Saturday, February 24, 2007

Withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq - NOW

Britain and Australia are withdrawing their troops from Iraq. I guess they have finally realized the futility of this mission. The U.S. on the other hand is increasing its troop strength. There was a time when increased troops could have helped and that was immediately after the occupation of Baghdad, but now it is way too late.

The continued occupation and presence of U.S. troops is strengthening the hands of insurgents by providing them a rallying cry. It also helps them recruit angry young Iraqis who have lost a father, brother, sister or mother to this war.

Many politicians argue that withdrawal will result in chaos in Iraq. Well isn't there chaos in Iraq now? Similar concerns were expressed before withdrawing from Vietnam, but look at Vietnam now. It is a progressive country with a booming economy. In Iraq most probably things will deteriorate before getting better, but ultimately things will work out and Iraqis need to resolve their own problems. There are many a sensible people amongst the Shias, Sunnis & Kurds who will in the end prevail in bringing together a coalition government which respects the rights of all.

It is futile to expect Congress to take a lead on this. After enthusiastically supporting the war, Republicans do not know where to look now and the Democrats are guilty of doublespeak and no one really knows where they stand.

This is President Bush's war and the sooner he realizes that there is nothing he can do for Iraq, the better.

Mr. President bring the troops home from Iraq - NOW.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Scourge of Suicide Bombing

It is insane that young people give their lives through suicide bombings because some extremists whip up their emotions to a frenzy. Suicide bombing is a relatively recent phenomena.

In recent history, the first suicide bombing that I can recall was in 1991 when the handsome ex-Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi had his life snuffed out by a young Sri Lankan woman who blew herself up and him with her. Gandhi at the time was only 47 years old and apparently had a long political life ahead of him.

This craze then caught on with the young Palestinians and of late with not so young ones when a 64 year old grandmother blew herself up. Since then, this craze has spread to Iraq killing thousands of people and then to Afghanistan and now more recently to Pakistan.

Islam & the Koran explicitly forbid suicide in so much as it says that anyone committing suicide or taking the life of innocent people is destined to hell. The question for the Muslim world then is why are so many Muslims involved in suicide bombings? Mostly Muslims are killing Muslims. It is time for the Islamic scholars to come out openly and vocally against suicide bombings so that young impressionable men and women who are being used by the extremists are discouraged from these horrendous acts.

Unfortunately, the world seems to link terrorism with Islam. But terrorists have no religion. A terrorist is a terrorist regardless of his religion. It is time that terrorists are separated from Islam and the Muslim scholars of Al-Azhar (Egypt) and other countries stand up and have their voice heard to put an end to this scourge.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Middle East Peace

In the last six years Middle East peace has been a low priority for this Administration. In fact even Bill Clinton did not pay serious attention to it until the last few weeks of his Presidency and he ran out of time. Had he started six months earlier, he may well have been successful.

The question now is what is President Bush going to do in his last two years of Presidency? The Iraq war is likely to be over before the end of 2008 and from where things stand today, historians will not paint a pretty picture of this adventure. President Bush can leave a legacy that will be remembered for years to come. He can do that by making a major push for Middle East peace.

The peace plan presented by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is a reasonable one. Israelis scoffed at it initially but after the Lebanon debacle they are showing willingness to consider it. In the words of an Israeli Minister "it is a starting point". If this plan can be implemented, doors of all Muslim countries will open up to Israel for trade and diplomacy. Also the forever vilification of U.S. will come to an end.

The plan calls for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and two states of equal status side by side living in peace with no further claims on each other's territory. Those Palestinians who have claims to return to Israel can be be housed in the settlements Israel vacates in the West Bank.

This requires a bigger sacrifice from Israel as they took over these territories in the 1967 Six Day War started rather stupidly by President Nasser of Egypt and other Arab states with an intent to push Israel into the sea, but resulted in them losing this territory. What Israel would get in the bargain is a chance for peaceful co-existence with neighbouring states and an end to this non-ending war.

President Bush should seek the help of his father as this is way beyond Condi Rice and other Administration officials. Bush Sr. is well respected in the Middle East and has close personal relations with the Saudi King. A peace dialogue can be hosted in Saudi Arabia or Jordan and must also include Hamas which is a legitimately elected Palestinian Government. If the U.S. is not comfortable talking to Hamas let Saudis do that. History shows us that peace is never achieved by excluding extremists as moderates alone cannot not sell a plan to the majority. Remember Menachem Begun, he was declared a terrorist once and went on to become Prime Minister of Israel and made peace with Egypt & Jordan and U.S. had no qualms about talking to him!

Enough human blood has been shed over the last 60 years. Too much despair is in the air and the world owes this region peace so that States and people opt for human and economic development rather than latest methods of killing.

President Bush has the time, the opportunity and a chance to leave an ever lasting legacy. If he can accomplish this, Iraq war will not even show up on history's radar screen.