Monthly Archives: February 2008

Turkish Headscarf Fight Continues

Even as President Gul of Turkey signed a change in the nation’s Constitution that will allow students at universities to enjoy freedom to wear clothes — a change designed to end the ban against women wearing the headscarf– university leaders indicated their resolve to fight against the change. According to Erdogan Tezic, former head of the Higher Education Board, “No judicial change took effect….the ban on religious(head-gear) will continue.” Although the newly changed Article 10 gives freedom to dress at universities, Article 17 is still in effect and that part of the Constitution says one can dress as one desires, provided that dress does not violate existing law. The existing law still bans wearing the headscarf.

For those in other nations, the entire matter appears somewhat exaggerated in importance although secularists in Turkey fear the change is merely an opening step to force females in lower grades of school to adopt the headscarf. That is a definite real concern which must be addressed. How can a reasonable policy be created which protects both secular and religious rights is the question.

Qatar Offers Middleman Role In Israel-Palestine Conflict

Qatar offered to broker a cease fire btween Israel and Hamas the Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamed bin Jassem al-Thani, told a member of Israel’s Knesset. He told Yossi Beilin in Doha, “You are making a big mistake if you think you can reach an agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas without including Hamas in the talks.” He insisted Abbas would not be able to sign a meaningful agreement without having the inclusion of Hamas in that document. The Aqtari said it was an “illusion” to believe Abbas could be separated from Hamas in any final resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Bellin’s response was that Hamas had no intention of agreeing to a cease fire, and its intransigence was the major obstacle to reaching an accord. The Qatar prime minister responded, “you should at least strive to reach a cease-fire” and insisted his nation could assist in reachng such an agreement. He argued Hamas has undergone a dramatic change and is now discussing issues such as a cease fire.

We believe a major mistake was made by not inviting Hamas to the Annapolis Conference where it would have been confronted by a large number of Arab nations interested in ending conflict and discord. Instead, the Bush-Olmert approach of not recognizing one’s opponent only strengthened forces of violence in Hamas.

Australians Leaving Iraq This Year

The newly elected government of Kevin Rudd has announced a change in Australian policy regarding the Iraq war. Australian troops will begin withdrawing from that nation in the coming months. Former Prime Minister John Howard, a close ally of President Bush, repeatedly said the troops would stay until the job was done and criticised Labor’s plan to “cut and run” as galvanizing terrorists. Apparently, his party has decided to change this stance and the Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, Andrew Robb, recanted the Howard position and announced support for troop withdrawal. He claimed Howard would have followed this policy if he had remained in office.

Last July, Prime Minister Howard denied a rumor that he had a secet plan to leave Iraq saying it was “absurd.” But, in politics, when the people speak with their vote, those who are defeated rethink what cost them the election. Prime Minister Rudd said he would leave it to the public to judge whether Howard would have changed course. The bottom line is that Australia’s troop commitment in Iraq will soon be concluded.

Sarcasm-The Last Resort Of The Defeated

Senator Hillary Clinton has decided to go all out in her last ditch campaign for victory even if her tactics will not resonate with the American people. In remarks to a supportive audience at Rhode Island Colege, Clinton insisted none of the problems confronting the nation will be readily resolved, but she went on in a derisive tone to comment: “Now I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get eveybody together. Let’s get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs willbe singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.” She mocked her rival by insisting, “you are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear.”

Senator Clinton is right, there are no simple solutions to problems in foreign policy or restoring the economy. She still doesn’t grasp how tired is this nation of vicious attacks by rival political parties on opponents, of an emotional fatigue brought on by assaults upon the rights of people and a government which derides opponents as soft on terrorism for opposing its policies. The American people do not regard themselves as living in red or blue states, they are a unified nation with common goals. Throughout the primary campaign, Hillary Clinton has tried the politics as usual approach and believes past experience is a guide to future solutions. She still doesn’t get the point, Americans want a new future in which political leaders seek to unite rather than divide. That is why she will not be the candidate of the Democratic Party in November.

Turkish Offense Continues In Iraq

On the third day of the Turkish military operation in Iraq to crush the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party, fighting intensified between both parties. An estimated 113 terrorists and fifteen soldiers have died as troops battled in northern Iraq. The Turkish military warned the local populace not to provide assistance to Kurdish rebels. “What we expect from the local groups is not to protect the terrorists escaping to the sourthern parts of Iraq.” Air raids continue even as ground forces are attempting to crush the Kurdish rebels. Prime Minister Erdogan emphasized to Iraqis there was no intention of trying to take over their land and the object was Kurdish camps.

Ncchirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq lowered his rhetoric and acknowledged Turkey had a right to defend itself against rebel attacks. However, he expressed concern “that the infrastructure of the region ws targeted.” Barzaini called on President Bush to assist efforts to restore peace to the region. The Iraq government also agreed Turkey had a right of self defense, but also was worried the attack might result in further destabilization of a destablized society.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded Turkey cease its invasion of Iraq terriroty and withdraw. The unknown factor in this invasion equation is how militant Shiites will react to an invasion of their nation. What will be Turkey’s reaction if large numbers of the PKK escape to southern Iraq– will they be pursued?

Malaysia Government Defends Its Policies

In an effort to counter public complaints, the Malaysian government has launched a media blitz which intends to reassure the nation things are, in reality, better than what they are daily experiencing. Prime Miister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s National Front coalition rolled out a major publicity campaign with a slogan promising “security, peace, prosperity.” Full page advertisements and TV ads assured the population that prices really were not rising and boasted of government spending to keep down the cost of food. One and all were promised “all Malaysians enjoy lower prices and have more money in their pockets because we care.”

The manifesto of the good life was also designed to quell minority complaints of racial and religious discrimination. The coalition garnered 199 out of 219 parliamentary seats in 2004 polls and probably will secure close to that level in the current political campaign. One can only assume that in Malaysia the people can eat advertisements in place of food.

Justice –Afghanistan Style!

The decision to invade Afghanistan and remove the Taliban from its dictatorial rule was made in hope the liberated nation could achieve a new birth of freedom. President Bush proclaimed the need to drive from power a group of medieval minded clerics who had crushed all forces of secularism. In an interview with a reporter from England’s The Independent, Pervez Kambaksh, described the farce of a so-called judicial process conducted by medieval minded clerics. “There was no question of me getting a lawyer to present me in the case, in fact I was not even able to speak on my own defence.” The 23 year-old student who was sentenced to death for the crime of downloding material from the Internet dealing with women rights now sits in a jail awaiting his fate.

The four minute hearing has resulted in a four month jailing where he is in a 10 by 12 metre cell with 34 others, including murderers, robbers and terrorists. Nearly 360 prisoners are packed into a facility designed to handle 200. Among the inmates are 22 women conicted of dserting their husbands and adultery. The Independent took up his case and so far has gathered over 90,000 signatures on a petition to free him. Its campaign also resulted in an international furor over the incident. Mr. Kambaksh was charged with writing the aritcle but no proof was given for the accusation. He describes going to a court where three judges and the prosecutor declared the death sentence.

The issue is not whether or not he wrote an article since writing an article should never be a crime. The issue is what has happened to the effort to create freedom and democracy in Afghanistan. Why are women imprisoned for leaving husbands or for adultery? Are any Afghan males imprisoned for leaving wives or adultery? Why are NATO and American forces risking their lives to protect a group of bigoted clerics? In which way are those we defend different from those we oppose? The Bush Afghanistan policy has failed in the same manner as his policy in Iraq. Nearly four thousand Americans have died so women can be oppressed and bigotry rule unchecked.

Taliban Offers Peace Talks To New Pakistan Leaders

A spokesperson quoted Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud as calling for negotiations with the political parties that defeated President Musharraf in last week’s parliament elections. “The Taliban movement welcomes the victory of anti-Musharraf political parties… and announces its willngness to enter into negotiations with them for bringing peace.” Mehsud claimed “we want peace, but if they impose war on us, we will not spare them.” The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz responded to the Taliban statement by stating President Musharraf has “mishandled the situation to stay in power.”

It is difficult to believe Mehsud is interested in long term peace unless it follows his Taliban version of governance. He most probably is using anger against Musharraf to obtain a cease fire during which time he will regroup and rearm. There is no question Musharraf has bungled many things, including the war against militants, but arranging peace without serious disarmament of the Taliban would be a mistake.

Militant Attacks Down In Afghanistan

General Joseph Votel claimed militant attacks in eastern regions of Aghanistan have been sharply reduced over the past year. He credited aggressive miltary operations, outreach programs to tribal leaders, and a more effective Afghan fighting force as principle reasons for the improvement. However, General Votel also noted: “I think if there’s going to be an offensive in the spring–the offensive is going to be ours.” There have been 36 attacks so far this month which is a 35% reduction from the same period last year. He credited the high number of militant leaders killed with reducing militant efforts in the eastern area of Afghanistan.

During the past few weeks there have been additional examples of militants placing themselves in a village and engaging opponents in fighting. This invariably results in civilian casualties which people frequently blame on NATO and government forces or the United States Army. Afghan authorities have pleaded with international forces to cooerindate closely with their Afghan counterparts to prevent such civilian casualties.

There has been an active Pakistan Army offensive launched against militants in its northwest region and one can wonder if that has impacted Taliban forces in eastern Afghanstan.

Sounds Of Silence In North Korea

The North Korean government is presently engaged in tearing down anti-American posters that line the streets of Pyongyang in preparation for the New York Philharmonic’s unprecedented visit. Muscicians preparing for the strip that that begins today hoped their personal contacts with North Koreans will aid in the effort to reduce hatred in the country toward the United States. But, some are worried that tomorrow evening’s performance will somehow be used to further propaganda efforts by the North Korean leaders. However, the government has promised the largest possible audience will be able to hear the concerts.

Philharonic musicians will also hold master classes for North Korean students and play chamger music with members of the North’s State Symphony Orchestra. Among members of the American touring group will be eight ethnic Koreans. A few musicians expressed concern their presence will only be known to the elite portion of North Korea while average citizens will not be in attendance. It is not known if North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, will attend any performances.

Sometimes in life one takes what one can get. A good evening of music with Americans is better than the silence of nonstop hate generated by the North Korean government toward the United States.