New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 378

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Letters

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Stickler
I thought that the NI was published in the UK but after reading State of Fear (NI 376) I had to check inside the front cover to make sure. The day that the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York were attacked is etched on everyone's mind as 11 September 2001 - ie 11/9/01 - and yet, in this edition alone, I counted no less than 16 references to this date as '9/11'. Now please, NI, we have enough of a problem with reconfiguring the dates on our computers so they read correctly. Instead of just going along with all the rhetoric and jargon of the US, can you please in future refer to this date as 11/9 or 11 September so we all will know what you are talking about.

Trevor Scott South West Rocks, Australia

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George doesn’t get it
Theodore Roszak in 'An open letter to George Bush' (NI 376) talked about authoritarian sensibilities. It seems that the administration in Washington is getting pretty close to fascism, the ultimate for an authoritarian regime. Too bad that the pathological psychopath, one George Bush, to whom the letter is addressed, is totally incapable of understanding the message if he tried to read it. And if someone else explained it to him in Dick and Jane language, he still wouldn't get it.

Eleanor Hart Woodstock, Canada

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Reel in the rebels
I was saddened to see the article on death threats against Walden Bello (Currents, NI 376) - a man for whom I have great admiration and respect. But I am not surprised that as the (peaceful) world social justice movement continues to gain ground (while at the same time the US continues to step up violent threats and activity), holdout groups committed to violent change at all costs such as the New People's Army in the Philippines and the FARC in Colombia grow more and more desperate. Many of these groups will come to see more moderate (and successful) advocates for social change as a new enemy.

Instead of just condemning these groups, however, all of us need to recognize some of the historical factors which gave rise to them and call on them to lay down their arms and join us in the worldwide struggle for peaceful, positive social justice. As the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez recently said: 'The only groups who win in armed struggle are the arms manufacturers.'

John Richmond Toronto, Canada

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Sorted!
Many thanks for demonstrating so clearly how and why the ideals of the United Nations Organization (UNO) have been degraded to such an extent that the body is now no more than a servile rubber-stamper of The American Way (Upside dowN: The UN at 60, NI 375).

There are four essential actions which must happen if the UNO is to recover its integrity, relevance and independence.
These are:

. The Secretariat functions become totally mobile (as per the world of e-administration) on an eight-year cycle and roam the world - that is, the permanent base in New York should close;

. Voting and funding mechanisms for the General Assembly should involve formulas based upon units of one million of national population and one million of national currency (with a minimum of one vote and ten currency units);

. Membership of the Security Council should be on an eight-year cycle which coincides with every second Olympic Games;

. With each change of locale for the mobile Secretariat, membership of the UNO should be open only to nations which are non-possessors of weapons of mass destruction (or more appropriately, weapons of mass indiscriminate destruction and inhumanity).

If the UNO is to be saved from its slide into irrelevance and fawning obsequiousness to the US dollar, then it has to go through a period of moral renaissance.

It's get real, relevant and righteous time for the UNO.

Tony Hosking Nakara, Australia

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Unreported murder
I always enjoy The unreported year (NI 375), not least because of the positive items.

If there were a prize for the most unreported region then I would like to nominate West Papua. Hundreds of thousands of West Papuans have been killed over the past few decades. It is called genocide in some circles and it all goes unreported in the mainstream media.

In the closing months of 2004 there were several military operations targeting whole villages. Civilians were murdered, gardens, animals and houses destroyed. Many people fled to the mountains where cold and starvation inevitably resulted in more deaths. Attacks will continue in 2005.

An email correspondent 'Yikwanak' says this of the perpetrators: 'The killers of the West Papuan peoples are not really the military machines of Indonesia, but the multinationals and foreign powers who are not interested in the nature, the environment and humanity.'

Maybe that is why it goes unreported. Who is responsible? We all are.

Sue Hensley Dunedin, New Zealand/Aotearoa

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Tragic symbol
Like 9/11, a date which has become symbolic of a great tragedy, 12/26, the date of the horrendous Asian tsunami, should also become symbolic of a vastly greater tragedy. It should serve as a constant reminder of the necessity for the long-term continuation of the initial magnificent response to its catastrophic effects, to counter the devastation left in its wake, both human and material. By extension, this date could also serve as a sobering reminder of the millions of other people worldwide who live in conditions of poverty, hunger, disease or displacement, and who also need our assistance on a fair, sustained and global basis to help ameliorate their lives.

Dermot O’Hanlon Bray, Ireland

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State of Fear

Insecurity and injustice
Most of us are conditioned to fight insecurity, but in fighting it we inflict it on others. In writing that security comes from within individuals, Jeremy Seabrook hints at the solution ('Insecure lives', State of Fear, NI 376) but, sadly, he does little more than that.

Insecurity in the developing world is a fact of life. It could happen because of corruption, official incompetence, illness, medical bills, natural disasters, war, famine, job loss or bereavement, at any time. The poor have little choice but to come to terms with it. In the West, however, we strive constantly to cocoon ourselves against it with pensions, insurance, social security, economic growth, legal redress and state forces and are deeply shocked when, events like 9/11 show us - surprise, surprise - we are still not secure. Our response is a paranoid scramble to raise our defences yet again, this time by inflicting insecurity on Islamic foreigners and their families both at home and overseas.

Insecurity is a state of mind akin to fear and, as with fear, we must be able to deal with it constructively. Fear of others can be conquered by getting to know them, feeling for them and understanding them; but, most of all, we can best come to terms with the inevitable insecurity in our own lives by, in some way, sharing the far greater insecurity of the poor and their superior ability to deal with it.

Achieving earthly justice and peace is likely to be as problematic as passing a camel through the eye of a needle, unless we compassionately confront the fears of those who, wittingly or unwittingly, inflict injustice - making a start with ourselves.

Frank Richardson Norwich, England

HAVE YOUR SAY
If you have ideas for topics that you’d
like to read about in the NI next year,
why don’t you let us know? Send your
ideas to Dinyar Godrej by 10 June 2005,
email: dinyar@antenna.nl

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Letter from Lebanon

Dear departed
As Lebanon roils with unrest, Reem Haddad revisits
the immediate aftermath of Rafic Hariri's murder.

I still feel that I can't wake up. I keep thinking that he's coming back and all will return to normal. But Rafic Hariri is dead. A bomb was detonated just as the ex-Prime Minister's convoy passed through a ritzy seaside road at the edge of the wartorn central district that he had rebuilt and just a few kilometres from my home. I watched in distress as the dense black smoke filled the sky. Hariri dead? Powerful people like Hariri don't get killed...

I rushed to the street. It was empty. The few remaining people stared at each other. For the next few days, people walked around in a daze. The shock was tremendous. Tears rolled down easily. Most of us wore black.

I felt I had lost my father. For in those 12 years in government, he had become our father. Sometimes cajoling, sometimes bullying, sometimes laughing. Many times we criticized him. But he led and we followed.

Born in a poor Sunni Muslim family, Hariri became a selfmade billionaire when he started his own construction company in Saudi Arabia. During the war, he loaned or footed the bill for thousands of Lebanese students who he sent abroad to continue their studies. His hope was that they would some day return as educated citizens and rebuild their country.

Illustration: Sarah John Throughout his life he had a vision: a peaceful and reconstructed Lebanon serving as the region's financial hub. As Prime Minister of Lebanon, he pushed us all into seeing his vision. He built roads, schools and social institutions. He turned the wartorn downtown area into a luxurious reconstructed district. He spent much of his time attracting foreign investors to the area. Tourists began to arrive. In 2004 alone, 1.2 million tourists visited the country.

At the same time, he managed to accrue a huge deficit for the country. Although we complained, we knew that somehow he would find a solution. Hariri always had the answer. In many ways, Hariri became Lebanon. We jokingly called it 'Hariri land'.

Over and over, he emphasized the need for Lebanon's divided sects to unite. But 16 years of civil war had left many scars among Christian, Muslims and Druze. Bickering, although much subdued, continued.

But then something happened. The shock of his murder slowly turned into anger. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets accompanying his coffin. Muslims, Christians and Druze walked side by side to bury their leader. Hariri was buried in a plot in the midst of his beloved reconstructed downtown area. Carrying crosses or the Qur'an, a steady stream of Lebanese continue to flock to his grave. Some lay flowers and others light candles.

'By killing Hariri, they killed all of us. All of Lebanon,' wailed one woman.

'Get up and lead us, Hariri. Get up,' screamed another at the silent grave.

'We will avenge you,' said one young man. 'We'll find your killers and hunt them down.'

I stared at the grave site covered with flowers. A nearby mosque was under construction and all its boards were covered with messages to the deceased leader.

The future is uncertain. As one friend put it: 'The world just crumbled around my feet. Everything has changed. Who is going to lead the country?'

In other countries, another leader takes over. But in Lebanon, there isn't any other Hariri. Other leaders have yet to appear.

People are scared. Some are talking of emigrating.

The ex-premier's death has unleashed fury against Syria, the perceived killer, although it has denied involvement. Hariri is believed to have taken a stand against Syria's heavy involvement in Lebanese politics and this perhaps led to his death. Daily demonstrations and vigils are held. Schools and businesses remain mostly closed.

I often think back to the few times that I had interviewed him. We had a ritual. 'Vote for me in the elections,' he would say. 'Save Beirut's old traditional houses from demolition and I will,' I would reply.

The last time I saw him, I was just a few weeks pregnant with my daughter. At the end of the interview, he leaned over and smiled. 'You're hiding something in there, aren't you?'

I wish I had said thank you for noticing. I wish I had said thank you for raising Lebanon from the ashes, thank you for creating jobs for us and most of all thank you for believing in us.

I wish I had said ‘I believe in you too’.

Reem Haddad works for the Daily Star in Beirut.
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