Saturday, December 4, 2010

WikiLeaks Must Remain Free

No news dominated the headlines in the USA as the WikiLeaks story last week when the website released confidential U.S. State Department materials. The latest release is the third in recent months, following disclosures of two caches of U.S. government cables about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The leaked diplomatic cables offer an uncomfortable view into the back corridors of American diplomacy and have been aptly described a ‘diplomatic 9/11’ for the State Department, which is embarrassed for being caught off-guard. Secretary Clinton has been on a four-country swing through Central Asia and the Persian Gulf to repair the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures.

The leaked documents are a treasure trove for anyone interested in knowing how the U.S. diplomacy works. They show the extensive and increasingly successful manipulation by the U.S. for pushing a consensus to confront Iran’s nuclear program. It is not Israel alone in that region that is against Iran but also the Gulf States like the Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The leaks reveal the hypocrisy of the totalitarian regimes in the Arab world that are uncomfortable of being seen as collaborators furthering pro-American agenda. For instance, the Yemeni leader Saleh in a January meeting with U.S. General Petraeus urged the U.S. to continue its anti-al-Qaeda operations inside Yemen, while he would seek to find political cover at home by falsely claiming that ‘bombs are ours’ and not America’s.

The cables showed U.S. officials exploring ways to remove the highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani nuclear site in a way that would not spur a political backlash against President Zardari. The leaked cables also detailed a secret U.S. intelligence gathering campaign at the U.N. where the U.S. diplomats were asked to collect biometric information on key U.N. officials. The leaked cables also reveal that the USA and South Korea have discussed plans for collapsing the North Korean regime. Leaked cables showed British politicians trying to keep Parliament in the dark over the storage of American cluster bombs on British territory, despite an international ban on the weapons.

The leaked cables show the derogatory ways America’s allies referred to diplomatic partners. The French President Sarkozy is described as ‘thin-skinned and authoritarian’ ruler who is ‘an emperor with no clothes,’ German Chancellor Merkel as ‘risk averse and rarely creative’ Teflon politician, Russia’s Putin as ‘vicious alpha-dog,’ Turkmenistan’s Berdymukhamedov as ‘not a very bright guy,’ and the Afghan leader Karzai as ‘extremely weak.’ The list goes on, sure to embarrass diplomats, anger foreign officials, undermine international relationships and complicate communications.

When asked to comment on the leaks, the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called these ‘embarrassing’ and ‘awkward’ but said the damage will be moderate. The Secretary Clinton and her State Department officials have been busy trying to limit the diplomatic ‘embarrassment’ and possible strategic losses by calling dozens of foreign governments.

Long gone are the days of open diplomacy when President Woodrow Wilson advocated ‘open covenants of peace, openly arrived at.’ Interestingly, it was the same Wilson who abandoned his own advocacy for openness when he went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shaped the Treaty of Versailles.

Now governments – liberal and illiberal democracies alike, let alone the totalitarian regimes – are more into secrecy when it comes to diplomacy. What the diplomats say in public may only be half-truths, or worse yet, lies. They also equivocate or speak with forked tongues that allow them to deny today what they meant yesterday. The greater the equivocation skill the larger the image of the diplomat as a successful one!

The WikiLeaks disclosures have been praised by many who believe that they will allow the public to hold the government more accountable and thus improve American foreign policy. There is a merit to this line of argument when one reflects upon the mere fact that our world would have been a better place to live in if people were more informed of the secret decisions made by their governments. There would not possibly be a World War II or the emergence of Adolf Hitler if people knew that the Versailles Pact could provide the very seed for such later events. Would there be an Israeli-Palestinian conflict today if there was no Hitler and no World War II in which many Jews perished? Would the Arab world know about the secret Sykes-Picot Accord of 1916 that mapped out the partition of post-Ottoman Middle East between Britain and France had it not been for the Bolsheviks who in 1917 opened up the Czarist archives?

No, we don’t need to go that far back in our history book to learn the value of openness. What chance was there to invade Iraq if the American public knew the whole truth and nothing but the truth that there was no weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? What likelihood is there that America would be seen as a partner-in-crime to the Zionist state if the American public knew the whole truth about Israel’s outrageous influence over American policy-makers thereby undermining peaceful resolution of the conflict? How about the whole truth about Iran’s nuclear program? Can American public be mobilized to support an all-out sanction and repeat of the war crimes in the Iranian soil if it knows that there is no ‘smoking gun’ in Iran, not even the desire to acquire one?

On the contrary, leaks like this simply make those in power retreat further into the shadows to defend themselves and their positions. For instance, previous WikiLeaks releases have already driven the Pentagon to limit cross-agency sharing of information.

One lesson is that foreign officials will less likely speak candidly to U.S. emissaries knowing that their words may later be leaked out.

The suspected leaker is Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning, a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst, who has been in custody in Virginia in a pre-trial detention for the last few months for improperly accessing a State Department cable on Iceland and providing it to WikiLeaks. Reportedly he had taken 260,000 State Department cables, although he has not yet been charged in connection with the last three WikiLeaks releases.

What is striking is that if such a vast storehouse of secret information could be accessed by a low-ranking army analyst there is little doubt that freelance hackers and foreign spies can do just as much. Let’s face it. We live in a digital age when information is easily accessible, including our personal data. We are all at the mercy of zealous hackers. Thus, silencing the WikiLeaks won’t be able to address the underlying problem with vital information that needs either safeguarding or sharing.

Already efforts are underway to silence WikiLeaks. Its website has been under repeated cyber attacks. Its founder Julian Assange has been placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list for an alleged sex crime in Sweden, which he strongly denies of committing. New York Congressman Peter King, a Republican hawk on the House Committee on Homeland Security, has called for Mr. Assange’s arrest for violating the U.S. Espionage Act. It is worth noting here that as recently as 2009 the U.S. government dropped an Espionage Act prosecution against two lobbyists for AIPAC, the American-Israeli lobby, after a rebuke by a federal appeals court. Nonetheless, the pro-war politicians consider Mr. Assange an ‘enemy combatant’ with ‘blood on his hands.’ The Obama administration also wants to stop the whistle-blower website. Secretary Clinton has described the WikiLeaks disclosure ‘not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests’ but also ‘an attack on the international community – the alliances and partnerships.’

On December 1, Amazon.com, which initially had allowed its server for disseminating the documents, yielded to pressure from the U.S. government to cut off WikiLeaks. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), a war-monger who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee, congratulated Amazon for its decision. After staying six hours offline, the website has found a new host and is back online as WikiLeaks.ch. The Pentagon said Wednesday that it could take down WikiLeaks if it wanted to, but to that point had decided against it. The Online payment service provider PayPal says in a company blog it has cut off the account used by WikiLeaks to collect donations. A State Department official warned students at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs this week that talking about WikiLeaks on Facebook or Twitter could endanger job prospects.

It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government and the pro-war politicians dislike WikiLeaks: it has told the truth about their wars. To them, WikiLeaks is a rogue organization that has exposed official wrongdoing and countless war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving as a very important channel of information the U.S. government has tried to keep hidden from its own citizens.

WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization that is dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. In this age of embedded journalism when citizens are deliberately lied to by their respective governments and are tired of listening to and reading one-sided stories fed by merchants and promoters of war, the organization has done a superb job in publishing authentic material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of its sources anonymous. Truly, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks are doing the work that journalists and the media used to do in the USA: speaking truth to power and backing it up with proof and documentation instead of yellow journalism. They have allowed us to see the dirty and evil side of war, and deterred the war party to foment future wars, at least for the time being.

WikiLeaks must be allowed to remain free and provide critical information that public has a right to know. Gestapo-like conduct and McCarthy-era gagging are simply unacceptable in a society that promotes itself as an open society.

Nigeria charges Dick Cheney over bribery

According to the Huffington Post:

Nigerian authorities will charge former Vice President Dick Cheney over a bribery scandal that is alleged to involve Halliburton, BusinessWeek reports. An arrest warrant "will be issued and transmitted through Interpol," said Godwin Obla, the prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria.

The charges center on an alleged $180 million bribery payment used to secure a $6 billion liquefied natural gas.

Are you surprised to hear this bribery allegation against Dick? I am not. The sad fact however is that Nigeria won't be able to bring this monster to face the charges, nor will he be handed over to the International Court of Justice to face war crimes in Iraq.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pandit Nehru on Kashmiri people's right to plebiscite or referendum

In a recent article on Indian Occupied Kashmir, my favorite Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy quoted several statements from Pandit Nehru. This can be seen below:

1. In his telegram to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the state to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view.” (Telegram 402 Primin-2227 dated 27th October, 1947 to PM of Pakistan repeating telegram addressed to PM of UK).

2. In other telegram to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir's accession to India was accepted by us at the request of the Maharaja's government and the most numerously representative popular organization in the state which is predominantly Muslim. Even then it was accepted on condition that as soon as law and order had been restored, the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession. It is open to them to accede to either Dominion then.” (Telegram No. 255 dated 31 October, 1947).

Accession issue

3. In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on 2nd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide ------ And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir.”

4. In another broadcast to the nation on 3rd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”

5. In his letter No. 368 Primin dated 21 November, 1947 addressed to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”

U.N. supervision

6.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 25th November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “In order to establish our bona fide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organisation. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.”

7.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 5th March, 1948, Pandit Nehru said, “Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We insisted further that the Government of Kashmir must immediately become a popular government. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a Plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir.”

Referendum or plebiscite

8.In his press-conference in London on 16th January, 1951, as reported by the daily ‘Statesman' on 18th January, 1951, Pandit Nehru stated, “India has repeatedly offered to work with the United Nations reasonable safeguards to enable the people of Kashmir to express their will and is always ready to do so. We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmir people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite. In fact, this was our proposal long before the United Nations came into the picture. Ultimately the final decision of the settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir and secondly, as between Pakistan and India directly. Of course it must be remembered that we (India and Pakistan) have reached a great deal of agreement already. What I mean is that many basic features have been thrashed out. We all agreed that it is the people of Kashmir who must decide for themselves about their future externally or internally. It is an obvious fact that even without our agreement no country is going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris.”

9.In his report to All Indian Congress Committee on 6th July, 1951 as published in the Statesman, New Delhi on 9th July, 1951, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men.”

10.In a letter dated 11th September, 1951, to the U.N. representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, “The Government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”

Word of honour

11.As reported by Amrita Bazar Patrika, Calcutta, on 2nd January, 1952, while replying to Dr. Mookerji's question in the Indian Legislature as to what the Congress Government going to do about one third of territory still held by Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their Plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting. We have taken the issue to United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”

12.In his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7th August, 1952, Pandit Nehru said, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.”

Kashmir's soul

13.In his statement in the Lok Sabha on 31st March, 1955 as published in Hindustan Times New Delhi on Ist April, 1955, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of all these problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir.”

14.In his statement in the Security Council while taking part in debate on Kashmir in the 765th meeting of the Security Council on 24th January, 1957, the Indian representative Mr. Krishna Menon said, “So far as we are concerned, there is not one word in the statements that I have made in this council which can be interpreted to mean that we will not honour international obligations. I want to say for the purpose of the record that there is nothing that has been said on behalf of the Government of India which in the slightest degree indicates that the Government of India or the Union of India will dishonour any international obligations it has undertaken.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving – the real truth

Thanksgiving Day is the most observed holiday in the USA, which is celebrated by people of all races, colors, ethnicities and even religions. It is a day in which family members gather to eat turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving holiday falls on the last Thursday of November. There is even a White House event in which the President pardons a turkey on Wednesday.
This year, the National Thanksgiving Turkey Apple, and his alternate Cider, both 21-week old, 45-pound turkeys, came to the White House from Foster Farms Wellsford Ranch near Modesto, California. Both turkeys participated in a rigorous competition back home at the farm in order to win the ultimate prize of a Presidential pardon and an all-expenses-paid trip to the White House. Apple and Cider will live out their days at Mount Vernon, home of the first President George Washington. Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, gave President Obama’s family two dressed turkeys that were donated to Martha’s Table, a community based non-profit organization in Northwest DC that helps feed and clothe those in need.
Like every other major popular celebration in our world, Thanksgiving has its history, not a pleasant one though – the kind that we often hear which associates it with the “Pilgrims” that landed in the New World. According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as "Thanksgiving," with giving thanks to God for the harvests of the land, the Pilgrims never called it that.
So, what did really happen in Plymouth in 1621? For that we have to dig deeper into history, away from popular myths and traditions -- the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony -- and come to terms with some of the most terrifying bloodsheds in New World history.
We are told that on September 6, 1620 the Pilgrims had set sail for the New World on a ship called the Mayflower. They sailed from Plymouth, England. When the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean they landed on the rocky shores of a territory that was inhabited by the Wampanoag (Wam pa NO ag) Indians. It was there that the Pilgrims decide to settle. The Pilgrims biggest concern was attack by the local Native American Indians. But the latter were a peaceful group and did not prove to be a threat. Any visitor to a Wampanoag home was provided with a share of whatever food the family had, even if the supply was low. This same courtesy was extended to the Pilgrims when they met.
We can only guess what the Wampanoags must have thought when they first saw the strange ships of the Pilgrims arriving on their shores. But their custom was to help visitors, and they treated the newcomers with courtesy. It was mainly because of their kindness that the Pilgrims survived at all. The wheat the Pilgrims had brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky soil.
On March 16, 1621, what was to become an important event took place, an Indian brave walked into the Plymouth settlement. The Pilgrims were frightened until the Indian called out "Welcome" (in English). His name was Samoset and he was an Abnaki Indian. He had learned English from the captains of fishing boats that had sailed off the coast. After staying the night Samoset left the next day. He soon returned with another Indian named Squanto who spoke better English than Samoset. Squanto told the Pilgrims of his voyages across the ocean and his visits to England and Spain. It was in England where he had learned English. Squanto's importance to the Pilgrims was enormous and it can be said that they would not have survived without his help.
The Pilgrims needed to learn new ways for a new world. They were not in good condition. They were living in dirt-covered shelters, there was a shortage of food, and nearly half of them had died during the winter. They obviously needed help. Squanto brought them deer meat and beaver skins. He taught them how to cultivate corn and other new vegetables and how to build Indian-style houses. He pointed out poisonous plants and showed how other plants could be used as medicine. He explained how to dig and cook clams, how to get sap from the maple trees, use fish for fertilizer, and dozens of other skills needed for their survival. By the time fall arrived things were going much better for the Pilgrims, thanks to the help they had received. The Pilgrims decided to have a thanksgiving feast to celebrate their good fortune.
Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims, invited Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoags), and their immediate families to join them for a celebration. As the Thanksgiving feast began, the Pilgrims were overwhelmed at the large turnout of ninety relatives that Squanto and Samoset brought with them. The Pilgrims were not prepared to feed a gathering of people that large for three days. Seeing this, Massasoit gave orders to his men within the first hour of his arrival to go home and get more food. Thus it happened that the Indians supplied the majority of the food.
Contrary to the fabricated lore of storyteller generations no Pilgrims prayed at the meal. What's more, they consumed a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's "notorious sin," which included their "drunkenness and uncleanliness" and rampant "sodomy".
Later as the pilgrims grew in number they started showing intolerance to the Indians and their religion. The relationship deteriorated. Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies - all in preparation for the military destruction of the Native American Indians.
Pilgrim Miles Standish went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, and then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamet. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years. Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name "Wotowquenange," which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers. A monument in Weymouth, rededicated in 1923 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of settlement, still bears testimony to the encounter between the natives and the white settlers under Miles Standish that killed Indian chiefs Pecksuot and Wituwamet in March, 1623.
By the mid 1630s, a new group of 700 even holier Europeans, calling themselves Puritans, had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston, which only served to accelerate the brutality against the Indians.
In one incident in 1637, a force of whites trapped and killed some seven hundred Pequot Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, who had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival near the mouth of the Mystic River. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered. This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving.
In just 10 years 12,000 whites had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew they pressed for all-out extermination of the Indian. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusetts nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646.
By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great Indian chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet. Renamed "King Philip" by the white man, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle and culture of his people as European-imposed laws and values engulfed them.
When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were "left for the wolves." The great Indian chief's hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first "day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy."
As the Native American Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a "General Thanksgiving"-not in celebration of the brotherhood of man - but for [God's] infinite Goodness to extend His Favors...In defeating and disappointing... the Expeditions of the Enemy [Indians] against us, And the good Success given us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands.
Just two years later one could reap a £50 reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of an Indian-demonstrating that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, "Hunting redskins became...a popular sport in New England, especially since prisoners were worth good money…" [The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks ©Dr. Tingba Apidta]
At the end of that conflict most of the New England Indians were either exterminated or made refugees among the French in Canada, or they were sold into slavery in the Carolinas by the Puritans. So successful was these early trade in Indian slaves that several Puritan ship owners in Boston began the practice of raiding the Ivory Coast of Africa for black slaves to sell to the proprietary colonies of the South, thus founding the American-based slave trade.
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.
So how and why this contemporary mix of myth and history about the "First" Thanksgiving at Plymouth developed? According to Chuck Larsen (a teacher and Native American), it developed “in the 1890s and early 1900s. Our country was desperately trying to pull together its many diverse peoples into a common national identity. This was the era of the "melting pot" theory of social progress, and public education was a major tool for social unity. It was with this in mind that the federal government declared the last Thursday in November as the legal holiday of Thanksgiving in 1898.”
Today the town of Plymouth Rock has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving. There are still Wampanoag people living in Massachusetts. In 1970, they asked one of them to speak at the ceremony to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival. Frank B. James, president of the Federated Eastern Indian League, prepared a speech. But he was not allowed to deliver it; the Massachusetts officials told him to write another. James declined to speak. Here is part of what James wrote: "Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people. Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important."
Last year President Obama did not seem all that thrilled about the Turkey event. He was severely criticized by the conservatives who thought that his White House proclamation wasn't nearly so religious. This time he more than compensated that perception with his proclamation, "A beloved American tradition, Thanksgiving Day offers us the opportunity to focus our thoughts on the grace that has been extended to our people and our country...We also pause our normal pursuits on this day and join in a spirit of fellowship and gratitude for the year's bounties and blessings." He continued, "As we stand at the close of one year and look to the promise of the next we lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation."
This year's Thanksgiving proclamation sounded more like those from President George W. Bush, whose 2008 statement on the holiday said that the nation's "blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God."
Is president Obama's more religious statement this year a sign of current rough times for the White House, let alone the surveys that show that many Americans are confused about the president's religion?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bush’s ‘Damn Right’ Shallow Book

Like most retired U.S. presidents of our time, George W. Bush has now come out with a presidential memoir. It has been named “Decision Points.” The 9/11 tragedy happened during his presidency, and it was a seminal moment in American history. One can thus understand his gut feeling for choosing such a title for his book.

After nearly two years of relative seclusion, in recent days Bush is seen promoting his book. He even broke ground on a library, museum and policy center in Texas that will cost $137 million. During his groundbreaking at the Southern Methodist University, several dozens of protesters waved such signs as ‘Impeach Bush’ and ‘Library or Lie-Bury?’ Mr. Gerry Fonseca, a Vietnam veteran, reflecting the views of many such protesters, told the Wall Street Journal reporter that ‘We’re here to hold up a big mirror to him to show the world that we have not forgotten the wrongs he committed.’

Mr. Fonseca is not alone in his downbeat assessment of Bush. To most Americans and world citizenry, George W. Bush is a war-criminal and the dumbest of the presidents to ever occupy the White House. But like most sociopaths always willing to whitewash people’s negative perception about them, in his self-effacing book Bush W. does not surprise us with his intent. He wants us to think better of him, and not as a failed president who left us with two unfinished wars and a financial disaster that continue to haunt ordinary Americans.

When Bush left the office, he was tied with President Nixon for the title of the least popular president. It is a political miracle -- thanks to the gutless Democratic leaders and the bipartisan politics in Washington -- that he was not impeached during his two terms in the office for misleading the American people.

In his shallow and unsophisticated book, Bush is remorseless for his blunders and trillion dollar costly mistakes. He does not have nightmares about the unnecessary deaths of thousands of American soldiers who had to fight his dirty wars, let alone the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghans.

Bush bluntly tries to present himself as a man who was decisive. He says that he had to decide to act forcefully in the aftermath of 9/11 to prevent any further terrorist act inside the country. He does not mention that it was his government’s sadistic approval of the war crimes of the Israeli government against the unarmed Palestinian people that could explain the event. Such crimes not only enraged conscientious human beings around the globe who saw 9/11 as a natural outcome of Bush’s bad karma but can also explain the recruitment of many young Muslims from the Arab world to the cause of al-Qaeda. After all, the difference between a criminal and one who aids a criminal is trivial. To many such observers, Bush is no better than Sharon and Olmert, and may actually be worse.

Instead of presenting arguments with supporting evidences as to why his administration had believed that al-Qaeda and OBL were behind the tragedy of 9/11, and taking the case to the World Court, Bush behaved like the plaintiff, police, prosecutor, jury, judge and hangman – all at the same time. It was nothing short of Pharaonic arrogance! He bombed Afghanistan with his latest arsenal minus the nuclear bombs. So ferocious was the bombing campaign that within days of the attack his defense secretary Rumsfeld had to say that his air force had run out of targets inside Afghanistan to hit onto, and yet the campaign to kill and destroy the country went unabated. In that utterly evil and immoral decision of Bush, the ordinary Afghans did not factor in; they simply did not matter. He never asked: what was the fault of ordinary Afghans who had nothing to do with al-Qaeda and Molla Omar’s totalitarian regime? Why must they perish for the supposed terrorism of the al-Qaeda?

Then came the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Bush toppled the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hossein. In the days following 9/11, Bush and his vice president Cheney tried to implicate the Ba’athist regime of conspiring with some alleged terrorists of al-Qaeda. When such accusations were found to no have merit, new charges were fabricated against Iraq. The final pretext for justifying invasion was that the Iraqi regime had hidden the WMDs. After months of thorough search no WMDs were however found. There was none to begin with.

The invasion and the subsequent occupation of Iraq saw the orgy of murder, plunder, loot and destruction. Ordinary unarmed civilians were cold-bloodedly murdered by trigger-happy soldiers. Even the foreign journalists did not escape the Bushite arrogance of American power; they were shot at and killed. Through its willful disregard of international laws, the Bush administration encouraged horrendous crimes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, we saw more than a glimpse of American savagery in prisons like the Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Force base.

Even after all these years, with two raging warfronts, Bush is remorseless that he misled the entire world for his evil decision that was responsible for so much carnage. He is boastful in his claim that the world was spared of the potential threat from a dictator like Saddam Hossein. He thinks that history would judge him favorably. Only a lunatic and sadistic mass murderer like Josef Stalin and Slobdan Milosevic can espouse such misplaced self-esteem.

Bush approved water-boarding of terrorist suspects. However, he is not apologetic for such decisions that violated international laws. He boastfully claims that he made the ‘damn right’ decision.

In the book, Bush acknowledged his errors in slow decision making regarding the Hurricane Katrina. One may recall that during the Hurricane Katrina benefit telethon, Kanye West, the black hip-hop artist, accused that ‘George Bush doesn't care about black people.’ Bush remains upset about that accusation and calls it the worst moment of his presidency. Bush writes, ‘I faced a lot of criticism as president. I didn't like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low." In an interview with Matt Lauer, Bush told Lauer, "it was one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.’

Just imagine what kind of egoistical, evil monster Bush is! He is not troubled by people’s criticism about bringing about two unending wars which continue to kill and maim so many on all sides, but his ego is bruised with a small comment from a singer who merely echoed what many saw as so obvious.

Bush is a wretched character who is emotionally and intellectually incapable of truthfully reassessing the past. He is delusional. His memoir miserably fails to shed any new light that would offer its readers a better appreciation of him.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Conservative Radio Show Hosts Stoke up Hatred

Last week I was in South Carolina, not far from the Bob Jones University (BJU), located in Greenville. The university is known for its Christian fundamentalist teachings. In the nearby state of North Carolina live televangelist Billy Graham and his bigot son Franklin. In his freshman year, Billy had studied in the BJU. In the 1940s the older Graham needed a media sponsor to promote his anti-communist preaching that the Cold War was a showdown between good and evil, and that communists were Satan-worshippers. "Either communism must die or Christianity must die," Graham famously preached. The publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst got wind of Graham's theme, and sent a memo to all of his papers' editors, ordering them to "puff Graham". The rest is history! Billy became America's most prominent Christian leader. Even the presidents would invite him to their American-style coronation.

Graham became close with every American President from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush, who said it was a conversation with Graham that led him to become a born-again Christian. He was an unabashed supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of the blacklists and American red scare of the 1950s. He said of his friend McCarthy, “While nobody likes a watchdog, and for that reason many investigation committees are unpopular, I thank God for men who, in the face of public denouncement and ridicule, go loyally on in their work of exposing the pinks, the lavenders, and the reds who have sought refuge beneath the wings of the American eagle and from that vantage point try in every subtle, undercover way to bring comfort, aid and help to the greatest enemy we have ever known -- communism.”

Like most televangelists, Graham is an anti-Semite. It was a question of time when his ugly self would be exposed. That came in 2002 when a previously recorded tape conversation with President Richard M. Nixon was played. In that tape Billy was heard saying: "I go and I keep friends with [Abe] Rosenthal [a Jew] at The New York Times and people of that sort, you know. And all -- I mean, not all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine, they swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I'm friendly with Israel. But they don't know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country."

Billy Graham fathered five children, who are all in the evangelical business. His eldest daughter, low-level televangelist Virginia "GiGi" Graham (born 1945), was arrested in 2005 for spousal abuse, after three witnesses reported that she had grabbed her husband by the throat and beaten him in a parking lot.

Billy’s son Franklin Graham is now the new CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In his college days, he was expelled from LeTourneau College. He has never disapproved of his father’s teachings. Like his father, he is also an anti-Semite, and notorious for his anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry. He promotes the hateful message that Islam has attacked America politically, militarily and theologically on 9/11. His sinister views about Islam reflect a despicable and highly disturbed mind that is part paranoid, part psychotic and part amnesic. Like many pinhead Islamophobes and bigots of our time, Franklin castigates an entire religion for the supposed crime of the few, and hides the violent passages of his own scripture -- that are responsible for some of the most heinous crimes against humanity -- from a fair comparison while he is all agog about cherry-picking passages from the Qur’an without any regard for context. The sad saga of America today is, like his father who had Hearst, Franklin does have promoters and merchants of hatred and bigotry within the media world to sell his poisonous messages.

I don’t know how much of such poisonous teachings, perpetrated by the bigots like Graham, are responsible for the not-so-subtle anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim hysteria heard in many of the radio talk show programs. One thing is clear though: these days there seems to be a mushrooming of such radio channels in the southern states of the USA. In the last six months during my many trips to the southern states of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Mississippi, I was simply shocked to find so many radio channels whose only business appears to be spreading Islamophobia. These conservative radio channels are doing exactly the same thing that the Fox TV has been doing for the last few years. Interestingly, like Sean Hannity of the Fox TV who is a college dropout, many of these talk show hosts are individuals with low-IQs.

Hatred sells, and as such, many of these red-necked, half-educated, and yet arrogant hosts draw six to eight figure salaries. Their programs are sponsored and produced by many neo-conservative tycoons who believe in American exceptionalism and that America is (and should be) at war with the world of Islam. They distaste President Obama’s overture that America is not and will never be at war with Islam.
Many of these Islamophobes have been popularizing the claim that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but (nearly) all terrorists are Muslims.” The reality, however, is quite different. The official FBI records show that only 6% of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005 were carried out by Muslim extremists. The remaining 94% were from other groups -- 42% from Latinos, 24% from extreme left wing groups, 7% from extremist Jews, 5% from communists, and 16% from all other groups (note: outside the 1993 and 9/11 attacks on the WTC, there was hardly any terrorist attack linked to Muslims).

How about in Europe? Europol publishes an annual report entitled EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. A reading of their official website proves unfalteringly that only 0.4% of terrorist attacks from 2007 to 2009 could be attributed to extremist Muslims; a whopping 99.6% of terrorist attacks in Europe were by non-Muslim groups; a good 84.8% of attacks were from separatist groups completely unrelated to Islam. Leftist groups accounted for over sixteen times as much terrorism as radical Muslim groups.

In three recent programs, Glenn Beck of the Fox TV accused Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros of being complicit with the Holocaust as a child in Nazi-occupied Hungary, and called him a “puppet master” who is “notorious for collapsing economies and regimes all around the world” and whose “next target” is the United States. Citing Mr. Soros’s statements about the decline of the dollar, Beck said, “Not only does he want to bring America to her knees, financially, he wants to reap obscene profits off us as well.” Many neo-conservatives hate Mr. Soros for his promotion of liberal causes and his support of some of the Democratic contestants in the last six years, including his failed attempt in 2004 to derail President George W. Bush's re-election.

The Jewish advocacy group, the Anti-Defamation League, took issue with Beck’s depiction of Mr. Soros as a “Jewish boy helping sending the Jews to the death camps,” calling it “offensive” and “horrific.” Its national director Abe Foxman said, “To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant.” Writing on The Daily Beast, the author Michelle Goldberg said Mr. Beck’s programs were a “symphony of anti-Semitic dog whistles.”

Interestingly, because of his support of the war crimes perpetrated by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people, Glenn Beck, like many of his fellow conservative Christian and Mormon talk show hosts, was backed up in the past by many Jewish leaders. It is high time that these Jewish leaders wake up to the ground reality of what is happening now inside the USA under the name of Islamophobia and stop promoting and sponsoring hatred. To a Christian bigot, Muslims and Jews are all alike; they have failed to accept the supposed divinity of Jesus, and as such are doomed to be destroyed in the coming Armageddon!

What is today’s Islamophobia was yesterday’s anti-Semitism with the only difference that Muslims have replaced the Jews as the targeted victims. However, as demonstrated by Glenn Beck’s hostile attack on Mr. Soros, it is clear that anti-Semitism is still alive and kicking amongst many of these Christian talk show hosts and amongst their millions of viewers and listeners who continue to be brainwashed by these forked-tongue, utterly evil spiritual children of Julius Stryker of the Nazi era of Germany. Only by stopping sponsorship of advertisements and denying promotions of views of these bigots in the popular media can this battle against bigotry be won. And the Jewish media moguls and community leaders can play an important role in defeating this menace. Are they ready to stop hatred?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lessons of Rebound for the Democrats

The all-important midterm election in the USA is over with the Republican Party ‘shellacking’ the ruling Democratic Party. In American history, never before was so much money, an astounding $4 billion, spent for a midterm election. In all likelihood, Rep. John Boehner will become the new Speaker, replacing Nancy Pelosi, in the House of Representatives after the lame-duck session. The election results showed that the Democratic Party had lost touch with the voters that made Obama the president and it the winners in the Senate and the House of Representatives just two years ago.

While the election results were not really a surprise since most sample polls taken before the election-day had predicted that the Democratic Party would lose many seats, no one expected that the Republicans would gain some 60 seats in the House and six in the Senate. Republicans also showed significant gains in state legislative elections where their candidates defeated about 650 Democrats, the most in nearly a half-century, giving them control of more legislative seats than at any time since 1928.

There is no doubt that the Tuesday’s election outcome was more a reflection of unpopularity of the ruling party, especially the policies of the Obama administration, than an endorsement of the Republican Party. As it happens during the midterm elections, unlike the Republican loyalists, many loyal supporters of the Democratic Party, e.g., the Afro-American and the Hispanic voters, did not go to the polling booths to cast their votes last Tuesday. The independents that were a major force behind the 2008 election win for the Democratic Party had their reasons to either avoid the polling booths or change their minds. President Obama and the Congress had failed them in fulfilling the promises made before the 2008 election. They felt betrayed, duped, used and frustrated. The ‘change’ promised by Obama was a hoax to them!

To many loyal supporters of the Democratic Party the election results were simply unbelievable, especially after the landslide victory in 2008, when besides having a Democratic President in the White House they also won control of the both Houses in the Capitol Hill. They became myopic and arrogant, and lost touch with their priorities. They forgot that 2008 was more of an exceptional election year than a norm when voters usually decline to give either party a clear and durable mandate. The American voters like a divided government between administrative and legislative branches, more like a check and balance policy, which encourages negotiation and compromise over one-sided arrogance and display of raw political power.

In his post-election press conference, President Obama admitted that he was ultimately accountable for the election outcome. It was a ‘humbling’ experience for him. He said, “In the rush of activity, sometimes we lose track of the ways that we connected with folks that got us here in the fist place.” As some critics would say that the Democrats’ downward slide with popularity began when they pursued the healthcare overhaul (thus, strengthening the social security net) in 2009 rather than investing political capital on more steps to stimulate the economy.

Such election upsets are not uncommon for the ruling party in the American history. In 1982 during President Reagan’s first time in office, his party had lost the overall national vote by a whopping 12% points. Despite that midterm hit, Reagan survived and won the 1984 election, and was even able to place his vice president Bush Sr. in the Oval Office when he had retired. Economy was an important factor then, as it is today. The unemployment rate at 10.4% in 1982 was higher than today’s 9.6%. During Reagan’s first two years, that rate had actually grown compared to Obama’s when it has actually shrunk. Back then, the annual inflation rate was 6.25% compared to today’s 1.1%. The 30-year mortgage, fixed rate in 1982 was 14.61% compared to today’s 4.23%. The average GDP growth rate for the four previous quarters is 3.1% today while it was in the negative territory at minus 2.1% in 1982. Most importantly, Reagan had a lower popularity rating (42%) compared to Obama’s 44%. In 1984, Reagan was credited for reviving the economy and won the re-election in a landslide barely seen ever since, in spite of the fact that he was accused of ignoring the ‘social safety’ net.

As we all know, priorities are always important in life – individual and collective. When a ruling party fails to understand what these priorities are with its electorates and fails to take actions on such higher priorities, it is doomed to lose election. The other important lesson is that voters have short memories. It is as much true in a liberal democracy like the USA as it is in other parts of the world, including Bangladesh and India with illiberal democracies. If this was untrue it’s inconceivable to imagine that American voters would have overwhelmingly approved of the Republican Party that was responsible for hatching the worst economic disaster to haunt this country since the great depression of the 1930s.

Not everything is lost for the Democrats though. They still retain a slim majority in the Senate. They have President Obama in the White House, one of the most charismatic persons since the days of Clinton to occupy that office.

A Democratic growth agenda may require devising a new strategy to stimulate the economy while not ignoring its social security net. However, it won’t be an easy task given the Republican Party’s penchant for easing the tax burden on the wealthy 1% of the population earning annually more than a quarter million dollars. Like many critics of the program, I don’t see how this Republican prescription would stimulate the economy other than adding extra $700 billion to the daunting budget deficit. The Republicans in the Congress won’t like to raise the taxes, and Democrats won’t cut spending on benefits. Unless some compromise is made there, partisan gridlock, although unwelcome by most American voters, may again become the realities of the next two years. Such gridlocks, much like the Clinton years, may actually backfire for the Republicans in 2012.

Economics would continue to dictate the politics of the USA for a foreseeable future. The voter frustration on this critical issue would continue to decide who gets elected and who gets dumped. The sad saga here is that there is no consensus amongst the reputed economists, and there are too many in the USA, to fix the economic problem. They tend to be long on diagnosis and short on prescriptions. The U.S. economy needs a strong tonic and not water-downed measures that would only accelerate the collapse of its interest-based capitalist economy.

The Democratic Congressmen in the House should resist the Republican push to repeal the hard-fought healthcare reform bill. Much of the opposition to that bill comes not from what’s in it but rather the fact that it can be seen as a proxy for big government. Such genuine concerns must be allayed properly without compromising on the essence of the bill which the voters generally support when asked issue by issue.

The Democrats cannot also be viewed as betraying the popular causes for which it was elected in office in 2008. They simply cannot play cat-and-mouse with the independents -- an ever growing segment of the American population -- that were crucial to their success in 2008 election by voting and believing that Obama was going to deliver ‘change’ by bringing fundamental changes in how America is perceived around the world. The president also needs to shake up his inner circle of advisers. Ms. Pelosi, the outgoing speaker in the House, is one of the least popular politicians in the USA, and should consider dropping out of any consideration from becoming the minority leader in the new Congress.

On November 9, 1994, President Bill Clinton faced the press after losing scores of seats in the Congress and admitted with humility that “not enough people have felt more prosperous and more secure or believe we were meeting their desires for fundamental change.” He tried to work with the GOP on a plethora of issues and fought it in a budget standoff that led to a government shutdown. That formula of willingness to compromise to find common grounds and showdown, when appropriate, actually helped Clinton’s image and assured his reelection two years later. President Obama thus has a good precedence to follow in the upcoming days.

It is the Republicans who will be judged now unfavorably for any arrogance and scorched-earth policy that can lead to government gridlock. The impatient voters want results and good governance, and not gridlocks. They want the two political parties to make progress in finding jobs, improving economy and ensuring that they would have social security benefits when they retire. It is that simple! And nothing else!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday’s midterm election

With the midterm election on November 2, Tuesday, the phone lines in the USA are busier than ever before. I have been away from my home for the past two weeks. Today while checking my voice mail, I noticed that many of those messages waiting for me were all election related asking me to vote for various candidates. In the last three decades I don’t recall getting so many calls during a midterm election year. There is little doubt that this midterm election has become a crucial test to find out if the voters are fed up with the direction that America is heading under President Obama.

These days the American airwaves are also filled with matters relating to election. If you listen to the ultra-right radio and TV stations and believe their messages, you would think that Americans are tired of the Obama administration and that the nation is set for the Republican Party to take control of the both Houses in the Capitol Hill. It is a message of anti-Obamaism (as it calls the “doctrine” of president Obama), hatred and bigotry -- all packaged under the sacred freedom of speech. On the top of this anti-government propaganda machine is the Fox TV, owned by the neoconservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Under his malevolent guidance, Fox has developed its distinct character and has now become synonymous with Fear-mongering, Obstinacy and Xenophobia, and nothing else. It has a relentless message, which says that America is worse off today than ever before. Forgotten from its selective amnesiac reporting are the facts that more people have now jobs compared to the last days of the president George W. Bush, who had taken America into two wars, costing trillions of dollars. Missing from their reports and analyses are also that it was those two wars, still fought today seven to nine years later, that are the main reasons why in spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars of the so-called stimulus package, American economy has failed to show a quick sign of recovery. The recession was not a product of Obama’s policy; it predated his tenure by at least a year to George W. Bush’s era.

These deceitful media hosts and reporters tell us that the nation is now ready for a ‘revolution’ because the country is becoming a “socialist” country with a president who is “foreign-born” and deeply “anti-colonial” Marxist, and a “radical communist”. With TV commentators and hosts like Sarah Palin and Bill O’Rilley and many other open and closet bigot reporters, the airwaves are continuously bombarded with obscene and absurd claims, which by the way, even suggests that the Islamic shariah law is coming to the USA. And if you watch their programs, you will find that there are people, obvious dim-witted morons, who are obsessed with such absurdities. It is these FOXed people who are the neo-Nazis and Brown Shirts of our time that are willing to rally for the xenophobic causes of bigots like Palin, Gingrich and Graham.

The utterly disingenuous books and articles of Dinesh D’Souza’s are promoted by these ultra right-wing reporters and politicians as having all the right answers to explain the current situation and the mindset of the president of the USA. The message is: Obama is the most anti-business president to rule America. Even the president’s honest reflection that Americans "consume more than 20% of the world's oil but have less than 2% of the world's resources” is seen as an anti-American attitude. He is blamed for his ‘bad’ gene, inherited from a Lou tribesman, his Kenyan-born anti-colonial economist father, who had earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. So, president Obama, like his economist father, ought to be a Frantz Fanon- like intellectual who hates the west!

D’Souza is an Indian-born, Christian writer, who has become a darling amongst the ultra-conservatives for his bigotry-ridden, pro-colonial mindset. As a beneficiary of the Christian/European imperialism, he obviously sees no evil with imperialism and has been brazenly hosting the carcass of the colonialism even when it is dead and rotting like hell. His revulsion of anyone questioning the robbery and plunder of colonized countries is quite unmistakable when he finds faults with senior Obama’s (the U.S. president’s late father) article published some 45 years ago. In his Forbes article, dated 9/9/2010, D’Souza informs us that in that 1965 article "Problems Facing Our Socialism" (East Africa Journal), Obama Sr. wrote, “Is it the African who owns this country? If he does, then why should he not control the economic means of growth in this country?” No one well-versed about the post-colonial history of Africa would disagree with the rhetorical question posed by Sr. Obama. However, to D’Souza and his foolish admirers America is now ruled by a person who, having lived 17 years of his formative life outside the mainland America and trapped in his father's time machine, draws inspiration from the ghost of his anti-colonial father.

D’Souza writes, “From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America's military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father's position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America… For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West.” He continues, “If Obama shares his father's anticolonial crusade, that would explain why he wants people who are already paying close to 50% of their income in overall taxes to pay even more… Recall what Obama Sr. said in his 1965 paper: There is no tax rate too high, and even a 100% rate is justified under certain circumstances.”

These so-called conservatives decry Obama’s plan to limit tax privileges to the rich. In the aforementioned Forbes article D’Souza writes, “He (Obama) wants to spend even more and is determined to foist the entire bill on Americans making $250,000 a year or more. The rich, Obama insists, aren't paying their ‘fair share.’ This by itself seems odd given that the top 1% of Americans pay 40% of all federal income taxes; the next 9% of income earners pay another 30%. So the top 10% pays 70% of the taxes; the bottom 40% pays close to nothing. This does indeed seem unfair--to the rich.”

D’Souza does not tell us that wealth is unequally distributed with the wealthiest 25% of US households owning 87% ($54.2 trillion, in 2009) of the wealth in the United States, while the bottom quartile (25%) hold no net wealth at all. The middle 50% of the country hold 13% or $6.5 trillion of the total household net wealth. There are more millionaires and billionaires today than anytime before in the USA. It is not difficult to understand why the wealthy section of the population (a small minority) either pays or should pay a disproportionate amount of the taxable income in the USA.

D’Souza promotes American exceptionalism -- a theme akin to that of Nazi Germany under Hitler -- and is critical of Obama for suggesting in a 2009 press conference that America is no more unique or exceptional than Britain or Greece or any other country. Obviously, such remarks of the president, the bitter truths, are unpopular with most hawkish Republicans who are reluctant to change their old Gung-ho mentality. In their inane insanity they behave like ostriches digging their heads in the sand, oblivious of the world surrounding them.

Moderate Republicans are now extinct in America. The new brand of Republicans is a chauvinist bunch who suffers from selective amnesia. If they win the election on Tuesday they want to repeal the healthcare reform. They want to repeal the financial reform so that the Wall Street crooks can return to their old jobs of robbing ordinary Americans, and wrecking the economy. They want to maintain corporate-welfare subsidies so that more jobs can be lost through outsourcing overseas. They talk about bringing change in the capital. But as we know from John Boehner’s admission (“I am cozy with lobbyists”) in 2006, change in Washington is the last of the supposed speaker’s agenda.

There is no denying that to many red-necked Americans the mere fact that the Oval Office is now occupied by an Afro-American (i.e., an alien in their vocabulary), is a traumatic experience. They crave for a change in the Oval Office. It is no surprise that the recruitment in white militia training centers has sharply increased since President Obama came to power. These home grown white militias in various parts of the USA, including those in Michigan, who raise their yellow flags, are now ready for a war, which they say must be fought against the government. Protesters in anti-government rallies have openly carried guns, and nothing can be done about such militant display in this country where citizens have the right to own guns.

In Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk show, he says, “We need to defeat these bastards (Democrats). We need to wipe them out.”

The comedian Jon Stewart has been touting the notion that the time had come for people of good will everywhere to end toxic political rhetoric. Last Saturday, he and fellow liberal comedian Stephen Colbert held a two-hour long "Restore Sanity and/or Fear" rally in which they riffed and giggled, strutted, sang and otherwise carried a big stick near the Washington Monument in the capital. Stewart said, "The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker. And perhaps eczema.”

Obviously, the only way to stop the toxic political atmosphere would be to vote in Tuesday's hotly-contested midterm elections and defeat the messengers and promoters of hatred and xenophobia. I am voting for the Democratic Party.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thanks to NPR for firing Juan Williams for bigotry

During the presidential days of Jimmy Carter, many of the southern states of the USA were Democratic states. In the following 24 years, the Republicans were able to gain their foothold in those states. In the last presidential election many of those seats, once held by the Republicans switched back to the Democratic Party, giving the party the control over both the Houses in the Capitol Hill – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

America goes to the poll in its mid-term election on November 2. Many political analysts think that with a weak economy the ruling Democrats may lose a significant number of seats. I have my doubts though. I think that the Democrats may still hold onto a slim majority in both the Houses.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, a couple of months ago, Pat Toomey, the Republican candidate, vying to replace the Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, whom Joe Sestak beat in the May primary election, had a double digit lead over the latter candidate in some sample polls of likely voters. According to the latest polls, however, the race is dead even now. I have an important business meeting to participate in New Jersey on the election date. Because of the seriousness of this year’s election, I plan to cast my vote first and then drive up to New Jersey. Obviously, I am not going to cast my vote for Toomey, a dim-witted opportunist politician who has been trying to sell bigotry to get elected. On the election night, we shall find out how many Pennsylvanians had swallowed such poison pills.

As I noted many times, bigotry sells. It is not a question of either democracy – liberal or illiberal – or autocracy that either marginalizes or promotes this evil. Thus, I am not surprised to note that some of the worst crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated by Europeans against the various minorities, whether that be the case with the Jews in Germany in the Nazi era, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims in former Yugoslavia/Serbia in the 1990s and French Muslims and Roma people in France in recent years. India claims to be a secular state where parliamentary form of democracy is practiced. However, that brand of all-inclusive Gandhian secularism has been dead long time ago. Nowhere is this sad reality more evident than the state of Gujarat, Gandhi’s birthplace, where Hindutvadi politicians like Narendra Modi with Hindu fundamentalist and ultra-religious identities and programs have been able to run the state affairs.

These Hindu fanatics and fundamentalist are actually no better than the Talibans to the west. On a comparative study, one can even argue that the latter are better than these Hindu bigots. After all, no foreign power or religious minority had invaded or attacked India before the demolition of the historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya or massacre of Muslims in Godhra to suggest a causal relationship for such horrendous crimes. The recent verdict on the so-called disputed mosque site has once again unmasked the sheer hollowness of the Indian judicial system which has bowed down to Hindutvadi pressure.

Look at the Indian Occupied Kashmir where peaceful protesters, epitomizing Gandhian brand of non-violence, are mercilessly killed by the Indian troops! India talks about democracy. Where is that democracy in Kashmir where its people are denied their basic rights to decide their fate? Isn’t sixty three years too long a time to deny such rights? I don’t see any Gandhian activist crying foul about such monumental crimes of the Indian government. I can guess their answer: Gandhian non-violence won’t work in India (as it never did in the Occupied Palestine either). Haven’t we seen enough that violent means are the last resorts to many protesters when they have exhausted peaceful means of resolving their legitimate demand for fairness and equality, the basic right to decide their fate?

In a highly orchestrated pogrom, in the last few years alone, tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed, scores of their houses of worship destroyed, and thousands of their women raped, in that territory so that no Kashmiri would dare to utter the word ‘freedom’.

In the Indian states like West Bengal where the so-called secular Marxists have ruled for decades, one can notice some of the worst forms of discrimination against its sizable Muslim minorities. They are the forgotten 25% that are denied access to government jobs, institutions, education, everything. In most such government jobs, Muslim representation is less than one percent. What a joke to secular and democratic India! The neighboring Bangladesh has much better scores than India on those counts for its minorities.

In the USA, nowhere are the signs of bigotry more visible than in the south, the so-called Bible-belt. As I noted elsewhere neoconservative and fundamentalist Christian views are more openly heard there than at any other place. It is the Fox News and the radio talk shows hosted by bigots that are the only sources of information for many southerners. It is these programs that basically mold their mindsets and worldviews, in which, sadly the American inclusiveness (a fresh departure from the European Christian bigotry), as often heard in the NPR (National Public Radio), is getting buried day in and day out. Like brain-dead zombies many of these southern listeners are willing to imagine the worst of the ‘other’ people, and preempt strikes in a trigger-happy manner.

There is definitely a battle brewing out in the USA today. It is about bigotry in general, and Islamophobia, or rather hatred of Islam and Muslims, in particular. Its evil promoters are the Bill O’Reillys of the TV programs, Rush Limbaughs of the radio talk shows, and Ann Coulters and Robert Spencers of the print media, Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins of the political spectrum, and Franklin Grahams and Pat Robertsons of the evangelical Christian establishment. With preachers, politicians, pen-pushing pundits, publishers and psychoanalysts it is a full circle to promote bigotry where nothing is left out.

While Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia have been witnessing the ugly faces of that bigotry, fortunately, nothing serious outside some sporadic attacks on Muslim lives and properties have taken place inside the American soil.

In their zealous support for Israel, many Likudnik American Jews with a strong desire to see all the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians alike – expelled from the Occupied Palestine are behind-the-scene promoters of this anti-Muslim bigotry. If history is any lesson they ought to know better than anyone else that when bigotry unleashes its evil, it does not and will not discriminate between a Muslim and a Jew -- supportive or otherwise. And the same goes for all vulnerable minority Hindus and Buddhists.

It is high time for conscientious Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, denominations and faiths to wake up to the gradual erosion of the very values that once endeared America to the rest of the world. This battle of the heart must be won by defeating the promoters and preachers of bigotry. The First Amendment should not be abused as a launching pad to justify hatred, xenophobia and bigotry. As I wrote some years ago on xenophobia, these promoters of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam bigotry today are no less criminals than Julius Stryker of the Nazi era of Germany. They must be identified and disowned by denying them the right to market bigotry.

It is there that I fully understand and endorse why the NPR had fired Juan Williams. For long time, Juan’s views were a constant irritant to many listeners who wanted a balanced and more neutral analysis of events and not demagoguery or prejudice, packaged under honest journalism. Instead what they got was bigotry and xenophobia. In the hate-ridden Bill O’Reilly program in the Fox News, Williams said that he felt unease about seeing Muslims on airplanes. (As everyone knows by now those alleged plane hijackers on 9/11 were all western-dressed individuals, and could not be discerned as Muslims.) How is Juan’s moronic view different than that of a KKK clan member from the 1950s or 1960s who felt the same thing about seeing a black person in the bus or train that he rode?

Coming as it did from an Afro-American whose race not too long had endured some of the worst abuses ever practiced against the ‘other’ people, Williams sounded like a house nigger, and not the field nigger that people could respect. His remarks made at the Fox News epitomized racial profiling and showed what a mischievous character he has become at the altar of xenophobia and bigotry. No wonder that he is now celebrated as a fallen hero by the Fox News and the promoters of bigotry. Former House speaker Gingrich demanded that the Congress should consider cutting off NPR’s public funding for firing Williams. Fox News just signed Williams up for a multi-million dollar contract.

None of these promotions of bigotry should be taken lightly, and must be defeated before America falls into the same trap that Europe continues to dig for herself. My vote for Sestak would be one such small step to defeat the demons of bigotry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nicholas Kristof's errors with his latest article - Test Your Savvy on Religion

Nicholas Kristof wrote an eye-opening article "Test Your Savvy on Religion", New York Times, October 9, 2010, on religion for many westerners. He asked 13 questions to test knowledge of his readers. The questions are:

1. Which holy book stipulates that a girl who does not bleed on her wedding night should be stoned to death?
a. Koran
b. Old Testament
c. (Hindu) Upanishads

2. Which holy text declares: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”?
a. Koran
b. Gospel of Matthew
c. Letter of Paul to the Romans

3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion?
a. Islam
b. Christianity
c. Hinduism

4. "Every child is touched by the devil as soon as he is born and this contact makes him cry. Excepted are Mary and her Son.” This verse is from:
a. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
b. The Book of Revelation
c. An Islamic hadith, or religious tale

5. Which holy text is sympathetic to slavery?
a. Old Testament
b. New Testament
c. Koran

6. In the New Testament, Jesus’ views of homosexuality are:
a. strongly condemnatory
b. forgiving
c. never mentioned

7. Which holy text urges responding to evil with kindness, saying: “repel the evil deed with one which is better.”
a. Gospel of Luke
b. Book of Isaiah
c. Koran

8. Which religious figure preaches tolerance by suggesting that God looks after all peoples and leads them all to their promised lands?
a. Muhammad
b. Amos
c. Jesus

9. Which of these religious leaders was a polygamist?
a. Jacob
b. King David
c. Muhammad

10. What characterizes Muhammad’s behavior toward the Jews of his time?
a. He killed them.
b. He married one.
c. He praised them as a chosen people.

11. Which holy scripture urges that the "little ones" of the enemy be dashed against the stones?
a. Book of Psalms
b. Koran
c. Leviticus

12. Which holy scripture suggests beating wives who misbehave?
a. Koran
b. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
c. Book of Judges

13. Which religious leader is quoted as commanding women to be silent during services?
a. The first Dalai Lama
b. St. Paul
c. Muhammad

His answers are:
1. b. Deuteronomy 22:21.
2. a. Koran, 2:256. But other sections of the Koran do describe coercion.
3. c. Most early suicide bombings were by Tamil Hindus (some secular) in Sri Lanka and India.
4. c. Hadith. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet to be revered.
5. All of the above.
6. c. Other parts of the New and Old Testaments object to homosexuality, but there’s no indication of Jesus’ views.
7. c. Koran, 41:34. Jesus says much the same thing in different words.
8. b. Amos 9:7
9. all of them
10. all of these. Muhammad’s Jewish wife was seized in battle, which undermines the spirit of the gesture. By some accounts he had a second Jewish wife as well.
11. a. Psalm 137
12. a. Koran 4:34
13. b. St. Paul, both in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, but many scholars believe that neither section was actually written by Paul.

While I am appreciative of Kristof's attempt to clear many such commonly held misconceptions, he made some errors with his answers. Here are my corrections:
1. Muslims pronounce their Holy Scripture as the Qur'an, which should have been used by the author for better accuracy.
2. Contrary to his opinion about Q. 2 there is not a single verse in the Qur'an that prescribes coercion in matters of religion. Allah (God of the Qur'an) leaves the choice to either accept or reject Islam to human beings, although He warns those that reject Islam as the final revelation with dire consequences in the Hereafter.
3. Kristof's remarks on Q. 5 vis-à-vis Islam are not accurate. While the Qur'an, like both the so-called Old and New Testament, does not explicitly abolish slavery, it is unique in providing the basis for emancipation from and elimination of slavery. See, for instance, the Surah al-Balad (ch. 90), verses 12-18, in which Allah says, "Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent (rising to higher status in Islam, a sure recipe for entering Paradise) is: It is to free a slave, and to feed in the day of hunger an orphan near of kin or some poor wretch in misery, and to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to the deeds of kindness and compassion." And there are many such verses (see, e.g., 4:92, 5:89, 58:3.) and prophetic hadith (sayings) that required believing Muslims to freeing slave as a remission of their sins. The verse 24:33 says, “And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (for emancipation) give them such a deed if you know any good in them; yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you.”

What is more revealing is that the Qur'an unequivocally makes it clear that no man, irrespective of his status (including a prophet), can enslave any other human being: "It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given him the Scripture and wisdom and 'Nabuwah' (Prophethood) that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah …" [3:79] It is not difficult to understand why the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S), not only freed his slaves from his wife's side (Khadija) but also encouraged his companions to win their freedom. Muhammad (S) bought freedom of 63 former slaves, A’isha (RA) 67, Abbas (RA) 70, Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) 1000 and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf 30,000. It was these freed slaves of Islam that became the flag-bearers of Islam. Bilal, the Abyssinian, became the first Mu'addhin (caller to prayer) in Islam, a position next only to the Imam during the salat, one of the most important pillars of Islam. To break the aristocratic arrogance of the pagan time the Prophet's own cousin sister, born to Quraysh aristocracy, was married to his freed slave, Zaid ibn Haritha (RA). In his deathbed, Muhammad (S) appointed Usama (RA), the son of Zaid (RA), to become the leader of the expedition against the Byzantine Empire that had gathered a large army to attack Muslim territories to the north in Syria. Muslim history is replete with examples of freed slaves that became the rulers and marrying into kings' daughters and sisters.

The interested reader may like to read my articles "Anatomy of Racism" and "Islam and the question of slavery" that were posted in the Media Monitors Network and al-Jazeerah websites in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

As to Kristof's answer to Q. 10, many scholars have dwelt upon the subject of Muhammad's (S) treatment of Jews. It is a highly controversial subject. Suffice it to say that the prophet Muhammad (S) was more merciful to the Jews of Madinah than the prophet Moses (AS) was to his own community when they rebelled against him and committed blasphemous activities. The interested reader may like to read Dr. Rafiq Zakaria's book - Muhammad and the Quran, Penguin Books (1992).

Kristof's answer to Q. 12 also shows his misreading of the Qur'anic verse. No, the Qur'an does not endorse beating wife for insubordination. If the wife shows disloyalty and ill-conduct towards her husband, the recommended steps in sequence are - (1) verbal advice or admonition, (2) separating bed so as to suspend sexual relation, (3) have sexual intercourse (so as to win her over), and if that too fails to reconcile, then (4) a family council that is comprised of two arbiters, one from each family with the intention of setting things aright (4:34-35). [See, e.g., Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993] [Note also: The Arabic root word "daraba" being taken from the prosaic example "the stud-camel covered the she-camel." (Raghib, Al-Mufridat fi Gharib Al-Qur'an)] These verses were revealed in relation to the wife of a Muslim who complained to the Prophet (S) that her husband had beaten her, and she wanted retaliation. If beating of wives were allowed in the Qur’an then it could not have prohibited it by saying, “If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (Qur’an, 4:128) See also the verse: “Do not retain them (i.e., your wives) to harm them...” (Qur’an, 2:231)

I am, however, aware of the fact that because of a misinterpretation with the Arabic word Adribu in the Qur'an (derived from the word 'Daraba' which has multiple meanings, depending on the context) some translators have mistakenly assumed that the third option means scourge, or light beating.

This discussion once again demonstrates that relying on a mistranslation in English or other languages rather than the classical Arabic of the Qur’an can distort the actual meanings intended for the verse. This problem is also quite acute with many old scriptures that are open to so many interpretations.

A couple of old links on Israel

Here is a link from last year on Israel's crime against the Palestinian people. In this link, a British Jewish MP condemns Israel's actions saying that Israel is acting like the Nazis in Gaza.

You can also view the destruction of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem by the Israeli government by clicking here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My trip to Germany

Like many people these days, I have become a frequent traveler. This past week I have been in Germany visiting Mannheim, close to Ludwigshafen, near the Rhine River. The week before, I was in Savannah of Georgia and Tallahassee of Florida in the USA. The next week I plan to be in New Jersey on Monday and South Carolina the remainder of the week. The following weeks, I shall be visiting Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana states. Before I visit my parents in Bangladesh in the third week of December, my calendar is filled with all my scheduled flights to different places within the USA.

For many people, traveling is fun, but for some others it is or can be a painful experience. (My parents, who had visited many parts of Asia, Europe and North America in the 1980s and 1990s, no longer like to fly. In their advance ages it is too difficult and tiring for them.) I don’t know which category I fall into. Like some frequent flyers, I do have my share of mixed experiences.

As I write this on Saturday from inside a first class cabin in the Lufthansa flight en route to Detroit, today is surely one such bad day. I was not supposed to be flying to Detroit. I had a confirmed First Class ticket with a confirmed seat number assigned in the Lufthansa flight, flying out from Frankfurt to Philadelphia. The flight was supposed to leave at 1:50 p.m. As always punctual in my life, I had left my hotel, Holiday Inn in Mannheim, early at 10:30 a.m. in a taxi. The distance from the hotel to the airport is only about 75 km. I arrived at the airport at around 11:30 a.m., way before my departure time. When I tried to check-in at the ticket counter, I was told that the flight was overbooked and that I had been put in a standby position. This was heart-breaking news for me who had looked forward to returning home in suburban Philadelphia by 5 p.m. The ticket I bought was no cheap ticket either, it cost almost $6000 for a roundtrip flight in the First Class, and everything was confirmed days before my arrival at the airport. So it was very irritating to learn that I was put in a standby list.

The ticket agent advised me to proceed to the flight departure gate and said that they would take care of me one way or another. Worried and depressed from such a turn of event, I walked all the way to the gate and quickly explained my situation with the Lufthansa agent there. He explained that the original plane, scheduled to leave from Frankfurt, had to be abandoned for some mechanical problem and that a smaller plane instead was leaving for Philadelphia which required some passengers, even in the first class, to be put on the standby list; and that he was aware of my situation, and would let me know if the situation improved any bit (meaning: if some passengers had opted to fly tomorrow for cash or other considerations). So, I stood concerned and waiting, hoping for some miracles that would eventually allow me to fly back. I promptly called my American Express travel agent in the USA explaining what had gone wrong with my booking. She was simply surprised to hear the problem, and advised me to approach a Lufthansa supervisor. I could not find any supervisor other than the two agents who were busy explaining the same problem to other disgruntled passengers.

After nearly an hour of waiting, around 1:10 p.m. the agent called my name along with many other names to approach the counter. He told me that there was no way I could fly in the original flight today, and that the airline instead would be willing to take me to a hotel where I could stay for the night so that I could take the flight on Sunday. Depressed and angry, I called my travel agent again who advised that I talk to the Service Center agents. While quickly pacing the floor towards a nearby service center, I inquired if she could book me for an alternative flight leaving out of Frankfurt that would eventually bring me to Philadelphia tonight. She was able to locate a Lufthansa flight leaving for Detroit shortly. I requested her to book me for the flight and find a connecting flight to Philadelphia. It was also in the first class cabin.

Within minutes, I was able to find the center and told the agent if she could see to it that I am put on the flight leaving shortly for Detroit. She was non-committal at first and said that with my checked out luggage for Philadelphia, it might be difficult. After some calls to the baggage area, she issued me a ticket for Detroit and said that my Delta flight to Philadelphia from Detroit was also confirmed. She requested me to hurry back to the departing gate. The gate was about to close, but the agents were aware of my situation and let me in. So, here I am writing this from a plane that I had no clue that I would be taking. With some luck, God willing, I shall be landing in Philadelphia at around 9:45 p.m., some five hours later than my original scheduled arrival time.

The Lufthansa flight crews, serving at the First and Business Class cabins, are some of the most professional and competent crews. They are serious, always smiling and willing to make the air flight an enjoyable one. The food served is also of very high quality. No complaints there. After arriving a short while ago in Detroit, a Lufthansa agent told me that my luggage unfortunately had not arrived, and that after arriving in Philadelphia via Delta I should report about my missing luggage so that they could deliver it to my home the next day. She then advised me to proceed to the local terminal by taking a shuttle and check in with the Delta Airlines where my connecting flight would take me to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, she forgot to give me a transfer voucher, and the Delta agent said that while my ticket is confirmed, he can’t issue a ticket without endorsement from Lufthansa. So, I went back again to the main international terminal to collect the endorsement from the Lufthansa. The agent waiting there was very apologetic for my troubles. I rushed back again to the local terminal and showed the endorsement. This time, I got my Delta ticket. So, here I am in Detroit Airport waiting for my flight to take me to Philadelphia. So, in spite of all the fine services of the cabin crew and apologies of the Lufthansa agents, with such a bad experience with a confirmed First Class ticket and seat, I doubt I would ever advise anyone about taking a Lufthansa flight.

Counting this time, I have been to Germany twice in the last 12 years. The last trip was to Düsseldorf almost this time of the year in October. I remember that I did not bring any jacket with me and was feeling cold at night walking down the historical neighborhoods around Dortmund. This time, I brought my jacket and was well prepared for any cold spell. However, this time the days were very pleasant, real autumn-like, and the nights were not unpleasant either; one could walk without requiring a jacket.

During my trip, I had the opportunity to interact with many highly educated Germans who when asked about the reunification experience reminded me that it was a worthy cause. As one may recall while East Germany had a socialistic economy, West Germany had a capitalist system. Thus, while the East Germans had enjoyed a rather secure lifestyle that could always depend on the communist government and the state apparatus to ensure that the basic necessities of life were not denied to any citizen, the West Germans had to do it the harder way where it all mattered about individual efforts to either go up or down on the economic and social ladder. To most Germans, born much after the Second World War, and living in cities outside Berlin, the Berlin Wall was nothing more than a small annoyance that had separated some families on either side of the wall. It was not a big deal to most Germans! But with the collapse of the Wall and the ensuing end of the Cold War, it was felt that the broken country had to be reunified, and no artificial wall, brought down by then, should or could justify separation any longer. The reunification was surely a painful exercise that demanded sacrifice on either side. And no people in our time had put up a better effort to win this than the Germans.

As a nation, the Germans really fascinate me. They are a proud, prudent and well-informed people that know their place in history. They know the meaning of sacrifice and hard work. They know that the days ahead are going to be harder and tougher, which would require them to change their old habits. And they are already making that change. Most people have switched to biking, or use of public transportation to come to work. The majority of the cars used on the streets are getting smaller and less gas-guzzling than ever before. Most offices don’t have air conditioning systems. Even the few that have such facilities don’t usually turn these on unless absolutely required. Major hotel chains don’t waste energy and other resources the way their counterparts do in the USA; this is also true with American owned hotel chains. Almost all school-going kids walk to their schools. This is a big difference from the USA where kids are picked up by school buses.

In my taxi cab ride to the airport, the driver told me that he had a pretty good business of his own, earning nearly three thousand euros a day. Half a dozen people used to work for him. Then two years ago, he lost that business. He now works for a limousine company that provides its services to some of the largest corporations in Germany. He now makes less than a tenth of what he was earning before. But he has learned to absorb the change and is not complaining. With that attitude, not just limited to this cabbie, Germany surely can show the way for the rest of Europe, which seems still unwilling to make the sacrifice.

The days before my arrival, Germany had just celebrated its 20 years of reunification, and had paid off its last penalty for starting the World War I. The penalty was supposed to deter it from ever fighting another war. As we know, the victors were wrong. The penalty only strengthened the ultra-nationalists leading Hitler to come to power. And then we had the Second World War that saw the death of tens of millions of civilians, not just within borders of Germany but also outside it. The victors cut Germany into two halves, and let these two go in the opposite directions. And that experiment too has failed. Germany is united and stronger than ever before. Its economy is stronger than any other European nation today.
Is there a lesson for the rest of the world to learn from the German experience? Sure. But as we know we shall continue to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a name for such a behavior. It is called insanity.