Archive for December, 2005

Should US pull out of Iraq? US media, political a…

Should US pull out of Iraq?

US media, political analysts and people are engrossed in their debate about the scope and future of US involvement in Iraq. Different alternatives are proposed and discussed or disagreed upon. In this article we will review the current situation and also suggest some alternatives.

But before we comment on the prevailing condition in Iraq, it is important to analyze history of Iraq and find some parallels. History provides a very important benchmark to understand the behavior and attitude of a nation. In the modern history Iraq can be compared to Afghanistan in terms of psychology of its people and its geo-political position in their respective regions. Afghanistan for thousands of years, served as a gateway for ambitious Central Asian leaders to invade rich lands of India. The people of Afghanistan were used to armies marching through their land and so, maintaining weapons became a way of life for them. In the last century when Russia invaded Afghanistan the Mujahideen, as they were referred to by USA, raised arms against this invasion and ultimately forced their withdrawal in haste. Although no one expected peace to return to Afghanistan immediately after its independence, but it was also unexpected that a civil war would break out between the warlords for control of Afghan government. This war lasted for almost a decade.

Iraq, or Mesopotamia as it was called in history, was also at cross roads between the expanding Islamic empire from Arabia and Christian dominated west sharing its border with Turkey. Iraq was carved out of the larger Middle East after the defeat of Ottoman Empire in the First World War but it was never a totally Arab country in its ethnic make-up. It shared borders with Shiite majority Iran & Syria on one side and on the other had a substantial Kurdish population who never totally felt being part of the Iraqi nation. Former strongman Saddam Hussain under his iron fist was able to maintain a unified Iraqi identity until he was removed by the US invasion Iraq. His removal from power also eliminated the glue that held the society together and created a vacuum that is largely responsible for the civil war like situation. US policy of allowing the dismantling the Iraqi army and removal of Baathist from government institutions has created a void that is also playing its part in the current chaos.

In this quagmire many proposals are discussed for a US exit strategy. One proposal put forward by many Iraqi leaders and intellectuals is the complete pull out of US from Iraq. This is a mistaken idea and would certainly result in the same chaos and civil war witnessed by us in Afghanistan. All the news reports suggest that there is a wedge created in Iraqi society on sectarian and ethnic lines. The interim constitutional framework also supports these divisions.

The other proposal discussed in the media is removal of US troops from the cities to suburbs and out of public eye. This in a way might provide more opportunity to insurgents to plan their ambush on US troops and avoid Iraqi deaths that will provide them greater public support. This will also ignite the media debate whether US has long-term designs to stay in Iraq to exploit its oil resources.

The third proposal debated is the announcement of plan to gradually reduce US troops levels in Iraq. Bush administration is not willing to announce this time frame as it would be considered acceptance of failure and could also strengthen insurgents in gaining support from the locals. The administration might also be using this as a political wild card and wait for the right time to announce this schedule close to 2006 congressional elections to support Republican candidates.

The proposal we would like to propose is based on the theory that democracy in Iraq and Middle East should be a global objective rather than just part of US foreign policy. The reality is that the “Coalition of the willing” has all but disappeared leaving the burden on US shoulders. Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Denmark, Norway, Philippines, Thailand and New Zealand have all either pulled out of the coalition or announced plans to withdraw their troops by end of 2006. This has also created an impression that US is the occupier of Iraq for its oil rather than a liberator of the people for promotion of human liberty.

It is important that US should globalize this issue by engaging United Nations (UN), NATO and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The ground reality is the Iraqi forces are not trained enough to assume the responsibility of maintaining the law and order in the country. A military force should be created immediately under OIC banner and UN guidance to gradually replace US forces. This largely Muslim force will be in a much better position to defuse insurgents and bring them into the political process. In order to gain widespread acceptance among Iraqi people this international force should be commanded by Iraqi commanders brought back from retirement.

The question of Saddam will haunt US for a long time. There is also a discussion in Iraq to bring back the old strongman. All of us remember the Nuremberg trails where Nazi war criminals were tried. Saddam should be brought to the international court of justice for crime against humanity and tried as a war criminal.
There is no easy solution to a complex problem. But it is important that US form a strategy that is acceptable not only inside but internationally. Any failure to do so quickly could result in further loss of US credibility, lives and capital.


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Immigrant: the second-class citizen Recent riots …

Immigrant: the second-class citizen

Recent riots in Paris, France, have been a topic of much debate in international media and forums. Governments and policy makers are revisiting their immigration and naturalization policies to ensure they are not faced with the same dilemma on their soils. Holland faced a social crisis when a Holland citizen of immigrant descent murdered the television producer Van Gogh in broad daylight. It is important for us as immigrants to analyze such events and take corrective action to prevent the same from happening again.

France, like England and Holland, has been one of the imperial powers with colonies around the world. As England took hold of South Asia, France, an archrival, focused its attention on North Africa, gaining control of Algiers, Nigeria and Morocco as colonies. Being part of French rule, citizens of these countries were granted special immigration rights, which resulted in a strong African Muslim population in France that now comprise almost 11% of the total population of 60 million.

Although first generation immigrants in France lived as second-class citizens, the second generation, born and raised in France, is not willing to accept that discrimination. These new French citizens are forced to live in ghettos spread across the outskirts of Paris. Predominant Muslim, these populations have over 60% unemployment rate, three times that of the national average, with no opportunity to socially blend with the larger French culture. As a culturally rich nation with almost a thousand year history, the French have tried to hold on to their culture; jealously guarding against integration of other cultures into its own.

France as an economy is in a deep recession, which has further fuelled the divide among various social classes and raised ethnic tensions. France’s immigrant children feel an identity crisis; feeling no real association to either their parent’s culture or to the country they were born in. This combination of lost identity and lack of economic well being created a social time bomb waiting to be ignited. An error of judgment by law enforcement authorities sparked the anger when Police killed two young men, mistaking them for criminals fleeing from a crime scene.

Another social time bomb waiting to explode is in Germany where Turkish immigrants, even after almost three generations are not allowed to integrate with the larger German culture. They are at the lowest economic and social level. It is only a matter of time when young German’s of Turkish descent take a clue from French riots and pursue the same tactics to claim their rights in the society they live in.

The US on the other hand is considered a melting pot where people from all over the world are allowed to avail economic opportunity without any prejudice of race, color, creed, sex or religious preference. This is what is classified as an American Dream. The founding fathers realized that US should always get fresh ideas and foreign blood to keep itself vibrant. They ensured this through the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights in the US constitution giving equal rights to all citizens born or naturalized who pledge their allegiance to the US regardless of their heritage. The success of this American experience, after over 200 years of history, can be contributed to the combination of policies, social structure and economic fabric.

All this, however, changed after 911 when policy makers decided to depart from the main tenants of the American Dream and vision of the founding fathers by taking away civil liberties in certain clauses of the Patriot Act, as part of the solution to prevent such tragedies. The Patriot Act will become permanent at the end of this year. There is already talk of creating a nation of two classes of citizens. Children born to certain classes of immigrants will not be given equal citizen rights. If these bills are passed, it will be a final nail in the coffin of the American Dream, and one that will adversely affect the US image of being a beacon of equal rights. With legitimization of discrimination and without equal opportunity to all, the social structure of this country will be severely weakened. Scientific circles are already worried about the departure of intellectuals from US to their native countries or other immigrant-friendly countries. The founder of Intel, Gordon Moore, in an interview suggested in good humor that the US should staple a Green Card to each PhD degree awarded to a foreign student.

It is important for all immigrant communities to be politically active especially in registering their votes and participating in elections by casting their votes. We should also form political action committees to identify best candidates seeking office and also form lobbying organizations. Immigrant communities can make better their situation in their adopted homeland by having a voice.Globalization means less immigration throughout the world but the politics prevent this vision to be realized. In today’s world the globe is increasingly divided along ethnic and sectarian lines. All of us migrate for better economic opportunities for our future generations and ourselves. If the Government of our adopted country is unwilling to do much for us, we must try to improve conditions for ourselves. We cannot afford to sit idle on the sidelines; we must get involved in the political process.

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