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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2007, pages 67-68

Other People's Mail

Compiled by Kate Hilmy and Delinda Hanley

Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.

Palestinians Need Recognition

To The Independent, May 11, 2007

I have just returned from the occupied Palestinian territories where—as a member of an official European Parliament delegation—I have seen at first-hand the appalling suffering of the Palestinian people. In the past year alone, the number living in poverty has increased by 30 percent, essential services are devastated, and there is, accordingly, growing violence on the streets.

But the shock of witnessing all this is compounded by a sense of complicity in it. The EU continues to withhold direct aid from the Palestinian Authority, as it has done for more than 12 months, although a new unity government has been formed which essentially meets the demands of the international community for a cease-fire and recognition of Israel. Israel itself continues to withhold tax and customs revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which is therefore unable to pay public sector wages in full or provide essential services to its increasingly impoverished people.

The EU also fails to recognize fully the new government, and refuses direct discussions with its Hamas members, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The normalization of relations between the EU and the Palestinian Authority is urgently needed, not just to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian and economic hardships being endured by Palestinians. Its political significance could be even more important, signaling to the rest of the world that the EU recognizes the Palestinian government as an expression of the democratic will of the Palestinian people, and that the government is ready for peace negotiations.

It will also give the EU leverage with Israel to pressure it to release the tax revenues it withholds unlawfully. For these reasons, our delegation met all members of the government and is now urging all EU member states to normalize relations with the Palestinian Authority immediately.

Unless urgent action is taken, as the International Crisis Group has warned, Palestine faces becoming a “failed state” before it has even achieved statehood.

Dr. Caroline Lucas, MEP (Green Party, SE England), Brussels, Belgium

A True Progressive Cause

To the San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 2007

The reason “so-called progressives continue to embrace the Palestinian cause” is the outrageous injustice of Israel’s 40 years of illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Palestinians resist Israel’s relentless and cruel pressure to force them off the land that Israel wants for a “Greater Israel.’’

Meanwhile, Israeli children grow up with textbook maps showing that it all belongs to Israel already.

Zoe Goorman, Mill Valley, CA

Time for an Iraq Timetable

To The New York Times, April 25, 2007

Last September, President Bush announced a last-ditch plan to pacify Baghdad: build trenches around the city. “They’re building a berm around the city to make it harder for people to come in with explosive devices,” he said.

But this insane plan to encircle a metropolis of five million people with a medieval moat was rejected by the Iraqis.

The most recent plan to engineer the city into submission was to build a wall separating Sunnis from Shi’i. But the Iraqis don’t want to live with apartheid-like divisions, and that plan has just been scrapped.

Rather than invent another civil engineering fantasy, it’s time for real solutions to the violence in Iraq: the American troops must withdraw, and Iraqis, with the help of the international community, must begin a process of reconciliation.

Medea Benjamin, San Francisco, CA. The writer is co-founder of Global Exchange and Code Pink.

The UK’s Duty to Iraqi Refugees

To The Independent, May 21, 2007

Your front-page coverage of another horrific day of killing in Baghdad (April 19) raises a very important practical question, namely what help the UK and the U.S. (among others) can give to the millions of people who are currently fleeing the carnage in Iraq and desperately trying to reach other countries.

I know that Mr. Blair finds it impossible to concede that he made a mistake over Iraq, but he could at least do something to help those forced to flee (currently 1 in 7, and the U.N. estimates 1 in 5 by the end of the year). It will cost money, but significantly less than the cost of occupying the country (over $300 million a day).

Of course he, like Mr. Bush, still finds it necessary to believe that this exodus isn’t happening and that Iraq is full of grateful citizens of a new democracy plagued by a few rogue elements. But the numbing daily news coverage must surely prove the contrary, even to him.

The U.S. has so far taken in fewer than 500 Iraqis since the invasion, the UK fewer still. Yet millions are trying to get across the border and Iraq’s neighbors are becoming more and more reluctant to accept them. Will Britain act to help the victims of a bloody civil war, or must ideology come before practical help?

Dr. Mark Corner, Brussels, Belgium

Artificial Timetables

To the San Francisco Chronicle, May 14, 2007

King George says he won’t be forced into an arbitrary timetable to bring the troops home from Iraq. Too bad he didn’t treasure this outlook in 2003. With inspectors in-country and doing their job on the ground, he chased them out to start the war according to his own arbitrary timetable.

Sky Wallace, Pioneer, CA

Leaders Demand, Don’t Give, Results

To The Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 2007

In response to the article from April 23, “Democrats brace for next vote on war funds”: I am the mother of a Marine and a public school teacher, and I will lose my job if I fail to meet President Bush’s No Child Left Behind benchmarks that show progress in my class.

It is ironic that this same administration and its Republican supporters in Congress seem to want only to squander our tax dollars and the lives of our children and then tell us we have no right to expect accountability and progress with the protracted war in Iraq.

Helen Logan-Tackett, La Mirada, CA

They Sacrifice, We Shop

To The New York Times, May 7, 2007

As a public high school teacher in a small town who sends more students off to the military than have come home, I can assure Paul Rieckhoff that Americans en masse are definitely fully and constantly aware of the toll on our military, and its members are getting exactly the support they deserve from us: trying to bring them home soon and alive.

And no, the president hasn’t asked for that support from us. It’s freely given.

A former student who is in Iraq (again) wholeheartedly supports our vigorous debate here at home. Far from seeing it as unpatriotic, he says: “If you don’t debate it, who will? We certainly can’t. We’re counting on you.”

Laurie Frazier, Manteca, CA

The Cost of Folly in Iraq

To the San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2007

The elephant in the room that few key figures are pointedly naming is the dishonest way this president has budgeted his bloody folly in Iraq (“Dem leaders, Bush discuss war funding,’’ April 19).

By refusing to include the realistic cost projection for the White House’s ill-advised war and occupation of Iraq in the annual budget for everyone to see its impact on the bottom line, this president repeatedly withholds the associated costs, then inserts them in yearly supplementals as if they are some unexpected afterthought.

If that is not shortchanging our troops and showing utter disrespect for them, I don’t know what is.

Just wait until we see what the final bill will be after he rides off into the sunset leaving his successors and the taxpayers with the biggest and most costly mess one man has made of this country in many a lifetime.

Tom Herz, San Francisco, CA

The Truth of Iraq

To the International Herald Tribune, April 26, 2007

Barry Posen (“The risks of staying and the risks of leaving,” Views, April 20) reveals the reality of Iraq. The babble about the war in Iraq having been won or lost is just that—babble. Iraq has never been America’s to win or lose. The country belongs to the people of Iraq, and it’s theirs to win or lose.

The Bush administration started something it cannot finish without further destroying thousands of Iraqi lives and hundreds more American lives.

The reality is that Iraq is, and always will be, an Islamic, a Shi’i majority nation with close ties to its neighbor, Iran. Any freely elected government will reflect this, as the present government does.

To resolve the Iraqi conflict, there must be regional diplomacy, something the Bush administration has been loathe to do. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis see the United States as occupiers and the day is coming near when the Iraqi government will tell the Americans to get out.

To do so honorably, the United States must engage Syria and Iran in direct, unconditional negotiations based on mutual respect, otherwise nothing will change. The cost of President George W. Bush’s adventure in Iraq in men and materials will continue to mount.

Fariborz S. Fatemi, McLean, VA

Define Victory

To the San Francisco Monitor, May 8, 2007

The letter from Bob Nystrom on Monday contrasted “finishing the war in Iraq” against “securing defeat through departure.” The catch phrases are alluring, however, there is one question that continually dogs me. What does winning the war in Iraq look like?

Kathleen Farr, Fremont, CA

No Pass For Wolfowitz

To the (Rochester, NY) Democrat and Chronicle, May 7, 2007

In response to the April 27 editorial “Treat Wolfowitz Fairly,” I would say that this is a perfect example of the old expression, “the pot calling the kettle black.” So, if I am to understand this, your position is that we need to treat Paul Wolfowitz fairly because he’s helped bring to light the loss of World Bank funds to those nations with rampant internal corruption? In other words, we need to tolerate this corrupt man’s actions because he has revealed others’ graft and corruption?

We should indeed look closely at “the whole picture” as this affair is another example of the Bush administration’s ongoing record of graft, perjury and corruption. As the late great Kurt Vonnegut so often put it, “And so it goes!”

Jerry Miller, Henrietta, NY

Note From Guantánamo

To The New York Times, May 11, 2007

“Many Detainees at Guantánamo Rebuff Lawyers” (front page, May 5) correctly points out that five years at Guantánamo has made it difficult for prisoners to trust their American attorneys, given the government’s reported attempts to discredit those attorneys.

Some prisoners, however, have expressed appreciation for the efforts of their lawyers. I am one of those lawyers. Here is a message received on May 3 from one of my clients, a young man from Yemen:

“If the government severs communications between us, and we are not able to ever meet again, I want to say to you: Thank you for standing by me in this ordeal of mine, which is the greatest ordeal I have had in my life....I will never forget compassionate Patricia who gave me hope and made me realize that there is still goodness in this nation.”

Patricia Bronte, Chicago, IL

Peddling Fear

To The New York Times, May 9, 2007

“Spying on Americans” (editorial, May 2) clearly demonstrates how fear-mongering can be used to uproot our most fundamental constitutional rights. The age-old canard of emergency conditions is held up as justification. Be assured that if this excuse can be used to seize unwarranted powers, Americans will be living under “emergency conditions” for the rest of their lives.

Allan R. Shickman, St. Louis, MO