are simply too many charges and indictments to make him other than a dubious leader of a nation that holds the mantle as conscience of the African continent. A true leader would retire gracefully from the scene, don’t hold your breath for this happening in the near future, regardless of the outcome of his trial.

Cuba Sends Doctors, Philippines Sends Nurses!

Doctors in the Philippines are turning themselves into nurses in order to obtain medical positions in the United States due to difficulty in having their medical education recognized by Americans. The resulting brain drain is impacting the quality of medical care in the Philippines. The Cuban government has offered to provide much needed doctors since their nation produces a surplus of medical practitioners. Cuban Ambassador Jorge Rey Jimenez told the Philippine government, “We have lots of doctors and medical practitioners. We have offered them to the Philippines” but have yet to receive a response. Cuba now provides 17,000 doctors and dentists to Venezuela in exchange for oil which has resulted in bringing down maternal and child deaths to only one-fifth of their former level.

The United States has one doctor for ever 150 people, Cuba has one for every 159 and the Philippines has one for very 10,000 people. The United States provides military aid to the Philippines, but there is no talk of supplying medical aid such as subsidizing the salaries of Filipino doctors who would commit to remaining in their nation. Consider the good will if Filipinos knew that adequate medical care was a result of America’s commitment to their well being. Instead, we provide guns and ammunitions and planes. In the long run, good teeth and good health might be worth more to the average Filipino than a gun.

Muslim Alevis Protest German TV Program

Thousands of Alevis from both Germany and Turkey are gathering for a massive protest in Cologne over a German TV program which they claim was insulting to members of their religion. The Alevi denomination is a distinct and liberal movement in Islam and its members are manly found in Turkey and Syria as well in parts of Europe. Germany is believed to have about 700,000 members. The Alevis have been the target of Islamic fundamentalists and 37 of Turkey’s Sunni and high profile Alevi artists and intellectuals were killed in a fire set by Islamists in 1993 in Turkey.

The episode in the German crime series, “Tatort” dealt with murder and incest in an Alevi family in Germany. In the program, Alevis are depicted as being quite different from Alevis. During the Ottoman Empire, the Alevis were frequently accused of incest because they included women and children in their religious rituals. In the offending episode, a girl is murdered by her father after confronting him about impregnating her sister. The sister then goes to live with a Sunni family and becomes a devout Muslim.

Ali Tobprak of the European Federation of Alevi Unions, said he tried discussing the episode prior to its being aired and insisted Alevis respected freedom of the press and speech, but warned its showing would spark hatred against his group. The dirctor of the episode admitted she didn’t know much about the Alevis or their history of being persecuted or accusations against them about incest. The episode was aired.

There are times when historical factors should enter into a television program’s decision to depict people. For example, to show in Germany an episode in which Jews of the 1930s are depicted in an evil manner is simply in poor taste. This show apparently was in poor taste.

Issue Of Pakistan Election Creates Confusion

Pakistan continues to experience chaos in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. New reports indicate the original belief she was killed by bullets and shrapnel from the explosion were incorrect. The latest version is the shockwave fro the blast threw her body against the reinforced sunroof of the car and that led to her death. Bhutto supporters are still marching chanting slogans like “General Killer” since they believe the president of Pakistan was somehow responsible for the death of their leader. The Pakistan army has orders to fire on sight against any violent demonstrators and these encounters so far have resulted in the death of at least 31 people.

Acting Prime Minister Mohammedian Soomoro insists the elections “stan as they are” and there are no plans to cancel them. Nawaz Shariff, a past opponent, but recently an ally of Bhutto has threatened to boycott the election, but his final decision has yet to be made. Foreign leaders like England’s Gordon Brown and President Bush are urging no delay in the election. The issue of a delay is vital. The Pakistan Peoples Party is not ready at this moment to offer a full slate for the election and its leadership is in turmoil. Certainly, waiting a few weeks will not alter the democratic process. Shariff should have an opportunity to have discussions with PPP leaders and work out an electoral strategy. Bush and Brown are making a mistake in urging continuation of the election. If Musharraf’s party gains a large majority it will only lead to future riots. It is time to take a deep breath and allow the PPP an Shariff to decide when they wish the election to occur.

From Super Power To Super Disorder-America, 2007!

The best evaluation of the Bush administration in 2007 came from Kevin Conrad at the Bali Conference on global warming when he said to the United States: “We seek your leadership. But, if for some reason, you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us.Please get out of our way.” Upon his assumption to the presidency in 2001, Bush led the world’s super power, today, after seven years of ineptitude and confusion, that world is over and has been replaced by one in which China, Russia, India, and the European Union now share joint planet leadership. In 2001, an American tourist could get a decent return when exchanging his dollar bill for a Euro, today, it is worth about 60% of the Euro. The steady decline of America continues as Bush rides into the sunset of retirement.

A humbled Russia was unable in 2001 to use its political or economic power on the world arena, today, the arrogant, sneering voice of Vladmir Putin lectures America on what it can or can not do. The Iraq debacle has damaged the reputation and the economic power of the United States. Once upon a time, most people in Turkey respected the United States, today, that support has sunk to about 9% favorable rating. Afghanistan has been allowed to stumble from a golden opportunity to achieve peace and security to a nation at odds with itself and confused about future directions. Bill Clinton left Bush an opportunity to pick up on his efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict but the Republican president declined the offer to allow anything initiated by a Democrat to move toward success.

How stands America as the new year begins? Pakistan is a basket case. Iraq is torn by religious division. The housing market has bottomed out in America, the Republican Party has seven dwarfs seeking its nomination, Dick Cheney is sitting in a dark room mumbling and planning some military attack on Iran to end WMD once again that do not exist, and global warming proceeds without an effective program from the United States– its major factor. Bush is simply lost and confused. The latest manifestation is his veto of a defense bill that his own party supported because, at the last moment, his incompetent staff noticed a proviso that allowed victims of the Saddam Hussein brutality to sue for compensation. Sorry, this is Bush time, and when anything threatens banks,(the Iraq government threatened to withdraw its money from US banks) he will step up to the plate to defend them. Mr. Bush never met a tax deficit he could not embrace.

The war in Iraq continues. It will go on and on throughout this year. The prospect for an Israel-Palestine pace agreement is tenuous until the United States exerts pressure on Israel to end its West Bank settlements and get Hamas involved in negotiations. America’s infrastructure needs a few hundred billion in repairs. There is need to finally confront issues of oil dependency and get away from the disastrous use of corn to make fuel. America is at a crossroads and which road it selects is uncertain. The only certainty is that an incoming president will have to make wise decisions that take into account decades rather than months and years.

We now have five superpowers. America must learn to live with that reality.

Tale Of Two Muslim Nations-Pakistan And Indonesia

The nation of Pakistan is going through a massive convulsion following the death of Benazir Bhutto, but several hundred miles away in the most populous Muslim nations of the world, there is no terrorism and no violence raging through its streets. According to Indonesian Inspector General Sisno Adwindo, “there was no bombing incident related to terrorism in 2007, but we have to remain alert for such a threat next year.” What accounts for the absence of religious fanaticism in one Muslim country while the other is wracked by non-stop fighting and killing? At the heart of this matter is the emphasis among Indonesian leaders for a preventive approach, ward off terrorism before it can begin. The Indonesian government works closely with religious leaders in an effort to achieve what Sisno terms, “a united perspective on terrorism.” America has emphasized to Pakistan that only military action will deal with terrorism, and, in so doing, unleashed the forces of war and violence.

Imagine, for a moment, if American aid to Pakistan had focused on economic rather than military development. Imagine if the US worked closely with Pakistan leaders to develop a vibrant economy. Imagine if the US finally demanded that Saudi Arabia cease funding Islamic schools which teach violence and hatred toward the West. Imagine, for a moment, if the US had not created the violence that is now Iraq, but had worked with moderate Muslim leaders of the world to create conditions for peaceful social and economic development. Indonesia is on the right path, avoid war and conflict and work with religious leaders to educate people in the virtues of peace. By the way, this Christmas there were 15,000 Indonesian police guarding Christian churches and they were assisted by thousands of Muslims who voluntarily came out to ensure peace and tranquility for their Christian neighbors.