Friday, March 25, 2005

Pantano conviction raises hope for justice and democracy, March 25, 2005

Fate of Marine will test American assertions of "justice for all"
March 25, 2005
By Ray Hanania
Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano led a unit of Marines investigating reports of insurgents operating out of a home in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Iraq on April 15, 2004 when two men tried to flee the building.
The two Iraqi men jumped into an SUV but were apprehended and handcuffed after Marines disabled the vehicle by firing on the tires, disabling the vehicle. It was a perfect arrest.
A search of the house revealed some weapons although the two Iraqi men offered no resistance nor did they threaten Pantano or the Marine detachment.
But within a few minutes, something went terribly wrong. Pantano killed the two prisoners, riddling their unarmed bodies with more than 50 bullets in a hail of gunfire from him that required a reload and a second magazine cartridge.
Nearly one year later, in an interview on Dateline NBC (Sunday, March 20), Pantano insisted that he fired on the two prisoners after they moved in a manner that he felt had threatened his life.
Apparently, Pantano explained, he suspected the SUV might have explosives and he claims he unhandcuffed the prisoners and ordered them to search the vehicle for weapons and explosives.
Pantano explained he heard them whispering together and when they failed to stop after ordering them to do so in Arabic, he opened fire.
Pantano didn’t shoot to wound, maim or injure. He emptied a full magazine and then reloaded and fired another magazine from his automatic weapon at the two prisoners, riddling their body with bullets. Each magazine holds 25 to 30 bullets. The two bodies were reportedly riddled with 52 total bullets.
Like many killings by Marines of Iraqi civilians reported by the Arab media, this murder would have gone unnoticed except that one of Pantano’s Marine detachment reported the incident to a superior weeks later.
Certain facts suggested that maybe the killings were unjustified and driven by an American whose hatred of Arabs caused him to re-enlist in the Marines after Sept. 11 after having already served one pre-Sept. 11 tour.
Those facts include:
The two Iraqis were unarmed. No explosives or weapons were found in the SUV.
The two Iraqis were riddled with bullets throughout their body, including being shot repeatedly while their backs were turned. Witnesses said both were shot in the back
Pantano claims he feared the SUV was booby-trapped, but he admitted that he stood less than 10 feet from the prisoners (some reports put it at two feet) as they searched the vehicle. Someone fearing a booby-trapped vehicle would certainly have stood further away.
After the killings, Pantano put a sign on the vehicle that reflected one of the many mottos of the Marine detachment’s commanders, which read "No better friend, no worse enemy."
To Arabs, the phrase "No better friend, no worse enemy" literally translates into "The only good Arab is a dead Arab."
Pantano had served in the Marines but after Sept. 11th, he volunteered to return reportedly telling Marine interviewers "They attacked us" and he wanted to attack them back.
Of course, no Iraqis were involved in the terrorism on Sept. 11. No Iraqis were involved with al-Qaeda. But apparently to Pantano, Arabs are just that, Arabs.
Questions remain. Did Pantano intentionally over-fire at the lifeless bodies to cover up his original shots to the backs of the prisoners?
Today, Pantano faces premeditated murder charges and a hearing is scheduled for April at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Pantano’s story is being championed by hate-mongers in the media, but little is being said about the two Iraqi victims, Hamaady Kareem and Tahah Ahmead Hanjil.
They can’t tell their side of the story. No effort is being made to convey it either. Americans have been whipped up into a frenzy of racist-driven hate mislabeled as "patriotism" and clearly the American news media is censoring itself not only in its day-to-day coverage of Iraq, but in its reporting here in the United States.
It is not patriotic to murder prisoners. It is not patriotic to murder innocent men. It is not patriotic to seek to cover-up murders simply because the victims are Iraqi and the killer is an American.
Pantano’s actions reflect poorly not only on the United States Marines, but also on a nation struggling to overcome the widespread racism and hatred that has gripped many Americans and inflamed by racist talk on radio and TV stations.
Will the dead Iraqis receive justice, or will the new American hate-patriotism excuse Pantano’s deeds?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Iraq war raises unanswered questions/And Timeline, March 18, 2005

Aftermath of Iraq war raises unanswered concerns
March 18, 2005
By Ray Hanania
Three years ago, and months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bill Maher, the host of the popular show "Politically Incorrect," had the courage to say what many Americans were too emotional to recognize:
We, Americans, can just as easily fall into the trap of emotion and perpetrate untold horrors on another people in the name of a righteous and just cause, just as al-Qaeda had done on Sept. 11.
His exact words: "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building -- say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
Maher was bullied from his pulpit and his show was immediately cancelled. Yet, two years since President Bush invaded Iraq, toppled it’s legitimate government in the name of Sept. 11 vengeance, and occupied a foreign country that did no wrong to America, some Americans are finally willing to ask the hard question, "Did we really do the right thing?"
The answer is a shockingly frank "No!" And today, Americans are paying a painful price for that unjustified action.
There was absolutely no evidence that Iraq was involved in any manner with al-Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden responsible for killing nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11.
Today, however, as a result of an ongoing war Bush once declared over, al-Qaeda support has spread throughout Iraq. Suicide bombings are the weapon of choice there and the resistance against our American occupation has taken more than 1,500 American lives.
According to, more than 16,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. And although the American media prides itself on reporting the brutal truth, we read very few stories about the tens of thousands of American soldiers who are quietly returning home horrifically disabled and missing limbs, and their lives are destroyed.
For what?
Democracy in Iraq? You call what we just saw Democracy? A military controlled election where people who support us are allowed to vote and dissent is discouraged?
The media in Iraq is as much the victim as the civilian population of our occupation and the "kindler and gentler dictatorship" than the one they suffered under Saddam Hussein.
News media outlets that have challenged the claims of the American occupation and who report news that the American occupation dislikes have been censored and expelled from the country. In some cases, journalists have been shot. And while the Italian journalist held hostage by dissidents claims she was shot at intentionally, she is not the only one.
Here at home, Americans are paying the price of the unreasoned emotion that has driven this wrongful policy in Iraq.
Our national debt has reversed. Instead of getting smaller, it is growing at a rapid pace, imposing all kinds of unbearable hardships on those who at the lowest rings of the economy.
The American dollar is falling against the rising Euro, the economic symbol of the very European community that opposed our invasion and opposes our policies.
Oil prices controlled by the very dictatorships we continue to support in the Middle East and elsewhere – countries who clamored for us to invade Iraq like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- are rising for the first time faster than they are rising in Europe where motorists there pay more than $4 for a gallon of gas.
The average American is paying about $2.40 per gallon for unleaded gas. Who still drives a vehicle that can consume the cheaper 84 octane fuel?
Most Americans have come to the reluctant realization that Iraq had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 terrorism. But our pride and the strident voices of neocons in government and in the "new media" prevents us from saying so with conviction.
The threat of being labeled "unpatriotic" still weighs heavy over those who seek the truth.
More frightening, though, is the growing fear that to distract Americans from the failure of Iraq, the neocons who control our government and drive this extremist foreign policy are now thinking about starting a new war against maybe Syria. Or Iraq. Or other nations labeled by an unjust system of measure as "tyrants" and terrorist-states.
Maher is back on the air hammering away at these questions relentlessly. But at some point, speaking out against the government will move from TV entertainment to a courageous American movement.
How many more Americans will have to die before that happens?
Iraq war timeline

Iraq War Timeline
Jan. 29, 2002: In his State of the Union address, President Bush calls Iraq part of an "axis of evil," and vows that the U.S. "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
June 2: President Bush publicly introduces the new defense doctrine of preemption in a speech at West Point. Sometimes, he asserts, the U.S. must strike first against another state to prevent a potential threat from growing into an actual one.
June 16, 2002: ABC cancels Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect after comments he made criticizing Bush.
Sept. 12: President Bush addresses the UN, challenging it to swiftly enforce its own resolutions against Iraq. If not, Bush contends, the U.S. must act on its own.
Oct. 11: Congress authorizes an attack on Iraq.
Nov. 8: The UN Security Council unanimously approves resolution 1441 imposing tough new arms inspections on Iraq.
Nov. 18: UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq for the first time in almost four years.
Jan. 28, 2003: In his State of the Union address, President Bush announces that he is ready to attack Iraq even without a UN mandate.
Feb. 14: In a UN weapons inspections report on Iraq, chief inspector Hans Blix indicates that slight progress has been made in Iraq's cooperation with the weapons team.
Feb. 24–March 14: The U.S. and Britain's lobbying efforts among UN Security Council members to garner support for a strike on Iraq yield only two supporters (Spain and Bulgaria).
March 20: The war against Iraq begins 5:30 a.m. Baghdad time (9:30 p.m. EST, March 19), when the U.S. launches Operation Iraqi Freedom.
March 21: The major phase of the war begins with heavy aerial attacks on Baghdad and other cities. The campaign, publicized in advance by the Pentagon as an overwhelming barrage meant to instill "shock and awe," is actually more restrained.
March 24: Troops march within 50 miles of Baghdad. They encounter strong resistance from Iraqi soldiers and paramilitary fighters along the way.
March 26: About 1,000 paratroopers land in Kurdish-controlled Iraq to open a northern front.
March 30: U.S. Marines and Army troops launch first attack on Iraq's Republican Guard, about 65 miles outside Baghdad. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deflects criticism that the U.S. has not deployed enough Army ground troops in Iraq.
April 2: Special operations forces rescue Pfc. Jessica Lynch from a hospital in Nasiriya. She was one of 12 soldiers captured by Iraqi troops on March 23.
April 5: U.S. tanks roll into the Iraqi capital and engage in firefights with Iraqi troops. Resistance weaker than anticipated. Heavy Iraqi casualties.
April 7: British forces take control of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. April 9: Baghdad falls to U.S. forces. Looters pillage government buildings, museums, hospitals, and stores. Statue of Saddam Hussein symbolically toppled.
April 11: Kirkuk falls to Kurdish fighters.
April 13: Marines rescue five U.S. soldiers captured by Iraqi troops on March 23 in Nasiriya, and two pilots shot down on March 24 near Karbala.
April 15: Gen. Jay Garner is appointed by the U.S. to run post-war Iraq.
May 1: President Bush declares an end to major combat operations.
May 12: Diplomat Paul Bremer replaces Jay Garner as Iraqi administrator.
June 15–29: About 1,300 troops launch Operation Desert Scorpion, combatting organized Iraqi resistance against American troops near Falluja.
July 13: Iraq's interim governing council, composed of 25 Iraqis appointed by American and British officials, is inaugurated. American administrator Paul Bremer, however, retains ultimate authority.
July 16: Gen. John Abizaid, commander of allied forces in Iraq, calls continued attacks on coalition troops a "guerrilla-type campaign" and says soldiers who will replace current troops may be deployed for year-long tours.
July 22: Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, die in firefight in a Mosul palace.
Aug. 19: Suicide bombing destroys UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 24, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Aug. 29: A bomb kills one of Iraq's most important Shiite leaders, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, among about 80 others.
Sept. 7: President Bush announces that $87 billion is needed to cover additional military and reconstruction costs.
Oct. 23–24: The Madrid Conference, an international conference to raise funds for Iraq's reconstruction, yields $33 billion but falls short of the target of $56 billion.
Oct. 27: Four coordinated suicide attacks in Baghdad kill 43 and wound more than 200. Targets include the headquarters of the Red Crescent and three police stations. Insurgents increasingly victimize civilians, Iraqi security forces, and aid agencies, not simply U.S. troops.
Nov. 2: Iraqi guerrillas shoot down an American helicopter, killing 16 U.S. soldiers and injuring 21 others. Additional attacks this month make it the bloodiest since the war began: at least 75 U.S. soldiers die.
Nov. 14: The Bush administration reverses policy in a deal with the Iraqi Governing Council, agreeing to transfer power to an interim government much sooner, in 2004.
Dec. 9: Directive issued by Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, bars France, Germany, and Russia from bidding on lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq, creating a diplomatic furor.
Dec. 13: Saddam Hussein is captured by U.S. troops. He is found hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit and surrenders without a fight.
Jan. 11, 2004: The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, says members of the country's interim government must be selected by direct vote. He opposes the U.S. plan to hold regional caucuses. The U.S. has argued that it would be impossible to ensure free and safe elections on such a tight timetable—the U.S. plans to hand control of the government to Iraqis on June 30.
Jan. 15: Thousands of Shiites hold a peaceful demonstration in Basra in support of direct elections.
Jan. 19: The U.S. asks the UN to intercede in the dispute over the elections process in Iraq.
Jan. 28: David Kay, the former head of the U.S. weapons inspection teams in Iraq, informs a senate committee that no WMD have been found in Iraq and that prewar intelligence was "almost all wrong" about Saddam Hussein's arsenal.
Feb. 2: Under pressure from both sides of the political aisle, President Bush calls for an independent commission to study intelligence failures.
Feb. 10: About 54 Iraqis are killed in a car bombing while applying for jobs at a police station. The next day an attack kills about 47 outside an army recruiting center. Iraqi security forces become a regular target of insurgents.
Feb. 23: UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi issues a report concluding that the earliest that credible, direct elections could be held is early 2005.
March 2: Suicide attacks in Karbala on Shiite Islam's most holy feast day kill more than 85 and wound 233 others. It is believed that the perpetrators are attempting to foment unrest between Shiites and Sunnis.
March 8: The Iraqi Governing Council signs interim constitution.
March 31: Iraqi mob kills and mutilates four American civilian contract workers and drags them through the streets of Falluja.
April 4: U.S. troops begin assault on Falluja in response to March 31 killings. Coordinated attacks by Shiites are launched in the cities of Kufa, Karbala, Najaf, al-Kut, and Sadr City. The militias are led by Moktada al-Sadr.
April 9: U.S. contract worker Thomas Hamill is taken hostage. In all, more than 20 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq, and hostage-taking becomes a regular tactic of the insurgents.
April 15: The Bush administration agrees to a UN proposal to replace the Iraqi Governing Council with a caretaker government when the U.S. returns sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.
April 22: U.S. announces that some Iraqi Baath Party officials who had been forced out of their jobs after the fall of Saddam Hussein will be allowed to resume their positions. About 400,000 lost their jobs, draining Iraq of skilled workers.
April 30: The appalling physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad comes to light when photographs are released by the U.S. media. The images spark outrage around the world.
May 8: Nicholas Berg, an American contractor, is beheaded by Iraqi militants. Beheadings of foreign workers become a regular terrorist tactic.
May 17: A suicide bomber kills the head of the Governing Council, Izzedin Salim, and six others.
May 27: After seven weeks of fighting in Najaf, U.S. forces and militias loyal to al-Sadr reach a truce.
May 28: Iyad Allawi is designated prime minister of the Iraqi interim government. A Shiite neurologist, Allawi has close ties to the CIA.
June 1: Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni, is chosen president, a ceremonial post. The Governing Council decides to dissolve itself immediately rather than wait for the official handover of sovereignty.
June 16: The 9/11 Commission concludes in its report that there is "no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." The link between al-Qaeda and Iraq was one of the justifications for the war.
June 28: In a surprise move, the United States transfers power back to Iraqis two days early. The ceremony was held in secret to thwart attacks by Iraqi insurgents.
July 7: Prime Minister Allawi signs a law permitting him to impose martial law.
July 9: The Senate Intelligence Committee releases a unanimous, bipartisan "Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq," harshly criticizing the CIA and other American intelligence agencies for the "mischaracterization of intelligence." "Most of the major key judgments" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were "either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence report." It also concluded that there was no "established formal relationship" between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Aug. 24: The Pentagon-sponsored Schlesinger report's investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal calls the prisoner abuse acts of "brutality and purposeless sadism," and rejects the idea that the abuse was simply the work of a few aberrant soldiers. It asserts that there were "fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon."
Aug. 27: A bloody, three-week battle in Najaf between U.S. forces and militia of militant cleric al-Sadr ends in August when Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani negotiates a settlement.
Sept. 7: U.S. death toll in Iraq reaches 1,000; about 7,000 soldiers have been wounded. In August, attacks on American forces reached their highest level since the beginning of the war, an average of 87 per day. No official record of Iraqi civilian deaths is kept, but as of this date estimates range from 12,000 to 14,000 (Iraq Body Count).
Sept. 15: The Bush administration requests that the Senate divert $3.4 billion of the $18.4 billion Iraq reconstruction budget to improving security in the country. The worsening security situation—with pockets of Iraq essentially under the control of insurgents—threatens to disrupt national elections, scheduled for January. Republican and Democratic senators alike harshly criticize the request as a sign that the American campaign in Iraq has been poorly executed. Senators also denounce the slow progress in rebuilding Iraq: just 6% ($1 billion) of the reconstruction money approved by Congress has in fact been spent.
Sept. 15: In a BBC interview, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says the war against Iraq was illegal and violated the UN Charter. The U.S., UK, and Australia vigorously reject his conclusion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Realities of Iraq may benefit Palestinians March 16, 2005

Realities of Iraq consequences may benefit Palestinians
March 16, 2005
By Ray Hanania
It was easy for Americans to pat themselves on the back and "claim" victory after soldiers tugging ropes from behind-the-scenes pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s capitol Baghdad watched by a small group of Iraqis an documented by embedded pro-American media.
Saddam Hussein’s forces and government collapsed within days of the March 19 (EST) the assault by an army consisting almost entirely of American forces and a small percentage of a handful of other nations.
American soldiers killed his two sons and grandson in an assault hailed by Americans but criticized by others as murder. Saddam himself was found hiding in a small trench-pit and captured, being held for what foes describe as a Nuremberg-like trial.
American soldiers had easily occupied all of the major Iraqi cities and installed a new government. Elections were held.
President Bush, forced to run for re-election on his Iraq policy, easily won and he has started talking about possible new wars against the other "Axis of Evil" nations he defined as Syria and Iran in his State of the Union Address only a few weeks after Sept. 11.
Yet, three years later, why aren’t Americans still smiling today? And why do many Palestinians see a potential silver lining in political skies that have remained gray and overcast since before Sept. 11?
Most Americans have come to realize that Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, the Islamic group led by Osama Bin Laden that perpetrated the Sept. 11 terrorism.
Today, though, they now know that the consequences of Iraq have created new opportunities for al-Qaeda to recruit and target Americans.
In fact, since the war began, more than 1,500 American soldiers have died and as many as 10,000 American soldiers whose conditions are not reported on have returned home seriously disabled and
According to Iraq Body, more than 16,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed making Abu Gharib look like the tip of an iceberg of American brutality, hypocrisy and torture.
But that is only the human toll that touches most Americans only peripherally. The war has cast a pall over the entire nation economically and socially.
The United States National Debt, which seemed under control and about to be erased, has returned in huge numbers that some believe easily exceeds $7 trillion dollars.
Oil prices remained stable until after the election. But driven by uncertainty in the Middle East, the prices are beginning to climb significantly, faster than increases in Europe. Even the American dollar is faltering against the Euro.
Although there is an effort to convince Americans that their Democracy is spreading in the Middle East thanks to the Iraq war, new policies toward Iran and Syria, and pressures on Arab governments traditionally friendly to the United States, the process is slow, uneasy and unsure.
Criticism of the war that once cost people their jobs, careers and public support has now resurfaced after three years of incubation.
For example, the popular TV program "Politically Incorrect" was cancelled in the Spring of 2002 after host Bill Maher told Americans, "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building -- say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
Today, Maher has returned to late night television and his criticism of Iraq and President Bush lead his nightly rants.
More and more, Americans are starting to questions the truth of the Iraq war and America’s Middle East policies.
The circle of events have led many Arab Americans to find hope. Although Arab Americans were among those protesting against the war in Iraq, and leading the list of those being arrested in the so-called anti-Terrorism sweeps across the country, they are recognizing that the new American realities might push many to reassess their accepted beliefs.
Hamas maybe a terrorist organization according to the United States government, but it has nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
Stepping up Middle East peace may mean finally focussing on the Palestine-Israel question. In Democrat elections, Palestinians have solidly chosen a successor to Yasser Arafat and that has prompted Americans to support reinvesting funds and moderating their sometimes unquestioned and unjustified support of Israel as the occupier and aggressor.
It is very possible as things don’t go as planned for Bush in Iraq, and as oil prices continue to rise, that he will continue to invest more and more of his "election victory capital" on pushing Israel to withdraw from settlements, ease the Palestinian occupation and reinvigorate the peace negotiations.
Not that anyone really expects peace talks with a still reticent Israel to lead anywhere, but for a while, it might create a welcome impasse for Palestinians who probably have suffered more as a result of the post-Sept. 11 American policies than anyone else.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Failure to understand Arab-Muslim issues exposes nation to attacks, 3-11-05

Failure to understand Arab-Muslim issues exposes nation to attacks
03-11-05 Creators Syndicate
By Ray Hanania

Ever since September 11, the issue of Mosques, Arabs and Muslims has become an important topic not only of public discussion but also of media scrutiny.

Most Americans still seem to believe that it’s the Arab and Muslim community that is not doing enough in the wake of Sept. 11, but the reality is the other way around.

Americans haven’t done enough to understand the issue in real terms, rather than relying on stereotypes and misinformation promoted by an even less educated American media.

Americans are vulnerable to attack because of this failure to properly understand the issues and distinguish between the real sources of terrorism and a complex and little understood topics involving Arabs and Muslims.

Here are some basic facts that might help:

Arabs and Muslims are not the same. There are about 7 million Muslims in America, but only 22 percent of them are Arab. There are about 3 million Arabs in America and the majority, more than half, are Christian, not Muslim.

The term Arab refers to a broad cultural and national identity and disguises the extensive diversity that exists beneath that public layer. Too often, the terms Arab and Muslim are used interchangeably and that is wrong.

As a result, many well-intentioned American leaders and media reach out to "Muslim" leaders to conduct dialogues and discussions and end up able to use the term "Muslim" without achieving any meaningful dialogue with the Arab community that is the source of must disagreement.

There are as many Christian Arab churches as there are Mosques in the United States. And Mosques come in three varieties: Mosques that are mixed Arab and non-Arab; mosques that are predominantly non-Arab and mosques that are predominantly Arab.

By Arab, I refer to the make-up of the governing boards which determines the events at the mosque, and also members who have other associations that oftentimes link to controversial organizations including several identified as extremist or supportive of alleged terrorist activity by the U.S. Government.

Failing to understand these important distinctions results in poor intelligence and misleading stereotypes. And that means poor security and a greater likelihood of terrorism exposure for Americans.

It also exposes the moderate Arab and Muslim American community to extremists who can easily hijack the community’s voices because Americans can’t seem to tell the difference between Pakistanis or Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims.

If the media can’t distinguish between moderate Arabs and extremist Arabs (based on political views and support of terrorism), how can Americans and defense agencies distinguish between thew two?

Failing to be able to distinguish puts a great burden on moderates who are often victimized by the extremists in the community. Moderates are isolated, marginalized and even physically attacked and threatened. The extremists can get away with this because it occurs below the threshold of American understanding.

Making things worse is the blatant bigotry that exists among many television and radio talk show hosts who broadly pillory Arabs and Muslims and fail to understand the distinctions between moderates and extremists.

What Americans have done through their lack of understanding of the Arab and Muslim community is to make it easier for extremists to blend in and to ostracize moderate voices.

But so easily attacking moderate voices, the Arab and Muslim extremists send clear signals to the majority of the community who are moderate but who don’t speak out because they fear the same fate of higher profile moderates.

Until this changes, this country is a definite target for another major terrorist attack. And the widespread roundup of suspects, good and bad, along with the failure of the media to accurately cover the community only makes that likelihood a certainty.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

How about freeing Arabs in America, too? 3-08-05

Arabs in America need freedom as much as Arabs in Middle East
Arab American Media Syndicate March 8, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Every week, as I write to expose the double-standards and hypocrisy of the American media, someone always emails me with this ignorant question: "How can you criticize the American media as anti-Arab when a mass circulation magazine like Newsweek features an Arab columnist?"

For the umpteenth time! Fareed Zakaria isn’t an Arab! I know he’s not an Arab, even without having to read his anti-Arab and less than accurate interpretations of Middle East events.

Of course, most Americans who read his feature this week which warns that the Arab World must take heed as the Arab street clamors for freedom, believe it must be so. After all, Zakaria would know. He’s an Arab, they're convinced.

He’s the same guy who wrote the misguided feature three weeks after Sept. 11 that pretty much defines how Americans view the Arab perspective on American policies, titled "Why do they hate us?"

Arabs don’t hate America. They object to America’s one-sided, unjust, illegal foreign policies, especially with regard to Israel. But because Zakaria isn't Arab, he wouldn't know that.

Zakaria’s writing isn’t inherently racist against Arabs as a culture, but it is inherently anti-Arab in ideology.

What Zakaria achieves is a false elevation of American Democracy. He ignores the obvious violation of Arab American rights that takes place everyday. And that only makes it easier to bash the Arab World. It's a charade.

Arabs in the Middle East and Arabs in America are both denied freedoms, but just in different ways.

In the Arab World (and in many non-Arab countries supported by the United States), dissidents can be jailed or murdered. In America, the oppression is more subtle, more clever and more far more effective.

The fact is that the cause of a dissident will grow if they are murdered or jailed. But in America, a worse fate awaits dissidents because in America, the media and communications are the power, not freedom or Democracy. If your access to the mainstream media is zero or negligible, and you can’t get to the microphones of the TV and radio talk shows, you might as well be dead.

As long as people think Zakaria is the "new Arab," this won’t change.

In America, Arab journalists can’t even hint at allegations of human rights abuses by American soldiers in Iraq, unless and until an American journalist has brought the issue to the forefront.
And even when that happens, the stories are portrayed as "isolated incidents." Otherwise, why isn’t everyone reporting it and clamoring for justice?

American military and government leaders are quick to denounce the practices at the Abu Gharib prison and at Iraqi checkpoints, yet those practices continue none-the-less.

But the most egregious suppression of freedom occurs when Zakaria and others ignore the failures of American Democracy by ignoring Western involvement in the policies that created the dictatorships that rule the Middle East and most Third World countries.

Fact: It was the post World War I West that drew the lines creating nations in the Middle East and handpicked the puppets who would mature to be the world’s worst tyrants. That tyranny is directly responsible for contributing to the rise of today's extremism.

Yes. Every country on the list cited by Zakaria in Newsweek March 14, 2005 as failing to meet the minimal standards of freedom are regimes that at one time or another were creations of the West and today rely on American support to remain in power.

To Zakaria, an Arab country is fine as long as it abides by America’s rules. Syria and Libya are bad. Jordan and Egypt are okay. Let’s see where the price of oil takes us before we make final judgments on Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States we helped create.

Driving a part of this is the cause of Israel. The more you accept Israel, the more you are moved away from the "Axis of Evil" and into the sphere of "moving towards freedom." Just look at the Freedom House survey that Zakaria cited in his recent Newsweek feature which talks about the "repression of the Arab World" as if it doesn’t occur right here at home.

Making it worse, is the overall ignorance of the American media and the American public itself, which gets most of its understanding of the Arab World from Hollywood movies and novels that cast Arabs as the primary evil characters.

The majority of Muslims in American are non-Arab. Only 22 percent in fact are Arab. And, about half of all the Arabs in America are Christian, not Muslim. Those facts might undermine the American methodology of denying civil rights and freedoms to Arabs in America.

The facts are this. The United States military is engaged in widespread human rights violations here and abroad. Rather than freeing Iraqis, they are imprisoning them in a system controlled by the United States. You oppose it, you disappear.

The American media just goes along embedded not only in the ranks of the American military occupation but in the ideology of the American military occupation and the inherent "I hate Arabs" mentality of American foreign policy.

How do I know this? Because I watch the only truly free media in America. Al-Jazeera. Pictures don’t lie. The American media, though, does.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Hurdles facing Democracy in the Middle East

Democracy has hurdles in sweep of Middle East
March 4, 2005 Creators Syndicate/March 7, 2005 Daily Herald
By Ray Hanania

Democracy has many hurdles as it slowly spreads through the Middle East. But we must be honest about its challenges if our true goal is to free an oppressed people.

It is inspiring to see thousands of Lebanese protest in the streets of Beirut demanding an end to Syria’s occupation. Syria has occupied Lebanon pretty much since Israel was forced to end its own occupation of Lebanon back in the 1980s.

Many Americans are demanding that Syria and some Arab countries become Democracies, but not all.

Syria is not a Democracy, and it may be the worst of the Middle East countries. But are the others any better?

Is Jordan or Egypt more Democratic than Syria? Is Saudi Arabia? What about the sacred cow of Middle East controversies, Israel?

When it comes to Democracy, you either are or you are not. There is no in-between. It’s like being pregnant.

None of the countries in the Middle East, Israel included, are real Democracies, if the measure of Democracy is absolute freedom and a government free of religious interference or control.

Those that are considered Democracies like Israel, or those that we don’t complain much about like Egypt and Jordan, are not Democracies at all. They are our allies. They do what we want. As long as they are our friends, we don’t care what they do to their people.

Can a "Jewish" State, for example, be any fairer to its citizens than an Islamic state? Nearly every Arab state is an Islamic state and the inherent contradiction that faces them also faces Israel.

Why can’t we be honest?

We hate Syria because Syria opposes Israel and our illegal invasion of Iraq. We hate Iran because Iran hates us back. I don’t think it is exaggerating many American feelings to use the word "hate."

We love Iraq because we can’t admit we made a mistake. There is no real Democracy in Iraq. I am not sure how free critics of our occupation are to challenge it with public demonstrations or what would happen to them if they did, but I do know we censor the media there and only allow media that supports our cause.

Palestinians living in Israel and under occupation have different challenges. But many Israeli Arabs will say they don’t have the same rights as Jewish Israelis.

Why do we demand complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, but not complete Israeli withdrawal from Palestine? Lebanon is "occupied" according to Americans, while the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are "disputed."

It was encouraging to see Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation still come out and exercise their right to vote. And while Palestinians in Israel complain about Israeli policies, they won’t get shot like they might in Syria.

Democracy is a clearly defined ideology that doesn’t come in dribs and drabs. You either are or you are not. If we really believe in bringing Democracy to the Middle East, we should do so with a single standard that is fair to all.

We shouldn’t assess a nation’s "Democracy factor" based on the real standard we use now, which is whether the country is or isn’t our ally. We owe it to our American Democracy.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Palestinians must respond mofe forcefully to suicide bombings 3-03-05

Palestinian response to suicide bombings must be tough
By Ray Hanania
Special to the Sentinel
March 3, 2005

When a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a Tel Aviv seaside resort last week, killing four innocent Israeli civilians, he wasn't just trying to kill Jews.

He was seeking to kill peace.

Few Arab leaders here or abroad stood up to denounce it.

The reason is many leaders are not as enthusiastic about the cease-fire newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

They don't believe the agreements will achieve much except reduce violence against Israel.

Those who did denounce the attack did so in ideological terms. Israel has killed nine Palestinian civilians during the same three-week period between the cease-fire signing and the suicide bombing. Few complain when Palestinians are killed. But Israeli deaths always make great headlines, and contributes to Palestinian resentment.

My Arab community doesn't understand the threat the suicide attack and future suicide bombings pose to Palestinian rights.Clearly, the attack was intended to provoke Sharon into his usual pattern of anger and the suspension of peace negotiations. And that undermines Abbas.

Israel has taken some positive steps. The policy of "collective punishment," a clear violation of international law intended to punish people rather than perpetrators of violence, was suspended.

In other gestures, Israel released 500 Palestinian prisoners, announced plans to ease its oppressive occupation by eliminating most checkpoints and withdrawing troops, giving Palestinians re-control over several major cities.

On its face, these actions certainly do not constitute peace. But they do represent the process of disengaging from continued conflict and lay the groundwork for a renewed peace negotiation.

Knowing that the suicide attack is intended to derail peace, you might think Arab leaders would forcefully denounce the attack in such a way as to undermine the presumed support the extremists assert from the public.

The Arab world has always compromised rather than confronted its extremists. There is a belief that the suicide bombers must have support if no one denounces them. But, if that is true, one might argue Palestinians oppose compromise with Israel.

The strongest demonstration of how wrong that logic is rests in the victory Abbas achieved in the January presidential elections.

There are many who insist Abbas does not have a mandate and argue that reports of election turnout and results are exaggerated. But even by the most conservative standards of democracy, Abbas won by a huge landslide, with more than 60 percent of the turnout.

The strength of democracy is not weighed in favor of those who refuse to register or participate in a vote, but rather in favor of those who register, vote and stand up to anti-democracy extremists.

In this light, what criticism there was of the suicide bombing was mild and downright shameful. Many Arab-American and Middle East newspapers that criticized the attack did so in passing, preferring to focus on Israel's continued killing of Palestinians.

Palestinians and Arabs cannot hide behind Israel's actions as an excuse to not denounce violence. They cannot be selective in denouncing violence.

At stake is the future existence of a sovereign Palestinian state. The reality is that Palestinians need to reinvigorate international support for their cause. Standing up to a moral principle is a key part of restoring that widespread support diluted by four years of a conflict the Palestinians are losing.

Palestinians need to be strategic, but with a balance of morality. We cannot denounce Israeli killings of Palestinians if we fail to denounce Palestinian killings of Israelis.

The burden is on our shoulders, not because the world is a fair place but because the world is an unfair place. And Palestinians need to learn how to preserve their moral strength in a world that is skewered against them.

We must live by a higher standard than our enemy if we expect to achieve the two-state goal. Palestinians must put their emotions in check and unleash their reasoned morality.

Until Palestinians put real meaning behind their denunciation of violence, and include denouncing suicide bombings, the suicide bombers will achieve their goal of blocking peace. The unintended result will be the absolute corrosion of Palestinian national aspirations.

Suicide bombings are standing in the way of Palestinian justice, and we must open our eyes, be honest and recognize that fact.

Ray Hanania is an author and former national President of the Palestinian American Congress. He is managing editor of He can be reached at

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