Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2012, Pages 39-40

Other People's Mail

Compiled by Jean-Pascal Deillon and Dale Sprusansky

Israel and Apartheid

To The New York Times, Nov. 2, 2011

Re: "Israel and the Apartheid Slander," by Richard J. Goldstone. Mr. Goldstone and I knew apartheid in South Africa. We knew apartheid as a discriminatory, repressive system accompanied by the seizure of land belonging to blacks for the use of whites.

We know something about Gaza, as we investigated Israel's actions there in 2009 and concluded that Israel had committed war crimes. I know the West Bank better than Mr. Goldstone, as from 2001 to 2008, I was special rapporteur to the Human Rights Council, a United Nations body, on human rights in the Palestinian territories and visited there regularly.

There are distinctive similarities between apartheid in South Africa and Israel's practices in the West Bank. Israel discriminates against Palestinians in favor of settlers. Its restrictions on freedom of movement resemble the pass laws of apartheid South Africa.

Israeli practices in the Palestinian territories are repressive. Torture of Palestinians is rife; houses are destroyed, and there are more political prisoners in Israeli jails than there were in South Africa under apartheid. Israel seizes Palestinian land for settlements and for the construction of the wall.

There are sufficient similarities between the two systems to justify an investigation into whether or not Israel commits the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories.

Israel refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In these circumstances, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine should examine the question of whether or not Israel should be held accountable for the crime of apartheid.

John Dugard, Cape Town, South Africa (The writer is a jury member in the London session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and a witness for the South African session.)

Israel Has Lost High Ground

To The Tennessean, Nov. 25, 2011

Nour Joudah's op-ed on Nov. 16 concerning Palestinian lack of real freedom brought out the usual "Palestinians are the bad guys, and the state of Israel are the good guys" responses.

Mark S. Freedman's op-ed states the necessity of the security fence and the checkpoints. My resources, which come from at least four church denominations, give different facts.

Checkpoints control Palestinians economically. At checkpoints, childbirth is increasingly a casualty, because Palestinian women are often refused passage to get medical care. If you marry someone from the opposite side of a checkpoint, there is no guarantee you can later automatically cross on grounds of marriage.

Israel is the side that needs to readjust its thinking and realize that Palestinians are also children of God.

William McDermet III, Pleasant Hill, TN

Free Speech and the Mideast

To The Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2011

As Israel now proposes ["Israel's shot at stifling speech," editorial, Nov. 21], Egypt sought to control the flow of money from foreign governments to civil-society groups under the regime of Hosni Mubarak. This continues today, and it is one of the many swords of Damocles that hang over the heads of Egyptian organizations. This control was used as a basis to charge and jail American University of Cairo human rights leader Saad Eddin Ibrahim 10 years ago.

The Post was right to sound the alarm about Israel following Egypt's practice on constraining groups by cutting off funding lifelines. But The Post should also urge, as it has in the case of Egypt, that the U.S. use the considerable leverage of its immense foreign aid to get Israel to drop its plan.

Douglas J. Clark, Woodbridge, VA

Drones vs. Assassinations

To The Seattle Times, Oct. 24, 2011

I am puzzled by the level of scrutiny given to the manner and method of Muammar Qaddafi's death compared with that given to the routine extrajudicial assassinations carried out via missile from unmanned drones.

Perhaps the level of brutality and illegality is deemed to be inversely proportional to the distance between perpetrator and victim.

Carl M. Milner Jr., Edmonds, WA

Apply Iraq's Lessons to Libya

To the Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24, 2011

I agree with the Times about rebuilding Libya. But I would like to remind the Times that much of the turmoil in Iraq was a result of how the U.S. handled things once Saddam Hussain was overthrown.

Instead of being liberators, we were occupiers. We disbanded the Iraqi armed forces and lost the trust of the Iraqi people.

This time, let's help the people by building bridges between tribes and fostering education and public works projects. No Halliburtons. No U.S. soldiers. Build bridges, literal and otherwise.

Paul L. Hovsepian, Sierra Madre, CA

Assessing Iraq's Future

To the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Oct. 25, 2011

President Obama says he is getting troops out of Iraq by year's end. At last! I hope he follows soon with a withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, I have several questions about Iraq that I haven't even heard mentioned, much less discussed. We need information, not just patriotic rhetoric.

  • • How many mercenaries will stay in Iraq? How much will they cost? They are hated by the Iraqis because of their abuses of power, and they are at least twice as expensive as regular soldiers.
  • • Will the U.S. scale down our embassy? We have built the largest, most expensive embassy complex in history—as big as a small city. We don't need that large a facility if we aren't going to continue to control the destiny of Iraq.
  • • To what extent have we rebuilt the shattered infrastructure that our invasion destroyed, as we promised to do? Are we leaving the Iraqis without basic services?
  • • Will our media report on these and other important matters or continue to get most of their information from official sources?

Myra Jones, Bradenton, FL

How Iraq Was Actually Lost

To the Los Angeles Times, Oct. 31, 2011

If Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan don't like it that the sovereign nation of Iraq wants America to honor its agreements, what do they suggest? Should we stay in Iraq when we are clearly not wanted? What about invading Iraq to ensure safety for Americans? Oh, we already did that and failed.

This war was doomed from the beginning. The administration that started this debacle and handed Iran its victory is the one to call a failure. Many smart analysts advised against military action against Iraq; if memory serves, these astute people were called unpatriotic.

Obama did not fail; he is honoring the agreement set by Bush.

Stephanie Georigeff, Redlands, CA

A Promise Kept

To The Washington Post, Nov. 8, 2011

Regarding Charles Krauthammer's op-ed, "Who lost Iraq?":

There is little wonder when a president elected on a promise to get U.S. forces out of Iraq gets U.S. forces out of Iraq. It is even less a wonder when he does so on the schedule outlined in an agreement negotiated and signed by the author of the war and president from the opposing party—bipartisanship at its best, we can say.

More important, however, Mr. Krauthammer was wrong on the cure for the problems in Iraq. After suggesting—erroneously—that the United States could sustain a deployment of troops that mimics deployments in South Korea, Japan and Germany, he (inadvertently?) admitted the truth: The "risibly small" force proposed by some (3,000 to 5,000 troops) would spend "all its energies" on force protection. We are hardly welcome in Iraq.

I have been advocating for this course since my retirement from the Air Force in 2005. Mr. Krauthammer was right about the resistance to a U.S. presence in Iraq, and that is exactly why we should not stay. Beyond the danger it posed to U.S. troops, the fighting against the U.S. occupation led to a spiral of increasingly destructive violence in Iraq.

Alan Howe, Arlington, VA

No Gain in Iraq War

To the Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 11, 2011

Charles Krauthammer is in the small minority of Americans who think we should keep 20,000 American troops in Iraq to "save the Bush Iraq war gains" ("Obama has blown lasting gains in Iraq," Nov. 4). I am not sure what the Iraq war gains are or were.

I know that no American would have agreed to go to war in Iraq if you told them that there were no WMDs, it would cost $800-plus billion, that it would cost over 4,000 American lives and over 400,000 Iraqi lives, that gas would go from $1 per gallon to more than $3, and that Iraq would wind up with a shariah-based constitution and political chaos. Getting our troops out by the end of this year is the best news this country has had concerning Iraq in years. We must learn from our mistakes or we will be destined to repeat them.

Bob Letourneau, West Chester, OH

Peril of Afghan Wars

To The Kansas City Star, Nov. 14 2011

From 1979 to 1988 there were more than 13,000 Soviet soldiers killed and more than 35,000 wounded in a Mideast war. Where you ask? Afghanistan.

Now the United States, thanks to President George W. Bush, is attempting to break that ignominious record.

The Russians invaded Afghanistan and lost. The British did it twice, the Muslims, the Mongols have all tried. Alexander the Great tried more than 2,300 years ago. Don't we ever learn anything?

President Barack Obama says we are getting out of Iraq by the end of the year. We had no business going in there to start with. It's the idiotic Vietnam War all over again.

We have no right to decide which country embraces our style of government and/or our choice of religion. The Middle East is not ours to control. We have no rights in any other sovereign country.

Why do we keep trying? President Obama, get us out of Afghanistan as well before we break the Russian record. Don't we ever learn anything?

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Our leaders don't have trouble remembering the past. They just ignore it.

Luke Edwards, Olathe, KS

Room for Iran Dialogue

To the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Oct. 29, 2011

Fareed Zakaria of The Washington Post is exactly correct that President Obama should "test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement." Iran does not threaten our national interests and we should not be threatening Iran with harsher sanctions or, even worse, military action.

Unfortunately, the U.S. does not have its own foreign policy. It has one dictated to our lapdog politicians by Israel and the powerful pro-Israel lobby, who have been trying to provoke a U.S. war with Iran for years. Israel does not want U.S. diplomacy with Iran; it wants a U.S. attack on Iran in order to remove a regime unfriendly to Israel.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul, who was right when he opposed the disastrous Iraq war, says that if we go to war in Iran, it will destroy the U.S. dollar (and our economy). We cannot allow this to happen.

Ray Gordon, Venice, FL

National Priorities

To Chicago Tribune, Nov. 25, 2011

The situation in the Middle East is both a tinderbox and a quagmire.

Our misguided foreign policy has produced the bitter fruits of thousands of lost American lives, billions of dollars that are capsizing our economy and, in many countries, hatred of the United States. In that troubled area, we preach "self-determination," but instead, we meddle, threaten, sell arms and try to buy friendships.

We citizens are soon to elect leaders who will define our national priorities.

Now is the time! Now is when we have the chance to remember history, search our souls and refashion our goals of strength, independence and peace.

What party or which of the candidates will have the wisdom and guts to return America to what it was?

Arnie Clark, Oak Bridge, IL