Walid's Wanderings

Reflections on life, good-and-evil, family, humanity, and anything else that occurs to me, usually when I travel. Right now I am on a 6-year trip through Lebanon, the homeland I had never really lived in before.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I was moved to write to the New York Times again today.

The original article if you can find it

My letter


Your reviewer (July 7th, "Harry Potter and the Childish Adult") missed the point of J.K. Rowling's ficiton. In lamenting the lack of "supernatural and inhuman creatures — from whom we thought we learned our sense of good and evil", Byatt betrays a yearning for a historical epoch when white Europeans were able to justify their conquest of the rest of the world by attrributing primitiveness and evil to nations and races that looked and acted different. Rowling holds my attention precisely becasue the magic in her books is ersatz and hence humorous, whereas her depiciton of good and evil is much more intensely alarming than, say, C.S. Lewis's. Racism, bigotry, and malevolent government paternalism are prcisely the types of evil with which we adults must contend in our daily lives. Who is a more suitable role model for a "childish adult", Mohandas Gandhi or Christopher Columbus?

Another Letter, from April 3rd 2003


This remids me of another letter I wrote months ago - which took a lot more time because I made up several versions of it to comply with the 150-word limit.
The original article is unfortunately only available for pay.

To the Editor,
Re: Yagil. Henkin's Op-Ed in your April 3rd 2003 issue

Full Letter:


Like many Arab-Americans, I usually smile knowingly when US actions in Iraq are compared to Israeli actions in the Palestinian Administered territories as a form of slander for the former. But I cringed with grief when the New York times chose to lend approval to the right-wing Israeli tactic of legitimating their actions through comparisons with the current war on Iraq.
Mr. Henkin's Op-Ed in your April 3rd 2003 issue purported to
• Inform the US about swarm tactics
(which happen to be current US military doctrine)
• Describe vast success relative to Russian tactics in Grozny
(although the Chechens shot back, as will Saddam, with more than the small side-arms of the Palestinians)
• Advertise low numbers of civilian deaths
(by making a false comparison to panicked first estimates by the PA, and neglecting to mention that Israel flouted the approved UN resolution to obtain an independent estimate)
In reality, the only irrefutable message of the article is that the Israelis hope to be seen as (and among large sectors of their population, wish they really were) fighting to secure rule of law and deprive lawless opponents of key assets. They are not. The USA in Iraq is. History will judge the US based on how the Bush administration manages the seized assets. Israel, on the other hand, has yet to convincingly answer to the worse charges that its government-sanctioned operations are aimed at destroying gradually to force a migration (which some parties make no secret of advocating, while others condemn it in polite society).
The comparison to Israel may yet prove true. I may live to see the US shipping in poor young whites from South Dakota to farm date palms near Basra and poor young blacks from East LA to to wildcat for oil near Kirkuk. Meanwhile, the Iraqis would be forced into Iran (if they are Shiites), Turkey (if they are Kurds), or to a small urban zone around Babylon if they are Sunni. When that happens, then maybe Tommy Franks will have something to learn from Yagil Henkin's historical research.



150-word #1:


Mr. Henkin purports to inform Americans about swarm tactics, which happen to be the US military’s current fighting doctrine. The article is low on verifiable facts, and its only irrefutable message is that the Israelis hope to be seen as fighting to secure rule of law and deprive lawless opponents of key assets. They are not. The USA in Iraq is.
The comparison to Israel may yet prove true. I may live to see the US shipping in poor young whites from South Dakota to farm date palms near Basra and poor young blacks from East LA to wildcat for oil near Kirkuk. Meanwhile, the Iraqis would be forced into Iran (if they are Shiites), Turkey (if they are Kurds), or to a small urban zone around Babylon if they are Sunni. When that happens, then maybe Tommy Franks will have something to learn from Yagil Henkin's historical research.
[I sent this already]


150-word #2:


Like many Arab-Americans, I usually smile knowingly when US actions in Iraq are compared to Israeli actions in the Palestinian Administered territories as a form of slander for the former. But I cringed with grief when the New York times chose to lend approval to the right-wing Israeli tactic of legitimating their actions through comparisons with the current war on Iraq.
The article by Mr. Henkin only shows that the Israelis imagine that they really are fighting to secure rule of law and deprive lawless opponents of key assets. They are not. The USA in Iraq is. History will judge the US based on how the Bush administration manages the seized assets. Israel, on the other hand, has yet to convincingly ounter charges that its government-sanctioned operations are aimed at destroying gradually to force a migration (which some parties make no secret of advocating, while others condemn in polite society).


150-word #3:


Mr. Henkin's Op-Ed in your April 3rd 2003 issue purported to
• Inform the US about swarm tactics
(Anyone with sources in the pentagon will tell you they invented swarm tactics, which require the communication gear Henkin laments not having)
• Describe vast success relative to Russian tactics in Grozny
(although the Chechens shot back, as will Saddam, with more than the small side-arms of the Palestinians)
• Advertise low numbers of civilian deaths
(by making a false comparison to panicked first estimates by the PA, and neglecting to mention that Israel flouted the approved UN resolution to obtain an independent estimate)
But most perniciously, the article blurs the distinction between a war to secure control of lawbreakers and a war to destroy livelihoods, aspirations and identity (but, magnanimously not lives) of a population which is in the way of territorial expansion. So 1890, from an American point of view.

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