Tuesday, December 18, 2007
When you hear the wind rustling in the leaves, listen to the rustling when there is no wind, listen to the sound of silence.
When you hear the sound of your heart in your every breath, listen to the sound of your heart when it is not beating; listen to the sound of silence.
For silence is not of this world. It is from another dimension. If you can hear the silence you can go into another dimension and view our world from there. While noise is worldly, silence is spirituality. The noise in our brains is the noise of want, of worldly desires. If we can fill our minds with silence, we can feel humility.
But silence is nothing and God is no thing and when there was nothing there was silence.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
We would like to point out that "holy war¡¨ is a term that does not exist in Islamic languages. Jihad, it must be emphasized,means struggle, and specifically struggle in the way of God.
The authoritative and traditional Islamic rules of war can be summarized in the following principles:
1. Non-combatants are not permitted or legitimate targets.This was emphasized explicitly time and again by the Prophet, his Companions, and by the learned tradition since then.
2. Religious belief alone does not make anyone the object of attack. The original Muslim community was fighting against pagans who had also expelled them from their homes, persecuted, tortured, and murdered them.Thereafter, the Islamic conquests were political in nature.
3. Muslims can and should live peacefully with their neighbors. And if they incline to peace, do thou incline to it; and put thy trust in God (al-Anfal ).
However, this does not exclude legitimate self-defense and maintenance of sovereignty. "
A letter signed by 38 Muslim Scholars contains a unified explanation of Issues such as conversion, apostasy, relations with non Muslims etc. This sheds light on these subjects not only for the Pope but also for Muslims worldwide. It needed the Pope to question Islam in order for these scholars to issue a public explanation.
This letter was written a few months back, but the text was not available to me. There is a need for bodies like this to issue their understanding on other issues also on which there is much confusion.
Click here to read the text
http://ammanmessage .com/media/ openLetter/ english.pdf
I have therefore decided as a Muslim to condemn this act. Mind you the Pope as head of the Catholic church came out quite forcefully against attacking Iraq but the US paid no heed to him. It is therefore unlikely that my condemnation or that of the Ayatollah or other Muslim group of scholars will likely dissuade the Suicide bombers, but the truth must be told. Fairness demands that what is unjust and criminal must be branded as such.
At the same time let me condemn in no uncertain terms that I find reprehensible, the acts of the State of Israel in killing Innocent civilian Palestinians,men, women and children, in deliberately maiming and breaking their bones, in illegally appropriating their lands, in creating homelessness by demolishing their homes, in imposing collective punishment on the Palestinians by denying them water, electricity and tax revenues, by creating roadblocks and bantustans making their daily lives a misery and hell on earth.
I do not blame the Jews for this because these acts are equally reprehensible in Judaism. I do not feign ignorance of Judaism as my own beliefs are inspired by Judaism. I visit temples and Jewish synagogues and get confirmation that Judaism does not sanction the killing of innocent men, women and children. I am not looking for statements from Rabbi's to tell me this. Further proof of this is to be found in the overall condemnation by the Jews of suicide bombings. Surely they would not visit on others what they find repugnant by others.
I would not expect the State of Israel to condemn their own practices but do so only because they claim to be a Jewish state. I do expect their Rabbis to take out processions in Israel to stop this blatant violation of their own beliefs. If the State of Israel was not a Jewish State, I would not expect any such condemnation because I would understand this to be a political matter and not a Religious one. Similar to Israel, the State of Pakistan claims to be a Muslim State, but they practice torture which is not allowed in Islam, have laws that oppress minorities, which is not allowed by Islam. The State of Egypt does not claim to be an Islamic State and they torture people as a matter of routine but for them it is a political matter. Their religious scholars dare not point out that what they do is un Islamic for fear of being tortured themselves. The US is a Secular State and they practice torture although their constitution and their President say that torture is not allowed, but they are still breaking the laws of man and not the laws of God. It is an unwritten law for them that the end justifies the means. Under this belief any thing can be done if the cause is just.
The Muslim Religion is very strong against the taking of innocent lives. I have not heard a different view from any learned Muslim Scholar or even from my Secular Muslim friends. It is true that many of the suicide bombers may have done this as an act of desperation because they saw their brothers, mothers, sisters, fathers killed in front of their eyes, either by Israeli soldiers or American soldiers. Some of them may have become desperate when they saw their friends, their countrymen, their co coreligionist's not just killed or maimed before them but their homes and countries attacked, destroyed, ravaged, and their own lives made impotent and meaningless.
Islam does allow taking up arms in self defense. Islam does allow that you protect yourself and your faith by every means available to you. Islam still does not allow the taking of Innocent lives. In Islam, the end does not justify the means. It is not "suicide bombings" that are criminal. It is the target of the bomber. People who happen to be innocent bystanders. going about their daily lives. If the target were an opposing army or the direct oppressor, there would be some justification for this act but not for attacking women and children. If Muslims did the same thing to the Israelis as the Israelis do to them, then the faith of the Muslims is as weak as that of the Jews.
I try not to impress my views on my daughter in law because for saying half of what I have said today, she could lose her job. She could be ostracised by society and perhaps never find a job in the teaching profession in this country. She would certainly never be invited to speak to other teachers even about Islam. At a minimum she would be called antisemitic. Maybe none of this will happen, after all this is a free society, but she is concerned because it has happened to others. The Principal of a high school in New York was recently forced to resign because she explained the Arabic translation of the word Intefada.
Yet all I have done is to say that I condemn suicide bombings. Fortunately my daughter in law is smarter than I am. She keeps her distance from my writings.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
"A mixture of crony capitalism and gross incompetence has been on display in the core financial markets of New York and London. From the “ninja” (no-income, no-job, no-asset) subprime lending to the placing (and favourable rating) of assets that turn out to be almost impossible to understand, value or sell, these activities have been riddled with conflicts of interest and incompetence. In the subsequent era of “revulsion”, core financial markets have seized up (see charts)." Martin Wolf, Financial Times.
The subprime lending crises has changed the face of world finances. It was a disaster waiting to happen and when it did, it was surprisingly dealt with by the new forces in the market place. Forces which had hitherto been unrecognised. Firstly there was a substantial loss of credibility for the US markets both amongst Europeans and other major investors but secondly and most importantly there emerged an alternative source of Liquidity and Investments which had sufficient depth and clout to stabilise the world.
It is less important that Abu Dhabi bailed out CitiBank and that Singapore bailed out UBS, It is more important that they were allowed to. Just one year back Sovereign funds were considered as threats to Western Security, now there is a queue forming outside their offices begging for participation.
Emerging market Stock Markets which had been regarded as fringe Investments are suddenly being considered preferred Investments. Oil producing Countries are switching out of the Dollar and into a basket of currencies. A move which a few years back would have brought about a full scale attack on them by US Marines.
If the US goes into a recession the world will not follow suit. Another myth falls by the wayside. The US is no longer the engine that fuels the world economically. It is still a big engine but one that in due coarse is beginning to look more like a liability than an asset.
The speed and viciousness with which Capitalism is coming unstuck is breath taking. All of a sudden the long rope of greed, exploitation, opportunism and short term thinking has formed into a noose around it's neck. The two largest exports of the US to date, Democracy and Capitalism stand discredited. How can you export ideas that you are unable to practice yourself.
Right now there is a conspiracy a foot to save the system. The rating Agencies, The market Analysts, the Stock brokers, The Investment Analysts, The US Treasury, The Federal Reserve, The Banks, The media are all in cahoots to come up with self serving ideas to preserve the way of life that they have known. The fact this way of life is devoid of fairness and justice to others seems to bother no one.
Over the years the world has been trained to look at the US as a borrower of last resort. This has meant that the world has saved and the US has consumed. This was a formula built for the US. It does not follow that The US will be replaced by another consumer country. This is a system built on inequality. If there were more rich countries, they would all be consumers also and then one country would not account for consuming 25% of the worlds resources.
Why the credit squeeze is a turning point for the world
By Martin Wolf
Published: December 11 2007 19:24 Last updated: December 12 2007 07:53
These are historic moments for the world economy. I felt the same during the emerging market financial crises of 1997 and 1998 and the bubble in technology stocks that burst in 2000. This “credit crunch” may, I believe, be an equally important turning point for financial markets and the world economy. Why do I believe this? Let me count the ways.
Economists’ forum - Nov-16
Every week, 50 of the world’s most influential economists discuss Martin Wolf’s articles on FT.com
First and most important, what is happening in credit markets today is a huge blow to the credibility of the Anglo-Saxon model of transactions-orientated financial capitalism. A mixture of crony capitalism and gross incompetence has been on display in the core financial markets of New York and London. From the “ninja” (no-income, no-job, no-asset) subprime lending to the placing (and favourable rating) of assets that turn out to be almost impossible to understand, value or sell, these activities have been riddled with conflicts of interest and incompetence. In the subsequent era of “revulsion”, core financial markets have seized up (see charts).
Second, these events have called into question the workability of securitised lending, at least in its current form. The argument for this change – one, I admit, I accepted – was that it would shift the risk of term-transformation (borrowing short to lend long) out of the fragile banking system on to the shoulders of those best able to bear it. What happened, instead, was the shifting of the risk on to the shoulders of those least able to understand it. What also occurred was a multiplication of leverage and term-transformation, not least through the banks’ “special investment vehicles”, which proved to be only notionally off balance sheet. What we see today, as a result, is a rapid shrinkage of markets in asset-backed paper (see chart).
Third, the crisis has opened up big questions about the roles of both central banks and regulators. How far, for example, do the responsibilities of central banks as “lender-of-last-resort” during crises stretch? Should they, as some argue, be market-makers-of-last resort in credit markets? What, more precisely, should a central bank do when liquidity dries up in important markets? Equally, the crisis suggests that liquidity has been significantly underpriced. Does this mean that the regulatory framework for banks is fundamentally flawed? What is left of the idea that we can rely on financial institutions to manage risk through their own models? What, moreover, can reasonably be expected of the rating agencies? A market in US mortgages is hardly terra incognita. If banks and rating agencies got this wrong, what else must be brought into question?
Fourth, do you remember the lecturing by US officials, not least to the Japanese, about the importance of letting asset prices reach equilibrium and transparency enter markets as soon as possible? That, however, was in a far-off country. Now we see Hank Paulson, US Treasury secretary, trying to organise a cartel of holders of toxic securitised assets in the “superSIV”. More importantly, we see the US Treasury intervene directly in the rate-setting process on mortgages, in an attempt to shore up the housing market. Either, or both, of these ideas might be good ones (though I strongly doubt it). But they are at odds with what the US has historically recommended to other countries in a similar plight. Not for a long time will people listen to US officials lecture on the virtues of free financial markets with a straight face.
Fifth (and here we start to move from the questions about the workings of the financial system to global macro-economic implications), the crisis signals a necessary re-rating of risk. It turns out that it also represents a move towards holding more transparent and liquid assets, as one would expect. This correction is altogether desirable. It has, moreover, been selective. It is a striking feature of what has happened that emerging markets have emerged as a safe haven as investors run away from US households. For those in emerging economies, this must be sweet revenge. They should not cheer too soon. Today’s favourites may be brutally discarded tomorrow.
Sixth, this event may well mark the limits to the US role as consumer of last resort in the world economy. As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development notes in its latest Economic Outlook, the correction is well under way. In 2007, it forecasts, US final domestic demand will grow by just 1.9 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent in 2006. It forecasts a further decline, to growth of 1.4 per cent, next year. In both years, net exports will make a positive contribution to growth: 0.5 percentage points in 2007 and 0.4 percentage points in 2008, as the trade deficit shrinks in real terms. In this way, the US is re-importing the stimulus it exported to the rest of the world in previous years. The credit crunch is quite likely to accelerate this process. So the US needs strong growth of net exports. For this reason, policymakers are relaxed about the dollar’s fall, provided it does not awaken fears of rapidly rising inflation.
Seventh, a US recession is possible. Whether it happens depends overwhelmingly on consumers. The principal counterpart of the external deficits has been the excess of spending over income by households. That has meant negligible savings and a big jump in household debt: mortgage debt jumped from 63 per cent of disposable incomes in 1995 to 98 per cent in 2005. This rising trend is unlikely to continue in a falling housing market. Unwillingness (or inability) to borrow on such a scale will, in turn, hamper the effectiveness of US monetary policy. That, in turn, makes a weak dollar and strong export growth yet more important.
Last but not least, this event also has big significance for the game of “pass-the-external-deficits” that has characterised the world economy for several decades. It has proved virtually impossible for emerging market economies to run large deficits, without running into crises. Over the past decade, the US filled the (growing) gap as ever-larger borrower of last resort. This epoch has probably now ended. But the surpluses being run by China and Japan, by oil exporters and, within the European Union, by Germany continue to grow. If we are to enjoy global macro-economic stability, a creditworthy set of countervailing borrowers must emerge. If the US ceases to increase its absorption of the growing savings surpluses being generated elsewhere, which countries will be able and willing to do so?
Experience teaches that big financial shocks affect patterns of lending and spending across the world. Originating, as it does, at the core of the world economy, this one will do so, too. The question is how stable and dynamic the world economy that emerges will be.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
"So the government said, you know, we care more about growth, employment, poverty, than we do about having a little bit more than having the lowest possible inflation rate. And that’s extremely important. I mean, they pulled eleven million people out of poverty in the last five-and-a-half years. They cut unemployment from 21.5% to 8.5%. And, of course, real wages increased by more than 40% during this period.
But also they had to confront the IMF in order to do this. The IMF was opposed to all of the major policies, including the debt default. I mean, obviously they couldn’t pay their debt. But the IMF was pressuring them enormously to pay more to the foreign creditors, and they didn’t do it, because they knew that that would hurt the recovery. And they were under a lot of pressure. They stood up to the IMF. They even defaulted to the IMF temporarily in September 2003, which was a very gutsy thing to do, and the IMF backed down."
Latin America is paving the way for a new Economic order, one in which the IMF in particular is obsolete. The Capitalist structures proposed by the IMF have been disastrous for emerging economies. The Argentine Example, in which they eventually wrote a check to the IMF and said we are done with you is historic.
The subsequent growth and prosperity of Argentina is worthy of study for all Emerging Countries. Any country which does not tackle Poverty and Unemployment as their most sacred task is doomed to be themselves poor and unemployed.
The IMF model of Privatisations, opening up the country for Foreign Investment and imposing a tax structure, which had no hope of being collected was a model for colonisation. The end result was always a country who became a permanent debtor of the IMF who could for ever be blackmailed into pursuing more policies of the wrong sort. To top it all these countries had foisted on them their own nationals, who has been trained at the IMF to become Governors of their Central Bank, Finance Ministers or better still Prime Ministers.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Argentina, where First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has become Argentina's first elected female president. Kirchner won with 45% of the vote, doubling the support of her nearest challenger. She takes office in December, replacing her husband, Nestor Kirchner.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is the second female to be elected head of a Latin American country in the last two years. The first, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, said, "It’s not a coincidence these two neighboring countries with similar characteristics have elected women to direct their destinies."
For more on Argentina’s election, I’m joined by two guests. Mark Weisbrot is on the phone from the Center for Economic Policy Research. Joining me in New York is Jocelyn Olcott. She is a professor of Latin American history at Duke University.
Let's start with you, Professor Olcott. Your response? The significance of the first woman elected president of Argentina?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, I think there’s -- you know, there are several ways to read this, but certainly two of the biggest ones is it’s clearly a rejection of -- the soundest rejection of the neoliberal project, right, and so it’s an endorsement of continuing with Kirchner’s program, which was an emphasis on social programs over, you know, the IMF project. I mean, Argentina has really aggressively rejected the IMF and structural adjustment project. And the only reason it hasn't gotten more attention is because people are so distracted by Venezuela. They haven’t really focused as much on Argentina. But Argentina has been very clear on that. And so, this is really a vote to continue with that project.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain exactly what Kirchner did and then what his wife, now the elected president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, will do.
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, it’s interesting because it’s part of what, you know -- she forms part of what some people are calling this “pink tide,” really a turn in Latin America toward -- as part of this new left. What distinguishes this left turn from former left turns really is an emphasis on gender issues, more recognition of LGBT rights, which is something that Kirchner has been involved with.
But then, also, Kirchner, like Chavez, has put a lot of emphasis on social issues, right, and so rather than leaving everything to market forces, really, an understanding that you have to have the government involved in creating social infrastructure in order to promote development. So, I mean, I’m not sure if this is where it’s going to go, but certainly the election of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is an endorsement of projects like what Chavez has done, in terms of promoting social programs. Chavez actually has a part of his constitution and legislation, is that women who are homemakers, if they demonstrate need, get paid minimum wage, right? So it’s a sort of wages for housework thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did Nestor Kirchner not run for re-election? He was enjoying something like 60% popularity.
JOCELYN OLCOTT: Yeah. I mean, you know, there’s a lot of speculation about whether or not they’re trying to kind of build a dynasty, right? He could run again, if she holds office four years, he could run again and hold office four years, and then she could conceivably run again and hold office for four years. So I think particularly a lot of the opposition is saying this is part of trying to build a dynasty, you know, in the way the people have accused the Clintons or the Bushes of trying to build a dynasty. So it’s -- you know, I think that’s part of it.
And she’s tremendously popular. She also -- I mean, I think it’s worth noting, she was a senator before he was a presidential candidate. I mean, she has a career in her own right. I think that people get distracted in cases like Michelle Bachelet or Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, by the fact that they’re women. And the fact is, they’re very accomplished professional women before they become politicians. I mean, you know, Bachelet was an epidemiologist and has a whole career behind her, in addition to being president of Chile.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, your response to the victory of the first elected woman president of Argentina?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think it’s true she was actually -- she had a more prominent political career than her husband did, actually, before he was elected president, so the comparisons to Hillary Clinton and Evita Peron are not really appropriate.
But I think the economy was a big thing. And, you know, the government did a bunch of things that they haven’t gotten, I think, enough credit for. You know, one was getting their basic macroeconomic policy right. And I think, you know, we don’t often pay much attention to these things, and I think we should, because it’s tremendously important. You know, the economy grew about 8.2% annually for the last five-and-a-half years, and a lot of that was just because they did the right thing in a lot of areas.
They had an exchange rate policy that was unorthodox, where the central bank targeted the exchange rate, which is something that, you know, you’re not supposed to do, and the neoliberal or even, you know, any orthodox central banks in this hemisphere wouldn’t do that. They’re only supposed to care about inflation. So the government said, you know, we care more about growth, employment, poverty, than we do about having a little bit more than having the lowest possible inflation rate. And that’s extremely important. I mean, they pulled eleven million people out of poverty in the last five-and-a-half years. They cut unemployment from 21.5% to 8.5%. And, of course, real wages increased by more than 40% during this period. So that’s why you had such an easy victory for Cristina.
But also they had to confront the IMF in order to do this. The IMF was opposed to all of the major policies, including the debt default. I mean, obviously they couldn’t pay their debt. But the IMF was pressuring them enormously to pay more to the foreign creditors, and they didn’t do it, because they knew that that would hurt the recovery. And they were under a lot of pressure. They stood up to the IMF. They even defaulted to the IMF temporarily in September 2003, which was a very gutsy thing to do, and the IMF backed down. And nobody knew really what was going to happen at that time, because they could have been, you know, punished very severely for that. So that was a historic move, as well, because it helped break the grip of the IMF and of Washington. Not only Argentina, but Latin America, was a major stage in that process of breaking up this creditors cartel, which had determined economic policy for so long in Latin America.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Olcott, what would you like to add to that?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, I think that’s exactly right, and I think that what we're seeing is really a dramatic turn, in terms of what Latin American countries are willing do to stand up to the IMF and to the Washington Consensus. I mean, this is really -- I think it’s hard to overestimate how important this is.
AMY GOODMAN: Hugo Chavez agreed to refinance $5 billion of Argentina's debt?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's relationship with Hugo Chavez?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, that remains to be seen. I think that she’s been very savvy about being -- you know, kind of playing all sides. And so, she’s, you know, been pictured with Laura Bush and all this stuff. I think she’s trying not to take sides too strongly. But it’s clear that there’s a sort of counterweight developing in the Southern Cone that is supposed to outweigh the Washington Consensus, which is impressive.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you very much for being with us. Professor Jocelyn Olcott of Duke University teaches Latin American history there. And Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
"The prominent among countries planning to abandon dollar are Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and South Korea. The Telegraph reports that for the first time, Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates along with the US Federal Reserve. This is seen as a signal that a break from the dollar currency peg is imminent. The kingdom is taking `appropriate measures' to protect itself from letting the dollar cause problems for their own economy. They are concerned about the threat of inflation and don't want to deal with `recessionary conditions' in the US."
This is not a situation brought about by enemies of the US. This is a direct result of US policies themselves. Interestingly the US appears least concerned and is focusing on the opportunity to improve it's exports.
The shift in thinking that is taking place amongst countries with large dollar reserves is one which a decade ago would have been unthinkable. The question is no longer which will be a reserve currency, if not the dollar. The question is does the world need a reserve currency. There are today a lot of currencies which are strong and would be acceptable in a trade transaction. Banking and currency supervision in many countries is today stronger than in the US.
The type of capitalism practiced in the US, is making people realise that this is an opportunistic society who cares for nothing above making money. They are good qualities for a trader but not good qualities for a leader. The dwindling role of the leadership that the US can provide will automatically result in the dwindling role of the Dollar. We are looking today at the real possibility of 2 dollars to the Euro.
Status of dollar as world currency threatened
Thursday, November 29, 2007By Sajid AzizKARACHI:
Many economists are seriously thinking over the impact of a weakening dollar on country's economy. One thing is very clear that the already dwindling exports will suffer a major setback in case the US dollar collapses.
Besides economic experts the stakeholders in the forex market too, are really worried over the prevailing situation as the dollar is constantly losing value against Euro and some other currencies. Speculations are rife that a few countries are seriously considering abandoning US dollar as currency of choice for foreign trade. Most of them are oil-producing countries.
"It's no secret that the dollar is on a downward spiral. Its value is dropping, and a number of countries are considering a shift away from the dollar to preserve their assets and how they'll affect its value and the US economy," said a US economist.
The prominent among countries planning to abandon dollar are Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and South Korea. The Telegraph reports that for the first time, Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates along with the US Federal Reserve. This is seen as a signal that a break from the dollar currency peg is imminent. The kingdom is taking `appropriate measures' to protect itself from letting the dollar cause problems for their own economy. They are concerned about the threat of inflation and don't want to deal with `recessionary conditions' in the US.
Hans Redeker of BNP Paribas believes this creates a "very dangerous situation for the dollar," as Saudi Arabia alone manages $800 billion. Experts fear that a break from the dollar in Saudi Arabia could set off a `stampede' from the dollar in the Middle East, a region that manages $3,500 billion.
In 2005, South Korea announced its intention to shift its investments to currencies of countries other than the US. Although they are simply making plans to diversify for the future, that does not mean a large dollar drop is not in the works. There are whispers that the Bank of Korea is planning on selling $1 billion US bonds in the near future, after a $100 million sale this past August.
After already dropping the dollar peg in 2005, China has more trouble up its sleeve. Currently, China is threatening a `nuclear option' of huge dollar liquidation in response to possible trade sanctions intended to force a Yuan revaluation.
Although China "doesn't want any undesirable phenomenon in the global financial order," their large sum of US dollars does serve as a "bargaining chip. As we have noted in the past, China has the power to take the wind out of the dollar," economic analysts say.
Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has little loyalty US dollar. It is seriously thinking over trading oil with 12 Latin American countries and Cuba without using the dollar, shorting the US of its usual subsidy. Chavez is not shy about this decision, and has publicly encouraged others to adopt similar arrangements.
In 2000, Chavez recommended to OPEC that they "take advantage of high-tech electronic barter and bilateral exchanges of its oil with its developing country customers," or in other words, stop using the dollar, or even the Euro, for oil transactions. In September, Chavez instructed Venezuela's state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA to change its dollar investments to euros and other currencies in order to mitigate risk.
Reports suggested that Sudan is, once again, planning to convert its dollar holdings to the Euro and other currencies. Additionally, they have recommended to commercial banks, government departments, and private businesses to do the same.
In 1997, the Central Bank of Sudan made a similar recommendation in reaction to US sanctions from former President Clinton, but the implementation failed. This time around, 31 Sudanese companies have become subject to sanctions, preventing them from doing trade or financial transactions with the US. A decision to move Sudan away from the dollar is intended to allow the country to work around these sanctions as well as any implemented in the future.
Recently, Iran requested that its shipments to Japan be traded for yen instead of dollars. Further, Iran has plans in the works to create an open commodity exchange called the Iran Oil Bourse. This exchange would make it possible to trade oil and gas in non-dollar currencies, the Euro in particular.
Although the oil bourse has missed at least three of its announced opening dates, it serves to make clear Iran's intentions for the dollar. As of October 2007, Iran receives non-dollar currencies for 85 per cent of its oil exports, and has plans to move the remaining 15 per cent to currencies like the United Arab Emirates dirham.
In 2006, Russian President, Vladimir Putin expressed interest in establishing a Russian stock exchange which would allow oil, gas, and other goods to be paid for in Rubles.
Russia's intentions are no secret-in the past, they have made it clear that they're wary of holding too many dollar reserves. In 2004, Russian central bank First Deputy Chairman, Alexei Ulyukayev remarked, "Most of our reserves are in dollars, and that's a cause for concern." He went on to explain that, after considering the dollar's rate against the Euro; Russia is "discussing the possibility of changing the reserve structure.
" Then in 2005, Russia put an end to its dollar peg, opting instead to move towards a Euro alignment. They've discussed pricing oil in euros, a move that could provide a large shift away from the dollar and towards the Euro, as Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter.
Although it's not clear how many of these countries will actually follow through on an abandonment of the dollar, it is clear that its status as a world currency is in trouble, the report added.
But despite all such indicators, some of the economists do not foresee any big threat to the US economy in the near future as the prominent economist, Kaiser Bengali was of the opinion that all such assumptions is an exaggeration as the US dollar is very strong currency."It is true that the US economy will be extremely under pressure and the US government would be forced to cut imports". Bengali further said in such a situation, the economies such as Pakistan would be suffering most as its exports would be reduced massively.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
For a start both the parties are too weak to deliver anything that they agree upon. Mahmood Abbas does not enjoy the support of Hamas which is the properly elected Govt. of Palestine. Olmert is part of a Coalition which includes strong proponents of not giving any concessions and are against negotiating with Palestinians.
If this is so then why is there a summit with so much fanfare? This is apparently a Condelisa Rice Show. She is happy to go through the motions without much hope of a result. The White House has played down expectations by portraying themselves simply as hosts. Bush says, I have brought you two together, now sort it out amongst yourselves.
The most important event is the participation of Saudi Arabia, although they also participated in 1991. This is being given importance to isolate Iran and bolster the Arab group which is being set up to resist the spread of Iranian influence. There are small side shows going on. Clinton had made a major push to get a settlement, Bush in 7 years has done nothing. He needs to show something for the record. Similarly Condi who is more in touch with reality needs to show something for the books. Abbas needs a photo op to show that he is in charge. Olmert needs to recover from the shame of being beaten by Hezbollah.
There are no changes in the policies of either the US or Israel. Palestine will come out of this giving even more concessions, which will only strengthen Hammas. Annapolis will be a step backwards and not forward. There cannot be any solution which will last which is not based on being fair to both sides.
I have felt for sometimes that the two State Theory as a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict is dead. There is no more juice left in this sham theory. It has been milked for everything it was worth. The most reasonabe solution is to merge the territories into one state. Let the Jews and the Muslims live together as one nation. The US will have to spend less money to make this model a success then they do now trying to keep them separate. This the US will not do. It might just give the Shias and Sunnis some ideas about the possibility of living together peacefully.
Monday, November 26, 2007
The Bush administration plans to spend millions of dollars equipping and training the Frontier Corps. But for now, one Western military official said, the fighters are woefully unsuited for the tasks they are asked to carry out.
Amazingly the US will fund the training of the Frontier Corp. These are people who will one day fight the US. It is a sign of the desperation of the US in its disastrous war on terror. It is a policy full of short term fixes with no eye to the future.
The frontiers of the war now extend from Palestine to Pakistan and it is an ever expanding geographical area. The US spends billions of dollars a day and makes millions of new enemies a day. By any measure this is lunacy but one that is not understood by the general public in the US, who are too busy buying cheap Chinese product.
The Taliban, who were themselves trained by the US are fighting their own fight. They are standing up for their beliefs and values. For the Frontier Corp it is just a job. If the pay is not good or the working conditions poor they will move on to another job. The "war on terror", to them like to many others is an American paranoia. It is the sign of an aging Emperor who is easily frightened by his own shadow.
Pakistan paramilitary fighters lose heart
Desertion is becoming a problem as low-paid recruits are placed in risky situations with little ammunition and food.
By Zulfiqar Ali and Laura KingSpecial to The TimesNovember 25, 2007PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN â€”
For one paramilitary soldier, the decision to desert came after his horrified parents saw a beheading video and begged him to quit the force.For another, it was the lack of food and ammunition at the front. For yet another, it was watching wounded comrades languish for days, awaiting medical attention.Desertion is becoming a serious problem in the ranks of the Frontier Corps, the locally recruited paramilitary force that has been on the front lines of Pakistan's fight against insurgents in its tribal areas.Neither the Pakistani military nor the Interior Ministry, which administers the Frontier Corps, would disclose the number of those who have fled the force. But it is thought to be at least 300 in the last three months, out of about 40,000 serving in the tribal areas.
Half a dozen deserters from the Kurram area, which borders eastern Afghanistan, told of morale and equipment problems during their service in North and South Waziristan, where the fighting has been centered.Thousands of paramilitary troops also have been sent to the embattled district of Swat in northwest Pakistan, but after a series of setbacks, the regular army was sent in to take the lead.
Khandan Gul served three years in the South Waziristan Scouts, a unit of the Frontier Corps. While on a one-month leave, he decided to desert and go to work as a produce vendor in his town's market."I firmly decided I would rather sell vegetables," he said.
In recent months, militants have seized on the tactic of abducting large numbers of paramilitary troops, who sometimes surrender without a fight. Most are freed, but some suffer a gruesome fate, including a soldier whose decapitated body was recovered Aug. 14.One soldier, now AWOL, said his family saw video of that beheading and pleaded with him to desert. Another tribesman said the incident prompted his brother to quit the force after 13 years.For tribesmen, serving in the Frontier Corps was once a point of pride, as well as a livelihood in an area where jobs are scarce. Now, recruitment is so difficult that the corps has dropped its rule that soldiers had to have graduated from the equivalent of high school."I don't want to waste my life for 4,000 rupees," said one deserter. That's about $65, the usual monthly salary.Another said that even under noncombat conditions he and fellow soldiers routinely went two or three days without food, and headed into battle with as few as 60 rounds of ammunition. Harder to bear was seeing the body of a dead comrade go unretrieved for three days."Who would serve under such conditions?" he said.
The Bush administration plans to spend millions of dollars equipping and training the Frontier Corps. But for now, one Western military official said, the fighters are woefully unsuited for the tasks they are asked to carry out."It's as if regular police walking a beat were suddenly expected to do what the FBI or a SWAT team could do," the official said.
The corps is made up mainly of Pashtun tribesmen, the same ethnic group as many of the militants. In addition to feeling ethnic kinship and Muslim solidarity with the militants, many soldiers believe the battle is at the behest of the United States, rather than in their own country's interest."They simply do not want to fight a war that is not perceived as their own," commentator Sohail Iqbal wrote in the Pakistani weekly magazine Pulse.
Field commanders recognize troops' reluctance to engage the militants, and standing orders reflect that. Soldiers are told to yell at militants to go away rather than shooting at them.They also have been instructed not to seize weapons from those passing through checkpoints, and to keep their own weapons stowed while traveling in convoys, deserters said."I don't want to send my son to be slaughtered and the video released for public entertainment," said the father of one deserter. "He's better off doing a menial job."
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Make no mistake, Being there is not easy. It requires Sacrifice, Patience, Generosity, Humility and a host of other qualities that we did not even know that we possessed or needed.
Children bring themselves up and we delude ourselves that we can in any way shape their future except by being role models, good or bad. Being Coach, Mentor, Business Manager, passers-on of our values and prejudices has some impact but way less than we give ourselves credit or blame for.
PS I say this after trying to be there for 34 years for my children. A few years ago my last child left the house and another chapter came to a close.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
People are rather awakened. People know their rights. And so, they are not going to accept a sham election anymore. They have to ensure not only elections, that they are free and fair, but that it is in an atmosphere where fundamental rights are there, people are out of jail, and leadership itself is out of jail, media is free. So I think that they will have to support steps towards democracy, rather than insist that Musharraf stay on regardless of his actions, which have been extremely unpopular in Pakistan. "
The awakening of the public is a positive sign for Pakistan. The free media revolution that Musharraf brought about has made people even more thirsty for the right information, for debate, for holding their leaders accountable in Public. Even the Mullas had to get used to explaining their beliefs to a sceptical public.
This is a genie that would be hard to put back in the bottle.
Allowing Asma to talk to the whole world and still be icognito under house arrest is amazing for a dictator who does not seem to understand that articles in the Guardian and New York Times can be more damaging to him than street protests.
Khomeini overthrew the Shah by using audio tapes and short wave radio.
When people like Asma Jahangir, Iftekhar Chaudhry and Aitezaz Ahsan are thrust into leaderdhip roles without asking for it, Musharraf may be doing another favor to Pakistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto called on President Musharraf to step down Tuesday. She vowed never to serve under him in any future government. The announcement came as Bhutto remained under house arrest in Lahore, where she has come to lead a march to Islamabad to protest the state of emergency Musharraf declared on November 3rd. Bhutto said she could no longer work with a military ruler who had declared de facto martial law, locked up her supporters by the thousands, refused to resign as army chief and reneged on promises to put Pakistan on a democratic path.
Bhutto also reached out to her main political rivals, including Islamist alliance leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed and, as well, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, to form a united front to force Musharraf from power.
Bhutto’s announcement seemingly ends the hopes of a power-sharing deal between her and Musharraf that was strongly backed by the United States. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is scheduled to travel to Pakistan for talks with Musharraf later in the week.
Meanwhile, a dozen human rights groups on Tuesday urged President Bush to cut off military aid to Pakistan. The groups include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Carter Center.
Asma Jahangir is the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion. She was among the first people rounded up in the state of emergency. She joins us now on the phone from her home in Lahore, where she remains under house arrest.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
ASMA JAHANGIR: Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe your circumstances? It looks like we have lost contact with Asma Jahangir. We’re going to go to a break. We’ll try to remake contact with her. Coming up after that on Democracy Now!, we’re going to be talking about what’s happening in Somalia. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Asma Jahangir, chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you describe where you are now? And what does it mean to be under house arrest, Asma?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I was put under house arrest the day the emergency was declared, which means my house has been declared as a jail. I cannot go out, and no one can come and see me. And otherwise, I am alright, and I am at home. That is what it means, but, you know, obviously you’re cut off.
AMY GOODMAN: Are there military or police outside your home enforcing this?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Yes, there is police all around my house and inside the house, as well. They have to ensure that no one comes in and also that I don’t leave. There have been some people who have jumped house arrest, so they are particularly watchful.
AMY GOODMAN: Asma Jahangir, describe what is your reaction to what is happening right now in Pakistan.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Sorry, say that again. I couldn’t hear you.
AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction to what is happening right now in Pakistan.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I -- personally, I feel and I think that now political parties are more and more, and their leadership, looking at the pulse of the people and believing that it is no longer possible to have any kind of dialogue with General Musharraf, because he is not in a frame of mind to give up power at all. It’s now time for him to do so. His popularity is extremely low. He has been extremely ruthless with people here. And there is a kind of a resentment also here with the perception that the USA is micromanaging things simply to keep him -- give him the lifelines.
AMY GOODMAN: He says he is fighting the rise of extreme Islamist terror. Your response to that?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, that’s one of the reasons that a lot of the civil society that is out here in opposition to Musharraf, which is a very progressive civil society, by and large, lawyers who are secular-minded and progressive, journalists, and other people of civil society, we believe that General Musharraf’s policy on combating terrorism has been [inaudible]. It has not had any [inaudible] to it. And people resent the fact that in his last period, Talibanization in Pakistan has crept into our society and in many cities. We are of the considered opinion that he is too distracted and too busy amassing power, rather than having a courageous policy and taking public opinion with him to combat terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the sacking of, the firing of Iftikhar Chaudry, the Chief Justice? Why was he fired, and what is his significance in the rising opposition to General Musharraf?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, the Chief Justice, he was appointed by Musharraf himself, after Musharraf had kicked out the previous chief justice along with five very senior judges of the Supreme Court. And things were fine ’til, I think, the Chief Justice took up a few cases that were controversial.
The first one was the privatization of the steel mill. And very senior lawyers were representing the union. It was very apparent in open court that there had been -- nepotism had been used. So it was not just the Chief Justice, but the entire bench, declared that the privatization of the steel mill had to be regularized.
Subsequently, the Chief Justice took up the case of disappeared people, who were in hundreds, and that irritated the government even more, to the extent that when he took up this case, which was the main case on the 8th of March, he was removed on the 9th of March.
AMY GOODMAN: And the position right now of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, can you describe the stance that she is taking and what significance that has?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, she is, as you know, under house arrest, and I have not had the occasion to talk to her personally ever since she has returned. But there is obviously a general perception that she was talking to the general. She has now -- first, after having denied it -- she has agreed that she was. And we see that she was under a lot of pressure by the international community to forge some kind of an alliance with the ruling party so that there could be an easy transition to democratic rule.
Having arrived here, she has understood, because she’s a very shrewd politician, that the General and his core crew of people are in no mood to allow any other players in this system of politics. She obviously has had also personal threats. We don’t know whether they are genuinely by religious extremists or all being played out by the government itself. She also has realized that there is utterly dismay in the civil society, and they are not willing to have any more patience with General Musharraf, who has given commitments time and again and stepped back, only to come back and be more oppressive.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the role of the United States, the continued support by the Bush administration? Albeit late, there has been criticism from Condoleezza Rice of Musharraf. But the role of the US in supporting financially, and otherwise, Pakistan and Musharraf?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, let me say that people here actually believe that whatever goes over, when it will take place, it will be decided in Washington, which is rather unfortunate and sad, because it makes people very complacent. In the last two weeks, there has been more, you know, openness towards looking at US as a partner of people, rather than a partner of dictatorship.
So I think that if the US really now -- really is a player here, which is quite obvious, takes a more balanced approach, rather than go all out for Musharraf, regardless of his massive unpopularity, finds a solution to future democracy in Pakistan, because democracy simply doesn’t mean hollow voting and rigged voting. That is not acceptable anymore. People are rather awakened. People know their rights. And so, they are not going to accept a sham election anymore. They have to ensure not only elections, that they are free and fair, but that it is in an atmosphere where fundamental rights are there, people are out of jail, and leadership itself is out of jail, media is free. So I think that they will have to support steps towards democracy, rather than insist that Musharraf stay on regardless of his actions, which have been extremely unpopular in Pakistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Imran Khan, the cricketer, who has now been arrested?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Sorry, I can’t hear you at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Imran Khan --
ASMA JAHANGIR: [inaudible] repeat that.
AMY GOODMAN: The arrest of Imran Khan, the cricketer, who has now been arrested.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Yes, I only have secondhand information through media here and through my own daughter, who keeps coming in and out of the house. But apparently he did want to lead a student demonstration, where he was not really welcomed very much.
Imran Khan is a critic of General Musharraf. He has very little following in his own party, and sometimes he appears to, you know, not understand that religious extremism can be very destructive for this country. So he is a bit confused there. He is also a bit confused whether extremism and democracy can go together or not.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Asma Jahangir from her home. She’s the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She is under house arrest. She’s also the UN special rapporteur on the freedom of religion. Asma Jahangir, you have said in a letter from your home that General Musharraf “has lost his marbles.” Describe what you mean.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, if you look at his recent press statements and his interviews, I think anybody would agree with that statement. He, in fact, challenged lawyers to tell him whether he has done anything unconstitutional, a man who throws away the Constitution twice, insists that judges take an oath to his loyalty, and then he throws a challenge to lawyers in this country to point out to him where he has violated the Constitution.
Plus, he continues to say that this is his third phase and this third phase of governance is for democracy. And ironically, the people he arrests are those who are pro-democratic forces.
He continues to say that if he was not there, that the whole country would go to the dogs, in a way. And today’s statement, he has also said that he has done this measure because it’s a failed state or it’s getting to be a failed state. Well, he doesn’t realize that if the country is going to be a failed state, the people who are responsible for it are, first of all and primarily, those who are ruling. I mean, he certainly has ruled with an iron fist and been, you know, in charge of everything. So, who should go if the country is failing and it’s becoming a failed state? What action does he take? Doesn’t resign himself, but puts everybody in prison -- doesn't that sound to you very contradictory?
AMY GOODMAN: You have also written from your home that you are fortunate to be under house arrest, while your colleagues are suffering. Explain.
ASMA JAHANGIR: That is correct. I am fortunate that I -- only my liberty has been -- well, my liberty has been taken away and I must fight for it, but that physically I am at least in my own house. Many of my colleagues, I saw images of them being beaten up brutally on the roads, inside the coops, and this continues to happen every day. Every single day, lawyers are picked up. Even yesterday, very senior lawyers in Karachi, whom I know very well, were taken to jail. A large number of lawyers are underground. They are either in jail, underground or in police stations. So in that respect, I think that I find myself more fortunate in the position that I am.
AMY GOODMAN: I think it’s been unusual for people in the United States to see the video images of lawyers in suits by the hundreds and thousands taking to the streets in Pakistan. How unusual is it for Pakistan?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Sorry, how?
AMY GOODMAN: How unusual is it for Pakistan?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I think it is unusual. It’s not that lawyers have not protested, and lawyers have always been fighting for the rule of law. But the kind of unanimity and the kind of unity we saw this time was, I think, unprecedented.
Plus, this is the first time that a large number of judges have refused to take oath under the PCO, which has not happened before. The majority of the judges, in fact, have refused. This is the first time that any dictator in Pakistan -- and, believe me, they’ve done enough damage -- has actually arrested judges of superior courts.
So I think that General Musharraf has gone too far in indignifying people’s rights, and therefore I think the lawyers will continue to react. Plus, now, two days ago, he passed a law saying that lawyers’ licenses will be cancelled by members of the judiciary. Having packed the courts with his own judges, he now will use the judges to victimize lawyers. He has also again passed a law, which amends the Army Act, so that civilians, even when they express concerns about the government, can be tried under military court.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Asma Jahangir, there have been a number of groups that have called for the stopping of military aid to Pervez Musharraf, like Amnesty International, like Human Rights Watch, like the Carter Center. Do you think that the position of the United States right now could be compared to Iran at the end of the ’70s, with the continued US support of the Shah, before he fell, in Iran?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I wouldn’t exactly compare it to that, because every situation is different. I can assure you that in Pakistan, there is no Khomeini in the wings, in the first place. And secondly, there is more constructive civil society in Pakistan. But as far as the US is concerned, yes, it is in that way comparable, that they continue, despite seeing the writing on the wall, to support a dictator who is now absolutely unacceptable to the people, which means that as long as he stays, there will be a crackdown and there will be protest.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the US should cut off military aid to Pakistan?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I don’t know. That is their decision. But, certainly, if this military aid is being used to suppress its own people, then I suppose that it should end. But if this military aid is used in a more positive way to deal with those who break the law, then I think that that should continue. But those who authorize and those who control it have to be very professional. At the moment, we find that all generals are playing golf, have deep pockets and are becoming less and less professional.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Asma Jahangir, chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, speaking from her home in Lahore, where she is under house arrest. Be safe.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
After Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan this week has become the third victim of the "war on terror." All of them are the victims of unintended consequences. The US is not happy with the results any where but insists on "staying the course". As an ex Commando, Musharraf can be excused for barreling on, no matter what the consequences but the US cannot be excused for the untold damage to its own credibility and the total impoverishment of at least two countries.
One can imagine Dick Cheyne, in particular, going berserk with Musharraf. In one swift action Musharraf has blown away the case for attacking Iran. The media and even some senators are asking the question, why attack Iran who has only Nuclear ambitions, while Pakistan which is loaded with Nuclear weapons is about to fall into the hands of terrorists. So clouded is the thinking in America that not a single person except perhaps Pat Buchannan is able to say that the problem in America's Foreign policy is not Iraq but the "war on terror".
Will Pakistan become another Iraq or Afghanistan? Unlike both these countries, the saving grace for Pakistan are it's lawyers. When people speak for justice and maintaining the rule of law, even the gods come down from the heavens and listen. The leadership in Pakistan is being provided not by it's politicians but by it's lawyers. Twice in the last six months the lawyers have taken to the streets to demand respect for the legal system ( no matter how flawed it is). They have been beaten up, they have been jailed, their livelihood put in jeopardy but they keep coming back. While Imran Khan was hiding, the lawyers were courting arrest.
Amongst the lawyers are also the Human Rights activists. These are people with no armies behind them but the courage of their convictions. Then there are the media. These people are putting their lives on the line. They have found the confidence to see that they can play a major role in laying the foundations of a strong civil society. Pakistan can only become a strong nation if there are such elements in it. This crisis should be an eye opener for the rest that there are still people in the country who care to serve to build it's institutions.
Let us not forget the soldiers who refuse to fire on their own people. The hope for Pakistan is the brilliant light than shines from the actions of it's growing middle class. At this time even some of the elite are behind bars. They have ventured out of their drawing rooms, into the streets to say enough is enough. For the elite it is a huge step to become an active part of the process that says no to authoritarianism. The people who are taking to the streets are no longer paid villagers and unemployed youth, they are people who understand the cause for which they are out there. This is the difference between the crowds that brought down Ayub and the crowds today, who are much more aware of their rights.
Back in Sept 2006, when Musharraf had Akber Bugti killed in Baluchistan, I had predicted that Musharraf's days are over. In March, 2007 when he fired the Chief Justice, his fate was sealed. What Musharraf wanted and was not allowed to do was to become President for life. If Hosni Mubarak can be allowed to rule Egypt for 30 years, why can't Musharraf rule for 15 years. The great confusion in America's Foreign policy is that it speaks from both sides of it's mouth on the subject of Democracy. Musharraf was duped into believing that he could put on a facade of Democracy but continue to rule. His biggest mistake is of course in believing that what is good for Musharraf is good for Pakistan. America similarly believes that it has a sound Pakistan policy as long as it has a Musharraf policy.
As a country Pakistan has no future as long as it allies itself with America's war on terror. Pakistanis know that the people that America calls terrorists are not terrorists. The same tribals that Pakistan has lived with for sixty years, have suddenly become terrorists. The mild mannered Swatis have suddenly become terrorists, The 2 million Afghanis that Pakistan gave refuge to when the Russians drove them out of their country have suddenly become terrorists. These are people who respect and love Pakistan. They have their own grievances, most of them legitimate but they are not terrorists. The people that Pakistan sent into Kashmir and who are called terrorists by the Indians, are they terrorists?
Are 11 billion dollars enough to sell the soul of Pakistan. Are 100 billion dollars enough to sell the soul of Pakistan. That is the question Pakistanis should and are asking themselves.
Are they beggars and slaves of an Imperial Power or do they have any belief in their own nationhood. Musharraf and Benazir are simply middlemen, hawking the honour of Pakistan.
After sixty years Pakistan has yet to pass the test of being a nation. I believe this is the final test. Pakistan has much less to fear fromTalibanisation then it has from it's benefactor. This is the last call for the elite to rise to the occasion and join the lawyers on the streets. This is the last call for the business community to revolt. Otherwise suffer the fate of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
He was typical of fathers of those days, loving yet strict, perhaps overly strict. Caring but protective, perhaps overly protective. I would not be allowed to leave home without a servant accompanying me until into my late teens. Yet in all his disciplining, in all his protecting, I never once doubted that he loved me, I never once felt insecure. He wanted me to have the highest standards. If I got a grade of less than being top of my class, it would be unacceptable. He sent me to the best schools and challenged me to become the best that I could be.
He died in April, 1966.
If you look closely at Capitalism it is simply the pursuit of wealth driven by greed, exploitation and self interest. As an example the exploitation of the American Indian by forcibly take away their lands, the African slave to grow cotton on it, the Mexican and South American laborer to build a railroad across the American continent, the Arab bedou, to literally steal their oil to provide cheap energy to them has resulted in the creation of the worlds most powerful and wealthy nation.
This exploitation was not simply a matter of taking advantage of the less fortunate but a ruthless, savage, demeaning, subjugating, terrorizing, sucking the last drop of blood from you, your family, your friends and any one closely connected with you, type of exploitation. Capitalism’s lesson is that to get best results out of exploitation the more ruthless you can be, the more juice you will get. The great Pyramids of Egypt were not built by being kind to the workers, they were built on their torn limbs , overworked bodies and dead corpses.
What about the exploited? It might well be a question that Karl Marx was asking but with the best of intentions he came up with the wrong answer. The exploited are destined to be exploited, if not by one party than by another. In a dog eat dog world if you are not going to be the dog who kills, you will become the dog who will get eaten. The American Corporate environment is littered with the bodies of Corporations who could not maintain their competitive edge and were eaten up by the competition. These are the rules of the game, that America lives by, that are the cornerstone of Capitalism. If the Arabs cannot stand up for themselves, the Americans will do the same thing to them that they did to the Red Indians.
Is Capitalism the answer we have all been looking for or is it the biggest threat the world has known since Hitler threatened to take it over? Unfortunately the fault is not Capitalism’s so much as man’s in putting no limits on tasting the forbidden fruit. Capitalism has assumed a life of it’s own and men have lost control of themselves. It is no coincidence that only 25% of Catholics now come from the affluent countries. 75% are from the exploited people. It is no coincidence that even a larger percentage of Muslims are from the exploited people. People who profess to believe in God have very little to look forward to except to be trampled on.
Today the Capitalist world and it’s friends are poised to say to the weak, the exploited, the unprotected, “ call your God to protect you because we are about to use overwhelming force to subdue you to our will. We do not fear your God because we can see He has done nothing for you and we have become strong after we took Him out of our affairs. Once we have subdued you, we will insist that you take Him out of your affairs also“. This is an unstoppable march of History. The Genie is out of the bottle, it will not be put back. The decision that each one of us has to take is not if we can stop this from happening, not why religion does not seem to have worked, not whether we are good Muslims or bad Muslims, good Christians or bad Christians but which side will be standing on when this ultimatum is thrown.
As per our intelligence inputs, Pakistani officers are jostling with low morale among their troops. The abductions and killings of soldiers by militants have only added to the disenchantment among troops, which is being reflected in a large number of desertions, suicides and AWOL (absent without leave) cases,"
As I have said before the Pakistani army is no match for the battle hardened Taliban or it's Waziristan country men. It further has no stomach to fire on it's own people. The stage is set for a revolt, desertions are already taking place. The Coup if there is one this time, will come from the Colonels. These will be people who will be backed by the Taliban.
The anti American feeling in Pakistan is on a rising tide. It may be less evident in the Cities but it is certainly becoming vocal in places like Swat. The entire Wesern belt of Pakistan is now a place where the writ of the Govt. is being defied. The Taliban are popular not because people are turning fundamentalist but because they represent a leadership who wants freedom from foreign influence.
This is bad news for Musharaf and worse for Benazir. The USA can see the writing on the wall and there is much talk about Pakistan being the most dangerous country in the world.
Benazir has already flown out of the country, creating an anti climax to the " great homecoming". Meanwhile the Supreme Court is delaying giving any decisions and I suspect will not give any until the term of the present assemblies expires in two weeks time.
Pakistan will then have no Assemblies and no legally elected President. Declaring a state of emergency is now going to be unpopular not only with the public but also with the army . I suspect the army is angry about being put in a position of getting beaten up by tribals. They will not just blame Musharraf but the entire pro western high command.
If America has created the circumstances for a dangerous world by the way it has behaved in Iraq and the way it has behaved in Afghanistan , it is right in thinking that conditions in Pakistan are on the way to the world becoming even more dangerous. They of course do not see it as their doing.
This is the crux of the bigger "problem", the sole super power that is unaware of it's own excesses. In fact it refuses to accept that it has made any mistakes let alone blunders. In an attempt to remove the "misunderstanding' amongst the billions of Muslims in particular, it gave Karen Hughes $ 1 billion to put on a PR campaign. After having spent the money, Karen Hughes resigned today, leaving America more unpopular than before. She follows in the footsteps of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a pitiful trio loyal to Bush, right upto the last dollar of the tax payers money.
The US rhetoric is that they will initiate World War III if Iran gets any where near getting a Nuclear capability. This form of rhetoric is far more dangerous then any thing Ahmedinejad can come up with. However, what if Pakistan gets unfriendly. It already has several Nuclear bombs and Israel is within reach of these missiles. Right now the only thing stopping World War III is the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It's next decision, Nov 12 or perhaps Nov 15.
The Times of India -Breaking news, views. reviews, cricket from across India
Multiple conflicts bleed Pak army31 Oct 2007, 0031 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit,
NEW DELHI: The Pakistani Army is "bleeding", and quite profusely at that, in its ongoing bloody skirmishes with extremists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, with a "high" casualty rate as well as "unprecedented" levels of desertions, suicides and discharge applications. This is the "assessment" of the Indian security establishment closely tracking developments in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas (FATA), especially the Waziristan region, as also the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan.
The embattled Pakistani Army may have managed an uneasy ceasefire with pro-Taliban extremists in Swat Valley in NWFP on Monday, after days of fierce fighting, but things would only get worse for it in the coming days, officials here said. The loud and clear indicator for this came on Tuesday, with a suicide attack near the heavily-fortified Pakistani Army HQ in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, killing at least seven people. The secure compound, incidentally, also houses President Pervez Musharraf's office. In recent days, Pakistan has been rocked by several suicide attacks and bombings, most of which are being traced back to Islamic extremists under attack from security forces near the Afghan border.
Under mounting pressure from the US, Pakistan has deployed well over 100,000 soldiers in the volatile tribal areas - inhabited by fiercely independent tribes who resist outside interference in their matters - to take on the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist outfits who have created safe havens there. "These outfits were once nurtured by ISI, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.
Our estimates show around 1,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Casualties in 'Operation Al Mizan' in north Waziristan have been particularly high," said an official. "As per our intelligence inputs, Pakistani officers are jostling with low morale among their troops. The abductions and killings of soldiers by militants have only added to the disenchantment among troops, which is being reflected in a large number of desertions, suicides and AWOL (absent without leave) cases," he added.
With the heavy operational commitment adversely affecting Pakistani Army's rotation schedule, the majority of such cases are being reported from FATA and NWFP. Between just October 11 and 16, for instance, 160 desertion cases were reported from these areas. In fact, reports of soldiers even refusing to obey orders have begun to emerge from Waziristan now, in what is being seen as a blow to the otherwise well-disciplined Pakistani Army.
While the tribal areas have always been restive, there has certainly been an upsurge in violence ever since Musharraf ordered troops to flush out extremists holed up inside Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July, which led to over 100 militants being killed in the week-long face-off. With the US virtually ordering the Musharraf regime to effectively tackle the problem of Taliban militants crossing over from Afghanistan into the tribal areas to recoup and re-arm, the Pakistani Army is now promising an "all-out military effort" to sort out North and South Waziristan "once and for all".
Pakistan, of course, has made such promises in the past too, in keeping with its "duplicitous" policy to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. But this time, big brother US is watching closely.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The definition of temptation is to take small steps in the wrong direction. The power of temptation is to suck you in once you take that small step and make you think that you have the power to take out your toe if you have only dipped it in the quicksand. Small steps become giant steps, before you know it and giant steps mean that you will eventually embrace temptation as a way of life.
God promises forgiveness and redemption but only if you have not reached a point of no return. After that, God promises that He will not help you. Turn around NOW, while you may still have the power and don’t look back.
If there was no heaven or hell, no life after death, what would be the meaning of life?
Life would lose its higher purpose and people would be driven out of pure self interest which would start in self preservation but end up in greed.
Greed and self indulgence are obsessions which are difficult if not impossible to give up and the first thing they do is to dull the senses and people stop listening. They become arrogant and oblivious to reality and start living in a world created by themselves and pride themselves on the fact that it (their world) is Godless.
Gen. Asad Durrani: The only silver lining that I can show you is that the majority of military men in Pakistan today have no interest in getting involved with politics. I know many don't believe what I say, but that's the reality. "
It is good to have an insight of what some people are saying to American visitors. They seem to be saying the way it is and not what they think the Americans want to hear. It is even conceivable that Gen. Musharraf in private converations is equally frank. The Americans on the other hand come with an agenda. They undersand that their policies are making people anti American but they must be rationalising this by saying that these people don't know any better. What place can there be for such people in a free Democracy?
This is not limited to Pakistan. Seventy percent of Britons were against the attack on Iraq, a higher pecentage od Italians were against the attack but both the US and these Govts joined forces to attack Iraq. A majority of Americans might be against attacking Iran but that may not deter the US govt from attacking Iran.
A better question of Daschle would have been, " you don't really care what we say to you, do you.?"
Tuesday, October 23, 2007Anjum NiazThe writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reportingTom Daschle was in Islamabad. He is the former US Senate majority leader. His mission was to take back to Washington snapshots of the coming elections in Pakistan. He's a power engine in the National Democratic Institute (NDI) on Capitol Hill. His delegation's arrival coincided with Benazir Bhutto's caravan of democracy getting botched up by suicide bombings. More than the elections, Daschle appeared preoccupied with violence when he opened up a dialogue with members of PILDAT (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) . Shahid Hamid, once a Farooq Leghari loyalist and former governor Punjab gave an opening statement on PILDAT's behalf, saying the electoral process was at a "sensitive stage." Among his team were Lt-Gen. (retd) Asad Durrani, former director-general Inter-Services Intelligence and military intelligence; Dr Ijaz Shafi Gilani, chairman Gallup, Pakistan; Tasneem Noorani, former interior secretary; Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, executive director PILDAT and Aasiya Riaz, joint director PILDAT.
Tom Daschle: How concerned are you about violence and what happened to Ms Bhutto yesterday?
Shahid Hamid: Benazir Bhutto targeted herself.Tom Daschle (pursing his lips): That's a very provocative statement?
Shahid Hamid: The impression here is that she will hand over A.Q Khan and allow America to fight its war on Pakistani soil when she becomes the prime minister. Naturally she's made enemies.
Tom Daschle: The lesson then is not to express yourself?
Tasneem Noorani: She anticipated an attack. She had already allied herself with an unpopular military government which was receiving active support from the US and the UK.
Asad Durrani: Senator, your interest appears focused on Benazir Bhutto? What was the need for her to make such provocative statements?
Tom Daschle: It means that there can be no open dialogue then? Intimidation appears to quell a dialogue? Perhaps demilitarizing the political process is the first step towards fair and free elections. I am curious to know why the ISI plays such a significant role. It is antithetical to free and fair elections.
Asad Durrani: The US prescription for fair and free elections means to engage with the General. The ISI is an instrument of the state and if you want the ISI out of politics then the military must get out first. Civil society has not been allowed a voice in the last few years. Benazir Bhutto has been saying things which have not gone down well with Pakistanis. People are now looking at a political scenario where battle lines have been drawn between pro-Musharraf (Benazir Bhutto and America) forces and rest of the political parties and civil society. An ideological divide has set in. Benazir Bhutto said that she expected an assassination attack at the airport tarmac on her arrival.
Ijaz Gilani: Yesterday's attack has been the bloodiest in our political history killing 150 people and maiming 500. It never happened before? Why did it happen now? The answer is that the mainstream in Pakistan is heavily tilted against Musharraf as seen in the recent International Republican Institute (IRI) poll. The General and Benazir Bhutto are unacceptable to 70 per cent of the population. Therefore when a violent action, like Thursdays bombing takes place, it finds acceptability among the general masses. This is an unfortunate twist of circumstances but Musharraf has encouraged violence. I am deeply surprised that in a country which is deeply polarized, political parties have not played their due role in the last 40 years. The streets are quiet. Politics instead, is being conducted in courts and in the mass media! General Musharraf has thrown a gauntlet to the people: 'if you show up on the streets to challenge me then I'll concede to you, otherwise winning an argument in the courts is not worth it. I don't care.' The point to mull over for us all is: Why hasn't politics appeared on the streets? I am troubled that people from different backgrounds and the general public want to play politics by taking their case to the courts where the establishment twists the law.
Tom Daschle: Who's the alternative to Musharraf and Bhutto? Nawaz Sharif unlike Benazir Bhutto has no street power as recently seen on his arrival? After 9/11, intelligence gathering has reached dangerous levels around the world. It's been extremely harmful. It means that the ISI and Musharraf will use more military intelligence in the name of security to advance his political goals?
Shahid Hamid: When there was a constitutional impasse between Nawaz Sharif and president Leghari in 1997, the army chief Gen Jehangir Karamat, who was abroad, received frantic calls from both the gentlemen. They wanted him to intervene. But Karamat stayed away. You will notice that at every cabinet meeting of Nawaz Sharif, General Musharraf was seen seated next to the prime minister. He was elevated as the most important man by Sharif. What does that tell us? In America, the defence budget gets debated by the lawmakers. In Pakistan, we have one-line entry!
Tasneem Noorani: The role of the ISI will expand in the years to come.
Shahid Hamid: How much more can it expand?
Bilal Mehboob: A number of US institutions like the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute are doing a good job in Pakistan, but when the US administration expresses a tilt towards the military government here, the entire work of such institutions gets diluted. We want you to carry back this message that while we respect and value the fine job being done by NDI and IRI, the Bush administration must be neutral and not take sides that openly.
Asad Durrani: The only silver lining that I can show you is that the majority of military men in Pakistan today have no interest in getting involved with politics. I know many don't believe what I say, but that's the reality.
Aasia Riaz: I agree with Gen. Durrani. The only way forward is for the army to step back and allow democracy to move on. While Benazir Bhutto agreed to play ball with the establishment and was allowed to stage a return, Nawaz Sharif sat back. But he's a force that must not be dismissed lightly.
Ijaz Gilani: Street power does not signify success at the polls as we saw in the 1970 elections. The religious parties came across as a dominant force showing their numbers on the streets, yet out of 300 seats, they only bagged eight in the national assembly. Similarly in 1997 elections, Benazir Bhutto was badly routed in Punjab, Frontier, while she only won 16 seats from rural Sindh. So while the PPP may be seen as the mainstream party today, all that is needed is a five percent tilt in Punjab to keep her from becoming the next prime minister! She may not win because she has aligned herself with the anti-people group comprising US and Musharraf. America has become a stakeholder in our political affairs just as the army is a stakeholder.
Sheila Fruman, country director NDI Pakistan: How can the role of the ISI be curbed?
Shahid Hamid: We don't have a law that regulates the ISI like you have in the US regarding the intelligence agencies. In the 2002 elections the ISI played a major role in prevailing upon the local leaders and offering them its support if they voted for the PML –Q. One is hoping that the ISI will not repeat its performance in 2008 elections. The actual rigging does not happen on the polling day but starts much in advance.
Tom Daschle: What happened in the 2002 elections?
Shahid Hamid: Crucial people in police and local administration sympathetic to the military government were posted in strategic places. Entire villages surrendered under their pressure and voted for the candidates put up by the ISI.
Ijaz Gilani: It's public knowledge that the DG ISI selects his juniors that go down to the polling stations to ensure that votes get cast for their candidates.
Tom Daschle: Is there no law prohibiting such a practice?
Asad Durrani: It's permitted by law!
Tasneem Noorani: Senator, you appear to be excessively bothered with the role of the ISI. Elections have already been pre-rigged by the US and UK's open support of Musharraf's re-election as president. When have international forces ever sided with the interests of the people? Never. So why are we talking about fair and free elections?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
It was this tradition of colonial genocide that prepared the ground for the greatest western crime of all the industrial extermination of 6m Jews whom the Nazis looked upon as an inferior, nonwestern and semitic intrusion in the Aryan West. " - Dalrymple
I used to think that the American Civilization is resting on a three legged stool. After reading Dalrymple, the penny has dropped that it is actually a four legged stool. The legs of this stool are the four pillars of this civlizations and they are as follows:
The arrogance reflects itself in the racism that is still on display with the treatment of the blacks. It could be argued that arrogance is a by product of power, which it is, but it is also a by product of secularism. Perhaps it would be better, after all to call this a three legged stool. How ever Secularism is also a by product of Capitalism.
Taken individually we have much to learn from Democracy and Capitalism. Put all four in the mix and you may be asking for trouble. If America was a vehicle, Capitalism would be the wheel that it turned on. All the other wheels followed where ever Capitalism took it.
The problem is when the vehicle is going downhill, capitalism will take it down faster if there was no balancing by Democracy. Democracy would be unable to apply the breaks if arrogance had already eaten away its lining.
The situation we have today is what I call run away Capitalism, what Naomi Klien calls dDsaster Capitalism and what Robert Reich calls Super Capitalism. Reich asks the obvious question, "Why has capitalism become so triumphant and democracy so enfeebled? Are these two trends connected? What, if anything, can be done to strengthen democracy?"
"Supercapitalism" is his term for heightened competition, innovation and global integration. He pays tribute to its awesome productivity, calling it a triumph for consumers and investors. But as "citizens seeking the common good", he argues, Americans have fared less well. Dominant firms have retreated; unions have withered; regulators have been emasculated; economic insecurity reigns. Worse, money and market forces have spilled into politics, corrupting it. "Thus did supercapitalism replace democratic capitalism."
Naomi Klien in her book Disaster Capitalism says "the central myth of our time that democracy and capitalism go hand in hand is known to be a lie by the very people who are advancing it, and they will admit it on the record."
Runaway Capitalism has become the tail that wags the dog. It has proved that greed is a powerful motivator when it comes to hard work and productivity. It has also shown that greed has no scruples. In fact a person or Corporation with scruples is not greedy enough. To the Capitalist greed is a virtue to aspire to.
The quality of greed is that it is all consuming. The true Capitalist like an alchoholic becomes the slave of Capitalism. Eventually Capitalism and not the Capitalist dictates how to live your life. Capitalism becomes a religion, as it has in America and influences all aspects of life. The role of Democracy and Secularism is then to serve the interests of Capitalism. Money dictates who will be elected President or represent the people. The rich sit in Congress and serve the interests of Corporations and Lobbiests and of course Capitalism. War becomes a business and quality of life the highest American ideal.
With the demise of Communism, America should have become the leader of the world but it did not. Capitalism did not train it to be a leader. Capitalism is best at exploiting and that is what the worlds sole super power did. As a Seculat state, it looked out for it's own interest rather than those of Humanity. It refused to sign any treaty which would have asked it to help out with Global Warming. It refused to be bound by International law. It ignored the UN when ever it could and formed a minority Coalition of the Willing. It lost an opportunity when the world looked up to it, which may never be given to any other nation.
While pursuing riches, the Capitalist blames poverty on the poor and refuses to help people who to them are poor because they are lazy. Every good system has down sides, so why beat up on Capitalism. In any case what is the alternative?
The alternative is to do what is right then to do what is expedient. Amazingly in the US there are examples of such people. All is not lost for America if such people can succeed in this environment. The idea is to take Democracy back to where it belongs, with the people. The idea is to take money out of politics and bring back Community into politics. Just taking two examples from the internet will give you an idea of the concept. Wikepedia and Craigslist are two companies on the internet whose motive is not to make money. Craigs List, which is run by 25 people gets 8.6 billion page runs a month. It has been around for only 12 years. Wikepedia which has been around fot 3 years is amongst the top ten most popular sites in the world. It can be accessed in 150 languages. It is a not for profit.
If these companies wished to make money, their owners could become billionaires. The magic is that the purpose of these companies is to serve communities ( for free). Thet are not gimmicks, where you build up a volume and then start charging membership. They are do it yourself companies out to make the world a better place all around.
A new world is around the corner where countries could be run like this.
For a review of Robert Reich's Book visit the link below.
The Times (UK) : A lesson in humility for the smug West
By William Dalrymple
A lesson in humility for the smug WestMany of the western values we think of as superior came from the East and our blind arrogance hurts our standing in the world10.14.2007 The Times (UK) By William DalrympleAbout 100 miles south of Delhi, where I live, lie the ruins of the Mughal capital, Fateh-pur Sikri. This was built by the Emperor Akbar at the end of the 16th century. Here Akbar would listen carefully as philosophers, mystics and holy men of different faiths debated the merits of their different beliefs in what is the earliest known experiment in formal inter-religious dialogue. Representatives of Muslims (Sunni and Shi'ite as well as Sufi), Hindus (followers of Shiva and Vishnu as well as Hindu atheists), Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians came together to discuss where they differed and how they could live together. Muslim rulers are not usually thought of in the West as standard-bearers of freedom of thought; but Akbar was obsessed with exploring the issues of religious truth, and with as open a mind as possible, declaring: "No man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to any religion that pleases him." He also argued for what he called "the pursuit of reason" rather than "reliance on the marshy land of tradition".
All this took place when in London, Jesuits were being hung, drawn and quartered outside Tyburn, in Spain and Portu-gal the Inquisition was torturing anyone who defied the dogmas of the Catholic church, and in Rome Giordano Bruno was being burnt at the stake in Campo de'Fiori. It is worth emphasising Akbar, for he â€“ the greatest ruler of the most populous of all Muslim states â€“ represented in one man so many of the values that we in the West are often apt to claim for ourselves. I am thinking here especially of Douglas Murray, a young neocon pup, who wrote in The Spectator last week that he "was not afraid to say the West's values are better", and in which he accused anyone who said to the contrary of moral confusion: "Decades of intense cultural rela-tivism and designer tribalism have made us terrified of passing judgment," he wrote. The article was a curtain-opener for an Intelligence Squared debate in which he and I faced each other, along with David Aaronovitch, Charlie Glass, Ibn Warraq and Tariq Ramadan, over the motion: "We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of western values". (The motion was eventually carried, I regret to say.) Murray named western values as follows: the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality, and freedom of expression and conscience. He also argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the ethical source of these values. Yet where do these ideas actually come from?
Both Judaism and Christianity were not born in Washington or London, however much the Victorians liked to think of God as an Englishman. Instead they were born in Pales-tine, while Christianity received its intellectual superstructure in cities such as Antioch, Constanti-nople and Alexandria. At the Council of Nicea, where the words of the Creed were thrashed out in 325, there were more bishops from Persia and India than from western Europe. Judaism and Christianity are every bit as much eastern religions as Islam or Buddhism. So much that we today value â€“ universities, paper, the book, printing â€“ were transmitted from East to West via the Islamic world, in most cases entering western Europe in the Middle Ages via Islamic Spain.
And where was the first law code drawn up? In Athens or London? Actually, no â€“ it was the invention of Hammurabi, in ancient Iraq. Who was the first ruler to emphasise the importance of the equality of his subjects? The Buddhist Indian Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC, set down in stone basic freedoms for all his people, and did not exclude women and slaves, as Aristotle had done. In the real world, East and West do not have separate and compartmentalised sets of values. Does a Midwestern Baptist have the same values as an urbane Richard Dawkins-read-ing atheist? Do Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama belong to the same ethical tradition as Osama Bin Laden? In the East as in the West there is a huge variety of ethical systems, but surprisingly similar ideals, and ideas of good and evil. To cherry-pick your favourite universal humanistic ideals, and call them western, then to imply that their opposites are somehow eastern values is simply bigoted and silly, as well as unhistorical.
The great historian of the Crusades, Sir Steven Runciman, knew better. As he wrote at the end of his three-volume history: "Our civilisation has grown . . . out of the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident." He is right. The best in both eastern and western civilisation come not from asserting your own superiority, but instead from having the humility to learn from what is good in others, as well as to recognise your own past mistakes. Ramming your ideas down the throats of others is rarely a productive tactic. There are lessons here from our own past.
European history is full of monarchies, dictatorships and tyrannies, some of which â€“ such as those of Salazar, Tito and Franco â€“ survived into the 1970s and 1980s. The relatively recent triumph of democracy across Europe has less to do with some biologically inherent western love of freedom, than with an ability to learn humbly from the mistakes of the past â€“ notably the millions of deaths that took place due to western ideologies such as Marxism, fas-cism and Nazism. These movements were not freak departures from form, so much as terrible expressions of the darker side of western civilisation, including our long traditions of antisemitism at home.
Alongside this we also have history of exporting genocide abroad in the worst excesses of western colonialism â€“ which, like the Holocaust, comes from treating the nonwestern other as untermenschen, as savage and somehow subhuman. For though we like to ignore it, and like to think of ourselves as paragons of peace and freedom, the West has a strong militaristic tradition of attacking and invading the countries of those we think of as savages, and of wiping out the less-developed peoples of four continents as part of our civilising mission.
The list of western genocides that preceded and set the scene for the Holocaust is a terrible one. The Tasmanian Aborigines were wiped out by British hunting parties who were given licences to exterminate this "inferior race" whom the colonial authorities said should be "hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed". Many were caught in traps, before being tortured or burnt alive. The same fate saw us exterminate the Caribs of the Caribbean, the Guanches of the Canary Islands, as well as tribe after tribe of Native Americans. The European slave trade forcibly abducted 15m Africans and killed as many more. It was this tradition of colonial genocide that prepared the ground for the greatest western crime of all â€“ the industrial extermination of 6m Jews whom the Nazis looked upon as an inferior, nonwestern and semitic intrusion in the Aryan West.
For all our achievements in and emancipating women and slaves, in giving social freedoms and human rights to the individual; for all that is remarkable and beautiful in our art, literature and science, our continuing tradition of arrogantly asserting this perceived superiority has led to all that is most shameful and self-de-feating in western history. The complaints change â€“ a hundred years ago our Victorian ancestors accused the Islamic world of being sensuous and decadent, with an overdeveloped penchant for sodomy; now Martin Amis attacks it for what he believes is its mass sexual frustration and homophobia. Only the sense of superiority remains the same.
If the East does not share our particular sensibility at any given moment of history it is invariably told that it is wrong and we are right. Tragically, this western tradition of failing to respect other cultures and treating the other as untermenschen has not completely died. We might now recognise that genocide is wrong, yet 30 years after the debacle of Vietnam and Cambodia and My Lai, the cadaver of western colonialism has yet again emerged shuddering from its shallow grave. One only has to think of the massacres of Iraqi civilians in in Falluja or the disgusting treatment meted out to the prisoners of Abu Ghraib to see how the cultural assertiveness of the neocons has brought these traditions of treating Arabs as subhuman back from the dead. Yet the briefest look at the foreign policy of the Bush administration surely gives a textbook example of the futility of trying to impose your values and ideas â€“ even one so noble as democracy â€“ on another people down the barrel of a gun, rather than through example and dialogue.
In Iraq itself, we have succeeded in destroying a formerly prosperous and secular country, and creating the largest refugee problem in the modern Middle East: 4m Iraqis have now been forced abroad. Elsewhere in the Middle East, the US attempt to push democracy in the region has succeeded in turning Muslim opinion against its old client proxies â€“ by and large corrupt, decadent monarchies and decaying nationalist parties. But rather than turning to liberal secular parties, as the neocons assumed they would, Muslims have everywhere lined up behind those parties that have most clearly been seen to stand up against aggressive US intervention in the region, namely the religious parties of political Islam.
Last week, the Islamic world showed us the sort of gesture that is needed at this time. In a letter addressed to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders, 138 prominent Muslim scholars from every sect of Islam urged Christian leaders "to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions." It will be interesting to see if any western leaders now reciprocate.We have much to be proud of in the West; but it is in the arrogant and forceful assertion of the superiority of western values that we have consistently undermined not only all that is most precious in our civilisation, but also our own foreign policies and standing in the world. Another value, much admired in both East and West, might be a simple solution here: a little old-fashioned humility.
William Dalrymple's new book, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, published by Bloomsbury, has just been awarded the Duff Cooper Prize for history