Friday, February 29, 2008

The three trillion dollar war

Sample post

" When we went to war, they said it was going to cost $50 billion. We are now spending that money upfront every three months, and that’s not even including the cost of veterans’ healthcare and disability down the line. "

" When we went to war, they said it was going to cost $50 billion. We are now spending that money upfront every three months, and that’s not even including the cost of veterans’ healthcare and disability down the line. "

".. the Iraq war has been the most expensive war that we’ve fought of all of our wars, apart from World War II. World War II was, of course, a massive operation involving sixteen million Americans. And what is particularly striking about this war, and one of the things that leads to the long-term cost, is the very, very high casualty rate. In previous wars, in World War II and Vietnam and Korea, the number of wounded troops per fatality was about two-to-one or three-to-one. And now, the number of wounded troops per fatality is seven-to-one in combat, and if you include all of those wounded in non-combat and diseased seriously enough to have to be medevaced home, it’s fifteen-to-one. So it’s a very significant difference".

Editorial Comment

I reproduce below an estimate done by Stiglitz in Dec, 2006, which I had circulated at that time;

"Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, estimates the true cost of the war at$2.267 trillion. That includes the government's past and future spending for the war itself ($725 billion), health care and disability benefits for veterans ($127 billion), and hidden increases in defense spending ($160 billion). It also includes losses the economy will suffer from injured vets ($355 billion) and higher oil prices ($450 billion)."

His latest estimate has upped the estimate to 3 trillion and he feels that this is a low number. If you google Stiglitz, his resume is so impressive that you will see that he needs to be taken seriously.
To put it in perspective 3 trillion is 21% of US GDP and the spending is not over. If compared to the original budget of 50 billion, the cost over run is staggering. If some one had said the US is spending 1 billion dollars a day on the Iraq war, I would have fallen off my chair. In fact according to Stiglitz, they are spending 9 billion a day.
Granted that some of this expense is in the future but all that means is that future generations will pay for it. Thirty thousand Americans wounded in combat and twice that number wounded in non combat will be on the streets of America trying to survive on a meagre Veterans budget.
If the three trillion were spent within America it would surely have paid back handsomely. If the three trillion were spent overseas, it could have earned the gratitude of billions of people for a very long time. Poverty, Global Warming, Literacy, Peacekeeping, there is no end of worthy causes which could have been handled successfully and made this a better world for all of us and this would have included getting rid of Terrorism. Even if 3 trillion was spent promoting Democracy in the Middle East, it was sure to have succeeded given time.

OK so we made a mistake. Who could have thought that the Iraqi's would take this so personally. Is there any one willing to step forward to say, this was my decision, the buck stops here and I will take responsibility? Not only is no one ready to step forward, they are or were ready to attack Iran.

There lies the problem. We learnt nothing from Vietnam and we have learnt nothing from Iraq. When I say we, I mean the American Public. Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first take away their ability to learn from mistakes.


Joseph Stiglitz, Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics. He is a professor at Columbia University and the former chief economist at the World Bank. He is the co-author of the new book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.
Linda Bilmes, Professor of public finance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is co-author of the new book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to take an in-depth look at the cost of the Iraq war. Last week, President Bush rejected charges that the war in Iraq has hurt the US economy. He addressed the issue during an interview with Ann Curry on the Today Show.
ANN CURRY: Some Americans believe that they feel they’re carrying the burden because of this economy.
ANN CURRY: The economy, they say, is suffering because of this war.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t agree with that.
ANN CURRY: You don’t agree with that? It has nothing to do with the economy, the war, the spending on the war?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think so. I think, actually, the spending on the war might help with jobs.
ANN CURRY: Oh, yeah?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, because we’re buying equipment, and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses.
JUAN GONZALEZ: While President Bush claimed the war has nothing to do with the economy, one of the country’s leading economists has just published a book that puts an estimated price tag on the war in Iraq. The number may surprise you: $3 trillion.
That’s the estimate calculated by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his co-author Linda Bilmes. According to the book, the Iraq War has become the second-most expensive war in US history, after World War II. For the past five years the Bush administration has repeatedly low-balled the cost of the war.
In response to the $3 trillion price estimate, the White House has gone on the offensive. White House spokesperson Tony Fratto told reporters, “People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure. One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11.”
AMY GOODMAN: Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes join us now in our firehouse studio to discuss their new book. It’s titled The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. Joseph Stiglitz was the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, professor at Columbia University and the former chief economist at the World Bank. Linda Bilmes is a professor of public finance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She served in the Department of Commerce in the Clinton administration.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Joseph Stiglitz, how did you come up with that price tag, $3 trillion?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, the way you approach this problem is basically adding. You begin with the budgetary numbers. But what they claim as the cost of the Iraq war in the budget is not the full cost. There are the operational costs that everybody understands, but then there are costs hidden elsewhere in the defense budget. But then there are really some very big costs hidden elsewhere, like contractors that have been the subject of such concern. We pay their insurance through the Labor Department.
But the most important cost, budgetary cost, that we haven’t talked about publicly, that haven’t been talked about, are the costs of veterans—their disability, veterans’ healthcare—that will total hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decades. This war has had a huge number of injuries, and that will mount, the cost of caring for them, disability. 39 percent of the people fighting, the 1.6 million who have already fought, and if we continue, it will of course be more than that, are estimated will be—wind up with some form of disability.
Then you go beyond that budgetary cost to the cost of the economy. For instance, when somebody gets disabled, the disability pay is just a fraction of what the loss to their family, to the income that they could have otherwise earned. And then you go beyond that to the macroeconomic cost—the fact that the war has been associated with an increasing price of oil. We’re spending money on oil exports, Saudi Arabia, other oil-exporting countries. It’s money that’s not being spent here at home. There are a whole set of macroeconomic costs, which have depressed the economy. What’s happened is, to offset those costs, the Federal Reserve has flooded the economy with liquidity, looked the other way when you needed tighter regulation, and that’s what led to the housing bubble, the consumption boom. And we were living off of borrowed money. The war was totally financed by deficits. And eventually, a day of reckoning had to come, and now it’s come.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re going to get into quite a few of those, but I’d like to ask you about the oil, in particular, because obviously many critics initially, when the war began, criticized it as a war to dominate Iraq’s oil. But as you point out, the price of oil has skyrocketed from about $25 a barrel to $100 a barrel since the war began. And what portion of that rise—you also try to attribute to the actual Iraq war, right?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, we were very conservative in our book. When we say $3 trillion, that’s really an underestimate. We attributed, in our book, only $5 to $10 to the war itself. But if you look back, in 2003, futures markets, which take into account increases in demand, increases in supply—they knew that China was going to have increased demand, but they thought there would be increases in supply from the Middle East—they thought the price would remain at $25 for the next ten years or more. What changed that equation was the Iraq war. They couldn’t elicit the increase of supply in the Middle East because of the turmoil that we brought there. So we think, actually, the true numbers, not the $5 or $10 that we used, because we didn’t want to get in a quibble, but really a much larger fraction of the difference between $25 that it was at the time in 2003 and the $100 we face today.
AMY GOODMAN: Joseph Stiglitz, the White House press spokesperson, Tony Fratto, said yesterday, “People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure. One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11.”
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, I think the White House lacks the courage to engage in a national debate about the cost of the Iraq war. The Joint Economic Committee has asked the White House to come down and discuss the numbers; they’ve refused. Security is important, and we don’t deny that. The question is whether this war has been the best way of obtaining the security. And no matter what you’re going to do—you know, what you think about security, you still have to look at the cost. The costs have been important, even for the way we’ve waged the war. The reason the administration presumably did not buy, for instance, the MRAPs, these special vehicles that would have reduced the number of deaths by a very large fraction, is economics. So, you know, no matter what one says, economics is important, and the American people have the right to have an understanding of what those costs are. When we went to war, they said it was going to cost $50 billion. We are now spending that money upfront every three months, and that’s not even including the cost of veterans’ healthcare and disability down the line.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue this discussion for the hour. Our guests are Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. They have just written a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow. org, the War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to a clip of Andrew Natsios, the former administrator of USAID, the Agency for International Development. During an appearance on Nightline with Ted Koppel in April of 2003, Natsios predicted it would cost the United States $1.7 billion to rebuild Iraq.
TED KOPPEL: I think you’ll agree, this is a much bigger project than any that’s been talked about. Indeed, I understand that more money is expected to be spent on this than was spent on the entire Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.
ANDREW NATSIOS: No, no, no, no. This doesn’t even compare remotely with the size of the Marshall Plan.
TED KOPPEL: The Marshall Plan was $97 billion.
ANDREW NATSIOS: This is $1.7 billion. There have been—
TED KOPPEL: Alright, this is the first. I mean, when you talk about 1.7, you’re not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is going to be done for $1.7 billion.
ANDREW NATSIOS: Well, in terms of the American taxpayers’ contribution, I do. This is it for the US. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges—Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada—and Iraqi oil revenues. Eventually, in several years, when it’s up and running and there’s a new government that’s been democratically elected, will finish the job with their own revenues. They’re going to get in $20 billion a year in oil revenues. But the American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.
TED KOPPEL: I want to be sure that I understood you correctly. You’re saying that the top cost for the US taxpayer will be $1.7 billion, no more than that?
ANDREW NATSIOS: For the reconstruction. And then there’s $700 million in the supplemental budget for humanitarian relief, which we don’t competitively bid, because it’s charities that get that money.
TED KOPPEL: I understand. But as far as reconstruction goes, the American taxpayer will not be hit for more than $1.7 billion no matter how long the process takes?
ANDREW NATSIOS: That is correct. That is the plan, and that is our intention. And these figures of these outlandish figures I’ve seen, I have to say, there’s a little bit of hoopla involved in this.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Andrew Natsios in 2003. He, at the time, was head of USAID, the Agency for International Development. Our guests for the hour are Joseph Stiglitz, who won the 2001 Nobel economics prize, he’s a professor at Columbia University; and Linda Bilmes, she’s a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, professor of public finance, and former assistant secretary and chief financial officer at the US Department of Commerce. They have written a book together called The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.
Linda Bilmes, your response to Andrew Natsios?
LINDA BILMES: Well, we have actually spent now three times per—we spent three times per Iraqi what we spent per European in the Marshall Plan. And the amount that we have spent in trying to rebuild Iraq has far eclipsed what Andrew Natsios had said, obviously. But I think that the whole story about what happened in the reconstruction is one of the many, many tragedies of the Iraq situation.
Here, you had a situation where President Bush tried to do the right thing. I mean, he went to a very reluctant congress, and he said, “Look, we have to have the money to rebuild Iraq.” And this was in the summer of 2003. Congress said, “Why don’t we loan it?” or whatever, and he said, “No, no, have to have the money.” The money was enacted, and then $19 billion was allocated for the reconstruction of Iraq, available in September 2003, which then mostly was not spent. It was not spent, because for the next six months, Secretary Rumsfeld essentially refused to sign a letter to the Congress guaranteeing that the contracts would be let by competitive bidding. And there was, you know, a ridiculous kind of hold up in the Congress about this issue of the competitive bidding, which meant that by the next summer, very little of the money had been spent. The Office of Management and Budget had rolled back a lot of the money. And by that time, we had lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis. By that time—it was now a year later—electricity was far down, all the things that that rebuilding money was supposed to be for—rebuilding schools, replenishing electricity and basic services—was gone. So it was an enormous, enormously bungled and missed opportunity.
JUAN GONZALEZ: You talk in your book also—the enormous cost of these contracts and the private contractors that are there vis-a-vis actual American soldiers. I think you talk about security contractors making as much as $400,000, compared soldiers making—costing $40,000 to the government—not necessarily making that $40,000, but costing $40,000 to the government. This enormous explosion in terms of cost because of the privatization of so much of the actual war and occupation.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s right. And I think one of the problems is that the private contractors’ incentives often are not aligned with the national perspectives. For instance, let me give you an example. Going back to the issue of reconstruction, winning the hearts and minds, at the beginning of the war, the unemployment rate got up to 60 percent. It was in our interest to make sure that there were jobs for all the—as many Iraqis. But what did our contractors do? They brought in Filipinos, Nepalese, because they were cheaper. They were trying to minimize the short-run cost. But it wound up feeding the insurgency, because the unemployed young males, combined with the fact that we didn’t protect the caches of arms, was an explosive mixture which exploded.
The other thing that we discovered in the process of doing this kind of research is that when we talk about the upfront cost of the contractors, it doesn’t end there, because we have to pay the insurance for disability and death. But then, the insurance has a little clause. It says it excludes a hostile action. But, of course, when you’re in Iraq, most of the injuries and most of the deaths are hostile action. So the government winds up paying the death benefits and the disability benefits anyway. So it’s another example of really a largesse to the big business, and you can see the fact that there’s excess profits in terms of what’s happened to the stock price of the contractors, and most particularly of Halliburton.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we go to Halliburton, the issue of comparing the Iraq war cost to previous wars, you’ve done that, Linda Bilmes, like World War II.
LINDA BILMES: Well, the Iraq war has been the most expensive war that we’ve fought of all of our wars, apart from World War II. World War II was, of course, a massive operation involving sixteen million Americans. And what is particularly striking about this war, and one of the things that leads to the long-term cost, is the very, very high casualty rate. In previous wars, in World War II and Vietnam and Korea, the number of wounded troops per fatality was about two-to-one or three-to-one. And now, the number of wounded troops per fatality is seven-to-one in combat, and if you include all of those wounded in non-combat and diseased seriously enough to have to be medevaced home, it’s fifteen-to-one. So it’s a very significant difference. And this difference compared to previous wars is, of course, you know, a great tribute to the medical care that they receive on the field and the enormous advances in the care provided at Landstuhl hospital in Germany and other places. But what it means is that the United States has a long-term cost of taking care of many, many thousands of disabled veterans for the rest of their lives.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, as you have reported previously, the numbers of those disabled veterans and wounded as a result of the war has been consistently downplayed or hidden by the military in terms of what the actual cost to the Veterans Administration and the government is as a whole. And, of course, we’re not even talking about the potential illnesses from depleted uranium or other environmental contamination in Iraq that will be for decades to come an issue that the world will have to deal with.
LINDA BILMES: Absolutely. And this is one of the really outrageous situations about trying to get information about this war, because even today, if you go to the official DOD website, what you will find is a number around 30,000 wounded, but that is only the wounded in combat. Now, the number of fatalities, which is approaching 4,000, is wounded in combat and non-combat. But if you want to find the non-combat wounded—and that includes, for example, soldiers who are injured when they’re driving their vehicles at night, because it’s unsafe to drive during the day; soldiers who are wounded when they are being transported between one place and another, who never would have been there otherwise—it’s much larger. It’s more than double. And that is a number which is very hard to get. We had to use the Freedom of Information Act to get access to that number. It is impossible to sort of underestimate how difficult it is to get hold of information that should be completely in the public domain.
AMY GOODMAN: Joseph Stiglitz, I want to go to that point of using the Freedom of Information Act. You found out through this Freedom of Information Act request the government was keeping a second set of books?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s right. I mean, one of the very disturbing things is that we went to war for democracy, and yet democracy is more than just having periodic elections. It really involves informed citizens being able to have perspectives on the important decisions. But to be informed, you have to know what is really going on. And that’s why it was, you know, so upsetting that we had to used the Freedom of Information Act to find out this or to find out, for instance, that while the government was saying, the President was saying, we’ll supply all the equipment that the military needs, back in early 2005 there were urgent requests for MRAPs, these vehicles that will resist the IEDs, these explosive device, and protect our soldiers, but because of wanting to keep the apparent cost down, they refused to order them.
And, of course, the total cost—and this is one of the important points we make in our book—the total cost is not just the upfront cost, but the cost that you have to face for decades later in terms of the injuries and, of course, the cost to the families. So, being penny-wise and pound-foolish means our country is suffering because of that kind of economic decision.
AMY GOODMAN: But I want to stay on this second set of books. So what is being told to the public is only half of the injured, is that right, Linda Bilmes?
LINDA BILMES: That’s right. And last year, after I published a paper on the cost to veterans, the then-Assistant Secretary for Health at the Pentagon phoned me and phoned my dean and said, “Where did you get these numbers?” And I said, “I got them from your website, which we now have access to.” And he said, “Oh, that can’t be.” And I said, “Well, look at your website.” And he said, “Well, fax me my own website.” So I literally faxed him his own website. And then he said, “Oh.” But—
AMY GOODMAN: Who was this?
LINDA BILMES: This was the Assistant Secretary of Health at the DOD, Winkenwerder, who left, was retired around the time that Gates came in. A number of people from that department were retired. He—
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Then they took down those websites.
LINDA BILMES: Yeah, but then, I mean—yeah, then they took down the websites, and there were websites at the Department of Veterans Affairs that were keyed into those websites, and then they directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to change the Veterans’ websites. And we only found out about this, because hundreds—hundreds— of veterans from all over the country started emailing me and calling me and saying, “Have you seen what’s going on?” So, I mean, we were in the situation where we were academics doing this research, veterans from all over the country watching these websites were coming to tell us this information.
But this kind of trickery has extended both to the budget and to the numbers in the war. And we see it right now in the President’s proposal for the FY09 veterans’ budget, where ostensibly the budget is being increased by $5 billion, but in fact, if you look at the fine print, they’re hoping to recoup over $3 billion by increasing the co-pays and all the fees on the veterans who need to use the services. And so, if you actually netted out, it’s only a $2 billion increase, which is less, when you consider the cost-of-living adjustment, than they had last year.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you also detail in your book the same kind of flimflam going on with the soldiers who are recruited into the military, a bonus pay that they get that then, if they happen to be injured too soon when they get on the battlefield, they then have to pay back?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Yeah. I found that just absolutely astounding. You know, you’re doing this research, and you find things that—I say, “Linda, are you sure? This can’t be!” But they said—you know, the view is, they signed a contract to serve for three years. The fact that they get blown up after one month means they haven’t fulfilled their contract.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happens?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: They have to pay back the money.
LINDA BILMES: Congress is changing this. They’ve intervened to change this. But, I mean, Congress has been intervening to change some of these problems. Right now, there are eighteen pieces of legislation before Congress and a number that have been passed based on our recommendations.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Another example that sort of highlights this kind of—you know, some of this may be bureaucratic misbehavior, but still it highlights the kinds of problems our veterans are facing.
JUAN GONZALEZ: It also highlights the total incompetence of the people that are running the operation.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Exactly, like, I mean, one of the things—you know, they check out helmets and other equipment, because they want them to be responsible. But they get—then they lose their helmet in an explosion. You know, they’re shipped out, they’re disabled, they’re in concussion. Somebody in the military will send them a bill for their helmet.
LINDA BILMES: It was the GAO study on that, which is unbelievable, about veterans being—hundreds and hundreds of veterans being chased around the country for small amounts of money that they allegedly owe, mostly related to pieces of equipment that they lost during serious injuries.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz in this national broadcast exclusive, as they reveal the cost of war, a cost they say is a conservative estimate. The Three Trillion Dollar War is the title of their book, The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. We’ll come back in our conversation with them in a minute.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


There is no more important thing that we do in this life, than to bring forward the next generation.

There is no task more under recognised today then that of a mother.

There is no book that commands that this recognition be given than the Holy Quran.

When we speak of Women's Rights, we should first speak of giving this recognition to women both in material and even much more in non material terms.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Let us talk about poverty

"if you take the whole world population, bring it to the United States, the density that you will create by putting six billion people in the United States, today density in Bangladesh is slightly higher than that." Mohd Yunus

"Rights cannot be substituted by credit. Rights need to be recognized as rights and collective rights to the common wealth of this planet—the atmosphere, the water, the seeds, the biodiversity. That needs a rights solution. Credit can come after that rights solution has been offered." Vandana Shiva

" Poverty is created by the system. The system includes everything, the institution, the concept, the policies and everything.. .."
".I am saying that the conceptual framework of capitalism itself is at fault. That’s what created all the problems. So we have to address that also."

Mohd Yunus

Muhammad Yunus is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner from Bangladesh. He has just come out with a new book called Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.


How can we look at Capitalism as our economic model when it is anti the majority of the world? Is it a good system which is broken or is it a bad system which needs to be replaced ? Why blame Capitalism when greed and exploitation are second nature to humans? What weight should we give to social responsibility over self interest?

Right wing philosophy has always been that Poverty is the fault of the poor. They are poor because they are lazy. Left wing ideals are less judgemental and more sympathetic to the poor and believe in providing minimum social services for the poor.

Yunus and Shiva are socialists, who want to both reduce and if possible eliminate poverty. Capitialism is closest to the right wing ideology which dominates the business world but as Yunus points out Capitalism is a system which is seriously flawed. He is saying that Capitalism creates poverty.

Our understanding that Capitalism creates riches is in fact totally erroneous. In fact is does create riches but only for a small minority and for these people it creates riches beyond imagination. If 1% of the world has 80% of the worlds riches and controls 80% of the worlds resources then surely there is something seriously wrong with the worlds economic order. In fact so powerful is the role of money today that Capitalists control Democracy, the Media, Banks, Governments.

The fact that whether the country is the US, Europe, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, Public opinion is not represented in the Government. Governments everywhere are in conflict with public opinion and in sync with business interests.

Money has become god and the final arbiter of values because God has been driven out of the affairs of men. Secularism and Democracy have become agents in the service of Capitalism. If we think we live in a troubled world and can't make sense of it, part of the problem is our inability to challenge the Capitalist spin that we are subjected to all the time. Part of the problem is that we measure our values in terms of money.

Capitalism is a two headed monster that with one head believes in free markets and with other tries to control free markets to its ends. It is a system based on greed and exploitatoin and I have often wondered at it's claims of success and in moments of weakness looked at it with admiration. The subprime crises came out of Capitalism's desire to exploit the poor ( in their language people with poor credit). I say Capitalism advisedly because it was not the Banks alone. It was the Banks, the Insurance Companies, the Rating Agencies,the Retirement Funds, the Accounting Profession and the Regulatory Authorities acting in concert to cook the books and defraud not just the poor but also the Investor in the stock Market.

We have been here before when the "System" tried to manipulate silver ( 1980), the debts of Third World Countries ( 1983). the currencies of third world countries ( 1996), Enron ( 2001), Worldcom. Colonisations have all exploited the colonised, whether it was by the Ottomans, the British, The French, The Belgians, the Spaniards, the Dutch or the Americans. The colonisation of the American Indian or of Black Africa or of India never benefitted the colonised but enriched the coloniser beyond all reason.

The enslavement of one human being by another is a piece of our History and we have arrived here by those means. This does not mean that we are destined to follow that pattern. How can we as enlightened human beings continue with systems which we know to have serious detriments to fellow humans ( in fact the majority of them) and have serious detriment to our environment and future generations?

The progress that we have made is that the Chinese and the Indians are exploiting their own poor rather than before when the Americans had exploited the African by enslaving them. In Bagladesh, Yunus is promoting self sufficiency and entrepreneurship amongst the poor. Where no one is doing anything is the Islamic countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria and it is guaranteed that the future terrorists will come from here. The poorer or more devastated the country, the more it will be ripe for angry and frustrated people. It is strangely in the interest of the Capitalist to not exploit people any more otherwise the backlash will destroy exploiter and exploited.

Yunus and Vandana Shiva are in the forefront of people looking at alternatives from the point of view of the poor. They deserve our respect and attention. In fact Vandana Shiva's approach is even much more grass roots than Yunus . The rights of people to water are as fundamental as the rights to air. Today Capitalism is making a lot of money selling water and in due course will make a lot of money selling air, aftere polluting it.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Two points of view

" One of the things that I would conclude is that there is obviously strong bias on the part of our media in their reporting of military deaths over any 5, 10 or 20 year period of time. The impressions they have tried to create about the deaths that have occurred under Bush, as it relates to the actual number killed, differs greatly from what they have tried to create under former administrations. The facts dispel the propaganda. I agree with you that any death is a tragedy. But Bush is not responsible for any more of them than any previous President in recent history.

I guess one of the ways you and I differ is that I do not see what is occurring in Iraq in such black and white terms.

Let's take the situation there. One of the reasons we were given to justify an invasion is that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. It is obvious that Saddam did possess WMD's at one point because he used them to gas his own people, the Kurds. Many of those who today claim we had false information and were lied to by the administration are the same people (Hillary for example) who stated just the opposite at the time. Much of the media that reported on the risk we believe we faced because of the WMD's possessed by Saddam are now the very individuals who have twisted the whole thing around and ignore that they played any part at the time in justifying the premise in the first place. Because they can not now take the "heat" they are running for cover and pointing fingers at the administration. But let's suppose Saddam no longer had WMD because he had successfully moved them all into Syria. The question then becomes whether the world is better off or not with him gone. When we look at the situation in Iraq today, one would argue that we are not better off. Iraq is a mess, many have died and the obvious "culprit" according to many, including you, is Bush.

It can be argued, with hindsight, that we should have just left Saddam in power. Even though many of the people living in Iraq were oppressed, tortured, beaten and killed and they did not enjoy democratic rights at least the country was stable and the Christian community was left alone as you point out. But was Saddam a bad person and is the world better off without him? I think even you would agree that he was and we are. So we got rid of him and now we have US forces in Iraq. There is much instability and many suicide bombings. I guess you and I differ because somehow you now see us as the "bad" guys and I don't.

Not to over simplify the situation there but let's suppose Tarrytown, NY was ruled by a tyrant, citizens lived in fear, there were no democratic rights but there was at least "calm" in the streets. Along comes someone who throws the tyrant bum in the Hudson giving people their freedom. Now some real bad characters come on the scene from Scarsdale and elsewhere in the area who have some long seething hostilities towards some of their neighbors. They bomb the public square, kill a lot of people and start fighting with the folks who "liberated" the village. In this scenario, you place blame on the ones who were at least trying to do a good thing. I blame the "trouble makers" from the outside and radicals who live down the street. This is where you and I differ. I believe we were at least trying to do a noble thing. You seem to side with the "bad guys" who behave in vicious ways and blame the "good guys" who I think are trying to do something good. You say we were just after their oil. I say, we could have bought it for a hell of a lot less trouble and expense!! You do not seem to recognize or acknowledge that the ones blowing themselves and everybody else up are the real culprits. I don't think it is the American forces who are doing that. But maybe that is not what the New York Times is reporting out on the East Coast.

Another area where we differ is that, while I would like to live in a world where we can all sit around the campfire and sing "cumbaya", turn swords into plow-shares and make butter instead of guns, I recognize that there is real evil in this world and some real bad characters no matter how good and just we might be. Being nice to them just means you are being nice to them while they still make their plans to kill you. There are bad people in this world and the devil lives in some of them. We either bring the fight to get rid of them, to them, or they will bring it to us. It's just that simple. Going into Iraq was an attempt to bring the fight to the bad guys. Saddam was one of them. It is obvious that Iraq has many crazies in it and some real unsavory characters because not all of what is happening there is being done by outsiders. So we are fighting some bad elements there rather than waiting until they decide to engage us on our own turf. Now maybe we should have decided to take the "fight" elsewhere instead of Iraq. At least Saddam kept a lid on these "bad guys" because he didn't have all of this going on when he was in power. But these radical elements were still there and if we can eradicate some of that, now that we are there, the world will be a better place for it.

Have we made many mistakes over the years? Absolutely! Have we fought some wars that proved to be a waste of precious human blood? Certainly have. But did we enter into those situations with that knowledge and foresight or was it only apparent after the fact? Did we move forward in pursuit and defense of our beliefs around liberty and justice or because we were trying to conquer and claim lands for ourselves? I believe the former while I think you the latter. You suggest we are a conquering force and work to seize the lands we "invade". I do not believe that to be the case and our handling of Europe and Japan after WWII bears that out. We could have conquered and oppressed. Instead we liberated and invested time, money and resources to help them build and become self sufficient and free which they are today.

We can always sit back and play Monday morning quarterback. That's the easy and safe thing to do. But as our President, one who is charged with protecting our country, is it understandable in the face of what we experienced with 9/11, that he made a decision, in the interests of spreading democracy which he believes to be one of the best hopes for lasting world peace, to move to take a known tyrant off the world stage.

Another area where we differ is that you "heap" all the blame on Bush and cite chapter and verse of everything that occurs as if he has a direct hand in all of it. For instance, you cite Abu Graib or Water Boarding and seem to directly blame him. You are suggesting that someone at his level would know if some Private, in some far away prison is going to make a decision to put a leash on a prisoner and parade them around naked. You don't seem to realize that even in the best run, most highly respected organizations in the world, stupid people still do stupid things. Ever hear about some of the things that have occurred in the Catholic Church?? I am in no way justifying these actions. But for me to blame the Pope and call for his dismissal because of what some of his Cardinals or priests did in Boston is ludicrous! Or I could go on and rant and rave about how god awful the Catholic Church was during the Crusades and dredge up all of the sins of the past. But what sense would that make? We would all be better off dealing with the issues at hand.

You talk about the Christians fleeing to Syria or Jordan. Who are they fleeing? The Americans?? I think not! We're not the ones they are afraid of. But you blame "us", the ones who are there trying to institute democratic reforms. I understand this is happening because we are there and Saddam isn't but we are not the ones doing it. I blame the terrorists and extremists. You blame us. Dick, you keep saying you are a Republican but the logic here is that of a left wing liberal.

I could go on and argue a lot of other points Dick but I guess we just have some philosophical differences in how we see issues like these. The previous administration didn't go after these thugs and was viewed in a much different light but where did that get us? We had many attacks on our forces around the world and all the planning leading up to 9/11 occurred on someone else's watch. If we had been more aggressive then in dealing with issues like we now have around the world perhaps we could have avoided what occurred. At least we haven't had another attack on our soil since 9/11.

Thought from the "other side of the fence". Peace and love to all of the Cross household.



Your former student sounds like a Fox News watching die hard Republican, which is about a third of the nation. Their view is that we are the good guys and most others (including the Europeans) are the bad guys. It is important to divide the world along these lines if you have designs on them. The people who can afford the luxury of such views are Imperial Powers who can enforce their point of view through being on the right side of the barrel of a gun.
This has justified the US in becoming the self imposed policeman of the world.

The problem is that this is 20th Century thinking in the 21st Century. The US, defeated in Vietnam and unable to declare victory in Iraq or Afghanistan is fast becoming a former Imperial Power. I do agree with your former student that Bush is not solely to blame for this. Successive Presidents have followed similar Imperial Policies and future Presidents ae likely to follow the same, although increasingly at greater and greater cost to us.

The fact is that the US is not as good or virtuous as we think, nor was Saddam as evil as we make him out to be. In fact as Dictators go, he was not at the top of the pile for vicious dictators. The US has done far more damage to Iraq then Saddam could ever have done if he was born again and tried for another 25 years. So the cost of removing Saddam was not worth destroying Iraq for.

The alternate point of view is that the US went into Iraq because of the Oil and to protect the interests of the State of Israel and this whole business of demonising the enemy is a spin designed to justify this to a gullible public. This is the real point, the public is too easily duped. How can you blame Bush, when the public lives in a cocoon and is the victim of a compliant media which serves the interests of the Corporate structure. The public deserves the leaders it gets.

The current demonising of Islam is the same strategy as employed in Iraq so as to go after Iran, another oil producing country not liked by Israel. Let the American public study Islam to find out for themselves that it is a great religion and that it's demonising is a travesty of good sense and insulting to over a billion Muslims of the world. People choose to live in ignorance at their own peril. Imagine what Muslims and others who know Islam think of the US when it produces stereo types made up in Tel Aviv. The image of the US in the rest of the world is not one of a benefactor as we would like to believe but of a bully who flouts International law, will stop at nothing to achieve it's ends including torture and the killing of women and children by the millions and believes in resolving issues by force rather than talking to people. These are realities that the American public chooses to minimise or ignore.

The destruction of Iraq did not start with Bush. It started with Bush Sr. and continued under 8 years of Clinton. Bush Sr. attacked Iraq not to take it over but to weaken it so that it would not be feared by Israel. That is why Saddam was left alone. Subsequently after destroying the Iraqi Air Force, Iraq was subjected to repeated bombings and economic sanctions which did weaken it and subjected its citizen to poverty and sickness. Millions of Innocent Iraqi's including a very large number of children died from malnutrition or lack of attention when they fell ill. For over 12 years Iraq was humiliated, contained and laid seige to. The UN made sure through Hans Blitz that it never developed any weapons of mass destruction and after it was weakened, depleted and was no threat to any one Bush Jr. gave it a taste of "shock and awe" and this time walked into Iraq with the idea of annexing it for it's oil. There was no exit strategy because there was no intention of leaving.

Killing millions of Iraqis and making Millions more homeless does not seem to bother the American public. While we sit in our luxurious homes and watch the Super Bowl, it is convenient to brand these people as faceless scum of the earth and to say to ourselves, the world is surely better off without them. What sort of people have we become?

No one can explain to me how a great nation like the US allows itself to be dictated by a few million Jews and the Zionist nation of Israel. Hats off to the Jews and Israel but what does this say about the American public? How can we spend trillions of dollars of our money and put our soldiers in harms way and create an economic recession so that the people of Israel can sleep easy at night. It was not that Iraq was a threat to them, it was just a passing whim. They did not like the tone of Saddam's voice. I am not even talking about the terror that Israel spreads amongst helpless, homeless, economically bankrupt Palestinians. That is another story.

If we have become a nation without morals, standards and ethics and the only thing that matters to us is economic well being then let us be honest enough to say it. If the end justifies the means for us and we are prepared to kill maime and torture millions because we feel that in the end our cause is just then let us be honest enough to say it. Or have we also lost our honesty.

Let us not say that we will make this world a better place, let us say that we are in it for ourselves. It is survival of the fittest. Let us call it what it is. It is not a war on terror. It is the war of the strong against the weak. Then let those who want to be on the side of the weak, stand up and be counted. The weak are the victims, let us not call the victims the aggressor.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Letter from Pakistans Former Chief Justice

Letter from Pakistans Former Chief Justice


His Excellency The President of the European Parliament, Brussels .
His Excellency The President of France, Paris .
His Excellency The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom , London .
Her Excellency Ms. Condaleeza Rice, Secretary of State , United States of America , Washington D.C.
Professor Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum, Geneva .

All through their respective Ambassodors, High Commissioners and representatives.


I am the Chief Justice of Pakistan presently detained in my residence since November 3, 2007 pursuant to some verbal, and unspecified, order passed by General Musharraf.
I have found it necessary to write to you, and others, because during his recent visits to Brussels , Paris , Davos and London General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings. In addition he has widely distributed, among those whom he has met, a slanderous document (hereinafter the Document) entitled: “PROFILE OF THE FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN”. I might have let this go unresponded but the Document, unfortunately, is such an outrage that, with respect, it is surprising that a person claiming to be head of state should fall to such depths as to circulate such calumny against the Chief Justice of his own country.
In view of these circumstances I have no option but to join issue with General Musharraf and to put the record straight. Since he has voiced his views on several public occasions so as to reach out to the public at large, I also am constrained to address your excellencies in an Open Letter to rebut the allegations against me.
At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words “claiming to be the head of state”. That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf’s constitutional term ended on November 15, 2007. His claim to a further term thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a Bench of eleven learned judges of the Supreme Court that the General arrested a majority of those judges in addition to me on November 3, 2007. He thus himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that point. Besides arresting the Chief Justice and judges (can there have been a greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the Constitution and to purge the entire judiciary (even the High Courts) of all independent judges. Now only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to “validate” whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and earlier order passed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007.
Meantime I and my colleagues remain in illegal detention. With me are also detained my wife and three of my young children, all school-going and one a special child. Such are the conditions of our detention that we cannot even step out on to the lawn for the winter sun because that space is occupied by police pickets. Barbed wire barricades surround the residence and all phone lines are cut. Even the water connection to my residence has been periodically turned off. I am being persuaded to resign and to forego my office, which is what I am not prepared to do.
I request you to seek first hand information of the barricades and of my detention, as that of my children, from your Ambassador/High Commissioner/ representative in Pakistan . You will get a report of such circumstances as have never prevailed even in medieval times. And these are conditions put in place, in the twenty-first century, by a Government that you support.
Needless to say that the Constitution of Pakistan contains no provision for its suspension, and certainly not by the Chief of Army Staff. Nor can it be amended except in accordance with Articles 238 and 239 which is by Parliament and not an executive or military order. As such all actions taken by General Musharraf on and after November 3 are illegal and ultra vires the Constitution. That is why it is no illusion when I describe myself as the Chief Justice even though I am physically and forcibly incapacitated by the state apparatus under the command of the General. I am confident that as a consequence of the brave and unrelenting struggle continued by the lawyers and the civil society, the Constitution will prevail.
However, in the meantime, General Musharraf has launched upon a vigourous initiative to defame and slander me. Failing to obtain my willing abdication he has become desperate. The eight-page Document is the latest in this feverish drive.
Before I take up the Document itself let me recall that the General first ousted me from the Supreme Court on March 9 last year while filing an indictment (in the form of a Reference under Article 209 of the Constitution) against me. According to the General the Reference had been prepared after a thorough investigation and comprehensively contained all the charges against me. I had challenged that Reference and my ouster before the Supreme Court. On July 20 a thirteen member Bench unanimously struck down the action of the General as illegal and unconstitutional. I was honourably reinstated.
The Reference was thus wholly shattered and all the charges contained therein trashed. These cannot now be regurgitated except in contempt of the Supreme Court. Any way, since the Document has been circulated by no less a person than him I am constrained to submit the following for your kind consideration in rebuttal thereof:
The Document is divided into several heads but the allegations contained in it can essentially be divided into two categories: those allegations that were contained in the Reference and those that were not.
Quite obviously, those that are a repeat from the Reference hold no water as these have already been held by the Supreme Court to not be worth the ink they were written in. In fact, the Supreme Court found that the evidence submitted against me by the Government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect, that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the Government Rs. 100,000 (a relatively small amount in dollar terms, but an unheard of sum with respect to Court Sanction in Pakistan) for filing clearly false and malicious documents, as well as revoking the license to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents. Indeed, faced with the prospect of having filed clearly falsified documents against me, the Government’s attorneys, including the Attorney General, took a most dishonorable but telling approach. Each one, in turn, stood before the Supreme Court and disowned the Government’s Reference, and stated they had not reviewed the evidence against me before filing it with Court. They then filed a formal request to the Court to withdraw the purported evidence, and tendered an unconditional apology for filing such a scandalous and false documents. So baseless and egregious were the claims made by General Musharraf that on July 20th, 2007, the full Supreme Court for the first time in Pakistan’s history, ruled unanimously against a sitting military ruler and reinstated me honorably to my post.
Despite having faced these charges in open court, must I now be slandered with those same charges by General Musharraf in world capitals, while I remain a prisoner and unable to speak in my defense?
There are, of course, a second set of charges. These were not contained in the Reference and are now being bandied around by the General at every opportunity.
I forcefully and vigorously deny every single one of them. The truth of these “new” allegations can be judged from the fact that they all ostensibly date to the period before the reference was filed against me last March, yet none of them was listed in the already bogus charge sheet.
If there were any truth to these manufactured charges, the Government should have included them in the reference against me. God knows they threw in everything including the kitchen sink into that scurrilous 450 page document, only to have it thrown out by the entire Supreme Court after a 3 month open trial.
The charges against me are so transparently baseless that General Musharraf’s regime has banned the discussion of my situation and the charges in the broadcast media. This is because the ridiculous and flimsy nature of the charges is self-evident whenever an opportunity is provided to actually refute them.
Instead, the General only likes to recite his libel list from a rostrum or in gathering where there is no opportunity for anyone to respond. Incidentally, the General maligns me in the worst possible way at every opportunity. That is the basis for the Document he has distributed. But he has not just deposed me from the Judiciary. He has also fired more than half of the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan – nearly 50 judges in all -- together with me. They have also been arrested and detained.
What are the charges against them? Why should they be fired and arrested if I am the corrupt judge? Moreover even my attorneys Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd were also arrested on November 3. Malik alone has been released but only because both his kidneys collapsed as a result of prison torture.
Finally, as to the Document, it also contains some further allegations described as “Post-Reference Conduct” that is attributed to me under various heads. This would mean only those allegedly ‘illegal’ actions claimed to have been taken by me after March 9, 2007. These are under the heads given below and replied to as under:
1. “Participation in SJC (Supreme Judicial Council) Proceedings”:
(a) Retaining ‘political lawyers’: Aitzaz Ahsan and Zammurrad Khan:
It is alleged that I gave a political colour to my defence by engaging political lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zamurrad Khan both Pakistan Peoples’ Party Members of the National Assembly. The answer is simple.
I sought to engage the best legal team in the country. Mr. Ahsan is of course an MNA (MP), but he is also the top lawyer in Pakistan . For that reference may be made simply to the ranking of Chambers and Partners Global. Such is his respect in Pakistan’s legal landscape that he was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan by one of the widest margins in the Association’s history.
All high profile personalities have placed their trust in his talents. He has thus been the attorney for Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif, (even though he was an opponent of the latter) Presidential candidate (against Musharraf) Justice Wajihuddin, sports star and politician Imran Khan, former Speakers, Ministers, Governors, victims of political vendetta, and also the internationally acclaimed gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai, to mention only a few.
Equally important, Barrister Ahsan is a man of integrity who is known to withstand all pressures and enticements. That is a crucial factor in enaging an attorney when one’s prosecutor is the sitting military ruler, with enourmous monetary and coercive resources at his disposal.
Mr. Zamurrad Khan is also a recognized professional lawyer, a former Secretary of the District Bar Rawalpindi, and was retained by Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan to assist him in the case. Mr. Khan has been a leading light of the Lawyers’ Movement for the restoration of the deposed judiciary and has bravely faced all threats and vilification.
Finally, surely I am entitled to my choice of lawyers and not that of the General.
(b) “Riding in Mr. Zafarullah Jamali (former Prime Minister)’s car”:
How much the Document tries to deceive is apparent from the allegation that I willingly rode in Mr. Jamali’s car for the first hearing of the case against me on March 13 (as if that alone is an offence). Actually the Government should have been ashamed of itself for creating the circumstances that forced me to take that ride.
Having been stripped of official transport on the 9th March (my vehicles were removed from my house by the use of fork lifters), I decided to walk the one-mile to the Supreme Court. Along the way I was molested and manhandled, my hair was pulled and neck craned in the full blaze of the media, by a posse of policemen under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police. (A judicial inquiry, while I was still deposed, established this fact). In order to escape the physical assault I took refuge with Mr. Jamali and went the rest of the journey on his car. Instead of taking action against the police officials for manhandling the Chief Justice it is complained that I was on the wrong!
(c) Creating a political atmosphere:
Never did I instigate or invite any “political atmosphere. I never addressed the press or any political rally. I kept my lips sealed even under extreme provocation from the General and his ministers who were reviling me on a daily basis. I maintained a strict judicial silence. I petitioned the Supreme Court and won. That was my vindication.
2. “Country wide touring and Politicising the Issue:
The Constitution guarantees to all citizens free movement throughout Pakistan . How can this then be a complaint?
By orders dated March 9 and 15 (both of which were found to be without lawful authority by the Court) I had been sent of on forced leave I could neither perform any judicial or administrative functions as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. I was prevented not only from sitting in court but also from access to my own chamber by the force of arms under orders of the General. (All my papers were removed, even private documents).
The only function as ‘a judge on forced leave that I could perform was to address and deliver lectures to various Bar Associations. I accepted their invitations. They are peppered all over Pakistan . I had to drive to these towns as all these are not linked by air. On the way the people of Pakistan did, indeed, turn out in their millions, often waiting from dawn to dusk or from dusk to dawn, to greet me. But I never addressed them even when they insisted that I do. I never spoke to the press. I sat quietly in my vehicle without uttering a word. All this is on the record as most journeys were covered by the media live and throughout.
I spoke only to deliver lectures on professional and constitutional issues to the Bar Associations. Transcripts of every single one of my addresses are available. Every single word uttered by me in those addresses conforms to the stature, conduct and non-political nature of the office of the Chief Justice. There was no politics in these whatsoever. I did not even mention my present status or the controversy or the proceedings before the Council or the Court, not even the Reference. Not even once.
All the persons named in the Document under this head are lawyers and were members of the reception committees in various towns and Bar Associations.
3. Political Leaders Calling on CJP residence:
It is alleged that I received political leaders while I was deposed. It is on the record of the Supreme Judicial Council itself that I was detained after being deposed on March 9. The only persons allowed to meet me were those cleared by the Government. One was a senior political leader. None else was allowed to see me, initially not even my lawyers. How can I be blamed for whomsoever comes to my residence?
Had I wanted to politicize the issue I would have gone to the Press or invited the media. I did not. I had recourse to the judicial process for my reinstatement and won. The General lost miserably in a fair and straight contest. That is my only fault.
4. “Conclusion”:
Hence the conclusion drawn by the General that charges had been proved against me ‘beyond doubt’ is absolutely contrary to the facts and wide off the mark. It is a self-serving justification of the eminently illegal action of firing and arresting judges of superior courts under the garb of an Emergency (read Martial Law) when the Constitution was ‘suspended’ and then ‘restored’ later with drastic and illegal ‘amendments’ grafted into it.
The Constitution cannot be amended except by the two Houses of Parliament and by a two-thirds majority in each House. That is the letter of the law. How can one man presume or arrogate to himself that power?
Unfortunately the General is grievously economical with the truth (I refrain from using the word ‘lies’) when he says that the charges against me were ‘investigated and verified beyond doubt’. As explained above, these had in fact been rubbished by the Full Court Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against which judgment the government filed no application for review.
What the General has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the world. In squashing the judiciary for his own personal advantage and nothing else he has usurped the space of civil and civilized society. If civilized norms of justice will not be allowed to operate then that space will, inevitably, be occupied by those who believe in more brutal and instant justice: the extremists in the wings. Those are the very elements the world seems to be pitted against. Those are the very elements the actions of the General are making way for.
Some western governments are emphasizing the unfolding of the democratic process in Pakistan . That is welcome, if it will be fair. But, and in any case, can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?
Remember, independent judges and judicial processes preceded full franchise by several hundred years. Moreover, which judge in Pakistan today can be independent who has before his eyes the fate and example of his own Chief Justice: detained for three months along with his young children. What is the children’s crime, after all?
There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 is reversed. Whatever the will of some desperate men the struggle of the valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up. Let me also assure you that I would not have written this letter without the General’s unbecoming onslaught. That has compelled me to clarify although, as my past will testify, I am not given into entering into public, even private, disputes. But the allegations against me have been so wild, so wrong and so contrary to judicial record, that I have been left with no option but to put the record straight. After all, a prisoner must also have his say. And if the General’s hand-picked judges, some living next door to my prison home, have not had the courage to invoke the power of ‘habeas corpus’ these last three months, what other option do I have? Many leaders of the world and the media may choose to brush the situation under the carpet out of love of the General. But that will not be.
Nevertheless, let me also reassure you that I continue in my resolve not to preside any Bench which will be seized of matters pertaining to the personal interests of General Musharraf after the restoration of the Constitution and the judges, which, God willing, will be soon. Finally, I leave you with the question: Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan’s four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a ‘charm offensive’ of western capitals and one whom the west supports.
I am grateful for your attention. I have no other purpose than to clear my name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue it from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic. After all, the edifice of an independent judicial system alone stands on the middle ground between these two extremes. If the edifice is destroyed by the one, the ground may be taken over by the other. That is what is happening in Pakistan . Practitioners of rough and brutal justice will be welcomed in spaces from where the practitioners of more refined norms of justice and balance have been made to abdicate.
I have enormous faith that the Constitution and justice will soon prevail.

Yours truly,

Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan,

Presently: imprisoned in the Chief Justices House, Islamabad .