Thursday, 31 July 2008

Well fuck me with a hot wire brush and Jeyes Fluid.

And all their names and family names were taken.

One Hundred Hindered Flowers.

Adolph loved to smell the Bloom’s.

And Uncle Joe would show court.

Mao though just liked shagging weans (No kids allowed).

Go on make the connections between the great big points.

That is correct the guys who made the bog paper for the guys that wiped the arses of the guys who made the shine for the guys who carried the kit for the guys who did the shoe shining of the guys schmokin’ in The Big Room.

In the hundred flowers a million weeds did grow.

Just like the Ausphart.

This is now a matter of record.

As a student of Chinese and American history, I am appalled by Henry C K Liu's columnDemon and deity [Mar 31]. To claim that [Abraham] Lincoln's "assault on due process was more violent than Mao's" is incredible. I believe Mao [Zedong] did intend to produce a strong and socially egalitarian China. But to compare his methods with Lincoln's shows a gross lack of proportion. Lincoln temporarily suspended some freedoms during wartime and allowed his generals to burn Southern cities. Mao, however, allowed millions to starve during the Great Leap Forward and thousands more to be tortured and hounded to death in the Cultural Revolution. He betrayed and imprisoned old comrades like Peng Dehuai and Liu Shaoqi when they patriotically pointed out that his policies were hurting the people, and he never allowed any liberty except during the Hundred Flowers movement, after which those who had sought to exercise their freedom of speech were sent to work camps. Even if one were to put aside Mao's internal party purges, some of which occurred during wartime, to compare the twin holocausts of the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution to Lincoln's allowing some Southern cities to be burned and arresting a few of his critics for the duration of the war is ignorant and offensive. Finally, it's foolish to believe either revisionist Western scholars or Marxists who maintain that the United States Civil War was really about economics and not about the moral issue of slavery. Politicians in the South led their states in secession precisely because of Lincoln and the Republican Party's position on slavery. There were real economic conflicts between North and South. But the reason for the Southern states' secession, and the impassioned moral rift between Northern abolitionists and Southern slaveowners, was clear. Lincoln had said in 1858 that "this nation cannot endure permanently half slave and half free", and his election in 1860 precipitated Southern flight from the Union. Among other things, Mr Liu is guilty of believing Americans' complaints about the shortcomings of American democracy (and there are many) without putting them in context. Anyone who has lived in both the US and China could tell you that the United States' democracy is more representative of the interests of the people than China's government is, that the American people enjoy more liberty, and that the weaker are abused less by the strong in the United States than they are in China. Although I share many Western analysts' optimism that Premier Wen [Jiabao] and President Hu [Jintao] are progressives who will slowly move China towards the rule of law and that they are concerned about the plight of China's most disadvantaged, they face enormous challenges. Today in "communist China", instead of the party representing the working class's interests, in fact money rules, judges can be bought by the powerful, and journalists are intimidated and imprisoned for writing about corruption. I am surprised that Mr Liu, who apparently owns a New York-based company and was educated at Harvard, doesn't know the difference.
Daniel Tobin
Washington, DC (Mar 31, '04)

Henry C K Liu, chairman of the New York-based Liu Investment Group, would do well to invest in a set of history books [Mao and Lincoln Part 1: Demon and deity, Mar 31]. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/FC31Ad02.html If he made such an investment and proceeded to open said books, he might learn that setting China on "the path to renewed greatness" led to the death by starvation of 30 million Chinese peasants and the complete impoverishment of a once great nation through campaigns known as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. No one who cares about the welfare and dignity of Chinese people could falsely characterize the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution as the "path to renewed greatness" as Mr Liu did. China's modern path to greatness began only when Deng Xiaoping tossed Marxism on its ear in favor of privatizing and capitalizing China's economy. Undoubtedly Mr Liu would disagree with that as well, since he stated, "The enemy is the ownership of capital and the elaborate systems that supports [sic] this immoral concept" on April 21, 1999 on www.leninism.org (http://www.leninism.org/stream/99/mll/0421-2-henliu.asp). This whitewash of the greatest debacles in the history of socialism could only be overlooked by a person whose belief in Marxism transcends logic, reason and reality, and has reached the very pinnacles of religious zealotry. Even Wen Jiabao does not attempt to portray himself as a sycophant to the killer of 30 million Chinese.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 31, '04)


Your continued publication of Henry C K Liu's shamefully revisionist, marathon rants must [be] part of a grand strategy to solicit reader letters. Comparing Mao [Zedong] to [Abraham] Lincoln would be laughable were it not so utterly repulsive [Mao and Lincoln Part 1: Demon and deity, Mar 31]. Mao was arguably the single greatest source of human suffering in the 20th century. He was responsible for the deaths of more Chinese people than Chiang Kai-shek and the Imperial Japanese Army combined. How dare Henry Liu compare Mao's decades of terror and fanatical butchery to Lincoln's police actions and restrictions of civil rights - regrettable as they were - during the American Civil War? Lincoln and his successors restored the [US] constitution after the war's end. China's leaders are still cleaning up Mao's destruction 28 years after his death. After years of producing such rubbish, one can't help but speculate that Mr Liu is a paid agent of the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party. Xinhua News Agency is a much more appropriate venue for his writings than Asia Times Online.
Tony B Graham
Singapore (Mar 31, '04)


Henry C K Liu's article Mao and Lincoln Part 1: Demon and deity [Mar 31] is a sobering reminder that servile laudation is still possible as a genre of writing in our age, which I thought was a bygone literary subject, regularly practiced and perfected by slavish imperial subjects to eulogize their emperors. The laudatory mantra that Mr Liu has heaped on Mao [Zedong] and Wen Jiabao is "unbashfully" sincere. But one questions its propriety in the grand design of Liu's ambitious composition. Instead, it exposes the very site of the heart of Liu's discourse. That is: the "I and thou" dialogic relationship between Liu and Mao and Mao's current successor, Premier Wen. This, in essence, is a deeply quasi-religious experience to Liu and cannot be understood by an individual whose parents jumped off a highrise in Shanghai during the Chinese Cultural Revolution because of the unbearable persecutions suffered from the Maoists. It is also beyond the comprehension of any of those thousands of currently orphaned children from Henan province whose parents have perished from the AIDS epidemic. It can hardly be construed as a boost to the morale of the retirees in northeastern China, who are having a hard time finding money to pay their heat bill. Mr Liu, as the saying goes, talk is cheap!
Chunhui Yang
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 31, '04)


I found Henry Liu's [Mar 31] article [Mao and Lincoln Part 1: Demon and deity] an interesting way of looking at the recent history of China by cross-referencing it with feudalism, Confucianism and Taoism. As mentioned in the Tiananmen Papers, "imperial traditions seemed to weigh heavily on their socialist minds". I digress, however, on many of his points. Theory is dealt with a lot in the article, but unfortunately practice and reality hardly get a look in. Mao [Zedong] had an autocratic style. Think about what happened to Peng Dehuai, for example. With Mao, everything revolved around preserving his own power and personality cult. Reference to him in the present day is merely for propaganda. He should be rightly demonized for his actions, which judging by today's policies shows he mostly did the wrong thing. Granted he did not set out to kill all those people during the One Hundred Flowers, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. However, he was uncaring in attitude once he learned of the consequences. The fact is that his legacy is one of suspicion and mistrust of Chinese toward each other (in contrast to welcoming attitudes and friendliness towards foreigners). Money rules everything, and no one talks about politics or anything else in China because of a lasting culture of fear Mao created. Under him, no one was rich, so in a way you are correct when you say he created greater equality. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] relies on the army to stay in power. [Chinese] friends of mine told me how in school they were taught that the constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, etc but that teachers would go on to warn them to be careful of what they said in public. No amount of "urging" by a leader for greater respect for rule of law will actually bring this about as long as the system remains as it is. It encourages vested interests and dishonesty. Morality is and should be an elective issue. Unaccountability is certainly immoral. The Gang of Four thought they were above the law, but in truth this is still the case of many of today's officials. And finally, the Three Represents theory may be important to Henry Liu, but I must tell him that people in China do nothing but laugh or frown at it. All the above from practical experience in China serves to demonstrate how theories he mentions apply very differently from how he wishes to believe.
Peter Mitchelmore
Calgary, Alberta (Mar 31, '04)


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/FC31Ad02.htmlIn re [Mao and Lincoln] Part 1: Demon and deity [Mar 31] by Henry Liu: Sure, [Abraham] Lincoln had his problems and there are many interesting things to be learned from postmodern re-examinations of Lincoln's story (like his alleged homosexuality). But worse than Mao [Zedong]? That's willful distortion. And unlike breathless speculations about what Lincoln and Josh Speed did together when they shared bed (which they indisputably did, for a very long time), Mr Liu's foolishness is not even funny. While I'm sure that all who read your publication are smart, many of your younger readers may not be familiar with the unspeakable atrocities proactively committed on so many millions of people in Mao's name. Or if they are, they may not understand the nuances of the political situation in the late 1850s that led to the election of Lincoln but made the election of a more "radical" abolitionist impossible. Or that the "dreadful calculus" that was the atrocity of our Civil War was begun by slaveholders, continued by slaveholders, and exacerbated by slaveholders, fighting for a way of life that not only condoned slave-owning, but celebrated it. Look, I'm all for the propagation of the strangest of ideas. Nevertheless, you owe your readers a reality check from a real historian, one whose feet are not firmly planted on the shoreline of an ancient Martian sea. Although frankly, if I were a qualified historian, I would have nothing to do with a publication that printed such nonsense as Mr Liu's.
Richard Einhorn (Mar 31, '04)

Who is a qualified historian, and qualified by whom? Nowadays we see history, even events just weeks or days old, being spun into almost unrecognizable forms to suit the powerful. This is not new; George Orwell wrote in 1944, "History is written by the winners." Henry C K Liu's version of history is always provocative, but it is also often a version embraced by the most populous country on the planet - should we not at least familiarize ourselves with it before we brand it "nonsense"? "Official" Western history on alleged villains such as Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-il and Saddam Hussein is published ad nauseam. Those of us who are comfortable with conventionally accepted history are not afraid to read someone else's alternative - which may explain why ATol's most controversial writers are often also the most read. - ATol


I think Antoaneta Bezlova is totally right [Reunification fast becoming fiction, Mar 31]. One has to be realistic that peaceful reunification [of mainland China and Taiwan] is only a distant, if not unrealistic, dream for now. With the KMT [Kuomintang] dying a slow death, and with the disintegration of the very old Republic of China in Taiwan that soon will be unplugged by Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan independence seems more realistic in the near future. I feel sad, because reunification is the dream of many Chinese, including me. Not only the separatists on Taiwan can be blamed, but also the Chinese patriots on Taiwan who have failed to protect their China and cannot stop the process of its destruction, but also the mainland Taiwan specialists who portray a gloomy picture for the Beijing leadership of de facto reunification by economic integration. Unfortunately, economics is not everything, and nationalism is a very strong force. Now the choice is clear for China: Will it act now or will it keep barking like a dog until it's too late?
J Zhang
The Netherlands (Mar 31, '04)


I am wondering if Antoaneta Bezlova had ever been to China or Taiwan [Reunification fast becoming fiction, Mar 31]. Antoaneta Bezlova stated that China is trying to block the news from Taiwan. With more than a million Taiwanese [living] in China and another million [in] transit in between, how can China block any news from Taiwan? Antoaneta Bezlova is lying. The recent defeat of the pro-independence referendum demonstrates that the majority Taiwanese are not hostile to China. Chen's efforts of generating a new Taiwanese race only created a divided Taiwan. Taiwan is too small of an island to counter China as a whole. Now it is so divided. The unification is getting closer than ever. This may be too hard to understand by Antoaneta Bezlova. However, it is very clear for anybody who [has] read Chinese history.
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 31, '04)

Antoaneta Bezlova is an Inter Press Service correspondent based in Beijing. - ATol


I believe [that] in the interests of all people, your story on the real reason for the Iraq war [Iraq invaded 'to protect Israel' - US official, Mar 31] should be sent to every news outlet in the world. People may get a true feeling as to the cause of Mideast strife after reading it. It opened my eyes and I thank you for it.
Jack Simpson
Ontario, Canada (Mar 31, '04)


Pepe [Escobar]'s commentaries have off and on been condemned for their so-called "one-sidedness" as well as their non-complimentary [interpretations of the realities of] US/Israel views [Roadmap to hell, Mar 27]. A retired captain in Apple Valley, California, writes in part [Mar 29], "every Palestinian family that is willing to work and earn a real house instead of a tent ... [should be able to do so]". And an Eric from Tennessee [Mar 29] snidely intimates as to the origins of Pepe. Extrapolating from both, one is tempted to ask: (1) Why is where one is born so important in writing on issues in the Middle East? Obviously the editor of ATol publishes letters and comments from the two individuals mentioned even though they are quite distant from the region in question. (2) Why does the captain from [California] through his tax dollars pay for the housing of emigrants to Israel and not do the same for the Palestinians? The principal issue is that a "native population" has been and is still being pushed out and replaced by a non-native population with whether we like it or not US financial and military assistance. Maybe if Eric and the captain put themselves in the place of those being pushed out they may not be as critical and condemning of Mr Escobar. Keep it coming, Pepe.
ADeL (Mar 31, '04)


In response to Ken Wilson of New Jersey's comments [letter , Mar 30] on Pepe Escobar's article Roadmap to hell (Mar 27): Many others in addition to Mr Wilson are deeply troubled about the tragic cycle of violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Innocent people on both sides have suffered immensely. Pain and horror cannot be measured; however, the grim statistics state - with no prejudice to any human - an unavoidable fact. Since September 2000, for the same time period, these deaths occurred:
• Israeli casualties: 956 people have been killed by Palestinian violence and terrorism (figure taken from Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website).
• Palestinian casualties: 2,802 people have been killed by Israeli violence and terrorism (figure taken from Palestine Red Crescent Society website).

These figures present the unavoidable fact death is occurring at a rate of roughly a ratio of 3:1. Three times more Palestinians are dying than Israelis. (And Israelis also use bombs to kill, Mr Wilson. They just come from warplanes instead of backpacks.) What horrible statistics! And in view of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's recent assassination of Sheikh Yassin, these figures are expected to rise. In anguish we question when the death and dying over the land will ever reach "Enough!"
John Dunne
USA (Mar 31, '04)


For starters, I consider ATol to [be] the best news analysis outside North America and Europe, and have recommended it to several friends and foes alike. However, I demand an apology to those of us of African ancestry for using racist language to characterize Africa, calling it the "Dark Continent" [Africa: Oil, al-Qaeda and the US military, Mar 30]. If Africa is underdeveloped, it is primarily because Europeans had a technological lead and Christian theology that allowed them [to] enslave and colonize an entire continent. Regardless of the role Africans played, Europe was an accomplice to and beneficiary of the worst human crime, with the blessing of her Christian savior-missionaries. It was Africa's lost battle since Africans had no WMD [weapons of mass destruction] to counter the warlike Europeans. Africans are not subhuman, not genetically or histo-culturally. Africa has a glorious history that predates classical Greece and will have a better century than recent ones. Admittedly, she has to modernize in her own Afro-centric manner and integrate her economies (as soon as she kicks out the axes of evil - IMF [International Monetary Fund], World Bank, and WTO [World Trade Organization]). Also, taking a cue from China and India, she will no doubt need WMD to safeguard her citizens. Watch your language!
Roy
USA (Mar 30, '04)

The expression (which is derived from the title of Henry Stanley's 1878 book Through the Dark Continent) was used in the summary to back up the article's contention that the US administration's interest in Africa is oil and nothing else. From Washington's point of view, it is indeed a dark continent, and only its "black gold" is worth a second thought. Incidentally, the ATol editor responsible for the wording of the summary was born and raised in KwaZulu/Natal province of South Africa, and is proud of it. - ATol


It was with great interest that I clicked on the headline of the article by Ritt Goldstein,Africa: Oil, al-Qaeda, and the US military [Mar 30]. I found the article fascinating, but I was also disappointed. I had expected to find a reference to the frustrated coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea. I've heard very little about it after the initial stories of South African mercenaries being arrested in Zimbabwe and in Equatorial Guinea. But one interesting thing I did learn was that the company the mercenaries contracted with was somehow connected to the US via some circuitous route. I'd like to know more, please!
Mark Brooks
Austin, Texas (Mar 30, '04)

We ran this particular article because it spoke to broader issues that lie within Ritt Goldstein's area of expertise, but Equatorial Guinea is a bit too far beyond our Asian beat for us to grapple with in depth. - ATol


Thanks for Siddharth Srivastava's entertaining article on dhabas [Dhabas: Not for the faint of heart, Mar 27]. It reminds me of some of my favorite places in China. Certainly the article is a welcome relief from the horrors of political news.
Lester Ness
Putian, China (Mar 30, '04)


In response to Pepe Escobar's article Roadmap to hell [Mar 27]: One only needs to ask, which side blows up buses full of children and which side targets ringleaders and masterminds? Everything Israel does is to prevent the murder-obsessed Palestinians from carrying out their cruel atrocities. Palestinian terrorists deliberately aim for the greatest number of civilian casualties. Mass death is their unambiguous objective. The greater the bloodletting of Israeli civilians, young and old, the more intensive Arab rejoicing. Mobs whoop and dance in the streets and fire guns in the air. There's no restraining their glee, no hiding their bloodthirsty joy. I hope [Sheikh] Yassin did not die instantly. I hope he felt the pain of his limbs being torn off, just [like] the hundreds of Jews who had their limbs torn off by homicide bombers. Watching CNN showing [Palestinians] crying and moaning in the streets - I guess they're not handing out sweets, like they do when [Palestinian] terrorists murder Israeli civilians. Oh no. Israel's really done it now. Hamas vows revenge. They may stoop to even worse terror attacks, such as outfitting a 10-year-old with a bomb, blowing up buses, discos, pizzerias, Passover seders and hitting public places where young people hang out. I bet they might even now try to target innocent women and children. When Yassin was killed, he was in a car. Now he knows how all the Jews he ordered massacred on buses feels. The PR shots of him in his wheelchair will be remembered by those that don't see the crippled bodies of all those that he ordered to be bombed by Hamas. Yassin was a mass murderer of the same ilk as Saddam Hussein. Saddam never killed a Kurd, he just inspired others to do his dirty work. Tell us, which do you think was Yassin's greatest accomplishment:
1. Bombing a Passover seder?
2. Bombing a disco?
3. Bombing various city buses?
4. Or bombing a restaurant owned by an Israeli Arab, thereby killed Jews and Arabs together?
In response to Pepe calling Jenin a massacre. Another lie by Pepe. I advise him to read this article which shows the truth. www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12276 There was no massacre.
Ken Wilson
New Jersey, USA (Mar 30, '04)


Re: Bush and Blair on the rationalization trail [Feb 5]. Asia Times Online contributor Tibor Machan states: "... At this point many will bring up [Adolf] Hitler, yet that would be misguided. Hitler's ally, Japan, attacked the US, and that was an open invitation to go after him - at least if that's how it actually played itself out. If your best friend comes at me, and you urge him on and support him, you become fair game in my attempt to defend myself. Nothing like that happened in the case of Iraq." No, it didn't. Tibor Machan's point is valid. Understanding this rationale explains precisely how the rest of the globe - and the Arab world in particular - views the US for its support of Israel, choosing to ignore UN sanctions against the illegal occupation of Gaza and West Bank. Same theory, just different geography.
John Dunne
Dubuque, Iowa (Mar 30, '04)


Dear Spengler: Thank you very much for your columns and responses to readers' letters. I find them illuminating (no, I don't burn them) and enjoyable. Keep writing!
Deborah Zippel (Mar 30, '04)


Ken Moreau wrote a letter dated March 26 which appeared to me to be both highly prejudicial and stupid. He wrote both the Palestinians and Israelis are "terrorists". He wrote that Israel is a rich and powerful country and that the Twin Towers [of New York's World Trade Center] were a symbol of "Jewish economic power". He wrote the US should cut all aid to Israel or make equal aid to the Palestinians. Ken, I have a surprise for you. There are rich, middle class and poor Jews and Israelis! The Twin Towers had thousands of Christian, Muslim and Jewish people in them [when they were destroyed on September 11, 2001]. Those who purposely target civilian men, women and children are terrorists, like Hamas, al-Aqsa and Islamic Jihad (and al-Qaeda). Armies that fight terrorists and do not target civilians are defense forces for their citizens. Besides the Palestinian terrorists, Israel also faces threats from Syria and Iran and Lebanon and others. The US aids Israel because it's the only country in the entire Middle East, Persian Gulf and North Africa where all religions can vote and get elected to parliament and freely practice their religion. Many Americans are also inspired that despite attempts by Israel's neighbors for decades to destroy it (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973), it survives as a military power in the region. What is holding back peace is the refusal of Palestinian leadership to stand up to the terrorists who thrive in their areas.
Ben Green
USA (Mar 30, '04)


Re India doubting its US 'strategic partnership', Mar 27. I am a regular reader and appreciate [this] article by Sultan Shaheen. It is thought-provoking and full of information. I congratulate you and your team for the excellent content you have been publishing on your [website], which is a great source of knowledge for millions of readers.
Hidayat Khan
London, England (Mar 29, '04)


Thanks to Pepe Escobar for toeing the Fatah line in referencing the "Jenin Massacre" [Roadmap to hell, Mar 27]. Also thanks for uncovering the fact that the hit on Sheikh Yassin is the culmination of the Sharonian plan commenced in 1982 to provoke the Palestinians into being transferred to Iraq. Ironic, isn't it, that they will be weeping by the Rivers of Babylon. Finally, thanks, Pepe, for pointing out that a temporary truce is just as good as a peace settlement. I hadn't realized that until you explained it. Keep up the excellent, unbiased, non-partisan, clear-sighted reporting.
Ceasar Barrone
Nova Scotia, Canada (Mar 29, '04)


With great respect to [Pepe] Escobar [Roadmap to hell, Mar 27], I believe that he is in serious error when he says that there is not nor could there be a moderate, secular government for Israel to negotiate with for peace. Note that the "Palestinian Authority" has engaged in negotiations many times lately from the "Oslo Accords" to the Wye River negotiations under former [US] president [Bill] Clinton. It is reported that [then Israeli] prime minister [Ehud] Barak was willing to give [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat everything except the mass right of return of former Palestinian residents of what is now Israel. Mr Arafat refused the deal. Mr Arafat is also the leader of Fatah. It is Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade that is one of the main terrorist groups affecting Israel. We have had two instances after the conference that President [George W] Bush held with the assistance of [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarak where prime ministers have been appointed (grudgingly) for the Palestinian Authority and then been systematically undermined by Mr Arafat because everybody wanted him out of the picture. Arafat had his chance at Wye River and blew it. But his ego won't allow him to go away quietly. The assassination of Sheik Yassin was stupid. But it is strongly indicative of the frustration of the Israelis, who only want to sleep at night, and ride the bus, and go to the movies and do all the normal human things without always being on alert for homicide bombers. That is the Israeli bottom line. They want to live in a secure Israel. They want to be successful and have their tribal homeland just like the Palestinians. Everyone should note that Jews and Muslims can live together and prosper. Just check out the San Fernando Valley of California. We should also note that the Israelis and the Palestinians are economically tied. Israel needs the labor and the Palestinians need the work. But every time a homicide bomber strikes, or there is a serious alert for a homicide bombing campaign, all of the Palestinian workers upon whom botheconomies depend are prevented from entering Israel or subjected to lengthy searches and other security procedures. In other words, it is in the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians to have peace. But [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, and by extension the United States, refuse to negotiate with Arafat because he doesn't want peace. Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PLFP-General Command, and all the panoply of organizations that exist under the banner of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], all depend on conflict for their existence. They are all political organizations and the leadership of each has a vested interest in continuing conflict. Meanwhile, back in the refugee camps, the vast majority of the Palestinian people are living in squalor because it is politically necessary that they do so. It would be difficult for any of the PLO groups to obtain the sympathy of the misguided of the world if the Palestinian people were living in three-bedroom condos where the refugee camps now exist. It is to everybody's long-term benefit for that to happen. Every Palestinian family that is willing to work and earn a real house instead of a tent or a building made from scrap should be able to do so. There is plenty of work in Israel for the Palestinians. Together they can make a shared homeland out of waste land. The Israelis have the technology and the Palestinians have the people power. Together they can perform miracles in the sand. Now, if the entrenched political interests would just get out of the way.
Richard Radcliffe
Captain, US Air Force (Retired)
Apple Valley, California (Mar 29, '04)


I often like to read varying opinions, both those that I disagree with and those that I do not. It keeps the mind sharp and makes sure one's own perspective is more correct. However, I would really like to know what tragedy has befallen Pepe Escobar and/or his family that he writes such virulent anti-Israeli and anti-American nonsense. Has one of these two countries murdered someone in his family? Is he from Nicaragua or El Salvador? The idea [of] a small nation like Israel being able to take on the whole Muslim world is beyond fantasy. The idea that the Palestinian Authority is secular - equally fantastic. I can't bring myself to read his latest trash even in the interest of knowing how those with whom I disagree think. Nevertheless, I am still curious about his background and what drives him to be so virulently anti-American and prejudiced.
Eric
Nashville, Tennessee (Mar 29, '04)

Pepe Escobar hails from Brazil but is usually based out of Europe; for more information, see The Roving Eye page. - ATol


I just felt I had to say thanks for a great publication. Searching news sources up and down for a better understanding of what exactly is happening in Asia and in the Arabian world, I found your site just a couple of days ago. I was and still am deeply impressed by several of the articles I read, especially on what's happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's actually amazing at what poor level the Western media [are] in regards to information on Central Asia and even the Middle East. What knowledge exists seems to be safely tucked away at governmental institutions and never makes its way to the interested people outside the circles of power. Within those last days Asian Times Online has become a must read for me - checking it every time I'm going online.
U Klammt
Hamburg, Germany (Mar 29, '04)


I have just recently found your website. Thank you for reporting about terrorism from a balanced point of view. I do not believe in killings of any kind, either by the terrorists, the US government, or any one else. (... Terrorists don't know any better, [but] you would hope governments would!) But it is almost impossible in this terribly divided country (US) to find factual truths that are not skewed by emotions. Everything the administration says can be seen to be only the part of the story they care to release, if not lies and cover-ups. It was interesting to hear [Vice President Dick] Cheney trying to refute [former White House counter-terrorism adviser] Richard Clarke's version of events pre September 11 [2001] by saying he "wasn't in the loop", that part of the story is true. (No one from outside the president's own group was "in the loop".) It is refreshing to read your articles and compare them to the mainstream US press (most of which is controlled by Republican Party members). It is also terribly necessary.
Kurt Oldenbrook (Mar 29, '04)


In the article Taiwan: Recounts, fights and shredded democracy [Mar 24], the author, Laurence Eyton, makes a good case for debunking the conspiracy theories and the irrationality behind the claims and actions of the KMT [Kuomintang] leaders, Lien Chan and James Soong. However, his thesis that the current crisis will "shred Taiwan's reputation as a model democracy" couldn't be further from the truth. Taiwan is a young democracy of only 12-15 years. Many of the laws are legacies from the KMT dictatorial era, which was not concerned about democratic practices and processes, so there are inevitably going to be gaps in the legal codes and case laws. The close election exposed these gaps. But the author misses a key point in all the protests of the past week. The very fact that protests can take place, that legal challenges for a close election can be addressed, are evidence that Taiwan's democracy is taking hold and is strengthening. The strength of a democracy lies in its ability to be constantly evolving to adjust to the changing needs of the society through debate and legal challenges, which often results in better legislation or court rulings. This is what is taking place in Taiwan today as they work on resolving this election challenge. Any American can tell you that legal challenges and protests are constantly being waged to address issues ranging from abortion rights to privacy concerns due to technological advances. Taiwan's democracy will only be stronger once this crisis has been resolved because there will be mechanisms in place that will have addressed the issues of close-election challenges. This isn't any different than what happened in the US in the presidential election of 2000, with opposing parties leveling charges of irregularities and no clear laws to address the challenges of either side. Ultimately, it had to be settled by the US Supreme Court. Taiwan has fewer years of experience in democracy than the US but it [is] working on it. Taiwan's reputation will only increase, not diminish, as a result of this crisis.
William Lee
Los Angeles, California (Mar 29, '04)


Spengler's article ['You love life, we love death', Mar 23] was very interesting and thought-provoking. However, one should be aware of the context that religion especially the Abramic religions have regarding resurrection and the rescuing from death. Religion in this context enforces the worship of a singular entity (only one, a "manlike creature") must be worshipped without regard to the possibility that there may be many "gods". Therefore, men run a political and spiritual dictatorship that allows only the worship of a single entity. For this mankind can do what he/she wants without responsibility, completely ignoring cause-and-effect relationships. This is buttressed by having this "god" in control of everything, all the time and everywhere. For the Buddhist, Hindu, Shintoist and Voudoun there is more of an emphasis of being a part of nature. This has a tendency to ignore the one-god idea and man's mission or burden to conquer nature and therefore those of different beliefs. Death in this case becomes a step in the cyclic process of life. Time is not as much of an issue here. The political structure is not as centrally based. For the scientist, life itself appears to be an experiment. The outcome is unknown, but the sense of there being a part of an enlightened group merely depends on your grasp of certain scientific laws or properties. The emphasis here is how are things constructed and how they exist, not identifying what brand of man in the clouds more closely aligns with the human observers' image. An animal existence is mitigated by knowledge and mathematical proof which focuses on the mind, not a 16-inch biceps. Image is not important. Death is not to be feared, it is to be understood. There is no appeasing gods other than the god of knowledge. Life is worth living on its own. Life doesn't need a purpose, it exists on its own. Central characters conducting life like an orchestra are not relevant. The other philosophies (religions) almost always are a means to an end insofar as perpetuating [their] own existence. This always leads to a form of slavery and feelings of supremacy. If you don't worship their images and symbols and accept things only with some sort of proof or strong inferences, then you are no better than unruly nature and you must be penalized. As long as this persists, man is going to always promote a form of insanity. Remember, all "beliefs" whatever they are always have a "lie" in them by definition. As long as we act on these misperceptions we are no better than impulsive desperate and dangerous animals. Thank you for your article.
Interested Reader (Mar 29, '04)


Thank you for resuming the transmission of ATol into my inbox after a break of about one week - I just wondered! Nonetheless, I continued visiting your website on those days to keep ahead of the important world events which are so admirably covered by ATol. As I wrote once before, for me, ATol is a "must read" publication.
Anthony Padman UK (Mar 29, '04)
[Dhruba] Adhikary in India's thirst leaves neighbors gulping [Mar 26] raises several issues that merit debate, especially the ones pertaining to environment. I would add one more to his list, and that is the cost-effectiveness of the solution. What Mr Adhikary seems to miss, however, is the genuine problems faced by India as the lower riparian state and its advantage as an upper riparian state. With regard to Nepal, it is a fact that the annual monsoon floods create havoc in the Indian states of UP [Uttar Pradesh], Bihar and Assam. It is also a fact that a mainly mountainous country like Nepal with its own social, economic and topographic issues has a limited ability to utilize its water resources. As a practical matter, it makes sense for Nepal to use water to generate hydro-electricity and export the surplus to India. Putting power lines through mountains is at best difficult; building canals to channel water is simply impractical. That brings us to Bangladesh. (We can talk about Pakistan but let us leave that for some other time.) Bangladesh has similar problems to India regarding flooding. But just because it has problems, are you suggesting that India should do nothing? Instead of the usual name-calling that is indulged, it can offer some positive tradeoffs to some concerns it may have. Even countries such as Turkey and Syria have built dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and that has surely affected water flows through Iraq. But we live in a world where water has always been diverted by man for benefit. Surely, the gardens of Babylon would not have existed without the elaborate aqueducts. I certainly am no fan of the Indian bureaucracies; however, the Maoism/monarchism of Nepal and military/mullah network of Bangladesh are even of lesser merit than the bad Indian babus.
Ashesh Parikh (Mar 26, '04)


[Re] India's thirst leaves neighbors gulping [Mar 26]. Dhruba Adhikary said in his article, "Indians find it easier to exert pressure on individual neighbors when the deal is on a one-on-one basis - be that with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka." Dhruba Adhikary did not list China as a neighbor to be [pressured] easily. I hope he did not forget that a major portion of the Brahmaputra River is inside China. I am sure if India is going to treat China reasonably, China will cooperate with India over the Brahmaputra River management. But it has to be on [an] equal basis.
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 26, '04)


The article India's thirst leaves neighbors gulping [Mar 26] by Dhruba Adhikary raised some very important and interesting points. Hopefully this madcap scheme of linking rivers left and right will die on the table of the preliminary investigation team. I don't know why people refuse to learn from past mistakes. Massive dams and water diversions have never worked as well as initially claimed, and usually they end up causing a huge ecological mess that causes more problems than any positive contribution from the construction. ATol itself once carried a series of articles that described how China continues to face floods and water shortages (on top of dam-induced water-logging) despite the fact that it houses almost half the world's big dams [The Ruined Land, Aug '03 - links are on the China Page]. There is huge opposition to the river-linking proposal within India and it will hopefully remain an unrealistic dream. At the same time, Adhikary's style of writing seems to smack of unnecessary resentment, thus ruining an otherwise great article. His sweeping statements about bad, pushy, unilaterally acting, selfish Indians who ride roughshod over their poor, innocent, weak neighbors are unfortunately reflective of many people's wishful thinking. The root cause for such attitudes is that India with its sheer size causes fear, and thus resentment, among its smaller neighbors. In fact South Asia used to be, and often still is, referred to as the Indian sub-continent. Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Nepali restaurants in different parts of the world often have to advertise themselves as Indian restaurants. This, coupled with all the illogical boundaries that the British have left us with, means that most of India's neighbors suffer from a serious identity crisis. The only way for them to define themselves is to aggressively assert that they are not India, and to avoid anything to do with India - including cooperation on any kind of issue. A government that signs any kind of pact with India is instantly labeled an Indian stooge by the opposition. This is such a political hot potato that very few deals ever managed to get hammered out. Considering the huge problems that all countries in South Asia face, it is perfectly normal for politicians in surrounding countries to pass the buck by attributing all problems to the ugly Indians, and to get votes by whipping up sentiment with inflammatory speeches. However, such attitudes are not expected from serious journalists. Nice article otherwise.
Amit Sharma
Roorkee, India (Mar 26, '04)


The March 26 article by Ritt Goldstein, 'Al-Qaeda has got it wrong', actually has a couple things not quite right itself ... the author seems to confuse several different terrorist groups. From what he writes, it seems that Mr Goldstein actually means to be highlighting the recent analysis efforts of Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the Egyptian group - not Jemaah Islamiya, the East Asia al-Qaeda affiliate. Both Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) - sometimes called al-Jihad or Islamic Jihad - and Gama'a al-Islamiyya or Islamic Group trace their roots to the Muslim Brotherhood: both developed more or less simultaneously along parallel lines in the Egyptian prisons during the 1960s and 1970s and both were implicated in the 1981 assassination of president Anwar Sadat. The two groups formed a major alliance that remained mostly intact until 1987 when Gama'a al-Islamiyya first began calling for moredawa activity while EIJ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri insisted on pursuing the jihadi approach, taking it and his followers to Afghanistan. Ayman al-Zawahiri, now al-Qaeda's No 2, has been leader of EIJ since his years in prison after the 1981 Sadat assassination when he inherited the leadership role by his defiant, vocal confrontations with Egyptian authorities and Western journalists as well as his strong leadership qualities. He joined forces with Osama bin Laden in Peshawar and later Afghanistan in the 1980s, formally uniting in 1998. Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman ("the blind sheikh") was the leader of Gama'a al-Islamiyya and now is in jail for involvement with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. It is Gama'a al-Islamiyya that later won notoriety for its 1997 attack on tourists at Luxor. After that, however, the ideology and tactics of the group changed for good and it entered into a formal ceasefire agreement with the Egyptian government in 1999. Not so EIJ, of course. For them and for Zawahiri, 1997 marked a year of ideological transformation as Zawahiri and bin Laden increasingly merged their strengths and their thinking, leading up to their 1998 official unification and declaration of the International Front for Jihad on Jews and Crusaders under bin Laden's leadership. The split between Gama'a al-Islamiyya and the EIJ was complete and irreversible from this point onward. Also, the Ottoman Empire signed an armistice to end World War I in 1918; in 1922, Kemal Ataturk officially abolished the Turkish Sultanate; and in 1924, he abolished the Caliphate. The Muslim Brotherhood was indeed formed by Hasan al-Banna in 1928. Finally, Jemaah Islamiya is an East Asian terror group based in Indonesia which has links to al-Qaeda, but nothing to do with the Egyptian groups, except as their paths probably have crossed in Afghanistan, the training camps and so forth. Despite these minor points, I found Mr Goldstein's article interesting, as I had not known of the existence of Gama'a al-Islamiyya's critical analysis of al-Qaeda before - that they produced such criticism is not surprising, however, as it confirms the by-now-profound ideological divisions among the Egyptian terrorist groups that developed from the Muslim Brotherhood. Thank you to Asia Times Online as well for a quality and informative site, which I visit often.
Clare M Lopez
Senior Intelligence Analyst
HawkEye Systems LLC
Alexandria, Virginia (Mar 26, '04)

Mr Goldstein certainly meant the Egyptian outfit - apparent confusion might result from the spelling adopted. - ATol


Congratulations on your excellent article The evangelical roots of US unilateralism [Mar 26]. US fundamentalism is very important in US affairs, both domestic and foreign, yet is little understood abroad, especially the role played by interpretations of biblical prophecies.
Lester Ness
Putian, Fujian, China (Mar 26, '04)


After reading Mac William Bishop's Taiwan opposition set for a shakeup [Mar 26], I must say I feel sorry for Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, in his handling of the crisis in front of the presidential palace. Instead of carrying out his duty as the chief executive officer of Taipei city to execute measures that will put a stop to the travesty which is being carried out by his party boss, Ma willingly dances along the pan-blue alliance choreographs which have shown anything but consistency and sound judgment, underwritten by a seditious agenda which aims at achieving one's political gains at all cost, even if it means to create chaos and a general economic meltdown and, worst of all, even if it means to risk the precious lives of the Taiwanese people in an eventual ethnic conflict. Ma, although an intelligent executive and a political figure with an impeccable record of integrity, is behaving muddle-headed and has lost his good judgment in dealing his conflict of interest in this election issue. One sympathizes with his position as a "sandwiched man". Yet one would expect him to make a wise choice with resolve to pledge loyalty first to his city and second to his party. This means that he would dispense measures that would quickly disperse the emotional crowds in front of the presidential palace and let the judicial branch handle the election controversy drummed up by his party boss. (Why lose faith in the competency of the current judicial structure and process which was designed by the KMT [Kuomintang] and within which Ma was once a prominent figure?) This being done, Ma will be able to demonstrate to the Taiwanese people and the world that he is no longer a political suckling and has weaned himself from the poisonous KMT paps, which in the past secreted tyranny and corruption, and at the moment is oozing out a most nauseous and acrid bile of seditious contention. Moreover, this gesture will further foster an unprecedented trust in Ma's integrity and ensure his political career to remain healthy even after the party boss is long gone with all his ridiculous and fickle tricks in taunting the elected president into doing something foolish and dragging the whole nation into the abyss of uncertainty. Consequently, his "election is sure" as the next president of Taiwan in the year 2008! Most assuredly, I will vote for him.
Chunhui Yang
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 26, '04)


Regarding Laurence Eyton's March 24 article on Recounts, fist fights, shredded democracy, he is beginning to sound more like a DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] spokesman. This is unfortunate, as he used to offer some interesting independent opinions. While it is natural that everyone is now looking at the ruckus concerning the Taiwan elections, we should not forget the long-term implications. We should encourage from this election the benefits that it can offer (though the current election is probably a negative demonstration): (a) Peaceful transfer of power (through the ballot box), (b) Due process of the law by an independent judiciary and (c) Participation of the people. In time, when future elections are held properly, this can demonstrate to the mainland Chinese that a vibrant democracy can be held without engendering chaos and social instability. After all, they have been indoctrinated that democracy is a Western ill - along with the historical damage caused by the Western (American, British, French, German, Portuguese and Russian) and Japanese imperialists. In addition, the republic experienced under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was rife with corruption and chaos. Seen through the above, one can understand the 1989 Tiananmen incident was unsupported by the masses who saw the protesters as troublemakers and criminals. In the same manner, they see Taiwan as a lost child forcibly taken away by the Japanese, and is now having his head filled with woolly-headed ideas to perpetuate the separation from the motherland. Further intervention by external parties (good-intentioned or otherwise) will only serve to strengthen the hardliners in the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army. Perhaps that is why while the Taiwanese would naturally want to have more say about their future, they were not interested about the referendum, as this would have been a needless provocation. Therefore, whatever the results might be, there should be a peaceful recount to settle the issue. As Taiwan matures and evolves, this might encourage the people and the reformers to experiment further with representative democracy. Perhaps when both are more alike a peaceful reunification can be brought about (unless there are other powers-that-be that think otherwise).
Tan Hai San
Singapore (Mar 26, '04)


Pepe Escobar wrote (Shock and Awe, from Mesopotamia to Madrid, Mar 19) that "March 11, 2004, in Europe was a direct consequence of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, as much as September 11, 2001, in the United States was a direct consequence of US foreign policy in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. The tragedy - as well as the jihad - will go on." Here he takes the age-old position of blaming the victims for their murder. That's like saying the Jews in Spain were burned at the stake because they didn't leave or fully convert to Christianity during the Inquisition, and not to blame those who killed them. To purposely target civilians for killing is inexcusable, period. Jealousy or religious hatred or political reasons are no excuse at all. Pepe would prefer the US first ask the terrorists what they want before deciding what policies to follow.
Ben Green
USA (Mar 26, '04)


As Carl Herschberger [letter, Mar 24] has labeled my former letter on terrorism as naive, let me see if I can add a little depth to his interpretation. At least 20 good examples come to mind, but one should be enough to clear up some of the naivete. Take the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Palestinians are a displaced, oppressed and poor nation of people with little hope of liberation or justice toward their claims of land and cultural remnants. This situation exists primarily because of Israel and condoned by the US. Israel is a rich, powerful, state with a large contributing expatriate community as well as the resources and military might of the US at its beck and call. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis are terrorists. One is as much a terrorist as the other. The Israelis are much more effective in their terrorism because of their almost unlimited resources, but they have much less reason to be terrorists. The Palestinians are terrorists of a very basic order. They have achieved the sympathy of the civilized world because of their struggle against such overwhelming odds. Yes, Osama bin Laden is not a poor terrorist. He is a terrorist who sees the injustice in the above example. Although I think he is misguided, he struck at the US because of our bases in the Middle East as an ally of Israel as well as other religious considerations. The twin towers of New York were symbols of Jewish economic power and the Pentagon represents US military power. Now for the "elimination of injustice" part. The world, since September 11 [2001], has spent untold billions of dollars on security, declared war in two countries costing hundreds of billions more, made about 2 billion people in the world as mad as hell at the US, killed and or maimed about 50,000 people, and wound up multiplying the terrorist threat about tenfold. (Does it sound like we're winning yet?) All of this because we refuse to take care of the Palestinians as well as we have taken care of the Israelis. It would take only one-tenth of the money spent on this war on terror to build a small nation for the Palestinians, cut out all this aid to Israel or at least give as much aid to the Palestinians, and we would calm down those 2 billion angry folks. I realize that it may not be as simple as all of this, but in my mind it's a much better fundamental approach to this worldwide problem than to pick up a gun and shoot first and find out answers later.
Ken Moreau
New Orleans, Louisiana (Mar 26, '04)


Re Recounts, fist fights, shredded democracy, Mar 24. Laurence Eyton is just on another anti-KMT [Kuomintang] screed. The point is, in an election as close as Taiwan's was, there has to be a second, impartial examination of the results. In any case, many democracies have survived crooked elections and recounts. As someone living in America, I am very envious of the Taiwanese people right now. Although there is a crisis in the country, the way it is being handled shows a level of wisdom and class that is unknown in America. I was particularly impressed by the immediate involvement of Taiwan's High Court, the thoroughness of their election law as it pertains to recounts (a recount producing a different result, but without proof of fraud, would mandate new elections), and President Chen Shui-bian's quick decision to agree to a recount. It seems that, despite the street protests and parliamentary brawls, Taiwan is run by men with a modicum of wisdom and class. The same cannot be said of the situation in America. The 2000 recount was a hash of childish tantrum-throwing and legal chaos. In the end, the Supreme Court decided the case on a minor technicality just as the deadline to decide the election neared. Taiwan's people also have a healthy amount of skepticism, which is also sorely lacking in America. That they would immediately start hatching conspiracy theories after their president was shot shows that they cannot be terrorized into sheepish obedience (unlike Americans, whose first instinct in times of danger is to sing the national anthem), but will retain their critical thinking even in the most harrowing of times. I expect that no matter what the outcome, Taiwan's democracy will emerge intact (although the KMT might not) and, indeed, strengthened. As far as China is concerned, I believe that Taiwan's growing maturity as a democracy will guarantee it its independence in the long run, as this will draw the admiration of the world for what is one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia. And although the leadership in Beijing might cringe at the thought of street protests and court challenges to elections, I believe the Chinese people will not look unfavorably on the vast freedoms now enjoyed by their Taiwanese brethren.
G Travan
California (Mar 25, '04)


[Re Failures of a 'war president', Mar 23.] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on ABC's Good Morning America: "Dick Clarke just does not know what he is talking about. He wasn't involved in most of the meetings of the administration" ... "Clarke was not in the loop on top discussions at the White House." Not having your top counter-terrorism expert and advisor in "the loop" would explain the September 11 attacks and the misfire against Iraq.
Todd Smyth
Virginia, USA (Mar 24, '04)


Lawrence Eyton typically offers up some great reportage. But parts of his story, Taiwan: Recounts, fights, shredded democracy [Mar 24], leave me a bit dubious. I agree with Mr Eyton that "Taiwan is suffering its greatest political crisis in 25 years", but I don't understand his claim that the "capital city was all but paralyzed by supporters of the losing side ..." I walked amongst the demonstrators out by the KMT [Kuomintang] party headquarters on Monday night. For the most part, things were moving just fine up and down the main thoroughfare. A large part of a connecting road was decorated with barbed wire, delineating an area for the ralliers to rally and for the supporters to support and to put up pup tents, purchase commemorative trinkets and scarf barbecued sausages. They were securely caged within it. There were hardly any police to be seen. The scene was loud but orderly. Even the fanatics were mostly polite. I was out and around in Taipei Tuesday evening on my motorcycle and crossed half of Taipei in the process and everything seemed to be moving along as usual. During the spring 2003 SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] hysteria, there were reports about Taipei being paralyzed as well, and yet ... it wasn't. I learned at the time from an insider at Taipei Times that management, however, was nearly paralyzed with fear. It was only taking news reports from its beat reporters by e-mail, fax, or over the phone. I mention this retreat into hysteria because I wonder if upper management's tendency to panic has infected Mr Eyton this time around. On the other hand, I do firmly agree with Mr Eyton as to the lack of democratic sensibilities displayed by the KMT organization. Most of the senior politicos are still only half-aware of the age they're living in. Most of the senior folks in the organization grew up, attended school, and made their way through their careers during the martial-law era. Their political heroes were despots, as were most of their schoolteachers, corporate leaders, and fathers. It's thus no surprise that someone like Lien Chan throws democratic spirit and principles overboard at the first sign of trouble. It's not that he disagrees with democracy; I doubt that he's ever had a working understanding of what it is. While vice president under democratically elected Lee Teng-hui, Lien Chan used to have the Ren-Ai Boulevard (a major eight-lane conduit in Taipei) closed off for part of the lunch hour of each working day so he could commute in a police-escorted limo to have lunch with Mommy. Lien Chan isn't a bad guy, he's just a living fossil. Expecting him to change would be like expecting a cat to get with the times and acquire empathy and group social skills. It would be easier to teach it to bark.
Biff Cappuccino
Taipei, Taiwan (Mar 24, '04)


Once again, the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] did no wrong at all, and the opposition is making all these troubles, according to [Laurence] Eyton in his March 24 article Taiwan: Recounts, fights, shredded democracy. Eyton indeed has made sure he and Asia Times from now on will be regarded as the mouthpiece of the DPP by this reader at the least and by many others if one cares to read more of your letters. Of all the excuses that Eyton could find for the DPP, he missed one very important thing: if there was indeed a staged assassination, one possibility must be allowed is that Chen [Shui-bian] was not actually shot at all. By logic, it would not have been staged if he actually got hurt, would it? Once he was in his own controlled environment, ie, the hospital not on the list of treating presidential emergencies and farther away from the one that actually was, who knows what could have happened in the operating room? No matter how many pictures of Chen getting operated on or his wounds or stitches can be shown to the public now, it will never disprove that he was not actually shot before he went to the hospital. It was just simply too easy to get some fake blood on him in the first place. How could anyone suffering from a "deep flesh wound", as Eyton puts it in his article, still hold his arms high in the air, smile, and give everyone two thumbs-up? Chen's track record already showed that he had pulled a stunt like this 18 years ago: he was supposedly poisoned and shown on TV with IV [intravenous] tubes in him, but he was perfectly fine the next day when he actually lost a local election. One so-called Canadian journalist believes that there is no shame for Chen to cheat now because what he endured in the past (see letter from Mike Towle, Mar 22). Apparently, Eyton and Asia Times fully agree with him in total disregard to what truth really means to a journalist or journalism as a profession.
Jay Liu
USA (Mar 24, '04)


It's instructive to observe the aftermath of the presidential election in Taiwan in respect of China and the domestic politics in Taiwan. Would anyone imagine that the people of Taiwan, who are enjoying the kind of freedom of protesting and demanding a recount of the votes, would accept any form of rule by China, where there's nothing even remotely resembling it? The "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong too does not come anywhere close. The big businesses are apparently unhappy with the outcome, as can be seen from the fall in the stock market. A big deal is being made of the invalid votes being more than 10 times the votes with which the [pan-]greens won the election. But what's the relevance? The rule of the game is, who gets more votes wins. The corporate media both in Taiwan and elsewhere, fed by big corporations doing business with China, have made no valid argument in trying to stuff doubts down the throat of the Taiwanese people. It's ironic that most of the 30,000 or so votes helping the greens come from the rural areas. This grassroots democracy in defiance of big-money politics is something voters from the US and elsewhere should emulate.
Paul Law
Berlin, Germany (Mar 24, '04)


Re Abdullah's mandate: Real change or rhetoric? (Mar 24). While the article gave a good balanced view of the political climate in Malaysia, I am surprised some of the facts in your article are wrong. I am baffled by your claim that the ruling coalition (BN) would win less than 65 percent of the popular vote. To quote from your article, "The BN's share of the popular vote was likely to reach 60 percent or more, though it was unlikely to reach as high as the 65 percent it achieved in 1995." I was bemused and couldn't believe my eyes how wrong your prediction is. In contrast, the fact is that by March 23, the BN had won an overwhelming majority of more than 75 percent. In fact, the BN has won in excess of 85 percent of votes in the parliament and the states combined. In any democratic country, to win more than 85 percent of the popular vote is more than significance.
Kok Piew Kan
Malaysia (Mar 24, '04)

Your quote refers to a prediction in an earlier article, which is clearly linked in the March 24 piece. As for the final results of the March 21 election, they were still being tallied and recounts were being done when the March 24 article was filed - the "facts" you provide in your letter had not yet been determined in detail. - ATol


In response to Ken Moreau's letter [Mar 23], where he writes: "The real problem is not the terrorism committed by the oppressed, it's terrorism committed by the rich and powerful." I think the families of the September 11 [2001] victims would disagree, as do I. And by the way, was Osama bin Laden ever oppressed? He seems to have enough money and wives to keep a normal man happy. I believe those whose families suffered beheadings and clitorectomies under the Taliban might tell you that their lives, though still mired in poverty, are better under the US-backed government than under the "oppressed" Taliban. As for "eliminate injustice and you eliminate terrorism", I find this incredibly naive and simplistic. Terrorist Palestinians demand the annihilation of all Israelis; and in the Bali massacre, one of Osama's complaints that led to the bombing was Australian support for East Timor independence from the brutal Indonesian rule. Are Israel's existence and East Timor independence injustices? And how, exactly, does one end injustice in this world? For example, how would Ken Moreau get the Chinese out of Tibet?
Carl Hershberger
Sacramento, California (Mar 24, '04)


Regarding Bullets wound Taiwan's body politic by Macabe Keliher [Mar 22]. Mr Keliher closes his "one real, three metaphorical" bullets rigamarole (there was a second real bullet actually; it struck Vice President Annette Lu) by quoting a student at Columbia University who declares that that the 2000 presidential election in the US was "illegitimate", contrasting it with the 2004 Taiwan presidential election. Actually, the two elections have much in common: both were astonishingly close. Certainly the US election was legitimate, despite Mr Keliher's apparent disgust with the result. All initial appearances suggest that the Taiwan result is legitimate as well. However, the similarity most relevant to the current situation in Taiwan is that in both elections the result was contested by the loser, each man thereby plunging his country into a political crisis. Making unfounded accusations of suspicious irregularities just as [former vice president] Al Gore and his Democratic operatives did in the immediate wake of his loss, Lien Chan is demonstrating to the Taiwanese, and to the world, that: (1) He was unqualified to lead Taiwan; and (2) That the Gore legacy is spreading around the globe. Gore's precedent establishes that, in a close election, when one has just legitimately lost, it is acceptable to place one's personal political ambitions and party's thirst for power ahead of the best interests of one's country. Like Gore, Lien will fail in his desperate attempt. Like America, Taiwan will survive the loser's ignominy - but not unscathed. Meanwhile, the champagne glasses are clinking in Beijing.
Fu Zhen
Washington, DC (Mar 23, '04)


It is no surprise that Lien Chan is acting like a sour grapes loser of Taiwan's presidential election [Bullets wound Taiwan's body politic, Mar 22]. Lien did not ask for a delay in the election after [President] Chen Shui-bian was shot and only began to use the shooting as a basis for complaint once he lost. If the shooting created an unfair situation for the election, then it also created an unfair situation for the referendum, but Lien is not complaining that the referendum did not pass. Nor has Lien taken moral responsibility for the probability that it was Kuomintang (KMT) gangsters who shot Mr Chen and Ms Lu, or for the failed KMT attempt to assassinate Mrs Chen years ago. Instead, Lien irrationally tries to convince the public that Chen had himself shot. Your author, Macabe Keliher, seems to have some insight into the illegitimacy of Mr Lien's complaints, as does the US government. At this point, Lien has whipped KMT supporters into an anti-democratic frenzy. Since the KMT has a despotic past, we can only expect them to behave in an anti-democratic manner when they do not get their way. This behavior is the same that we would expect to see from the other Chinese political party, called the Chinese Communist Party. After decades of using governmental favors to enrich themselves to the point of amassing a fortune of US$1 billion in ill-gotten gains, the Lien clan should be satisfied. But just like the Chinese Communist Party, both the KMT and the Lien clan ultimately care about nothing more than putting themselves into positions of power.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA (Mar 23, '04)


First, let me say that your contributors, Pepe Escobar, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Jim Lobe and others too numerous to list, are providing the most intelligent and relevant facts of the news which interests me. Thank you all. Second, to all of your letter contributors who are critical of your reporting of the war on terror and its results, let me say this: most terrorism is the result of poverty and oppression, combined with a sense of futility. No amount of military intervention, war, assassination, sanctions, economic and/or political pressure, will cause it to go away. Terrorist acts by a rich superpower are all the more reprehensible because they are committed not as an act of desperation seeking justice or liberation, but [because of] greed and the lust for power and control. Whether some of these pro-war letter writers like it or not, the US sponsors terrorism. It has terrorist training camps and has for decades. The largest defense contractor in the US has a "Mercenaries for Hire" division, which will do (and does) any bidding of the government's, including murder and terrorists acts. [Spain's prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero has it correct. Eliminate injustice ... you eliminate terrorism. The real problem is not the terrorism committed by the oppressed, it's the terrorism committed by the rich and powerful.
Ken Moreau
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Mar 23, '04)


In a recent letter to the editor [below], I criticized Pepe Escobar's anti-American imbalance, and ATol responded that, being a Latin American, "his attitudes about US imperialism might just possibly have been influenced by the US-sponsored terrorists and death squads who kept 'America's back yard' in poverty, misery and mayhem for decades". This, of course, confirms he has a personal reason for being anti-American, and thus, in my eyes anyway, lacks the qualifications to write objective journalism. A similar concern, based on ATol's response to my letter, can be made about ATol in general. Was Escobar's article [Shock and Awe, from Mesopotamia to Madrid, Mar 19] about US imperialism? I thought it was about the Iraq war. The US has not gone to war to seize territory since the Spanish-American War over 100 years ago. And if we wanted to annex Iraqi territory, then why are we not doing so, and why are we trying so hard to get a democratic government started there? The usual ATol babble about this being a war to obtain Iraqi oil has not been borne out; gasoline prices in the US have climbed, not fallen, since Baghdad was liberated. The US has sided with some pretty unsavory characters in Latin American history, especially during the Cold War. However, Latin America has produced it's own fair share of "poverty, misery and mayhem" without the help of the US. It should also be noted that one piece of Latin America that the US obtained during the admittedly imperialistic Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico, can vote for independence from the US whenever it chooses to do so, yet it remains a US territory. Furthermore, not all Latin Americans possess Escobar's anti-American attitude - millions attempt to immigrate here yearly.
Carl Hershberger
Sacramento, California (Mar 23, '04)


I am in a state of flabber and gast at the mail you have been getting from the US - it is still hard for me to believe that my countrymen are so imbued with patriotism that now honest reporting sounds to them like treason. I think most of your reporting has always been the tops. Megan Sweet
USA (Mar 23, '04)


I sometimes wonder if "Laurence Eyton" is a pseudonym and you really are not an outside observer [Taiwan chaos: Chen wins poll, results disputed, Mar 22]. . You toe the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] line pretty well. True, the KMT [Kuomintang] had a dirty past, but the pan-greens are starting to match the KMT in their ability for corruption. The DPP is as dirty as the KMT, if not dirtier. You seem to forget that it [was] Ah Bian [Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian] and [former president] Lee Teng-hui [who tried] to divide the country along ethnic lines. The pan-greens believe only the "Taiwanese" [who] can trace a 400-year lineage in Taiwan have the right to Taiwan. Forgot about all of us "mainlanders" who married "Taiwanese" and were born in Taiwan. If a civil war does start because of the elections, it won't be the fault of Lien [Chan]. Ah Bian and Lee have been wishing for a showdown for ages.
How-Lun Chen
USA (Mar 22, '04)


I guess you could call me an "observer" of Taiwan politics. I'm a Canadian journalism student who has an interest in the politics of the region, and has spent about six months in Taiwan and Hong Kong in the past couple years. I believe President Chen Shui-bian may have been shot for real, but I also don't doubt the possibility of an elaborate hoax, to get more votes. So far, I'm 50-50 on the whole situation. Either way, though, I wouldn't hold it against him. He's done his time in jail, at the hands of the KMT [Kuomintang], as a political dissident. His wife lost the ability to walk when she was run over by a truck three times, also at the hands of the KMT, who denied her justice. Some say he faked being poisoned years ago in a different election, and he faked the shooting now. But whether he did or didn't fake it, there are some things he's gone through which none of the KMT people have. Him staging an assassination attempt is his way of saying, "Should've left my wife alone, losers." Years of martial law and silencing the Taiwanese people has simply come back to bite them in the arse. Hopefully the election stands, and good riddance to the old KMT era. I love your work ... [Asia Times Online is] by far the best English publication regarding China that I've found so far. Keep it up.
Mike Towle (Mar 22, '04)


We are so angry that you published such a biased, despicable anti-Lien Chan article as [Taiwan chaos: Chen wins poll, results disputed, Mar 22]. We now really think the editors of Asia Times Online are a bunch of pro-Taiwan independence groups. Because they are all pro-Chen Shui-bian from many articles we read from Asia Times Online. That is unfair, despicable, disgusting! We as your readers ask you to immediately stop such bias in the Taiwan issue. We demand you immediately stop interfering with Taiwan affairs by disseminating such biased articles to influence world opinion. We really think you are not journalists at all. Instead it seems you are using Asia Times as your political tool to strike Lien Chan and against China. You appear to be one of the Chen Shui-bian's cabal.
Your readers (Mar 22, '04)

Sorry, we didn't catch your name(s) ... - ATol


[Re Powell pleased, India perplexed, Mar 20.] None of us Indians are perplexed or upset with [US Secretary of State Colin Powell]. It was very well on expected lines. Most of us Indians know that the relationship between Pakistan and the US is one of slave and master. We Indians are not interested in that kind of a relationship. In fact, I don't think any dignified national leader would like his country to be associated [with the] US in this kind of a relationship. But what we are worried [about] is that the peace process between India and Pakistan will become subordinate to Pak-US relations. That is also something that most Pakistanis should also be worried about.
Shivkumar
Bangalore, India (Mar 22, '04)


Selection of Pakistan by the US as a "major non-NATO ally" is, alas, yet one more example of the Bush administration's [back-handed] diplomacy [Powell pleased, India perplexed, Mar 20]. I can't believe that the professionals of the Bureau of South Asian Affairs could have signed off on this silly piece of theater. The declaration has provided anti-government ammunition to the extremist beards in Pakistan while vexing India at a most sensitive time in India-Pakistan relations. Pakistanis are perplexed and Indians bemused by the move. It serves no distinct purpose, because Pakistan is already receiving much in the way of military spare [part]s and equipment under other arrangements. [US Secretary of State Colin] Powell should have kept his mouth shut. And if he felt he had to announce what he did, he should have had the courtesy to inform New Delhi first. It is sad that the conventions of diplomacy no longer apply in Washington.
Brian Cloughley (Mar 22, '04)


Your al-Qaeda member, Syed Saleem Shahzad, needs to turn himself in [Afghan offensive: Grand plans meet rugged reality, Mar 20]. [Asia Times Online] should, also. If you are not a part of the terrorist organization - which it sure sounds like from the propaganda you blatantly spit out - then you need to clean up your act. Journalists, you are not. If you are Pakistanis, you must be traitors.
Dan Piecora (Mar 22, '04)


Please take more care editing articles submitted by your contributor Jim Lobe. His work is fraught with inaccuracies. Some of these inaccuracies are somewhat subtle, like his blanket characterization of editorial writers from various newspapers in the [United] States critical of the recent events in Spain as "neo-conservative". Some of his inaccuracies are laughably obvious and actually cause sympathetic embarrassment for his public display of ignorance, like the headline from his recent article Iraq rift belies deeper EU-US strain [Mar 20]. Webster's dictionary gives the following definition of the word "belie":
1. To show to be false; to convict of, or charge with, falsehood.
Their trembling hearts belie their boastful tongues. - Dryden
2. To give a false representation or account of.
Should I do so, I should belie my thoughts. - Shak
3. To tell lie about; to calumniate; to slander.
Thou dost belie him, Percy, thou dost belie him. - Shak
4. To mimic; to counterfeit. [Obs]
5. To fill with lies. [Obs]
The breath of slander doth belie all corners of the world. - Shak
The only definition of "belie" that can charitably be considered to be at least not diametrically opposed to Lobe's usage is that of No 4, an obscure and obsolete synonym for "mimic". I know that Lobe is a reliable anti-American contributor, which seems to be the paramount consideration for your news site, but his work stands out for its sloppiness and embarrasses your organization. Thank you for you attention.
Donald Green
Boston, Massachusetts (Mar 22, '04)

Your long effort to discredit Jim Lobe is based almost entirely on one word in a headline that was written by an editor, not by Jim Lobe. - ATol


[Jim] Lobe's sanctimonious analysis [Iraq rift belies deeper EU-US strain, Mar 20] , along with those of ... various other left-leaning publications, conveniently ignores the one point of view that matters most here - that of al-Qaeda's. While I agree that [Jose Maria] Aznar's attempts to link the Basque movement to what was increasingly obvious an al-Qaeda operation was reprehensible, can anyone seriously tell me that al-Qaeda isn't viewing this as a great victory, despite [Jose Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero's vows to crack down on terrorism? Do you think the despicable culprits who carried out this act of mass murder are now demoralized or dispirited because Zapatero and his socialist cronies have promised to bring them to justice? Somehow, I think not. In their distrust and dislike of Aznar, and by extension [US] President [George W] Bush, the Spanish people have sent the absolute worst message possible to al-Qaeda - that terrorism can and does work. The age-old adage "if you lie down with dogs, expect to get fleas" applies perfectly to the misguided, naive Spanish people who voted for Zapatero.
John Callinan
Midland Park, New Jersey (Mar 22, '04)

Why is al-Qaeda's the only point of view that matters? Not everyone is as obsessed with terrorism as some Americans. There were many other issues in the Spanish election, and while the Madrid bombings no doubt played a significant role in the results, is it not a bit sanctimonious to dismiss all socialist votes as "misguided" and "naive"? - ATol


This is in regards to Pepe Escobar's article [Shock and Awe, from Mesopotamia to Madrid, Mar 19] in which he criticizes the USA for the Iraq war and its aftermath. Certainly terrorism continues in Iraq with a tiny portion of the population attempting to subvert democracy's birth by blowing up buildings and killing mostly civilians. Furthermore terrorism continues in other parts of the world, most recently in Spain, the massacre there also being blamed by him on the US conquest of Iraq. And of course, the Palestinian issue, the Zionists' theft of native Palestinian land being the source of most terrorism. If only we would listen to what issues the terrorists have and deal with them logically then there would be peace on Earth. Sorry, life's not that simple, and unfortunately the Neville Chamberlain foreign policy usually doesn't work as well as the Winston Churchill variety. Many lives could have been saved if the British and French had not opposed [Adolf] Hitler's occupation of Poland in 1939; Chiang Kai-shek could have abdicated when the Japanese brutally attacked China and handed the country over to Hirohito, thereby saving millions of Chinese; [Abraham] Lincoln could have let the [US] south secede in 1861 and save 600,000 casualties. They fortunately did not and as a result the capital of Europe is not Berlin; the Chinese were able to heroically resist, despite Chiang's ineptitude, and tie up hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops until the Americans were able to militarily defeat Japan and eventually China was ruled by a non-foreign government; and slavery in the USA was finally abolished. To achieve worthy goals history shows that military force, with all its negative consequences, is often necessary. Had the USA not interfered in Iraq, the Iraqi people would have had to look foreword to a future with no hope for democracy, and a government run by a psychopath who killed many more Muslims than the Americans and Israelis combined. It sounds like Escobar actually looks back on Saddam [Hussein]'s rule as an idyllic time, with peace and prosperity for all. Of course what little peace that existed in [Iraq] since 1991 was due to the American and British military's enforcement of the no-fly zone. How dissatisfied are the Kurds in Iraq today compared to last year? Does he think the Shi'ites want Saddam back? And what kind of future does he think the Iraqis would have had without the Americans? At least now there is some hope of a democratic government, whereas if the Americans had not invaded, Iraq would have had the malignant rule of Uday and Qusay [Hussein] to look forward to after Saddam eventually died. The mass graves and torture facilities of Saddam's regime apparently don't merit much space in Escobar's writings compared to the evil [Donald] Rumsfeld and [George W] Bush. Trying to reason with terrorists, attempting to explain their purposeful killing of innocents is an academic exercise of little utility. European intellectuals opined frequently and passionately about Serbian slaughter in the Balkans in the '90s, but it took the [Bill] Clinton administration and American bombers to actually get the rapes and murders to stop. Looking into al-Qaeda's reasons for the civilian deaths of September 11 [2001], the Bali bombing, and now the Spanish murders would be like trying to rationalize Hitler's killing of the Jews, [Joseph] Stalin's slaughter of Ukrainians, and Pol Pot's lunatic Maoist purgings. Hitler was stopped not by the writings of European professors but by tanks and bullets, and Pol Pot was ousted not by embargoes or demonstrations, but by Vietnamese soldiers. Unfortunately none of Stalin's victimized countries had the military strength to resist him effectively, the protests of the rest of the world being utterly impotent. The Spanish train massacre will unfortunately tell the terrorists that public killings before an election can influence Spanish voting in a manner positive for the terrorists. Withdrawal of Spanish troops will be seen as a sign of Neville Chamberlain-like appeasement and not of strength and resolve. Should Spain have an agenda in the future which is contrary to that of al-Qaeda it should be fairly easy to change that agenda with another attack. So should anyone really care what al-Qaeda wants? They want the Israelis out of Palestine, preferably dead [rather] than alive (of course they, and Escobar, make no mention of getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, the Turks out of Cyprus, the Chinese out of Tibet), and Americans out of Islamic countries, which have been occupied only after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait (which only was freed by American military power). However, he forgets their other wishes include the extermination of the Jews, and a Medieval caliphate where polygamy is rampant, where women are treated like slaves, where freedom of religion is not tolerated, and where Western democracy will never rear its ugly head. Perhaps Escobar has personal reasons for his dislike of the USA. How else could one explain his relative lack of condemnation of the terrorists who actually committed the atrocities compared to the venom heaped on those who are sending their soldiers to fight these murderous people.
Carl Hershberger
Sacramento, California (Mar 22, '04)

We aren't sure, but as Pepe Escobar is a Latin American, his attitudes about US imperialism might just possibly have been influenced by the US-sponsored terrorists and death squads who kept "America's back yard" in poverty, misery and mayhem for decades long after the death of the hapless Neville Chamberlain. We find your history lesson rather selective. - ATol


I read Asia Times Online for the first time today. It was as excellent read. Your writers are so ridiculously anti-American that I could not stop laughing. Is this a spoof or goof website? Are you associated with any comedy troupes? I read some of the older, dated articles from the beginning of the war in Iraq. Your correspondent sounded more confident of America's doom than the Iraqi information minister. Asia Times Online is even funnier and more delusional than the former Iraqi information minister. Thanks for making serious topics entertaining.
A new fan (Mar 22, '04)

Welcome. And let us take this opportunity to say that we are pleased things are going so smoothly for the US occupation forces in Iraq (or so we hear from Fox News - aka the Bush administration information minister). - ATol


Your correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad, in his [Mar 19] assessment of Pakistan's assault against foreign fighters and their hosts along the border with Afghanistan, paints a pretty bleak picture of what is going on there [Pakistani tribes await 'full force' offensive]. In fact, the government's undertaking is devoid of any justifiable purpose and constructive effect, I gather from him. And yet the lengths to which he goes to make this point stick seem to me so beyond the normal range of what any unbiased observer, writing with ease and objectivity, would feel necessary, that after reading, I am left to wonder whether this is reliable analysis, or an effort to turn the news to his own ends. Query: Is he on the scene or, like me, writing from the comfort of his home, thousands of miles away? What he has said, essentially, is that under US pressure, and with US help, the Pakistani army, and other agents of Pakistani central authority, under the direction of President [General Pervez] Musharraf, have alienated the entire population of the border regions, delivered what few friends it has had in those areas into the hands of its enemies, exposed the weakness of its own forces, caused inexcusable suffering and death, consequently engendered hatred and greater resistance to its will, breathed life back in to the Taliban or Taliban-like members of that population still intent on returning to power in Afghanistan, sown divisions within its own ranks, and completely lost control of the power and right to govern these regions. If that is as he would like it, then maybe, from his point of view, that is how it must be. But my response is this: Methinks the essayist doth protest too much. And no thanks to him, I am well enough informed of events in Pakistan, even without ever having been there, to know this: you cannot lose what you never had. I go to your website for information because I am looking for a rational and objective, albeit Asian, perspective on news of importance to that region, and by extension, to me; free of the biases, assumptions, ways of thinking, and preoccupations that I can usually expect to influence the reports that I ordinarily receive from other sources. Sooner or later, I suppose those who care, or cannot avoid it, will learn the sorry truth about these events. In the meantime, I must say that in recent months, I have found many pieces like this on your website, long on "it is because I say so" and short on well-balanced thinking.
Tyler P Harwell
Georges Mills, New Hampshire (Mar 19, '04)

Syed Saleem Shahzad does not merely "think" about the events in Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan on which he reports. He is based in Pakistan and has unrivaled contacts throughout the region. - ATol


[Re] Shock, awe, from Mesopotamia to Madrid [Mar 19]. Pepe Escobar is certainly entitled to his opinion, even if it is based in sophomoric bravado and insolence. Al-Qaeda's attack in Madrid wasn't because of Spain's support of the American-led war in Iraq; it was in retaliation for the Catholics' ousting of southern Spain's Muslim stronghold in 1492. Vienna, France, Rome, Turkey and other places where Islam was once rooted but has since been overthrown are also terrorist targets for Islamic re-occupation. Al-Qaeda's ultimate objective is to supplant Western culture and democracy with Islam and theocracy. The Israel/Palestine war is used by al-Qaeda as a rationalization, not a reason. Similarly, the current Iraq war is not the catalyst for increased terrorist activities (September 11, 2001, happened before this war was started). Saddam Hussein's history includes (but is not limited to): starting a war with a neighboring country (Iran); using chemical weapons against Kurds as part of his Arabization program; and invading another country (Kuwait). Saddam violated the terms of the ceasefire agreement at the end of the first Gulf War. Saddam violated United Nations resolutions 17 times. France, Germany and Saddam all chose to starve Shi'ites to increase their profits from the United Nations oil-for-food scam. Saddam put a US$2 million down payment on a nuclear-weapons purchase from North Korea, but Kim Jong-il backed out of the purchase. Ansar-al-Islam was a proven al-Qaeda affiliate with its training camp in northern Iraq. Anyone (including Hans Blix) who believes that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat is dangerously delusional. Contrast Saddam's government and al-Qaeda's ideologies with America's objective of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq and you'd have to be deaf to not hear the thunder of the culture clash - and dumb to deny it. America's leadership has said time and again they went as liberators to Iraq, not as occupiers. Yet international media continued to use the phrase "American occupation in Iraq" to such a high degree readers and TV viewers have been deliberately misled, misinformed and none the wiser about events transpiring in Iraq that will profoundly affect every person on this planet for centuries. In 1998 American president Bill Clinton unilaterally attacked Iraq without United Nations or congressional approval, yet there's no mention of this anywhere in any current news media source. The non-reporting of the United Nations oil-for-food scam and significant void of importance attached to the preliminary Iraq constitution is testament that Americans don't own the global market on arrogance. Perhaps the real reason people like Mr Escobar feel compelled to hate America is because it's much more difficult to confront what he hates about himself and admit Saddam murdered more people in one year than this war has yielded in the same time. It's so much easier to shift the blame from oneself, thereby denying the problem and alleviating the personal responsibility to solve it.
R Margot Main
San Francisco, California (Mar 19, '04)


[Re] For US hawks, Madrid 2004 = Munich 1938 [Mar 19]. Actually, for US hawks, every frustration is Munich 1938. I well remember how often "Munich 1938" was trotted out during the Vietnam War. I suspect many US hawks slept through their history classes and get their knowledge of the past from comic books and old movies.
Lester Ness
Vietnam veteran
Putian University
Fujian Province, China (Mar 19, '04)


I read with interest Jim Lobe's article about American conservatives' belief that the Spanish have just caved in to al-Qaeda [For US hawks, Madrid 2004 = Munich 1938, Mar 19] Believe me, as an American, and as an American who is not conservative, I can assure you that view is shared by many more of us than just the ultra-conservatives. That issue is so common here that it's not even a campaign issue, since both [President George W] Bush and [Democratic presidential candidate] Kerry are united on it. Most Americans see our European "allies" as weak-willed cowards who would rather surrender to the thugs of the world than stand up for what's important and fight for their freedom - freedom they enjoy because Americans are willing to fight for it. Notably absent from that definition are our British friends. The joke circulating here in America now is, "How can you tell a credit card has been issued in Europe? The stripe down the back is yellow" ("yellow" being an American word for cowardice - something we hold no respect for). We look at our European cousins and wonder just when they will stand and fight to protect themselves? This Spanish cave-in to terrorists of the world will not give them protection from terrorists now or in the future. Even if al-Qaeda swears to not attack Spain (a promise that cannot be believed as credible, since Indonesia had done nothing to hurt al-Qaeda yet al-Qaeda blew up that club in Bali anyway), the cave-in will encourage terrorists of any stripe to attack Spain, knowing the Spanish will give in to their demands. Didn't 1938 Munich teach us anything? Or are we Americans the only ones, along with the British, who remember? Terrorists of the world only know one thing - everyone who does not think the way they think, do what they want them to do and is not what they want us to be deserves to die. They hold human life, including their own, in complete disdain and to achieve their ends no one is safe. Terrorism and democracy cannot live in peace in this world any more than Nazism and democracy could - for the same reason - the terrorists and the Nazis are both determined to destroy democracy. We Americans absolutely will not permit that to happen, and we are prepared to wage this war alone if we must.
Steven Katz
Tucson, Arizona (Mar 19, '04)


Thank you for your March 18 piece by Jim Lobe, US foreign policy is popular - in the US. Finally in Spain, a society rejected their elected representatives who served American interests rather than theirs, and elected those who hopefully more represent them. Hopefully also the citizens of Great Britain, Australia and Japan, among others, will follow suit. It should be obvious to everybody in the world by now that regardless of what politician sits in the US White House, America is on an imperialistic course that poses a grave danger to everybody everywhere. Why else did America keep most of its military bases around the world after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the so-called "Cold War"? Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Haiti: Who's next? The EU has cause for concern in considering building a stronger military and economic union. Hopefully Asians will join this union. It's a sad commentary of world affairs, but reality clearly shows a dangerous thug preying on more vulnerable societies. This empire is not in accord with world interests, and needs to go.
William Sweetling
Halifax, Nova Scotia (Mar 19, '04)


l While I was reading The al-Qaeda franchise (Mar 17) by Richard Giragosian, my mind starting thinking about the irony of the decades the United States maintained a standoff with the Soviet Union, each being assured through massive military (nuclear) forces that the world would be destroyed if one transgressed too heavily against the others. It was a comfortable and tidy fit for the Pentagon and the American government looking for a casus belli. However, I find that my thoughts were misplaced - how ironical that Mr Giragosian finds another irony. In fact, there is an ironic similarity between the ideological justification and tactical support provided by the Soviet Union to the international communist movement of the 20th century, whereby so-called communists waged wars of national liberation and/or outright terrorism in the name of an overarching communist ideology. A further irony is that Mr Giragosian forgets to mention the wars of liberation waged by the Americans against all types of socialist governments that had the support of the people, much like the new Spanish government has the support of the Spanish people. Examples are plentiful: Italy, Greece, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile - outright terrorism in the name of an overarching capitalist ideology. And now along comes the al-Qaeda franchise with its backpacks, cell phones and suicide bombers and has the US completely muddled throughout the world. I do not want or support terrorism, but what goes around comes around, what you sow you shall reap, and the US, and the rest of the world, is reaping the American blowback.
Jim Miles
Vernon, British Columbia (Mar 19, '04)


Asia Times Online reader ZZ Zhu wrote [letter, Mar 18] with great sincerity, "The Taiwan problem has one simple explanation: in a sense, we [feel] that by reclaiming Taiwan, we can erase our shameful past and restart anew on our march to great nationhood." If there are people in China who feel that their sense of shame will be erased by subjugating Taiwan, then they suffer from a bully mentality that will be remedied only with professional counseling, not by war with Taiwan. Reader LHR wrote, "I have read the article Native Taiwan son's doubts on reunification [Mar 18]. It is sheer nonsense! Reunification must be a unification of the Taiwan people as well as the integration of the territory. I wonder if this guy is a Chinese or not?" In response to LHR's inquiry, Lin Zhong-Phon is Taiwanese, not Chinese.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 19, '04)


Some unfortunate comments from "Seattle Frank" indeed [letter, Mar 18]. Along with XOY, you have reminded me of muddled statements I heard during my time in China. "You are not Chinese so you will never understand." "You foreigners are always interfering." We are all individuals here. I do work for UNICEF [the United Nations Children's Fund], so even in that capacity, am I being accused of trying to split China up just because I am voicing a dissenting opinion? Please stop pinning all past acts on today's "non-Asians". If you take me for example, it is insulting to insinuate that because of the opinions I have given I must just be an Englishman who had nothing but contempt for [Mahatma] Gandhi and [Jawaharlal] Nehru seeking independence for India, or Deng Xiaoping insisting on all of Hong Kong being returned. It would be the equivalent of me looking you in the eye and asking, "what were you thinking when you started the Cultural Revolution?"
Peter Mitchelmore
Calgary, Alberta (Mar 19, '04)


Upon reading the recent article submitted by Lin Zhong-Phon [Native Taiwan son's doubts on reunification, Mar 18], I have a lot to get off my chest. To make long story short, the Taiwan problem goes beyond politics. So let us all stop blaming each other for the mess we are in today and stop demanding that the mainlanders or the Taiwanese should do this or that. The real root of the Taiwan problem, in my humble opinion, is not something mundane politics can touch nor resolve. I, as a native of Fujian, can start to understand the demands of both sides. To us, underneath the myriad mumbo-jumbo and sorry excuses, the Taiwan problem has one simple explanation: in a sense, we [feel] that by reclaiming Taiwan, we can erase our shameful past and restart anew on our march to great nationhood. Hence, we tend to overlook or even ignore the fact that there are such people as Taiwanese, due to our own eagerness to be strong again. To make matters worse, our concern about the resurgence of Japan as a major power and US hegemony exacerbate that feeling and make us even more desperate to retake Taiwan by whatever means. These urgent feelings within our mindset are the true causes to the current mainland attitude. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is not the problem, we are the problem. Taiwanese, rather than attacking the CCP for its "iron fist", as Mr Lin so well put it, should appreciate the effort that the CCP Politburo forcefully imposed on the PLA [People's Liberation Army] and the Chinese people at large to hold their sense of urgency at bay and prevent rash decisions. Trust me, I know this to be the fact. To the Taiwanese, the problem is simple and clear amid all the garbage people put forward: the rise of national identity and pride. This should not be unexpected, as Taiwan has accomplished so much as a de facto independent entity in the past 25 years. There is no reason for them to think otherwise. They have a sense of alienation, they do not think they belong with the mainlanders economically and politically. They think the mainland has nothing better to offer to them. I don't blame them, since the promise of a strong unified China [offers] them nothing about their status in the greater Chinese society. This is a real problem shared by their kinsmen in Fujian and many other frontier provinces. We Fujianese have been taken for granted and have existed on the lowest spectrum of the Chinese political hierarchy for as long as we can remember. We have no say in our destiny, or in anything, for that matter. We have a sense that China is not our country. This fact alone inspires anger among the Taiwanese and their refusal to identify with the mainland. This alone conjures up the fanatical sense of independence and the illusion that by being independent they can achieve greatness on their own. In any event, in my humble opinion, the solution to the Taiwan problem requires no less than a great awakening on both sides. We need to recognize that we and we alone are responsible for the plight we have suffered for the last century: our own arrogance and ignorance negated our perception. The "Western imperialists" did us a big favor by knocking at our doors with their cannons and telling us "you are not the center of the universe" and opening our ignorant eyes to the outside. Retaking Taiwan is not enough to prevent a recursion of this painful trend. And a word of advice to the ruling class: Shanghainese or Hunanese are not the only people in China, we exist (all of us) and we are ready to give it all for the great cause. Without us, China will never be great. And with all due respect to my brethren on Taiwan: alone, you are nothing more than a pawn of the greater powers. Join us and walk the Earth with pride and dignity - it is the path that we all seek. But for now, seeing China is not yet great, the best we can do is for all of us, on both sides of the Strait, to shut up and stop inflaming the situation.
ZZ Zhu
Rutgers, New Jersey (Mar 18, '04)


I have read the article Native Taiwan son's doubts on reunification [Mar 18] It is sheer nonsense! Reunification must be a unification of the Taiwan people as well as the integration of the territory. I wonder if this guy is a Chinese or not?
LHR (Mar 18, '04)


As an American married to a Taiwanese woman I was very moved by your recent articleNative Taiwan son's doubts on reunification [Mar 18] by Lin Zhong-Phon. When I lived in Taiwan, I heard much of the same arguments presented in this article. The views presented in the article are the same as those of nearly all of my friends in Taiwan and all of my family. China would love the world to believe that the average Taiwanese wants to be part of China, [but] this is not the case. Most want what they have - freedom. The reality in this article and in the political arena is simple: China has never done anything for Taiwan. The infrastructure of Taiwan was built by Japan, the Nationalist regime and the Taiwanese, not by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. The CCP has done nothing but act the part of spoiled bully when it comes to Taiwan. I do not believe that China wants to "reunify" Taiwan, it wants to conquer it, because Taiwan is a threat to the CCP. Taiwan proves that ethnic Chinese can have a successful democratic regime, without Western authorities forcing it upon them. Taiwan has freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion, Does the mainland regime allow this? Simply put, no. The success of the multi-party system in Taiwan shows that a one-party system is not needed for Chinese people on either side of the Strait, and that is a direct threat to the CCP. The CCP, like all dictators, must guard its power with great jealousy, and cannot allow any kind of sharing. If the CCP really wanted Taiwan, then it would offer Taiwan more than missiles and threats. If the CCP wanted to "reunify" Taiwan, it would make a sincere offer. Right now what benefit do the Taiwanese get in return? They could lose their freedoms, lose their political voice, lose freedom of movement and be governed by a regime that historically has given them nothing but trouble. The choice is simple for most Taiwanese - ignore China, and wait for the CCP to evolve, or officially declare independence.
Kent Fields
United States (Mar 18, '04)


Re Native Taiwan son's doubts on reunification [Mar 18] I would like to point to an earlier article by Macabe Keliher (Who cares about Taiwan? Not the Chinese, Dec 24, '03), which was labeled "incorrect" by some Chinese readers with rather chauvinist inclinations. It may come as a bitter disappointment to those readers that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] and their affiliated social science institutes admit that Macabe Keliher got it right all along. A recent poll by Li Dongmin, head of the Social Survey Institute of China, found that students in China are apathetic about the Taiwan issue, the common people feel the phenomenon of being numb, high-level officials want to deal with it coolly, and Taiwan independence is approaching step by step while the mainland retreats step by step.
Dan Kyed
Australia (Mar 18, '04)


Recently there have been several articles and letters published here promoting Taiwan independence. Interesting enough, most of writers are not Asian. What are these non-Asian people trying to do here? They do not give a shit about Asia. Many of them killed Asians for [a] living. They are certainly not promoting Taiwan independence for the best interest of Asia. These non-Asian writers and readers are trying to start up another trouble in Asia so they can profit from it. Let us look at history. What did they do in Africa, Australia and America? Many Asians remember what they did in some part of Asia too. First they stirred up troubles between the natives. Then they enslaved them. People in Taiwan who read history books would know what they tried and failed to do in Taiwan. Independence movements exist everywhere. Spain, France, Britain, the USA, Canada, India, Russia, China and many other countries all have similar people who are trying to promote independence inside their own country. The reasons are that they do not like to be controlled by their country. However, that is that country's internal affair. If countries start to promote and support another country's independence movement, there will be no peace in this world. These non-Asian writers certainly did not like Asians to promote independence when they were the masters. Now, Asians are in charge of their own lives. It is time for these non-Asian people to talk about independence movements in Asia. What are their goals? If China is divided in half by these people, which Asian country is next? Do you want to go back to the old days? Read more history books, then answer these questions.
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 18, '04)


[Dale] Stoy in his response to Pepe Escobar's essay [The emergence of hyperterrorism, Mar 17] has posed the right question but hinted at the wrong answer [letter, Mar 17]. It may be hard to pinpoint what "greater Muslim integration" exactly means, since no one group or government can seriously speak on behalf of all Muslims of the world. And, of course, it also doesn't help that most Muslims are really not certain yet of how to respond in a sensible, non-confrontational manner to a West that, from their vantage point, grows stranger and wilder by the minute (gay weddings are a case in point). We can, however, start with common sense and begin eliminating attitudes that to any decent human being may be considered hostile and insincere ... First, by even conservative estimates, there are 1 billion practitioners of the Muslim faith spread among every nation on Earth, and only 80-some-odd years ago these same Muslims actually belonged (politically, economically, emotionally) to a distinct Ottoman domain they perceived as a "caliphate", the very connotation of which carries something deeply sacred, so granting them and their religion real recognition is a practical necessity, not "appeasement". I wrote in a previous letter [Mar 8] that those claiming their cultures to be the light of the world bear the immense responsibility of proving themselves in the court of humanity. Do we not think that Muslims are vexed by the unwillingness of the claimants to even try? Second, there has to be a very deliberate effort to forge a deep understanding of the traditional Muslim mind. Not the one tainted by schismatic or sectarian tendencies, nor the one trying to erase its memory by remolding itself in secularist colors, for these are not "traditional" minds but only remnants and shadows of the real thing and can only be cited as aberrations of the norm. The traditional Muslim is very much a bewildered spectator of all these phenomena and trying to find a quiet place in which to meditate and respond with the maturity and sobriety and soaring humanity he knows he can deliver. To answer Mr Stoy, Muslim integration doesn't have to be a process as much as a thorough realization that the West and the world at large [are] served best when traditional Muslims are given this quiet place. No doubt it will take much courage to admit that wishing for an Islamic version of Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment stems from assuming an absurdly incorrect paradigm, that is exactly what's in order. Traditional Muslims are no Catholics, and Wahhabis and secularists don't have a single authentically religious authority in their ranks. Highlighting these groups at the exclusion of traditional Muslims might make for sensational headlines and short-lived reassurances of the secularizing possibilities of the Islamic world, but a plentiful resource of intelligent beings ready to sincerely combat their own problems will be consistently lost and we will be condemned to a vicious cycle.
Bilal Saqib
Houston, Texas (Mar 18, '04)


Could you do some research and publish an article on positive actions that Iraqis and other Arabs are taking to rebuild Iraq? I would think that the Arab world would rejoice at the chance to build a free society but I have yet to see any positive actions that have been undertaken. Why aren't the Iraqis turning in people who are killing other Iraqis in the bombings? I have not read any articles about the positive contributions in Iraq. I have read about Westerners trying to help build a better society, but no Arabs. Is this the situation or just bad reporting?
Peter Meyer (Mar 18, '04)


Captain [Richard] Radcliffe's letter dated March 17 reflects a lot of dangerous misunderstandings about Islam that are getting in the way of finding an effective response to the problems faced by the international community. One problem with Muslims, according to the captain, is that they "have a strong belief that heaven is a lot better place than Earth", which thus makes them inclined to want to go on suicide missions. Strangely enough, many American Christians I've known share this same supposedly radical belief, yet none of them have felt compelled to carry out suicide attacks. As many commentators have pointed out, Islam forbids both attacks on civilians and suicide, and it takes quite convoluted logic, usually preached to Muslims with very little actual knowledge of their religion, for the groups that carry out such attacks to theologically justify them. Also, it's not even true that Islam is the sole motivating force behind such attacks. Several of the suicide attacks in Israel have been carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular Marxist group which, according to Captain Radcliffe's logic, should mean that its members should not want to hasten to their deaths, if they're being good materialists. And lastly, if being a Muslim naturally leads to a wish to die in the cause of jihad, then it's a wonder that the situation isn't many times worse than it is, given that one-fifth of the world's population is Muslim. I haven't seen waves of Muslims assaulting Israeli or American military positions akin to the (supposedly safely secular) communist hordes that the Chinese dispatched to Korea in the early 1950s. The only logical conclusion one can draw from all of this is that it is something other than religion that is driving the current conflicts throughout the Islamic world, and that only a very small minority of Muslims feel any sympathy for the campaigns of the so-called Islamic radicals. As for Captain Radcliffe's assertion that the US should threaten Mecca with nuclear annihilation if the current terrorist campaign doesn't cease, this is beneath serious consideration by anyone with even a slight moral sense. By this logic, one would be justified in blowing up a church full of worshippers after a Christian radical guns down a doctor at an abortion clinic. By falling into an us-vs-them, black-and-white mentality, not only are we guilty of using the same logic that terrorists use to justify their actions, but we move even further away from finding a lasting solution to the problems facing the world.
John Morgan
Ann Arbor, Michigan (Mar 18, '04)


Your March 13 story by Ranjit Devraj [supplied by Inter Press Service] headlined [Big firms dig in to Asian rice bowl] contains so many false facts and misinterpretations that it is difficult to know what to correct first. Equally disturbing is that your reporter clearly made no effort to provide fair coverage by seeking comment from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) or the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Firstly, there is the fundamental failure of your story to recognize that without the gene banks of the CGIAR there would be little or no crop diversity to even debate about. Long before biodiversity became a buzzword for Devinder Sharma and others, CGIAR researchers were carefully collecting and preserving for posterity samples of the world's major food crops. Without their dedicated efforts, the diversity that Mr Sharma now seems so concerned about would really have been lost forever. The value of this effort has been starkly demonstrated in that several of the national collections deposited in CGIAR gene banks have served as invaluable reservoirs of crop biodiversity for re-establishing agriculture in these same counties following war, civil conflict or disaster. Secondly, it is important to note that all of the information discovered by the different rice-genome sequencing efforts is now freely available in the public domain thanks to the efforts of the Japan-led International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP). This has ensured that no one company can dominate or control such vital scientific information. Thirdly, it is alarming to see a veteran critic of the CGIAR such as Mr Sharma being so increasingly inaccurate. The CGIAR has no board (as your story claims) that Syngenta could be invited to be a member of. In 2002, the Syngenta Foundation became a member of the CGIAR, an informal group of more than 60 government and private organizations that support the work of the 16 CGIAR centers. Your article also tries to revive the old story of RiceTec and the prized Indian rice variety basmati, falsely claiming "there is concrete evidence to show that RiceTec used genetic material from a CGIAR gene bank". It has already been well established by all sides that basmati varieties were in the US - some in the USDA's own collection - long before RiceTec even started as a company and that its material originally came from Pakistan. Finally, your article makes the ridiculous claim that "three-quarters of the rice now grown in the United States is based on germplasm provided by the IRRI", when a simple search of publicly available rice-varietal information clearly shows that this is not the case. Unfortunately, these are just a small selection of the worst errors in one of the most factually challenged articles on rice we have read this year. We would expect more from IPS - especially in providing its subscribers and readers a balanced and factual view of such an important subject.
Ronald P Cantrell
Director General
International Rice Research Institute (Mar 17, '04)


[Re The emergence of hyperterrorism, Mar 17] by Pepe Escobar. The responsibility and accountability for "global jihad" rests with Muslims. Trying to shift the focus to the US is irresponsible. The author quotes one source with the statement that "full integration of Muslims" must happen. My question is: What does this mean and is this acceptance given or earned, or both? To illustrate, does "integration" mean acceptance and support of the US by Muslims living in the States, or is the onus solely on the United States and its citizens to support and accept Muslims? Personally, I believe a lot more has been given than earned. Unfortunately, I see little evidence, in terms of thought, word, or deed, showing acceptance or support of the US and/or Western thought, by Muslims living in the US.
Dale Stoy
United States (Mar 17, '04)


[Re The al-Qaeda franchise, Mar 17] [Richard] Girgosian's last paragraph is one we should all take to heart. However, he misses some important points. Various "terrorist" groups have been assisting each other since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War spawned the Palestinian terrorists. We can even trace communist terror back to the Huks of the Philippines and the communist insurgents in Malaysia in the early and middle '50s. However, the groups that Mr Girgosian cites had one specific purpose: to keep Pershing missiles and land-based cruise missiles out of Central Europe and Great Britain. Those groups were trained and supplied by various communist regimes and, in the case of the Baader-Meinhof folks, spent a lot of time in East Germany. When their sanctuaries and their reason for being went away, so did they. Notably, few of the communist-sponsored terrorists engaged in suicide tactics. All of the incidents with which I am familiar indicated that the terrorists were not particularly anxious to die or be captured. Such is not true of the Islamic terrorist. Since a communist doesn't believe in heaven, he has no desire to hurry to his own funeral. Muslims, however, have a strong belief that heaven is a lot better place than Earth and if they die in jihad they will be greatly rewarded when they arrive there. While the actual number of virgins they receive is not relevant, the fact that they receive a heavenly lifestyle that they can only dream of having on Earth is part of the drive to get to heaven. It is instructive that the families of the jihadis mourn over the death of their young (until recently sons) but celebrate the fact that they died martyrs for Islam and the Prophet. Golda Meir was once reputed to have said that terrorism would continue until the Palestinians cared more about their children than their religion. This statement has obviously now been generalized to Islam worldwide. And therein lies the problem. The current Islamic terrorists are more like the kamikaze of World War II than the urban terrorists of Europe. Instead of drinking a ceremonial cup of sake and yelling "Banzai", they recite verses from the Koran. The effect is the same. It is extremely difficult to prevent a person from accomplishing a mission for which they are not only prepared to die but intend to die. It took two atomic bombs to convince the Japanese to surrender. But they had an emperor who was, and still is by some, considered a deity. They had an organized state with a government that actually had control of its people. Islam does not have an organized state at the moment. If a caliphate did exist we could consider dropping an atomic bomb or two, or lots of conventional ones, to get their attention. That is what makes this war, and it is a war, so difficult for non-Islamic minds to understand. But the will to die is what gives small groups great strength. Of the thousands of kamikaze who took off from Japan to attack the American ships, very few actually crashed into a ship. But when they did, the effect was devastating. A single kamikaze could sink a destroyer, and over 20 were sunk. A single suicide bomber can kill many times his number and create destruction well beyond that of a person who intends to remain alive. Islam is the idea behind this campaign of terrorism. Specifically, it is Wahhabism as practiced in, and the state religion of, Saudi Arabia. There the battle must be fought if we are to succeed in stopping the current campaign of Islamic terrorism. I would pose this question to the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, "Is a hajj to a smoking, glowing, radioactive hole where the Grand Mosque of Mecca used to be valid?" Perhaps that is a question that should be posed to the Grand Mufti, not by me but by people with the ability and the will to create that smoking hole the next time there is a terrorist attack. While Muslims may be prepared to sacrifice themselves, are the prepared to sacrifice the center of their religion?
Richard Radcliffe
Captain, US Air Force, Retired
Apple Valley, California (Mar 17, '04)


[Re: The meaning of life, Mar 17] I have been reading some of the many essays of Spengler [see Spengler's page], and have a view that this person is a pessimist of the first order. Of course the name says it all as the inevitable recycling as in rise and fall of civilizations is seen as some type of inevitable wheel of torture upon which we are trapped; and it is now the West's turn to be going towards the bottom to be crushed and replaced by something else. It is the status quo that Spengler is seeking; trying to stop the turning of the world. The rich and well off want to keep the order as it is while the others, the majority, don't really like it that way for obvious reasons. Thus the disturbance of the existing system. This is the great struggle today as more and more people on this Earth gain more and more information about what their real place in the world is. The Albanians were surprised to find out they were not so well off as they had been told. The Americans refuse to believe that perhaps not driving an SUV [sport-utility vehicle] does not mean one is inferior and so on. Each group thinks it is superior and has the backing of God. Such philosophical stands are interesting to view while one is riding down the road, like strange trees or odd plants in the ditches. We see, we note and we go on. They do not change our lives very much. A true and lasting revolution of perception can only happen when one looks up or out and not into the junkyard of history. Yes, we can note what we think happened. But no, history is not cyclical or repetitious. People are, but they operate in different circumstances. I prefer to see it as the eddies in a current, moving ahead and swirling in chaotic ways. Not exactly the same, but familiar in some way. So, in the short term we can look at the events unfolding and try to make some sense and agree or disagree but this does not matter. We will ride down that river and await whatever fate is in store unless we have some means of resisting that current. In our present level of understanding we do not even seem to realize we are on the river!
Adam M
Canada (Mar 17, '04)


[Re Spain, and why radical Islam can win, Mar 16] Spengler's sense of his own mortality is probably what drives him to bury Europe while it's still very much alive. His pain may be quite real and his worry genuine, but anguish doesn't necessarily makes him a great visionary. I'd argue that birthrate is inversely proportionate to quality of the social safety net, because one's biggest motivation in bringing up a child is a desire to ensure one's own comfort in one's golden years. If old age is made reasonably secure by social insurance, then the birthrate should and will decline. So the question must be: Will Europe's socialist economies be able to provide relatively hardship-free retirement or not? I think that "not" is the right answer. As European pension systems buckle under pressure of globalization, and the world becomes more Darwinian, birthrates in Europe will rebound vigorously. I can't say when, but it will be long before France and Germany become historical footnotes. Eastern Europe is an exception. The low reproduction level there is caused not by too much comfort, but by disruption in the societal fabric. If those wounds heal, birthrates will increase too. Spengler should remember two things. First is that he has not a sweetest clue about the future, since no one has. So some humility should be in order. The second is that everything in this world functions in wave patterns, with constant up and down movements. That includes birthrates too. Guess, then, what comes after a down movement? Invariably an up one. Conversely, that also means that Muslim birthrates will have to decline at some point, maybe even in a dramatic fashion. They simply aren't sustainable.
Oleg Beliakovich
Seattle, Washington (Mar 17, '04)


So Spengler once again returns to his essentialist "extinction as non-churning ovaries" argument [Spain, and why radical Islam can win, Mar 16]. It was slightly amusing the first time around, but has gotten a bit ragged by this point. Also his charge of "appeasement" is laughable. [US President George W] Bush's vaunted policy of preemption was clearly not on display in Iraq, since preemptive and preventive war strategies (or rather stratagems) require an actual threat. Saddam [Hussein]'s Iraq in the spring of 2003 was no threat to any of his immediate neighbors, let alone to the US or UK, nor did it even have much potential of becoming one. What happened instead was a war of aggression committed under the cover of the struggle against al-Qaeda for goals which have never [been] admitted to. Iraq has now become a focus for al-Qaeda as a result of Bush's war, that is, Bush's war has offered them advantages, [but] has been a self-defeating act in the important struggle against al-Qaeda. In other words, Europe remains committed to combating al-Qaeda, but sees Bush's policies as very likely self-defeating in this regard, in effect assisting al-Qaeda. But what of "appeasement"? Is not the greatest example of appeasement the Bush policy towards Pakistan, whose ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and various officials seemingly sold the technology and components of nuclear weapons to various "rogue states"? Has not Pakistan been in effect "rewarded" for this conduct? A clearer self-defeating policy of appeasement would be difficult to find.
Joseph M Guerra
Portugal (Mar 17, '04)


I must take exception with one point in an otherwise fine article by Craig Meer and Macabe Keliher, The cross-Strait political tinderbox, March 13. To avoid the "violent clawing out" that the authors write about, the people of Taiwan must stand as one and turn out heavily to vote on the peace referendum [this Saturday]. Only by doing so will it signal the [George W] Bush administration and China that Taiwan's future is not for sale. The status quo, given the domestic reality, is no longer workable. The Bush administration and its corporate allies love the status quo because, simply put, the present cross-Strait relationship is making them a lot of money. Taiwan's future and security is an afterthought to these people whose only god is the god of profit. If the people of Taiwan want to be masters of their own destiny, then they must show their resolve by voting en masse so that, as stated in their founding purpose, they will have a "government by the consent of the governed". The "opportunity cost of peace" and equal treatment from China, as the authors indicate, will only happen if the 23 million people of Taiwan speak with one voice and show the world that by being united, they will be in charge of their own future.
Fariborz S Fatemi
Former Professional Staff Member
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
McLean, Virginia (Mar 17, '04)


[Re Bush tells it like it isn't, Mar 13] One may admire [US President George W] Bush's one-pointed attention to the Iraq issue. But it is how he got to that issue that is questionable. In a country where the electorate is politically almost equally divided between the Republicans and Democrats, much is based on how artfully one works the issues. Bush has a great knack of dramatizing an issue and making it seem black or white. He effectively used the September 11 [2001] event to go after Saddam [Hussein]. In the process, truth took a severe beating at the hands of Bush. The American people were bombarded with portrayals of Saddam, the evil, capable of hurling his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at the USA. The choice was between black and white and no shades in between. Those shades are now becoming clearer; truth is beginning to raise its head from the heap of misleading and false statements. Bush, therefore, has to resort to twisting his previous statements and also be creative with some new ones. But the nation is already committed as he wanted. Bush's WMD, "words of mass deception", have already done their damage. American people should start to seriously question the genuineness of their government's motivations. It is not just the USA versus Iraq; the whole world has been affected by this farce one way or the other. Issues of this nature should not be decided based on political partisanship and on the arrogance of being the only surviving superpower.
Giri Girishankar (Mar 17, '04)


I wanted to read an article, but there was an advertisement that was flashing so much, that I could not get past the second paragraph. I understand the importance of advertising, but is it worth to lose the value of an informative article? I do not appreciate strobe-lighting advertisements.
Sue Ann Smith (Mar 17, '04)


[Re Spain's elections show why radical Islam can win, Mar 16] Spengler, fresh from his trampling of the history of Hebrew and all world languages [Normality is overrated, Mar 2], returns to his pseudo-demographic doomsday scenario of extinction of European peoples. His theory that nations with decreasing birthrates "will not fight" is absurd on the face of it. Japan is fighting in Iraq, as is South Korea, two nations with very low birthrates. So are several European nations. Even Spain, which Spengler now dooms to extinction after the victory of the socialists, is fighting in Iraq. Spengler should really quit being a columnist and go work for the [Popular] Party of Spain. Maybe they would have won with his slogan, "Vote for us, or be extinct!" Spengler is regurgitating ridiculous, and dangerous, obscurantist theories promulgated by his namesake, Oswald Spengler, in the early 20th century, in a book titled Decline of the West. I lost my interest in this book after high school, but Spengler has not only continued spewing its bizarre theories, but has adopted its author's name to boot. This sick obsession with population and breeding leads to disgusting, racist ideologies such as Nazism. [Adolf] Hitler's entire agenda in World War II was to raise German birthrates by seizing fertile farmland. Do we really need to drag this bankrupt ideology of victory through breeding out of the ash-heap of history? In any case, Spain is a very special case. Although the Spanish population is decreasing in Spain, Spanish culture thrives in the Americas. I'll be sure to tell the many Mexican-Americans I meet in California that they, like me (an Assyrian already pronounced extinct, and not really Assyrian, by Spengler), are doomed. I assume Spengler will dismiss the "Spanishness" of Latin Americans because they are not really Spanish. But even the Spanish are not really Spanish (this is probably true for every nationality), as they themselves sharply identify themselves as Castilian, Basque, etc. Although Latin Americans have distinct cultures, no one can deny that they all share a close cultural and linguistic bond with Spain. What Spengler misses is that, as a general rule, birthrates fall as societies prosper. That's all. His ignorance of the basics of demographics is convenient, though, as it allows him to formulate massively convoluted theories involving General [Francisco] Franco, Catholicism and terrorism. The Earth is now massively overpopulated. There is a real danger that animal life (except for roaches, rats and flies) will cease to exist outside farms and zoos. A steady decrease in human population is actually the only way to avoid extinction. Again, Spengler is exactly wrong. The Europeans have enough will to live, and concern for their environment, that they have lowered pollution and have set up societies that are the envy of the world. If Spengler had read one introductory text on demographics, his bread-and-butter theme in all his articles, he would know that reckless overpopulation is the surest recipe for extinction.
G Travan
California (Mar 16, '04)


Tell Mr Spengler that we in Europe will die of joy and hedonism and other decadent pleasures, while he will be dying [of] endless wars of pain and attrition with no apparent reason because he will never grasp the meaning of existentialism [Spain's elections show why radical Islam can win, Mar 16]. What philosophers have grasped 2,500 years ago, his little brain can't even imagine ... Tell him to open his Bible, this old fairy tale, and read some. Humanity has progressed much from this on. And tell him that his selfish genes may go and kill themselves, trying to conquer. Our decadent kids will survive, while his prosperous robust kids will rot in small graves with crosses on the top, in endless fields of destruction trying to conquer what cannot be conquered: time. Mr Spengler, in the long run as you pose it by fertility measures ... in the long run we are all dead. That's the story, can't you see? No you can't - like a hero from an ancient tragedy, blindness is self-inflicted.
Stathis (Mar 16, '04)


The [Mar 13] article titled The political tinderbox in the Taiwan Strait fails Asia Times Online readers in two respects. First, although the article correctly conveys the People's Republic of China's views, it fails to mention the mainstream view in Taiwan that Taiwan is already an independent and sovereign nation, and that the concept of "seeking independence" is meaningless rhetoric from China. Second, the article fails to mention theloser in the upcoming Taiwanese presidential election. Regardless of which candidate wins, the loser will be the one-China concept. Neither candidate asserts the one-China concept as a way to gain votes, and the voting public in Taiwan will not permit the president of Taiwan, from either party, to pursue any sort of one-China agenda. Since China's recent update of its constitution to enshrine private property rights only lags reality on the ground by 25 years, perhaps we can all look forward to the demise of Beijing's one-China fiction by the year 2029.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 16, '04)


I want to congratulate James Lobe for his excellent article, on how Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ fits into the politics of US fundamentalists [New cross to bear for US neo-cons, Mar 11]. Fundamentalist religion is a major force in US politics and society, yet foreign observers almost always ignore it.
Dr Lester Ness
Putian University
Fujian, China (Mar 16, '04)


Dear Mr Spengler: Regarding Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ [Mel Gibson's lethal religion, Mar 9]. Recently, I and legions of my evangelical Protestant friends went to see the movie, which some modern-day intellectuals have presented as a cultural debacle. I would like to reassure you that the consensus opinion is that Jesus continues on his throne and we are still content to meet him there. You seemed a bit concerned. PS: I wonder if you might refer to the movie as The Christ, in order to complete the thousands of American news reports referring The Passion. (Separation of Church and Information, you know.)
Rodney (Mar 16, '04)


Jim Lobe responds to Journalism 3160 at University of North Carolina-Charlotte (Mar 15 letter from Korrynn Bruns Baltzersen)
I owe it to you to identify my sources for the quote in question: They are William A Dorman and Mansour Farhang, authors of The US Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference, published by University of California Press in 1987. I recommend the book very highly for those interested in problems of US news coverage of Iran or, for that matter, just about anywhere outside US borders. Obviously, since it was published, the book was not privileged material, and normally I would have identified it in full. It's a problem when one writes with word and readers' attention limits in mind.
Jim Lobe (Mar 16, '04)


The letter by Jeff Geer [Mar 11] reaches a new milestone in the annals of twisted American logic, even by the lofty standards set by your many US readers. Geer engages in a convoluted and confused diatribe about the "conspiracy" of the one-China policy and so-called Han chauvinism, even as his own comments betray an (Anglo) American chauvinism when he attempts to rationalize the history of American colonialist intervention in Asia and the legacy of China/Taiwan division that is a result. Even Geer's last cryptic comment (or threat?) about "setting an appointment with manifest destiny" captures the supremacist arrogance that Americans display all too readily these days.
A Quan
Vancouver, British Columbia (Mar 16, '04)


When I can no longer stomach FOX's "fair and balanced" news, I turn to your website for a refreshing perspective. Thanks for helping to keep news balanced.
David Gee
Washington, DC (Mar 16, '04)


Your article Spain's 3-11: Basques, bin Laden, or both? (March 14) perhaps needs more vision or depth to reach the possible cause of such an appalling act. It is very easy to point the finger but needs some real facts to prove the accusations. First of all we need to analyze what real motives could be behind this cowardly act and the repercussions it would have. So far the indications are that it is not the Basques (looking at their past actions). And if it is any Islamic groups then they will have nothing to gain from this as the vast majority of the Spanish people are strongly against the Iraq war and Spain's support for [US President George W] Bush's crusades, secondly this would not get approval or support from the Muslim world as Islam strongly forbids killing of innocent civilians on or off the battlefield, if anything this would create a backlash against the Muslim minorities in Europe. The real beneficiaries from this would be the war lobbies of Europe and the US who perhaps would like to remind the anti-war factions of Europe of their importance and justification of the so-called war against terror.
Shahzad Raja
London, England (Mar 15, '04)


I usually hold Pepe Escobar's analyses in high esteem, and they are often cited byOrientering, a highly respected program of investigative journalism on our national public radio here in Denmark. However, I wish that in his article Spain's 3-11: Basques, bin Laden, or both? [Mar 13] he had at least made a passing mention of a third possibility which, in my opinion, is no less plausible than ETA or al-Qaeda when it comes to ascribing responsibility to the massacre in Madrid. Without entering into details, let me state that the keyword here is Bologna 1980. As far as I have been able to see, only one source, besides myself, has immediately suggested this third path of investigation, and that is French-based Reseau Voltaire.
Michel Tavir
Denmark (Mar 15, '04)


[Re Iraq: Washington spinning out of control, Mar 13] I read this article with trepidation and tried to keep an open mind, but it's exceptionally clear to me that Ritt Goldstein is an expert on spin and perhaps leads his own "spinning" class.
Shannon Anaya
Dallas, Texas (Mar 15, '04)


[Re Becoming poignant, pertinent, pragmatic, Mar 13] You definitely convinced me to read the book [The End of India] (and I'm no Khushwant Singh fan), which is anyway what successful reviewing is all about. Kudos! I recently watched two really good documentaries - Anand Patwardhan's Bombay: Our City and Madhurshree Dutta's I Live in Behrampara.Do see them if you can. Have you seen or heard anything about Aakhrosh, the film on the Gujarat riots that sparked controversy in India recently?
Anuradha Ramanujan (Mar 15, '04)


XOY of Texas has it more correct than most of the other [letter] contributors. I have been a concerned listener of world news since the days of short-wave radio and Franklin Roosevelt. (The Internet is a great improvement.) His emphatic statements about US policy and strategy are closely aligned with my opinions. The basis of US foreign policy is "protection of US interests". This broad term defines good deeds, humanitarian endeavors, as well as all manner of sins in the name of making money for powerful individuals. I am a designer who works on warships for the US Navy. I often wonder what the world would be like if we built as many hospital ships and university ships as these 50,000-ton killing machines we are so quick to use. I doubt that my grandchildren will live to see that day.
Ken Moreau
New Orleans, Louisiana (Mar 15, '04)


I must say your website is full of the most blatant anti-Christian, anti-US opinion of the many websites I have viewed purporting to present news. I can always count on left-wing communist hyperbole coming from your website instead of just the straightforward news.
Rick (Mar 15, '04)


Again, Daniel McCarthy [letter, Mar 12] is playing word games with other people's lives. This time, he is playing with the lives of the people in Taiwan. Although, some people wish that the US is the sovereign owner of Taiwan, Americans never regard Taiwanese as their own countrymen. McCarthy would not hesitate to play Taiwanese pawns for his own pleasure and ego. However, if his wishes of starting another East Asian war come true, he may pay his own pity nerdy life for his own stupid power games. Be careful of what you are wishing for. Read a few more history books before writing your letters.
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 15, '04)


I write this letter on behalf of my Newswriting class at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As an assignment for our class, we were instructed to read your online newspaper and in particular the story Gaffes and gullibility: NY Times gets it wrong [Feb 28]. As a class, we had a concern with your story. You say that the New York Times reporters were wrong in basing their stories on the "assertions by unidentified senior officials". Likewise, you condemn a reporter for relying on stories from people "who now appear to have fabricated much of what they told her". Again, the Times is criticized when you condemn its editors who "had not published a single editor's note or correction" with reference to prewar coverage. The aforementioned criticizing of the New York Times makes it all the more interesting that Asia Times [Online] (within this same story) quotes two unnamed experts from an unnamed publication - "two experts on US coverage of Iran put it in a 1987 book." As aspiring journalists ourselves, we must ask you whether you realize that you've committed the same faux pas that you are condemning the New York Times for. Perhaps you were "nervously excited by exciting events" and should heed your own advice to supply "news that would make government function better, no matter the excitement of events or times"? Did Asia Times get it wrong?
Korrynn Bruns Baltzersen
On behalf of Journalism 3160 at UNC-Charlotte (Mar 15, '04)

Not on this occasion, but we have erred on precisely this point from time to time, and for that reason we frequently impress on our writers the importance of ensuring that their sources are reliable - and we edit out such sources when we are not convinced. That was the mistake the NYT and its reporters made in the examples cited in Jim Lobe's article - failing to corroborate their sources' reliability, not merely failing to name them. Of course naming a source is impossible when to do so would negate or even endanger the source, as is often the case in much of Asia Times Online's coverage area. In such instances editors must rely on their reporters to get it right - and Jim Lobe is a highly experienced and trustworthy contributor. - ATol


I thought I would take the chance to clarify my comments. More directly put, I was saying that XOY's letter [Mar 11] reminded me of formulaic answers I used to hear in China. Any criticism of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is taken as being the utterances of a domineering American (although I would have to remind all concerned that I'm not from there) and "just look at what your country did", etc. It is interesting to note that correspondingly, the CCP never answers charges made by Amnesty International, just shrill counter-accusations against the State Department when it repeats these in its own reports. Doing this does not cancel the original charges out. I want to make it clear, though, that over the past few years the grossly unqualified George W Bush is the worst thing to happen to the planet. Let's be clear too that the PRC [People's Republic of China] is run by a dictatorship, even if it is more of a collective these days with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao mostly running it, along with Jiang Zemin "doing a Deng Xiaoping", probably holding on to a certain power of veto. Why don't we all return to the higher principle, therefore, of freedom of speech (quite right, Ge Si Wen [letter, Mar 11]) and opinion? Such principles as these seem to have almost got lost or buried. Principles such as it being morally dubious for a dictatorship to threaten a democracy. During my time in China, I always said when asked that I was neutral on the whole Taiwan independence debate, and that above all I was for self-determination. Using an example of my native land, I said that if Scotland voted for independence who are the English to stop them? I remind readers that in more recent times, any country with the word "People's" in it has in fact been shown to be the opposite. The PRC is one, lest we forget that North Korea claims to be a Democratic People's Republic. East Germany was never democratic either; As Walter Ulbricht, the first leader, said: "It's got to look democratic, but we must have everything under our control." In summary, XOY's statements have reminded me of things I have heard in China itself, such as, "incorrect opinions should not be voiced." However, as a favorite saying of mine goes, "Without freedom to criticize, flattery has no value."
Peter Mitchelmore
Calgary, Alberta (Mar 15, '04)


K S Mali states in his letter [Mar 12] that Michael S L Lou echoes the official Chinese views on India. I beg your pardon, but where did you get that idea? I find it very funny that some Hindu nationalists try to lift their inferiority complex, probably inflicted by the British colonialists, with China-bashing and all kind of conspiracy theories. Much of the current days problems between the nations are the results of Western imperialism and colonialism. Both nations should work together for peace and prosperity. Warmongering by people like K S Mali is not very helpful.
J Zhang
The Netherlands (Mar 15, '04)

I wish Michael S L Lou [of] Milton, Massachusetts, had bothered to properly read Jayanthi Iyengar's article (NAATO: Blueprint for Asian security, Mar 9) before rushing to put his foot in his mouth in his attempt to heap criticism on her and her country [letter below, Mar 11]. His statements like "Clearly, India has been quite upset that China, with its [soaring] economic performance and growing international profile, is stealing all the attention ... China outshines and outpaces India not just by mere body lengths, but many laps" and "Any security arrangement in and around the world at large, much less in Asia, will be rendered meaningless without China. And if Iyengar thinks that the Chinese will 'sit idly by' and watch ..." are basically what Iyengar herself stated, although in much more diplomatic/polite language. Lou's unnecessarily caustic comments such as "[she] is surely reaching for the moon, much like [her] nation is trying to do, with plenty of hot air, and no solid foundations to speak of" only reveal his own insecurity about standard India-versus-China type comparisons that are so common these days.
Amit Sharma
Roorkee, India (Mar 12, '04)


Michael [Lou] (see the letter below [Mar 11]) with his China-centric view must be living in a fool's world if he believes that a new alliance without China in Asia is impossible. Jayanthi Iyengar has rightly stressed the need for a new security framework within Asia as the continent emerges as the focus of world attention. Nobody is "upset" about the credit due to China for all its achievements, the good, bad and the ugly. The Chinese leadership thinks that every problem faced by its people has an economic solution and by creating economic wealth all the other problems will be automatically taken care of. So, in its quest to attain accelerated economic growth, China has completely neglected to address the social, cultural and political issues confronting it. India derives its power from the people and in turn its policies and programs are answerable to the people. So India need no certificate from the global powers for its legitimacy and it is not necessary to undertake a [US]$2.3 billion mega-technological demonstration exercise (to put a man in space/moon) just to show off its power. Essentially, the Indian space program, one of the most advanced among the developing nations, has focused on launching satellites as they bring more immediate, tangible results to the nation. Manned space flights, besides being expensive, have questionable returns. The surge in nationalistic pride seems to have drowned out criticism about China's space program as a costly, misplaced adventure.
Kannan (Mar 12, '04)


This refers to Michael Lou's letter below [Mar 11]. He echoes the official Chinese views on India. However, it's not for the Chinese and China alone to decide which country is or will be a great power in the future. If the Indian economy continues to grow at 7-9 percent for a decade or two, India will have as much right as China to entertain "great-power aspirations". Already, India's skilled labor and China's cheap labor have become major contentious issues in the US presidential elections. In the meantime, if Beijing thinks that India will "sit idly by" as China aligns itself with rogue and failing states of Pakistan, North Korea and Burma [Myanmar] and supports their nuclear or missile programs, then the Chinese leadership is clearly in for a surprise. Should India decide to join the NAATO [North America Asia Treaty Organization] alliance (though I think it's highly unlikely for the foreseeable future), China could react by provoking an India-Pakistan conflict; stepping up support to insurgency movements in India's northeast; and transferring nuclear and missile technology to Burma and Bangladesh. China has already tried the first two options, while the third option runs the risk of provoking India to help Taiwan and Vietnam go nuclear and ballistic.
K S Mali (Mar 12, '04)


Since reader XOY (March 11 letter) doesn't understand why his letters lack intellectual content, here is something to enlighten him. It's quite clear that XOY takes a very extreme and fanatical anti-US and and anti-Taiwan view, far more than Henry C K Liu. And just like Mr Liu, XOY interprets facts through his extremist mentality to support his political view, and his responses to articles and letters include a very "personal" attack component. The overall tone, attitude and content of XOY's letters are similar to postings in Chinese websites that foment anti-US and anti-Taiwan fanaticism.
John Wang
Massachusetts, USA (Mar 12, '04)


Letter writer XOY [letter, Mar 11] contends that Taiwan is not an independent and sovereign nation because of its close relationship with the US. Perhaps XOY is taking the position of Richard Hartzell [Taiwan poll should ask about US sovereignty, Feb 27] that the US is the sovereign owner of Taiwan following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. Or perhaps he feels that since the US provides Taiwan with arms to resist a Chinese invasion, that relationship deprives Taiwan of sovereignty. If XOY is arguing the latter, then the People's Republic of China is not a sovereign nation either, since the PRC obtains weapons from Russia for its planned attack on Taiwan. XOY should be careful of the arguments he makes, because someone might actually believe them.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 12, '04)


Re your article of March 10, Iraqis learn red tape the Indian way by Arun Bhattacharjee: I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Afghan diplomats are already being trained by India on a regular basis since January 2002. So far four batches of Afghan diplomats have received training at the Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi.
GBS
Paris (Mar 11, '04)


Perhaps in the foreseeable future [David] Isenberg is ready to launch an article entitled "A Greater Asian Union" on [Asia Times Online] in which he will develop a blueprint of brotherhood among nations in Asia, including North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the nations in Indochina, etc [New thinking on a Greater Chinese Union, Mar 9]. Such a blueprint would be based on the values of mutual respect and peaceful intentions, rather than military dominance of one over another. The blueprint, if feasible, will not only foster some kind of peace and stability in the region, but also place a Greater Asian Union in a position to contend with the European Union and the United States. A global era of "triangularity", reminiscent of the "Three Kingdoms" period after the breakup of the Han Dynasty in China, would come into being. Consequently, possibilities of future debates in Asia Times between the camp nostalgic of the glory of the Chinese imperial past and the camp realistic about the current political situations in Asia will abound. This, hopefully, would also lead to the discovery and discussion of the fate-of-extinction shared by the various states under the umbrella of the Greater Han Union two thousands years ago, which Mr Isenberg cited as a model of a Greater Chinese Union.
Chunhui Yang
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 11, '04)


In Jayanthi Iyengar's delusional essay on the feasibility of a NAATO [North America Asia Treaty Organization] for Asia which includes the "democracies" of the region, I find nothing more than another laughable attempt for India to find a little niche for its "great power" aspiration [NAATO: Blueprint for Asian security, Mar 9]. Clearly, India has been quite upset that China, with its [soaring] economic performance and growing international profile, is stealing all the attention. From global investments to the number of automobiles on the road to average life expectancy and placing a taikonaut in space, China outshines and outpaces India not just by mere body lengths, but many laps. Any security arrangement in and around the world at large, much less in Asia, will be rendered meaningless without China. And if Iyengar thinks that the Chinese will "sit idly by" and watch a security net made up of potential hostile and united forces in their own back yard, [she] is surely reaching for the moon, much like [her] nation is trying to do, with plenty of hot air, and no solid foundations to speak of.
Michael S L Lou
Milton, Massachusetts (Mar 11, '04)


Dear Quin (letter, Mar 10): As you didn't refer to a specific letter [when you demanded that ATol] ban authors "who are arrogant and obviously lacking in academic training" I feel free to handle your letter as a reply to mine (Mar 9) that asks Spengler for non-resigned help against extinction. To the first objection: I regret if arrogance was transported. This isn't meant. To the second: Why should I hide behind academic style if there isn't any scientific truth to express but nothing else than the truth of blank despair in the face of death watching my future dying? [Is Asia Times Online], a truth-seeking newspaper, necessarily a journal for research? On the contrary, I question if the request to ban other letters in order to keep an unscrutinized intellectual standard isn't anything more than a mistake of unbalanced academic training. Freedom of speech, please!
Ge Si Wen (Mar 11, '04)


It is quite comical to the read the replies to my March 2 letter. John Wang [Mar 3] whines that my piece has little intellectual content, while Peter Mitchelmore [Mar 5] says that it reminds him how he has been blamed for the numerous crimes of the West. Meanwhile, Daniel McCarthy [Mar 3] continues his one-man crusade to consecrate Taiwan's status as a full fledged American satrap. Since these people didn't bother to address any of the points I made, I'll restate them for their benefit: Contrary to what patriotic American drones believe, the USA does not stand for democracy or freedom whether that be in China/Taiwan or the world. Period. A brief check of America's murderous behavior from Iraq to Afghanistan, where the USA is currently waging colonial wars against the people of those nations, is testament to the true nature of American "democracy". Then there is the case of Haiti, where the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was removed by the USA in a thinly disguised coup d'etat. Even members of [the US] Congress like Maxine Waters have openly stated this fact. Or take the example of Venezuela, where the American Empire failed to overthrow democratically elected president Hugo Chavez in a similar coup attempt in April 2002. And don't forget the fact that the current American regime of George Bush seized power through fraud and chicanery that would make an Enron executive seem honest by comparison. Yet despite all of these examples, Americans and their apologists have the nerve to talk about "democracy" with respect to China/Taiwan? Dream on. As I said before, Taiwan's true status is that of an American client state - neither part of China (with all due respect to Henry Liu) nor an independent self-ruled island democracy, as the Western media love to call it. The American agenda is to hold on to its vassal state as long as possible as part of its strategic encirclement of China. All of America's propaganda about democracy, freedom, and human rights had the same status as that of its lies about Iraqi WMD [weapons of mass destruction], and cannot be disguised no matter how hard you try.
XOY
Texas (Mar 11, '04)


I am afraid that Henry Liu's letter [Mar 2] claiming a "united front" with the Formosa Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) will not uphold any myth of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. Their island was lost to Japan in 1895, and the Qing Chinese hired a white foreigner named John Foster to write Treaty of Shimonoseki. Their retained American lawyer did not create any sort of fraudulent transfer of Qing Dynasty sovereignty to Japan. Formosa might have been stolen from Qing China under the Japanese sword of conquest but the legal fine print was not drafted incompetently. The 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki shares many essentials of international law with the 1898 Treaty of Paris which was signed after the American-Spanish War. They shared issues of customary law for peace treaties and interim nationality of island inhabitants (Article 5, Treaty of Shimonoseki; Article 9, Treaty of Paris). In the early 1850s, US naval Commodore [Matthew] Perry's expedition did three separate, official American military surveys of Formosa. They noted the geographical boundaries between the Taiwanese aboriginal lands amidst the mere presence of only eight tiny Chinese settlements on Formosa. The US naval survey ultimately positioned the Americans into a very official position to dispute the validity of Chinese claims to Taiwan under the principle of discovery by conquest. Those native island tracts were unreclaimed by China for about 20 years until Japan also put the Qing Chinese claim of sovereignty into dispute. American historians of the 1800s noted the US State Department gave assurances to Beijing that they had no further interests in Taiwan during this period. The American Civil War played a role, but title of discovery had not been perfected by any "Jamestown settlements" on Formosa by American colonialists. Thus it was impossible for any Qing claim jumping by American foreign policy. The Truman Statement of 1950 was made with a corollary for the Chinese on Taiwan. That order was not to aggravate their Chinese communist neighbors. However, US secretary of state John Foster Dulles still communicated with the PRC [People's Republic of China] via secret diplomatic channels in the East Bloc. The US had no great love of Chiang Kai-shek, much like the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] insurgency in the 1937 Xi'an Incident. Declassified CIA [US Central Intelligence Agency] documents point to their covert planning as early as 1948 in order to stage a second "Xi'an Incident". The sad personal story of General Sun Jen Li is the aborted result. Nonetheless, John Foster Dulles was the grandson of an international lawyer, the legendary John Foster, and it was Foster's very own favorite grandson who left the Japanese territory of Taiwan in an undecided status in the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty [SFPT]. The Taiwan island inhabitants lost their Japanese nationality on April 28, 1952, just like when the Taiwanese islanders lost Chinese political status and became Japanese subjects in 1895. Japanese courts have repeatedly recognized these legal dates for defining the period of Japanese nationality of Taiwanese. The Taiwan residents were not Chinese nationals on so-called Retrocession Day, October 25, 1945. If the world recognized this ROC [Republic of China] event, then it would be a grave fraudulent transfer to Chinese sovereignty. That would be something the PRC would want to avoid at all costs. The US recognizes the "one China" principle, and that is the centerpiece on which it maintains diplomatic recognition with Beijing. In effect, the Shanghai Communique is a lien upon the SFPT title to Taiwan island but the US does not recognize any transfer to the PRC or ROC. The Taiwan Relations Act [TRA] will not allow anything but a peaceful resolution between the parties to the issue. If there is a Great White Father syndrome here, it is that American adherence to the rule by law for the last 150 years pales in comparison with the Han Chinese fraud since 1945. The so-called "neo-McCarthyism" noted by some is shedding light into the dark shadows of the Chinese fraudulent transfer of Taiwan, and a Han chauvinism is in the center spotlight of that conspiracy. The "human rights" of the TRA are rooted deeper in the "undefined" civil rights and political status of the SFPT that was first found in Article 9, Treaty of Paris. The one-China policy does not define the political status of the SFPT, but it protects islander interests of "undefined" civil rights created under the SFPT ratification and TRA reaffirmation. A one-China conspiracy perpetuated by any two parties against civil rights, if grounded in customary law, is a very grave concern indeed. If that makes one a neo-McCarthyist, then set an appointment with manifest destiny.
Jeff Geer
Brazil (Mar 11, '04)


Dear Oswald [Spengler], I happened to stumble over an old editorial of yours, Why Europe chooses extinction [Apr 9, '03], in which you state that "in 200 years, French and German will be spoken exclusively in hell." Not at all unlikely. However, considering that the not so "prosperous and peaceful nations" of that future age who choose to do business as usual and be fruitful and multiply and industrialize will have turned the planet into an overcrowded, war-ridden ecological wasteland, it is not impossible that, 200 years from now, alllanguages will be spoken in hell.
Bernd Ohm
Berlin (Mar 10, '04)


Daniel McCarthy [letters below] apparently does not know the meaning of "dictator". Dictator means a single person with absolute power. I would like to know who that person is in China. Hu? Jiang? Wen? or Jia? or Li? China is controlled by a group of engineers now. Maybe he can invent another word for that. How about senators? Is that too Americanized?
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 10, '04)


Well said, Ewa Rurarz-Huygens from Reston, Virginia, Mar 9 [letter below]. Your response to Spengler's Lethal Religion [Mar 9] is exactly my sentiment. Thank you.
Caral
Perth, Australia (Mar 10, '04)


Could you please implement an "ignore arthur" option in your letters section? I find your site generally very insightful and brings many different views on every issue. But I don't like to waste too much time on authurs who are arrogant and obviously lacking in academic training, but have to write a letter to atimes every other day.
Quin
Cupertino, California (Mar 10, '04)

OK, "Arthur" is hereby banned. - ATol


Although David Isenberg's article titled New thinking on a Greater Chinese Union [Mar 9] certainly contains some creative thinking, Mr Isenberg seems to have missed an important point: the national debate within Taiwan about unification with China is over, and has been over for some time. Within Taiwan's populace, there is a lack of impetus or desire to move ahead with any discussion aimed at forming a political union with China. To put it another way, the people of Taiwan consider themselves independent and wish to remain that way. Even the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) has publicly distanced itself from any reunification agenda because the concept of reunification is a dead loser in Taiwan's politics. To the extent that Taiwanese express their desire for no change in the status quo, it is generally because many Taiwanese view a change in the form of a political union with China as being the death knell for freedom, democracy and self-rule in Taiwan, while a change in the form of declaring Taiwan's already de facto independence may bring military conflict. It is particularly disturbing that the national pride and self-respect of the current Chinese government seems to be so closely tied to subjugation of the people of Taiwan. Combine that with China's inability to keep promises or to treat its citizens as anything more than cattle and the prognosis for a happy Taiwan under a China umbrella is bleak. In short, the concepts outlined in Mr Isenberg's article will not arouse interest in Taiwan because the concept of political union with China is objectionable to most Taiwanese. Likewise, Mr Isenberg's thoughts will not generate interest in China because Mr Isenberg's writing is based on the concept of some form of parity between Taiwan and China instead of complete subjugation of Taiwan to a dictatorship in Beijing.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 9, '04)


The heated discussion over Mel Gibson's [The Passion of the Christ] - including also Spengler's Lethal Religion [Mar 9] piece that uses the subject to again make reference to the exceptional American character - makes me, the atheist, shake my head in wonder. For indeed, here we are in the early 21st century and so many people are getting fired up by what is essentially a myth. And whatever the foundations of the myth and the reasons behind it, it is high time to realize that we, humans, have invented religion. We are the ones who brought divinity, and thus God, into being, not the other way around. (It is this realization that lies behind Europe's "[abandoning] of faith".) In truth, religion remains "the opiate of the people" who forget their own role in its coming into being. Humans have engendered a monster that has blinded them and is pitting them against each other. It is high time to send God packing and leave squabbles over mythology to those who have nothing better to do. And no, there is nothing exceptional or different in American Christianity. It is dangerous in its belief that America has a special relationship with God. Somehow, one cannot help thinking those others who believed the same and who sent their armies marching with "Gott mit uns" emblazoned on their belt buckles. Again, God is but an instrument we have invented to further our various agendas.
Ewa Rurarz-Huygens
Reston, Virginia (Mar 9, '04)


The only concession to Spengler's pseudo-diatribe [Mel Gibson's Lethal Religion, Mar 9] is that to a certain extent all religions are lethal. As an affrighted web viewer I can only attest to the number of expositions that purport to acclaim, condemn as well as define what Mel Gibson's movie "really, really is all about" (that is beside the all-too-familiar whining of [its] being anti-Semitic, like that is supposed to intimate that it is sacrilegious to be one). It really could not be helped. It seems everyone (including Spengler) had a point or two to expound on, including the following supine opinion: "Jesus was bad for business." Ergo,Ecce Homo.
ADeL (Mar 9, '04)


Dear Spengler: There is truth in your articles. Have you already tried to address your thoughts of dying tribes to your own country? If there isn't any possibility not to die, isn't the extinction easier to bear if you continue to try to work against it? To give you some hope: I am part of the younger generation. I want to survive, if not in person, at least as part of the cultural heritage. Besides writing the truth to a global audience, couldn't you use some of your intellectual power to push the project of survival in your own country? This is not against other countries. Is not the survival of all tribes a question of wise politics, only?
Ge Si Wen (Mar 9, '04)


In reply to the letter by May Sage [below, Mar 8]: I think the region of northeastern India that Sultan Shahin was referring to [India frets over Pakistan-Bangladesh nexus, Mar 6] is the border regions of Assam and West Bengal states. These areas have received huge numbers of refugees from Bangladesh over several decades and a large fraction of these refugees are Muslim. In fact, one of the reasons why several Indian states in that region have turned violent is because the native people feel threatened by the prospect of becoming minorities on their own turf thanks to the constant influx of refugees. As for the reasons why India is facing secession movements: yes, government negligence is always a factor in turning people sour, but name one inch of India that is not being neglected. There are two possible kinds of equality that a government can provide to its people - the first kind is where things are equally good for everyone, as is the case in the developed countries, and the second kind is where life is equally screwed up for everyone, as is the case in India. In a poor country that has been ravaged by 150 years of colonial rule, followed by getting mauled in a world economic system where the rules are set by those very same colonizers, divided arbitrarily at the time of independence by British encouragement of religious maniacs leading to a mob-mentality political culture where everyone claims special treatment (including independence) by portraying themselves as victims of injustice by the "majority", it is easy for everyone to lash out in frustration by blaming all their ills on someone else. It is even more easy for opportunistic politicians to take advantage of this for personal gains. Thus are India's myriad independence movements born. As for the claim by Dharmayudh Singh [below, Mar 8] that the Hindu extremist organization RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] was not involved in [Mahatma] Gandhi's murder because his assassin had left the RSS prior to killing Gandhi - one has to be really deluded, and allergic to common logic, to believe that. Riots against Hindus do not justify riots by Hindus. In Gandhi's words: an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.
Amit Sharma
Roorkee, India (Mar 9, '04)


The group you quoted in your article [US military spending soars, security suffers, Mar 3], the Center for Defense Information, is a left-wing group that will do all it can to destroy the Armed Forces of the United States. They are not military experts. They have links to the Democrats, something you fail to mention in your article.
W Perry Bullock
USA (Mar 9, '04)


[Re the Mar 6] Marc Erikson article The good ship US Economy ... and why it won't sink. [I am] not impressed with this article as it is based on an incorrect assumption regarding US past and future productivity gains. This statistic, as applied by Marc, is seriously flawed. Let me give an example: Let us assume that Dell computer had its products made abroad and then imported to the US. Said computers would then show a product produced with almost zero labor in the US. [This is] great for the productivity statistics but, in fact, represents no productivity gain in the US. This sort of activity has almost entirely driven the US productivity gains over the last number of years. There are those, in fact, who claim that the US has experienced little or no productivity gain over the past 10 years or more.
Anne Tilley (Mar 8, '04)


Just finished Marc [Erikson]'s feel-good article [The good ship US Economy ... and why it won't sink, Mar 6]. I thought I'd research him a bit before I commented, and his September 24, 2002, article on the probability of Iraq having nuclear weapons [Iraq may well have nukes] was sufficient. I realize a wide range of viewpoints is necessary to produce an objective news site, but Mr Erikson is figuratively waving pompoms with a little skirt for the Bush administration. Marc, a little thought is good before writing an article, and you appear to be doing as little thinking as anyone.
Joe Osorio
Oakland, California (Mar 8, '04)

Erikson has been caught with his pants down on occasion, but we can thankfully report that we've never seen him in a little skirt. But given that Pakistanis were busily selling nuclear technology to Iran, the fact that Iraq didn't have nukes may be seen as surprising. -ATol


Thanks for the encouraging analysis [The good ship US Economy ... and why it won't sink, Mar 6]. But the debt is the iceberg waiting for the Titanic. We [the US] cannot, as a nation, as a government, as individuals, continue to build up debt we never pay down. We are heading for that iceberg whether or not we deny it. America is the only "successful" global empire to bring nothing back to the homeland except dead soldiers and massive debt.
RT
Carpenter, Florida (Mar 8, '04)


I couldn't resist responding to [Sultan] Shahin's article [India frets over Pakistan-Bangladesh nexus, Mar 6]. It was quite hilarious, although not intended to be so perhaps. But when a journalist doesn't know he's being spun, it can lead to the reader have a chuckle at his expense. How can a Muslim state be established in the northeast [of India]? Kashmir is the only place where this is even remotely possible, because Muslims are the majority there, and even that is not possible because Kashmiris are not fundamentalists - even if they want to secede to independence. The ISI [Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence] bogeyman is everywhere. India has long had a secession problem in these states, which is not all that unusual since Indonesia has a similar problem - and in both countries the reason is the same. In fact, I've read articles in the Indian press that acknowledge the main reason is government negligence. Even someone as informed as a former finance minister of India said that Indian leaders should stop treating Kashmir like real estate. The best way to deal with this problem is to do what Spain, Italy and France have done (all of which have been subject to secession efforts in ways large and small) who have had the grace to realize that there is another way aside from applying only the troop solution to this challenge.
May Sage
USA (Mar 8, '04)


The article Get Osama - but where, and when? [Mar 5] by Pepe Escobar made an interesting read. Sounds like the whole Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and [Abdul Qadeer] Khan thing all over again. Same story, different plot. NWFP [North West Frontier Province]? Is this the best America's Central Agency (note: I choose not to insult the word "Intelligence") can do? Is it not possible that Osama [bin Laden] could be sitting pretty in the salubrious Swiss-like environs of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) while US forces et al rough it out in the rugged terrain of the NWFP or Balochistan? Where would Osama be staying? At some ex-Pakistani military general's pad, of course. If found out, the Pakistani army can claim ignorance and the "rogue" ex-general sheltering Osama would be pardoned - after all, he would instantly become a Pakistani hero. And why would Pakistan want Osama to be found? After Nukes "R" Us has shut down, Al-Qaeda "Iz" Us is very good business ... in fact, a billion-dollar enterprise. No getting bashed up by Lou Dobbs and absolutely halal to boot. Pakistan's [President General] Pervez Musharraf must have tried so very hard not to laugh during his talks with [US Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld. Also, the writing style of Sudha Ramachandran's article (Fighting for the Muslim vote [Mar 5]) is similar to a majority of Indian English-language journalists. This breed has two traits: (a) Twist history to suit bias, and (b) Speak half-truths. She mentions "Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ... the organization that was believed to have been behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi". This is a canard spread over and over again by this breed. Every student of Indian history knows that [Nathuram] Godse, Gandhi's assassin, left the RSS because he was disgusted with their mild behavior and was involved with the Hindu Mahasabha. As far as half-truths go, the author ascribes two riots where the receiving end were Muslims to the "Sangh Parivar". Were these the only riots that occurred in India from 1947? What about the rest? What about the riots and bomb blasts where Hindus were at the receiving end, viz Marad, Godhra, Sholapur, Akshardham, Mumbai 2003? What about the pogrom carried out against the Hindus in Kashmir? These Indian journalists don't care and the human-rights activists don't either. Should we Hindus classify ourselves as animals? That way at least PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] might care and take up cudgels on our behalf. Let's realize that in these interesting times, it's not just riots but also half-baked articles like these that incite hatred.
Dharmayudh Singh
Miami, Florida (Mar 8, '04)


Once again I charge into the breach in defense of Pepe [Escobar's Mar 4 article] A constitution drenched in blood. Dave Doc from Atlanta [letter, Mar 5] charges Pepe with various crimes, one being genetics and the other being the ability to transfer thought to pixel in an intellectual manner. Additionally he states "... that the United States would undertake such an attack, or would somehow benefit, is nonsensical". Pepe on the other hand states: "Sources confirm to Asia Times Online that there's a pervasive feeling in the Shi'ite street that the multiple carnage was a bloody message by the Americans to Sistani: stop demanding direct elections, or else." Reviewing various new sources, outside of Asian Times Online, for a "fair and balanced" analysis: The San Francisco Chronicle leads with "Mourning Iraqis direct anger toward US troops". The highly respected Christian Science Monitor stated, "Closer to the shrines, angry Shi'ites blamed the US and Israel for the attack." The Washington Post , another prestigious journal, writes, "At several of the funerals, the anger was directed at Wahhabis ... and US forces." Obviously, Pepe is not alone in determining that Shi'ites blame the US for the carnage and to label this information nonsensical would be in itself absurd (ie, nonsensical). Therefore, Dan seems to suffer from the same affliction [of which] he accuses Pepe. Perhaps to Dave Doc's chagrin, Pepe has better sources in the Shi'ite community than the "Raj" Paul Bremer. Maybe Mr Bremer should take a leaf from King Henry [IV of Germany]'s book and stand in the sand barefoot for a few days to gain an audience with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Lastly, Pepe's cover as the "Joseph Goebbels of the Islamic terror movement" is unmasked and has shaved his head and now reports the world's geopolitical affairs as a Buddhist monk.
Bob
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Mar 8, '04)

Pepe has not shaved his head. He has, however, removed his beard to discourage Che Guevara autograph seekers. - ATol


Asia Times has more readers than just [Daniel] McCarthy. I am tired of reading McCarthy's personal attack to [Henry C K] Liu and his playing word games [letters below]. To McCarthy, it is a game of words. To billions of Asians, it is a choice of life and death. Please allow more Asians to express themselves here. Let McCarthyists go to their own country to play.
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 8, '04)


There is apparently no greater hazard today than to be Arab-friendly or Muslim-friendly. Being an actual Arab or Muslim then causes one to be in an unenviable, exact damnation spot. But those hailing their respective cultures as the light of the world, be it Western, Hindu or any other variety, need to bear in mind that they have to demonstrate compassion indiscriminately to human beings of all stripes and histories. If they fail in this, it becomes unclear whether their culture is at all capable of broad, humanistic possibilities and whether in essence it is barbaric. And unless we are being asked to rush headlong into total barbarism (I personally believe we are), where material success is worshipped as pristine and exact and the only barometer of "progress" but human spirituality is thought to be inexact and subjective and therefore not worthy of any sustained development, it is in the best interest of every single man, woman and child on Earth that humanity's leaders in every era have (at the minimum) a genuine concern for all people that goes beyond and transcends cultural limitations. And I don't just mean sending rovers to Mars in the name of humanity, because that is still material progress and not a study of our unlimited inner wonders. Chest-beating about the great accomplishments of our ancestors won't do any good either, "gross wastefulness" an appropriate rubric for this absurd race to accomplish eternal bragging rights. Traditional Muslim scholars, as I am sure traditional scholars of every religion and sensible culture, have no problem finding good aspects of pretty much every kinds of people on the globe, and this reinforces the idea of the universality of man - that man is basically honored and honorable in this cosmos, no matter if that honor is hidden layers deep, no matter if we have disagreements about what constitutes honor. Traditional Muslim scholars have no problem praising all kinds of people for their respective goodness - the all-encompassing, anti-Semitic writeoff of Muslim culture is so out of proportion it's embarrassing. An objective, close examination of Islamic source texts will reveal that Jews and Christians are criticized as crucial members of a larger monotheistic, Abrahamic, family, not as outsiders; that the teachings of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) are a culmination of the teachings of the great prophets: of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon all of them). Jews and Christians - their languages, their ancestors, their heritage - are highly respected by Muslims, notwithstanding today's confusing politics. A regular contributor of your journal (Sultan Shahin, I think) highlighted at length the congruence Muslim scholars of the past sought between Islam and Hinduism. Henry C K Liu attests to the centuries-long peaceful relationship between Muslims and the Chinese. But must Muslims and/or Arabs at this difficult time in their history abandon their very selves to become respectable and praiseworthy even at the basic, human level? I think the world is being a bit childish.
Bilal Saqib
Houston, Texas (Mar 8, '04)


Please take away the flashing advertisements that spoil your wonderful news articles for people like me who get a headache or even have a seizure from looking at flashing or blinking lights.
Mary Nye
Seattle, Washington (Mar 8, '04)

Unlike many news websites more concerned about revenue and fancy technology than the readability of their news articles, Asia Times Online takes great care to keep "nervous" ads off the site, especially the articles themselves. We cannot survive without revenue, however, and we apologize if a few of the ads are annoying. - ATol


It is election season in India and the English media [are] back to raising irrelevant issues (see Fighting for the Muslim vote [Mar 5] by Sudha Ramachandran). As she puts it, the Muslim vote constitutes about 12 percent of the total and is really confined to several pockets of UP [Uttar Pradesh] and Bihar, unambiguously India's most backward states. It is followed by the usual remarks on Mandir and now Gujarat, which needless to say are sounding like broken records. In between, issues which don't put Indian Muslims in a positive light such as the Shah Bano case, Muslim personal law which is very unfavorable to women, Godhra and the riots that follow the annual Moharram processions are brushed under the carpet. Perhaps raising the standard of education rather than preserving someone's medieval religious rights might be more relevant to solve the pressing problems. If one sums up, the liberal media focus 90 percent of [their] time on issues that affect about 10 percent of the population, and that, too, in India's most backward regions. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!
AP (Mar 5, '04)


I just want to thank Asia Times Online for returning to its stated mission as a fair and unbiased news source by offering equal space and discussion in the [articles under the heading] Taiwan's referendum: Hailed, hated [Support democracy, not referendums andReferendum is victory for democracy, both Mar 5]. I hope this also means future publications of overly long, single-sided, and biased opinions in the form of a 10-part saga from the likes of Mr Henry Liu would at least have a counter 10-part saga to balance him out.
Dr Tzu-Hsiu Tseng (Mar 5, '04)


[Re] Shi'ite attacks pave way for rapid responses [Mar 4] by Syed Saleem Shahzad: "The majority of the population in countries such as India, Pakistan and Iraq practice a version of Islam which is traditional and in tune with local tribal customs and traditions." Since when has the majority of the population in India practiced Islam? Doesn't anyone ensure the accuracy of your news articles?
Mahaseer (Mar 5, '04)

The sentence obviously was referring to the majority of the Muslim population in the countries mentioned. It could possibly have been written more clearly for readers who are not aware that Islam is not the predominant religion in India. - ATol


With his venom-spewing response to the Karbala and Baghdad attacks [A constitution drenched in blood, Mar 4] Pepe Escobar has cemented his stature as the Joseph Goebbels of the Islamic terror movement. His disgusting assertion that the United States would undertake such an attack, or would somehow benefit, is nonsensical. However, he is a skilled wordsmith, and his fawning readership hang on his every word as if it is undisputed fact. Much like Goebbels did with the Germans, Pepe spins his lies to place his North American Socialist fans in an absolute lather. Perhaps Pepe's stunning likeness to Che Guevara blinds them to his deceit. More likely, these people who have determined that no good has ever or could ever emerge from an American policy are simply seeing what they want to see, and accuracy, honesty, and ethics are foreign concepts. They certainly are to Escobar. The Islamic terrorists have no greater ally in the print media. Pepe Goebbels is the perfect complement to AlJazeera. I hope he is pleased when Muslim blood flows from the acts of those he protects and defends.
Dave Doc
Atlanta, Georgia (Mar 5, '04)

Another first for Asia Times Online: A Joseph Goebbels who looks like Che Guevara. -ATol


Fine reporting as usual from Jim Lobe [US military spending soars, security suffers, Mar 3]. But a special tip of the hat to John Parker's superb piece on bird flu [Moment of truth nears on bird flu, Mar 3]. A real public service, such information, and well presented.
John Hepler
Jackson County, Tennessee (Mar 5, '04)


In your section titled Ask Spengler, Spengler made certain claims in a response to a Jewish man under Normality is overrated on March 2. Certain claims in that response are completely untruthful. Spengler wrote: "Hebrew is the only language spoken continuously for the past 3,000 years (and perhaps longer, but let us leave that to the philologists), and the Jews are the only people who have come down intact through history." I wonder from what authority did he make such assertions. Spengler wrote: "An unfathomable amount of human striving has vanished into the mist - the fury of warriors, the devotion of priests, the passion of lovers, the anxiety of parents. Their unremembered lives have lost their significance. In vain we listen for echoes of this perished mass of humanity, for an Assyrian mother's lament over a dead child." I am an Assyrian. We did not vanish. There are 3 million ... Assyrians in the world. We speak a dialect of Aramaic heavily influenced by the Assyrian Akkadian. Finally, Spengler [spoke] of Arabs being anti-Semitic. I wonder, since Arabs are Semitic people as well, how could they be anti-Semitic? Or are the Jews the only Semites in the world?
Frederick Aprim
California (Mar 5, '04)

Spengler explained most of these points below (see Spengler replies to Asia Times Online readers, Mar 3). We have also explained previously that we adhere to the common convention of using the term "anti-Semitic" to mean "anti-Jewish", as to expand the term to all Semites including Arabs would render it meaningless. - ATol


Henry Liu is doing his dance once again. On March 2 he wrote, "While there exist ambiguities on the meaning of a 'one China' principle between the US and China, there is no ambiguity or dispute between the two governments on Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan." On March 4, he wrote a long and disjointed letter admitting that the US does not accept [the People's Republic of] China's claim to sovereignty of Taiwan, but asserting that such fact should not be cited out of context. (I wonder if it was out of context for president Bill Clinton to send aircraft carriers to Taiwan's aid in furtherance of US policy of not recognizing Chinese claim to sovereignty over Taiwan?) Mr Liu should now take the ethical step of editing his past articles to eliminate his oft-repeated and deceptive statement that the US recognizes China's sovereignty over Taiwan. His credibility will be enhanced by such an action.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 5, '04)


First of all I would like to say how much I enjoy [Asia Times Online]. I like to read all viewpoints, even those I sharply disagree with, such as Henry Liu's. I write mainly in response to the contributions of Zhang Jun Te and the somewhat shrill XOY. It is unfortunate that some readers view any criticism of the CCP ([Chinese] Communist Party) as being "anti-Chinese", which might by implication be an accusation of racism. I lived in China for four years, and just as XOY does with Daniel McCarthy, etc, I had events past blamed on me personally by some people. Being from England, the Opium Wars were pointedly said to be my fault by many. I knew an American teacher from whom an apology was demanded for the Belgrade embassy bombing. In a pluralistic publication such as ATol, surely such personalizing of issues is wrong? The heart of many problems in China indeed lies in a "sweeping it under the carpet" mentality on behalf of the government. A line must surely be drawn under the victim mentality and blaming all of today's problems on the unarguably unjustifiable actions of the British and others 100 or more years ago. The greater tragedy in all this is that over the past 100 or so years the Chinese have been their own worst enemies. The CCP accounts for more death and misery than foreign powers put together. In my book this is worse than outside interference. [The True Story of] Ah Qseems to be every bit as real now as when Lu Xun penned the story over 70 years ago. I found that when I was speaking to Chinese men especially, even if the subject was somewhat uncontroversial, I had the feeling that the other person was trying to "win" the conversation. The politics of China encourages this and has created the worst problem in China, that they tend to treat each other with suspicion and hostility. Foreign visitors get treated much better, possibly because they are not viewed as a threat. The fact remains that many have an "I demand respect, but I respect no one" attitude which leads to mistrust and backstabbing. I feel the need therefore to rubbish the argument that China needs a strict government because it at least subconsciously stifles open honest interaction among people. Only real change can bring this about as China could become a great place if only its 1.3 billion souls were afforded the true ability to breathe.
Peter Mitchelmore
Calgary, Alberta (Mar 5, '04)


I see the frothy sentimentality in some Indian (or should I say "South Asian"?) circles about Indo-Pak bonhomie has spilled on to your pages (The secret to South Asian success [Mar 4] by Eduardo Faleiro). Woven into the tiresome platitudes about peace being a good thing, etc, Mr Faleiro has glossed over the several unpleasant things about being Pak's neighbor and chosen enemy. Unless these facts are put on the table and dealt with openly, the ordinary Indian citizen is not going to be comfortable opening up to the world's most dangerous jihadi, nuclear-proliferating mischief-monger. Firstly, tens of thousands of Pakistanis who had previously come in [to India] legally are illegally overstaying; God knows how many illegal infiltrators there are. Many of them are up to no good. Besides terrorist activity, there is the drug-smuggling, fake-currency rackets and other mafia business that operates from Pakistan. Bad enough as it is, one shudders to think what it would be like with free movement of people - almost certain to be one-way. Secondly, advancing commercial relations can serve as a catalyst only after the political leadership and the masses on both sides have goodwill in their hearts. It is highly doubtful whether the ruling military and feudal elite in Pakistan will ever have a change of heart, even if we assume that the average Abdul on the street is pining to shake hands with the infidels across the border. So instead of talking about bilateral trade and free movement of people, we can start with Pakistan facilitating commercial transit to Indian companies wishing to reach Afghan and Central Asian markets. Pakistan has much to gain from transit fees anyway, and if adequate security in transit is provided for a decent period of time, India may consider this a demonstration of a genuine will to change. Apart from this, we would like to see a clampdown on the jihadi culture, including a reform of the educational system in Pakistan. Up to now Pak (and other "South Asians") have been lobbying for those commercial ties which Pak can use to create trouble - free movement of people across the border, land transit of only sensitive oil pipelines, etc. This is not acceptable. Lastly, I'd request people not to club "South Asia" as one entity in making generalized economic, political or social statements, because the subcontinent is riven by cultural and political fault lines. There is no moral equivalence between India and Pakistan.
Carl Clemens
US (Mar 4, '04)


[William Butler] Yeats' seminal poem, The Second Coming, and I quote:
... Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
remains sharply apposite in the context of Karbala. These bombings at a time of commemorating the martyrdom of the Prophet [Mohammed]'s grandson are an abomination. The response from the mosques in Fallujah, where Sunni clerics called for blood donors, from their loudspeakers, demonstrates how even radicalized and soon-to-be-disfranchised Sunnis [at least from their position of overlordship in Iraq] understand that these attacks are a gross stain on the Islamic Nation. From this "blood-dimmed tide", the Fallujah response and the finely calibrated Shi'a non-sectarian reaction we might discern that a new Iraqi nation is being forged. The Iraqi leadership needs to water and nurture this nascent sense of Iraqi nationhood and togetherness and triangulate and then expunge this nihilistic scourge. The Islamic Nation (of whatever sectarian persuasion) needs to lance this boil (if al-Qaeda is responsible), and it is a particularly neat irony that the spirit of cooperation and peaceful co-existence is being signaled by the people of Fallujah.
Aly-Khan Satchu
London, England (Mar 4, '04)


I suspect Spengler had to frantically Google his way out of the hole he dug for himself after several readers, myself included [letter below, Mar 2], pointed out his childish inaccuracies [in Normality is overrated, Mar 2]. In his latest comments in the Letters pages [below, Mar 3], Spengler seeks to defend the uniqueness of Hebrew by claiming "today's spoken Chinese dialects" are not traceable to ancient Chinese. Similarly, he alleged Assyrians were sprung forth upon the Earth in the post-Christian era. I suppose the Arabs must have been beamed down by UFOs shortly before the advent of Islam. I don't doubt that Hebrew is unique, just as is every language, and that the Jewish people have unique aspects of their culture and history, just as every other people. Every language and culture formed over thousands of years, and none has stayed frozen. Spengler posits the existence of a well-defined language called "ancient Chinese". Before the reign of Qin Shi Huang about 2,200 years ago, there was a veritable Tower of Babel amongst Chinese dialects, spoken and written. Qin Shi Huang forcibly simplified (much as Mao Zedong did) and standardized the dialects into one official language. Despite Qin Shi Huang's (and Spengler's) best efforts, Chinese dialects today are as abundant as they were 2,200 years ago. I'm sure Spengler has no clue about the hundreds of modern Chinese dialects, ancient Chinese dialects, or the relation [among] them. Similarly, Spengler writes of "classical" Arabic: "no scholar contends that it goes back 3,000 years". In fact, Arabic and Hebrew are so close linguistically that to claim Hebrew is ancient while Arabic is relatively new is absurd. I note that Spengler had nothing to say about the Koreans and Japanese, though I'm sure we'll be cursed by his pronouncements on them once they are in the news (hopefully before their extinction). As for us Assyrians. We may be fake, but the strange thing is, most of us live in Iraq and Iran, not far from where Nineveh once stood. Like many other peoples, we survived (outside the history books) the collapse of an empire and the burning of our capital. In fact, my uncle is named Sargon, after the great Assyrian king. I'm sure he'll be disappointed to learn that he is not really an Assyrian, but rather a mere "Assyrian". In the end, Spengler fails to mention what makes Hebrew unique. It is in fact much closer to its ancient version than most other languages. Hebrew was consciously resurrected after being a purely written language for a thousand years, and a great effort was made to encourage people to speak it. This effort is actually a very new phenomenon, and is now occurring among other peoples, like the Hawaiians, whose language is on the brink of extinction. Therefore, one could say that Spengler is exactly wrong. Spoken Hebrew was invented in part to avoid extinction. The Jewish people's history is not one of guaranteed survival, but rather one of constant danger and near destruction. I would ask Spengler not to write on topics of which he knows (and is willing to learn) nothing. Granted, this would spell the end of his scholarly career, but I'm sure he would make a fantastic novelist.
G Travan
California (Mar 4, '04)


Regarding Spengler's contention that Hebrew is the world's oldest written language currently in use [Normality is overrated, Mar 2], what about Tamil? On another note, some people also believe that Abraham (the Jewish patriarch) hailed from India. Abraham, according to this theory, derives from a-brahman, meaning one who is outside the brahmanical/vedic system, and who espoused a different theology revealed to him by god in a vision. Lastly, the paradise promised to the Jews may in fact not be Palestine. There are several people who believe it to be present-day Kashmir. Several groups there claim their descendency from the lost tribes of Israel. Although given that Muslims and Hindus are already fighting over it, I'm not sure they would welcome a third party staking a claim!
Mark
London (Mar 4, '04)


[Re Spengler's Normality is overrated, Mar 2:] I thought Dr Seuss [the late Theodor Seuss Geisel], whose 100th birthday we just celebrated, answered your questioner, "Do you have any advice on how to develop the emotional and psychological tools for coping with anti-Semitism?" "Their hearts are two sizes too small," [to wit, from Dr Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas:]
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask me why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Moshe Reiss (Mar 4, '04)


Daniel McCarthy should be intelligent enough to realize that calling someone delusionist is not an intellectual argument [letter below, Mar 3]. In the Six Assurances issued by the US to Taiwan in 1982, since the US has already officially recognized the PRC [People's Republic] as China, the wording of "The United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan" refers to PRC sovereignty in the context of the US "one China" policy and the ROC [Republic of China] sovereignty counter-claim. In 1982, the GMD [Guomindang, or Kuomintang] was the ruling party of Taiwan, and it did not seek nor would it accept any statement from the US guaranteeing non-recognition of its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. In February 1972, [US president Richard] Nixon visited the PRC and at the conclusion of his visit, the US and the PRC governments issued the joint Shanghai Communique as follows: "The US side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all US forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes." Even Taiwan independence organizations acknowledged that the Reagan Assurances to Taiwan on the sovereignty issue applied specifically and exclusively to PRC sovereignty. The Taipei Times reported on January 19, 2004: "Wu Ming-chi, chairman of the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), one of the most active Taiwanese [independence] organizations engaged in congressional lobbying, said that the new [congressional] resolution would not only endorse the Taiwanese government's holding of an election-day referendum, but also seek to reaffirm the part of the Six Assurances introduced by the Ronald Reagan administration, which recognizes Taiwan's separate status from China. 'The fifth and sixth points of the Six Assurances deal with Taiwan's sovereignty issue. Although the US has been adhering to the "one China" policy regarding cross-Strait relations, it nevertheless recognizes that at no time since the PRC was established in 1949 has Taiwan sovereignty belonged to the PRC,' Wu told the Taipei Times at an international parliamentary exchange meeting which brought more than 150 legislators from 50 countries to Taipei last week." The claim by some of US non-recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan outside the context of US "one China" policy is a clear example of contextual distortion.
Henry C K Liu (Mar 4, '04)


There is a serious factual error in Stephen Blank's [Mar 2] article US: China has credible Taiwan attack options. He refers to "the shooting down of a US EP-3 spy plane in 2001". This is incorrect. The spy plane made an emergency landing - no injury was sustained by the crew after a collision with a Chinese fighter plane. The pilot of the Chinese aircraft died. No weapons were fired. The details of this incident are common knowledge. I double-checked my own recollection of the incident by going to CNN.com - an American news source. Should Stephen Blank be working for The New York Times [Gaffes, gullibility: NY Times gets it wrong, Feb 28]?
Bob Hu
Sydney, Australia (Mar 4, '04)

We all make mistakes - there is no call to sentence Blank to life at The New York Times. The article has been corrected. - ATol


A question for Henry C K Liu: I've learned a lot from reading your articles [Liu's page], even though a lot of times they are over my head (having been an artist, teacher, and mom for the past 35 years). Right now I am trying to understand the Federal Reserve System and the Central European Bank System. Who are the owners of the European Central Bank?
Christl Grow

Henry C K Liu replies: Please see http://www.ecb.int/.


Nir Rosen responds
If Kaj Krinsmoe (letter below, Mar 2) lived in Baghdad and not Denmark, perhaps he would not be surprised when tragedies occur often and in public view (Just another Baghdad street killing, Feb 28). But perhaps, like most journalists, he would not venture out after dark, or try to experience life as an Iraqi rather than a sheltered and spoiled foreign correspondent unfamiliar with local culture. Perhaps he would not view the proximity of the murder as a stroke of luck or "godsend" (it surely wasn't for the slain policeman) and rather as a brush with death. Perhaps he would not view a fresh-juice store as "hedonistic", and more as a common establishment found on nearly every street. Perhaps he would not expect the murder to occur and thus not have his camera in immediate reach, and would thus understand why no pictures of the murderers, who probably would not have been thrilled about having their pictures being taken, exist. And perhaps he would have a little more respect for the life of an Iraqi and for the difficulties of the job.
Nir Rosen (Mar 3, '04)

Spengler replies to Asia Times Online readers
Despite readers' objections, Hebrew is a unique phenomenon in the history of language. By no means did I mean to suggest in Ask Spengler: Normality is overrated (Mar 2) that Hebrew civilization is superior to Indian, Chinese, or any other (in some respects it is quite mediocre), although its unique properties have lent it gigantic influence (see Mahathir is right: Jews do rule the world, Oct 28, '03). I accept the view of scholars who maintain that Sanskrit is more ancient, but modern Hindi is not the language of India's luminous scriptures, while modern Hebrew is the language of the Jewish scriptures. Some Chinese ideograms can be traced back to 1500 BC; not so today's spoken Chinese dialects. G Travan of California is correct (letter below, Mar 2) that people calling themselves "Assyrians" still flourish (to whom no slight was intended). By "Assyrian", however, most people understand the (unrelated) ancient empire whose capital Nineveh burned in 612 BC. Although elements of "Aramaic" (Western Semitic) can be dated to the 10th century BC, the Syriac Aramaic spoken by today's "Assyrians" (Nestorians) dates from post-Christian times. The dating of "classical" Arabic is a theologically charged issue, as it bears upon the authenticity of the Koran, but no scholar contends that it goes back 3,000 years. Travan claims that my citation of "fear of extinction" is "groundless babbling". I wish he might converse directly with the affrighted ADeL (letter below, Mar 2), who searches websites for evidence of "possible ways of how to exterminate Muslims", such as nuking Medina and Mecca. ADeL evidently shares the fears of Nigeria's Muslim leaders who believe that America plots to exterminate them. ADeL, in short, is a paranoid loony, by which I mean nothing personal. Some of my best friends are paranoid loonies. Otherwise, Travan is quite right that many peoples have had it worse than the Jews, and not just Gypsies or Armenians; think of the countless victims of genocide whose names history has forgotten. The fact remains that no one hallucinates a Sikh, Gypsy, or Armenian conspiracy to control the world. Barking-mad paranoia about the Jews is a unique phenomenon. Jews like Mr Amit-Kohn of Jerusalem have a right to inquire why they are so singled out. ATol readers may not like my explanation, but none of them has offered an alternative.
Spengler (Mar 3, '04)


Whoever Spengler is, I think his propensity to bury whole countries and continents before they are actually dead introduces a great deal of [surrealism] and subjectivity into otherwise decent writing [Normality is overrated, Mar 2]. Needless to say, demographic trends in Europe aren't encouraging. But Jews are amongst the worst reproducers both in Europe and the US. How they'll survive when people around them are sentenced by Spengler to die off is a deep mystery that begs some further illumination by the writer. Spengler has only one trump card of Jewish immortality, namely a fairly high birth rate of Orthodox Jewry. Still, that is a minuscule boost overall, and if Europe is bound to die - which is a terrible stretch of Spengler's imagination at this point - then Jews, people with similar reproductive patterns, will not outlive other "less immortal" humans for long. In the end one might simply conclude that Spengler should rely less on wishful thinking and more on logic.
Oleg Beliakovich
Seattle, Washington (Mar 3, '04)


On [Laurence] Eyton's [Pan-blues winning ways, Mar 3], it is quite clear to me that his partisan, pro-independence and pro-[Democratic Progressive Party] stance sticks out like an obvious sore thumb. I suppose he just cannot let the people of Taiwan do the voting. He must smear the results of a possible pan-blue victory, which is by no means assured, now, weeks before the actual voting occurs. I can only guess that Mr Eyton is feeling rather nervous, as he perhaps cannot bear the fact that Chen [Shui-bian] may have alienated enough people to the point where he can no longer be assured another term as the president of the ROC [Republic of China]. Chen has no one to blame but himself for his possible political demise; and I for one am looking forward to better cross-Strait relations once he and his party join the dustbin of history. As for Mr Eyton's nervousness, I can only wonder how loud he will scream the word "fraud" when the pan-blue [alliance] does win. We shall know soon enough, as Taiwan lives in interesting times, and people like Mr Eyton are indeed a dime a dozen.
Michael Lou
Milton, Massachusetts (Mar 3, '04)


John Feffer has written a good article by putting the Taiwan issue in a certain political context, and that is mainly the neo-conservative view voiced by Ellen Bork of the PNAC [Project for a New American Century] and John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation [Washington woos and boos Beijing, Mar 3]. Prior to the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11 [2001], the neo-conservatives wanted to stage a new Cold War against China. They still want it and haven't given up that crazy and mad idea. One should not forget that when reading this article and their quotes.
J Zhang
The Netherlands (Mar 3, '04)


I would like to say that Seneca Haynes [letter, Mar 2] has touched on a very valid point, in reference to [Piyush] Mathur's article [Unveiling America: Women in war and politics, Feb 25]. While it is true that the lot of women is quite horrific in conservative societies like Iran, Afghanistan etc, their state is not much better in the US either. Even Japan fares no better. Fortunately, the level of violence towards women is a lot lower, but it is still there, and far more importantly, women are stereotyped, and bound by conformity, the greatest evil that American society possesses. Sadly, whether it be America or Afghanistan or even the Muslim society in France, women themselves have a large part to play in shackling themselves. It is the older generation of women, who combined with the male section of society put the shackles of morality and social stereotypes and such on the younger generation of women. As for the mass media, the less said the better. In the US, the mass media [have] no interest in pursuing anything more than cheap consumerism and sexism, and treating women like objects is one of the high points. Hence the breast implants, cosmetic surgery, shaving the legs and a lot more. Women in the US are always supposed to look good, that's all their function is. We have had women as leaders in many countries of the world, even in Asia, and I would bet my money on Iran showing up with a woman leader rather than the US coming up with one, any time in the future. If I had to put it quite simply, I would say that in the East, they force the women to cover up, while in the West, they force them to bare all. From my experiences around the world, I have found that only Europe manages to be tolerable in this respect, providing women the highest degree of freedom. No wonder there is outrage about the headscarf issue, even though the French government is merely using the issue. The state of affairs of women is deplorable given our own pretensions to modernity and civilization in our age.
Vivek
Oregon, USA (Mar 3, '04)


Delusionist Henry Liu wrote [letter below, Mar 2], "While there exist ambiguities on the meaning of a 'one China' principle between the US and China, there is no ambiguity or dispute between the two governments on Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan." Contrary to Mr Liu's erroneous statement, there is in fact a significant dispute concerning sovereignty of Taiwan. It has long been United States policy to not recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. The Six Assurances issued by the US to Taiwan in July 1982 state, "The United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan." Mr Liu may find his delusion comforting, but to his readers the delusion is at least misleading and more properly characterized as deceptive.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 3, '04)


Whenever the topic of Taiwan comes up, your Letters to the Editor section is filled with letters from pro-China readers that are emotional knee-jerk reactions with little or no intellectual content. The latest example is letter writer XOY's March 2 personal attacks on Daniel McCarthy, Richard Hartzell and Richard Radcliffe. This article is nothing more than insults directed at those three writers written in fancy English. ATol should be selective on the letters it publishes. Many of your readers look forward to your Letters to the Editor section for intellectual feedback on articles that ATol has presented. Whenever the topic of Taiwan comes up, your pro-China readers have a propensity to use the Letters to the Editor section to trade insults instead of engaging in intellectual argumentation.
John Wang
Massachusetts, USA (Mar 3, '04)


My friend referred this site to me, and I am truly amazed. The articles are written by the best writers. Asia Times covers every field - then why not sports? News on India without cricket seems to be incomplete, as with other Asian countries with their respective sports. Of course there are other sites for sports, but it would be great to see sports news on Asia Times too, especially when your team has a bunch of such brilliant writers. It would be nice to read their views. I wish your team best luck for the future. You guys are doing a wonderful job!
Dr Amit Rajput
St Petersburg, Russia (Mar 3, '04)


Re Just another Baghdad street killing, Feb 28: Normally journalistic drudges must rush, scrounge and muscle for the news, but [Nir] Rosen elegantly languishes outside a juice restaurant with his girlfriend, eating ice cream. Would it be possible to order another scoop? It must be genuine, of course.
Kaj Krinsmoe
Denmark (Mar 3, '04)
I see the frothy sentimentality in some Indian (or should I say "South Asian"?) circles about Indo-Pak bonhomie has spilled on to your pages (The secret to South Asian success [Mar 4] by Eduardo Faleiro). Woven into the tiresome platitudes about peace being a good thing, etc, Mr Faleiro has glossed over the several unpleasant things about being Pak's neighbor and chosen enemy. Unless these facts are put on the table and dealt with openly, the ordinary Indian citizen is not going to be comfortable opening up to the world's most dangerous jihadi, nuclear-proliferating mischief-monger. Firstly, tens of thousands of Pakistanis who had previously come in [to India] legally are illegally overstaying; God knows how many illegal infiltrators there are. Many of them are up to no good. Besides terrorist activity, there is the drug-smuggling, fake-currency rackets and other mafia business that operates from Pakistan. Bad enough as it is, one shudders to think what it would be like with free movement of people - almost certain to be one-way. Secondly, advancing commercial relations can serve as a catalyst only after the political leadership and the masses on both sides have goodwill in their hearts. It is highly doubtful whether the ruling military and feudal elite in Pakistan will ever have a change of heart, even if we assume that the average Abdul on the street is pining to shake hands with the infidels across the border. So instead of talking about bilateral trade and free movement of people, we can start with Pakistan facilitating commercial transit to Indian companies wishing to reach Afghan and Central Asian markets. Pakistan has much to gain from transit fees anyway, and if adequate security in transit is provided for a decent period of time, India may consider this a demonstration of a genuine will to change. Apart from this, we would like to see a clampdown on the jihadi culture, including a reform of the educational system in Pakistan. Up to now Pak (and other "South Asians") have been lobbying for those commercial ties which Pak can use to create trouble - free movement of people across the border, land transit of only sensitive oil pipelines, etc. This is not acceptable. Lastly, I'd request people not to club "South Asia" as one entity in making generalized economic, political or social statements, because the subcontinent is riven by cultural and political fault lines. There is no moral equivalence between India and Pakistan.
Carl Clemens
US (Mar 4, '04)


Does anyone else find it convenient that a man named Nir Rosen happens to have visited the Ashura festival before the bombs go off [Shi'ites hit at most sensitive moment, Mar 4]? Some people seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Almost is if they knew what was going to happen. I especially liked the bit on the news header: "Nir Rosen was in Karbala to observe the climax of Iraqi Shi'ites' Ashura observances on Tuesday, and in Baghdad when the bombs went off." As if to reassure us he was not at the festival when the bombs went off. He was away off over in Baghdad where he was safe, when the bombs in Karbala went off. Almost like he knew there would be trouble in Karbala.
Joe (Mar 4, '04)


[William Butler] Yeats' seminal poem, The Second Coming, and I quote:
... Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
remains sharply apposite in the context of Karbala. These bombings at a time of commemorating the martyrdom of the Prophet [Mohammed]'s grandson are an abomination. The response from the mosques in Fallujah, where Sunni clerics called for blood donors, from their loudspeakers, demonstrates how even radicalized and soon-to-be-disfranchised Sunnis [at least from their position of overlordship in Iraq] understand that these attacks are a gross stain on the Islamic Nation. From this "blood-dimmed tide", the Fallujah response and the finely calibrated Shi'a non-sectarian reaction we might discern that a new Iraqi nation is being forged. The Iraqi leadership needs to water and nurture this nascent sense of Iraqi nationhood and togetherness and triangulate and then expunge this nihilistic scourge. The Islamic Nation (of whatever sectarian persuasion) needs to lance this boil (if al-Qaeda is responsible), and it is a particularly neat irony that the spirit of cooperation and peaceful co-existence is being signaled by the people of Fallujah.
Aly-Khan Satchu
London, England (Mar 4, '04)


I suspect Spengler had to frantically Google his way out of the hole he dug for himself after several readers, myself included [letter below, Mar 2], pointed out his childish inaccuracies [in Normality is overrated, Mar 2]. In his latest comments in the Letters pages [below, Mar 3], Spengler seeks to defend the uniqueness of Hebrew by claiming "today's spoken Chinese dialects" are not traceable to ancient Chinese. Similarly, he alleged Assyrians were sprung forth upon the Earth in the post-Christian era. I suppose the Arabs must have been beamed down by UFOs shortly before the advent of Islam. I don't doubt that Hebrew is unique, just as is every language, and that the Jewish people have unique aspects of their culture and history, just as every other people. Every language and culture formed over thousands of years, and none has stayed frozen. Spengler posits the existence of a well-defined language called "ancient Chinese". Before the reign of Qin Shi Huang about 2,200 years ago, there was a veritable Tower of Babel amongst Chinese dialects, spoken and written. Qin Shi Huang forcibly simplified (much as Mao Zedong did) and standardized the dialects into one official language. Despite Qin Shi Huang's (and Spengler's) best efforts, Chinese dialects today are as abundant as they were 2,200 years ago. I'm sure Spengler has no clue about the hundreds of modern Chinese dialects, ancient Chinese dialects, or the relation [among] them. Similarly, Spengler writes of "classical" Arabic: "no scholar contends that it goes back 3,000 years". In fact, Arabic and Hebrew are so close linguistically that to claim Hebrew is ancient while Arabic is relatively new is absurd. I note that Spengler had nothing to say about the Koreans and Japanese, though I'm sure we'll be cursed by his pronouncements on them once they are in the news (hopefully before their extinction). As for us Assyrians. We may be fake, but the strange thing is, most of us live in Iraq and Iran, not far from where Nineveh once stood. Like many other peoples, we survived (outside the history books) the collapse of an empire and the burning of our capital. In fact, my uncle is named Sargon, after the great Assyrian king. I'm sure he'll be disappointed to learn that he is not really an Assyrian, but rather a mere "Assyrian". In the end, Spengler fails to mention what makes Hebrew unique. It is in fact much closer to its ancient version than most other languages. Hebrew was consciously resurrected after being a purely written language for a thousand years, and a great effort was made to encourage people to speak it. This effort is actually a very new phenomenon, and is now occurring among other peoples, like the Hawaiians, whose language is on the brink of extinction. Therefore, one could say that Spengler is exactly wrong. Spoken Hebrew was invented in part to avoid extinction. The Jewish people's history is not one of guaranteed survival, but rather one of constant danger and near destruction. I would ask Spengler not to write on topics of which he knows (and is willing to learn) nothing. Granted, this would spell the end of his scholarly career, but I'm sure he would make a fantastic novelist.
G Travan
California (Mar 4, '04)


Regarding Spengler's contention that Hebrew is the world's oldest written language currently in use [Normality is overrated, Mar 2], what about Tamil? On another note, some people also believe that Abraham (the Jewish patriarch) hailed from India. Abraham, according to this theory, derives from a-brahman, meaning one who is outside the brahmanical/vedic system, and who espoused a different theology revealed to him by god in a vision. Lastly, the paradise promised to the Jews may in fact not be Palestine. There are several people who believe it to be present-day Kashmir. Several groups there claim their descendency from the lost tribes of Israel. Although given that Muslims and Hindus are already fighting over it, I'm not sure they would welcome a third party staking a claim!
Mark
London (Mar 4, '04)


[Re Spengler's Normality is overrated, Mar 2:] I thought Dr Seuss [the late Theodor Seuss Geisel], whose 100th birthday we just celebrated, answered your questioner, "Do you have any advice on how to develop the emotional and psychological tools for coping with anti-Semitism?" "Their hearts are two sizes too small," [to wit, from Dr Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas:]
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask me why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Moshe Reiss (Mar 4, '04)


Daniel McCarthy should be intelligent enough to realize that calling someone delusionist is not an intellectual argument [letter below, Mar 3]. In the Six Assurances issued by the US to Taiwan in 1982, since the US has already officially recognized the PRC [People's Republic] as China, the wording of "The United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan" refers to PRC sovereignty in the context of the US "one China" policy and the ROC [Republic of China] sovereignty counter-claim. In 1982, the GMD [Guomindang, or Kuomintang] was the ruling party of Taiwan, and it did not seek nor would it accept any statement from the US guaranteeing non-recognition of its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. In February 1972, [US president Richard] Nixon visited the PRC and at the conclusion of his visit, the US and the PRC governments issued the joint Shanghai Communique as follows: "The US side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all US forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes." Even Taiwan independence organizations acknowledged that the Reagan Assurances to Taiwan on the sovereignty issue applied specifically and exclusively to PRC sovereignty. The Taipei Times reported on January 19, 2004: "Wu Ming-chi, chairman of the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), one of the most active Taiwanese [independence] organizations engaged in congressional lobbying, said that the new [congressional] resolution would not only endorse the Taiwanese government's holding of an election-day referendum, but also seek to reaffirm the part of the Six Assurances introduced by the Ronald Reagan administration, which recognizes Taiwan's separate status from China. 'The fifth and sixth points of the Six Assurances deal with Taiwan's sovereignty issue. Although the US has been adhering to the "one China" policy regarding cross-Strait relations, it nevertheless recognizes that at no time since the PRC was established in 1949 has Taiwan sovereignty belonged to the PRC,' Wu told the Taipei Times at an international parliamentary exchange meeting which brought more than 150 legislators from 50 countries to Taipei last week." The claim by some of US non-recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan outside the context of US "one China" policy is a clear example of contextual distortion.
Henry C K Liu (Mar 4, '04)


There is a serious factual error in Stephen Blank's [Mar 2] article US: China has credible Taiwan attack options. He refers to "the shooting down of a US EP-3 spy plane in 2001". This is incorrect. The spy plane made an emergency landing - no injury was sustained by the crew after a collision with a Chinese fighter plane. The pilot of the Chinese aircraft died. No weapons were fired. The details of this incident are common knowledge. I double-checked my own recollection of the incident by going to CNN.com - an American news source. Should Stephen Blank be working for The New York Times [Gaffes, gullibility: NY Times gets it wrong, Feb 28]?
Bob Hu
Sydney, Australia (Mar 4, '04)

We all make mistakes - there is no call to sentence Blank to life at The New York Times. The article has been corrected. - ATol


A question for Henry C K Liu: I've learned a lot from reading your articles [Liu's page], even though a lot of times they are over my head (having been an artist, teacher, and mom for the past 35 years). Right now I am trying to understand the Federal Reserve System and the Central European Bank System. Who are the owners of the European Central Bank?
Christl Grow

Henry C K Liu replies: Please see http://www.ecb.int/.

Nir Rosen responds
If Kaj Krinsmoe (letter below, Mar 2) lived in Baghdad and not Denmark, perhaps he would not be surprised when tragedies occur often and in public view (Just another Baghdad street killing, Feb 28). But perhaps, like most journalists, he would not venture out after dark, or try to experience life as an Iraqi rather than a sheltered and spoiled foreign correspondent unfamiliar with local culture. Perhaps he would not view the proximity of the murder as a stroke of luck or "godsend" (it surely wasn't for the slain policeman) and rather as a brush with death. Perhaps he would not view a fresh-juice store as "hedonistic", and more as a common establishment found on nearly every street. Perhaps he would not expect the murder to occur and thus not have his camera in immediate reach, and would thus understand why no pictures of the murderers, who probably would not have been thrilled about having their pictures being taken, exist. And perhaps he would have a little more respect for the life of an Iraqi and for the difficulties of the job.
Nir Rosen (Mar 3, '04)

Spengler replies to Asia Times Online readers
Despite readers' objections, Hebrew is a unique phenomenon in the history of language. By no means did I mean to suggest in Ask Spengler: Normality is overrated (Mar 2) that Hebrew civilization is superior to Indian, Chinese, or any other (in some respects it is quite mediocre), although its unique properties have lent it gigantic influence (see Mahathir is right: Jews do rule the world, Oct 28, '03). I accept the view of scholars who maintain that Sanskrit is more ancient, but modern Hindi is not the language of India's luminous scriptures, while modern Hebrew is the language of the Jewish scriptures. Some Chinese ideograms can be traced back to 1500 BC; not so today's spoken Chinese dialects. G Travan of California is correct (letter below, Mar 2) that people calling themselves "Assyrians" still flourish (to whom no slight was intended). By "Assyrian", however, most people understand the (unrelated) ancient empire whose capital Nineveh burned in 612 BC. Although elements of "Aramaic" (Western Semitic) can be dated to the 10th century BC, the Syriac Aramaic spoken by today's "Assyrians" (Nestorians) dates from post-Christian times. The dating of "classical" Arabic is a theologically charged issue, as it bears upon the authenticity of the Koran, but no scholar contends that it goes back 3,000 years. Travan claims that my citation of "fear of extinction" is "groundless babbling". I wish he might converse directly with the affrighted ADeL (letter below, Mar 2), who searches websites for evidence of "possible ways of how to exterminate Muslims", such as nuking Medina and Mecca. ADeL evidently shares the fears of Nigeria's Muslim leaders who believe that America plots to exterminate them. ADeL, in short, is a paranoid loony, by which I mean nothing personal. Some of my best friends are paranoid loonies. Otherwise, Travan is quite right that many peoples have had it worse than the Jews, and not just Gypsies or Armenians; think of the countless victims of genocide whose names history has forgotten. The fact remains that no one hallucinates a Sikh, Gypsy, or Armenian conspiracy to control the world. Barking-mad paranoia about the Jews is a unique phenomenon. Jews like Mr Amit-Kohn of Jerusalem have a right to inquire why they are so singled out. ATol readers may not like my explanation, but none of them has offered an alternative.
Spengler (Mar 3, '04)


Whoever Spengler is, I think his propensity to bury whole countries and continents before they are actually dead introduces a great deal of [surrealism] and subjectivity into otherwise decent writing [Normality is overrated, Mar 2]. Needless to say, demographic trends in Europe aren't encouraging. But Jews are amongst the worst reproducers both in Europe and the US. How they'll survive when people around them are sentenced by Spengler to die off is a deep mystery that begs some further illumination by the writer. Spengler has only one trump card of Jewish immortality, namely a fairly high birth rate of Orthodox Jewry. Still, that is a minuscule boost overall, and if Europe is bound to die - which is a terrible stretch of Spengler's imagination at this point - then Jews, people with similar reproductive patterns, will not outlive other "less immortal" humans for long. In the end one might simply conclude that Spengler should rely less on wishful thinking and more on logic.
Oleg Beliakovich
Seattle, Washington (Mar 3, '04)


On [Laurence] Eyton's [Pan-blues winning ways, Mar 3], it is quite clear to me that his partisan, pro-independence and pro-[Democratic Progressive Party] stance sticks out like an obvious sore thumb. I suppose he just cannot let the people of Taiwan do the voting. He must smear the results of a possible pan-blue victory, which is by no means assured, now, weeks before the actual voting occurs. I can only guess that Mr Eyton is feeling rather nervous, as he perhaps cannot bear the fact that Chen [Shui-bian] may have alienated enough people to the point where he can no longer be assured another term as the president of the ROC [Republic of China]. Chen has no one to blame but himself for his possible political demise; and I for one am looking forward to better cross-Strait relations once he and his party join the dustbin of history. As for Mr Eyton's nervousness, I can only wonder how loud he will scream the word "fraud" when the pan-blue [alliance] does win. We shall know soon enough, as Taiwan lives in interesting times, and people like Mr Eyton are indeed a dime a dozen.
Michael Lou
Milton, Massachusetts (Mar 3, '04)


John Feffer has written a good article by putting the Taiwan issue in a certain political context, and that is mainly the neo-conservative view voiced by Ellen Bork of the PNAC [Project for a New American Century] and John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation [Washington woos and boos Beijing, Mar 3]. Prior to the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11 [2001], the neo-conservatives wanted to stage a new Cold War against China. They still want it and haven't given up that crazy and mad idea. One should not forget that when reading this article and their quotes.
J Zhang
The Netherlands (Mar 3, '04)


I would like to say that Seneca Haynes [letter, Mar 2] has touched on a very valid point, in reference to [Piyush] Mathur's article [Unveiling America: Women in war and politics, Feb 25]. While it is true that the lot of women is quite horrific in conservative societies like Iran, Afghanistan etc, their state is not much better in the US either. Even Japan fares no better. Fortunately, the level of violence towards women is a lot lower, but it is still there, and far more importantly, women are stereotyped, and bound by conformity, the greatest evil that American society possesses. Sadly, whether it be America or Afghanistan or even the Muslim society in France, women themselves have a large part to play in shackling themselves. It is the older generation of women, who combined with the male section of society put the shackles of morality and social stereotypes and such on the younger generation of women. As for the mass media, the less said the better. In the US, the mass media [have] no interest in pursuing anything more than cheap consumerism and sexism, and treating women like objects is one of the high points. Hence the breast implants, cosmetic surgery, shaving the legs and a lot more. Women in the US are always supposed to look good, that's all their function is. We have had women as leaders in many countries of the world, even in Asia, and I would bet my money on Iran showing up with a woman leader rather than the US coming up with one, any time in the future. If I had to put it quite simply, I would say that in the East, they force the women to cover up, while in the West, they force them to bare all. From my experiences around the world, I have found that only Europe manages to be tolerable in this respect, providing women the highest degree of freedom. No wonder there is outrage about the headscarf issue, even though the French government is merely using the issue. The state of affairs of women is deplorable given our own pretensions to modernity and civilization in our age.
Vivek
Oregon, USA (Mar 3, '04)


Delusionist Henry Liu wrote [letter below, Mar 2], "While there exist ambiguities on the meaning of a 'one China' principle between the US and China, there is no ambiguity or dispute between the two governments on Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan." Contrary to Mr Liu's erroneous statement, there is in fact a significant dispute concerning sovereignty of Taiwan. It has long been United States policy to not recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. The Six Assurances issued by the US to Taiwan in July 1982 state, "The United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan." Mr Liu may find his delusion comforting, but to his readers the delusion is at least misleading and more properly characterized as deceptive.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 3, '04)


Whenever the topic of Taiwan comes up, your Letters to the Editor section is filled with letters from pro-China readers that are emotional knee-jerk reactions with little or no intellectual content. The latest example is letter writer XOY's March 2 personal attacks on Daniel McCarthy, Richard Hartzell and Richard Radcliffe. This article is nothing more than insults directed at those three writers written in fancy English. ATol should be selective on the letters it publishes. Many of your readers look forward to your Letters to the Editor section for intellectual feedback on articles that ATol has presented. Whenever the topic of Taiwan comes up, your pro-China readers have a propensity to use the Letters to the Editor section to trade insults instead of engaging in intellectual argumentation.
John Wang
Massachusetts, USA (Mar 3, '04)


My friend referred this site to me, and I am truly amazed. The articles are written by the best writers. Asia Times covers every field - then why not sports? News on India without cricket seems to be incomplete, as with other Asian countries with their respective sports. Of course there are other sites for sports, but it would be great to see sports news on Asia Times too, especially when your team has a bunch of such brilliant writers. It would be nice to read their views. I wish your team best luck for the future. You guys are doing a wonderful job!
Dr Amit Rajput
St Petersburg, Russia (Mar 3, '04)


Re Just another Baghdad street killing, Feb 28: Normally journalistic drudges must rush, scrounge and muscle for the news, but [Nir] Rosen elegantly languishes outside a juice restaurant with his girlfriend, eating ice cream. Would it be possible to order another scoop? It must be genuine, of course.
Kaj Krinsmoe
Denmark (Mar 3, '04)


Spengler's articles no doubt are interesting due to the refreshingly different outlook that he presents. However, it is surprising to find his complete ignorance (or neglect) of the region on the eastern side of Israel. So finding his claim in the article Normality is overrated [Mar 2] about the people of Israel and/or Hebrew language being the most ancient, tenacious etc. on Asia Times (I believe read more by Asians than Westerners) are really amusing. Someone like Spengler, so thorough with European history, couldn't be as stupidly ignorant about the history of some of the oldest (and still thriving) civilizations of the world (like the Indian and Chinese) unless of course by stubbornness of not accepting anything other than his beliefs (just like Max Muller, who dated the Indus/Sarasvati Valley civilization to 1500 BC just because he strongly believed that the world was created circa 4000 BC as per his biblical beliefs). Spengler will surely find some newer perspectives by studying the Asian civilizations in more details than his current world view. These civilizations, the [earliest] in the world and the most prosperous for over 3,000 years (until the aggression of the barbarians from the West) have survived with more grace and still show deeper roots than probably the present-day Israelis.
Floyd
Bangalore, India (Mar 2, '04)


Spengler's scribblings are so laced with fabrication and [inanity] that I understand why you publish them: to provoke certain outrage. He's just like the National Enquirer: exciting and fictional. I'll just point out a couple of his gross fabrications in his latest article, Normality is overrated [Mar 2], to illustrate his complete disregard for fact. He states Hebrew is the only language spoken continuously for over 3,000 years. As anybody with any knowledge of Jewish history will know, Hebrew was not a spoken language, although it was a thriving written language, for over a thousand years before the Jewish Enlightenment of the 18th century. Moreover, there are many languages that have been spoken and written for a very long time. Chinese, Arabic, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and countless other languages have been around for thousands of years, and are certainly not in danger of extinction. Which leads to my second point, that Assyrian is also a living language, as are the Assyrians, who are a predominantly Christian people residing in Iran and Iraq. It is not the extinction of Assyria that prevents Spengler's hearing "an Assyrian mother's lament", just his complete and utter ignorance. If Spengler wishes to find Assyrians, he need only go to the San Fernando Valley in southern California, where he will find not only lamenting Assyrian mothers, but also Assyrian churches, signs, books and people. This point may seem like nit-picking to many, but as an Assyrian, I take the strongest offense at the premature pronunciation of my extinction. As for his points on the "fear of extinction" driving anti-Semitism, I find it just a bunch of groundless babbling. If one looks at history, minorities have always been mistreated and hated. The experiences of the Gypsies, Jews, Baha'i, Armenians, Sikhs and African-Americans are all testament to this. In fact, there is a strong strain of anti-Arabism among extremist Jews. Of course each hatred strives to find arguments to justify itself, but in the end it is just an unfortunate aspect of human nature.
G Travan
California (Mar 2, '04)


One would have thought that Spengler's comeback to the query from Uzi as to the possibility that in Europe "Dante will be read in Arabic" would at least mention en passantthat the people of the Indian subcontinent have become world-class cricket players and that Pakistani teams have excelled as well [Normality is overrated Mar 2]. Given the frailty of the human spirit, who wants to be constantly reminded that members of a certain race or religion are God's preferred as well as holding God's title to a piece of the planet? Hate is not overrated or exclusive. Several threads on websites hint as to possible ways of how to exterminate Muslims. One likely scenario mentions the nuking of Mecca and Medina as a means for Israel to continue to exist in a hostile environment. Why is it that no mention is ever made (with equal fervor as well as consistency) as to why, for example, are some Jewish people so anti-Muslim or anti-gentile? Is it because of paranoia?
ADeL
USA (Mar 2, '04)


The US$200 computer [Kaiser Kuo is] talking about [Cheap 'V-Dragon' CPUs may revolutionize China, Mar 2] is already here in the USA. In fact I bought a new desktop (CompaQ - 2.5-gigahertz Intel Celeron and Windows XP) and monitor from an Office Depot store for $299. Fry's Electronics has regular ads for computers (with the Taiwanese via chip) for as low $179. Wal-Mart sells its computers for as little as $199 on its website. So unless China is taxing the industry heavily, the prices of Wintel 'puters should be very low already. Shouldn't it?
Rudy Banerjee
Berkeley, California (Mar 2, '04)


Re Just another Baghdad street killing, Feb 28: Normally journalistic drudges have to rush, scrounge and muscle to access news events or they just plagiarize the web, but [Nir] Rosen elegantly languishes outside a juice restaurant with his girlfriend. She is eating radiation-free ice cream and he is "sipping a strawberry smoothie". And, in all decency, he hesitates, but does divulge the locality of this Christian hedonist joint in Baghdad to the "rest of the world". And then, by either an act of Allah or worldly machination, there is this bump-off before his very eyes and, having nothing else to do, he photographs the bleeding corpse, but he didn't photograph the two murderers who walked across the street with "arms raised and pistols in the air". Even supposing it was mean worldly machination behind this murder, of what turned out to be a police officer in civil clothes, it was a journalistic godsend. But Mr Rosen doesn't follow up on this except for going to the local police station, and he explains that the police don't know who is behind these murders. What were the routines of this police colonel? Where was he going? Where did he come from? Who, apart from Allah, could anticipate that the police colonel would drop dead virtually by Mr Rosen's feet? I have a drop-dead wish-list, mostly Americans and Zionists on it, only one or two from London. Would it be possible to order another scoop? It must be genuine, of course. No surreptitious stuff.
Kaj Krinsmoe
Denmark (Mar 2, '04)


I read your article about the Beijing makeover and the mega-cities written by Antoaneta Bezlova [Beijing's frantic makeover revives urban debate, Feb 28], and I want you to tell her that I fully agree with her. I think it is more than essential to start a discussion about the consequences of this self-running, one-eye-blinded rainbow-searching. Three times in the last 10 years I have been teaching as a guest professor at Nanjing Technical University and I have realized these digging efforts in the big cities remind me more and more of digging for gold in the creeks and rivers of empty Alaska: turn over everything [from the] top down with no regard for nature and human conditions.
Herman Bentele (Mar 2, '04)


In response to the front-page article by Piyush Mathur titled Unveiling America: Women in war and politics [Feb 25]: I could not agree more with Dr Mathur's position. It is, in fact, an errant fantasy of American politics and media that the US has achieved a model of social equality fit for a global standard. I do not believe that the quality of life for woman in such countries as Afghanistan and Iraq has been tolerable. I also do not believe that the quality of life for women here in the US is really much more than tolerable at best. In Afghanistan, we are told, a woman could be stoned to death in the street for being dressed inappropriately or being out at the wrong time. Is it not true that here in the US women are raped, beaten, molested and killed, often in their own homes, in their own bedrooms, and for no reason at all? Is it not true that in America, women live in fear for their safety and hundreds of thousands live with the scars of sexual violence, both physical and emotional? Is it not true that it is American men that are committing these crimes? We have made laws. We have, as a nation, identified many conditions that are necessary for establishing a healthy society that recognizes and treats individuals equally. We have not achieved this yet. We too are still victims of our own inhumanity. We, too, are still clinging to institutions which, by design, subjugate and confine women to roles, places, dress, and concepts of the body. While our government, rhetoric aside, does little practically to address these problems, the media [do] even less; in fact the American media machine is responsible for the most counterproductive of feminine social movements by literally supplying a constant flow of images and performances portraying women as sex objects and defining freedom exclusively as sexual freedom or freedom from responsibility. It should come as no surprise that many Americans are hotly aware of the issues that Dr Mathur has brought up in his article. It is unfortunate that the avenues and forums for discussion about these issues are relatively few, relatively sparsely attended, all but ignored by our media and are insufficiently represented within our education system.
Seneca A Haynes
Chicago, Illinois (Mar 2, '04)


Judging from the various Orwellian rationales and legalistic doublespeak on the Taiwan issue being pushed by Americans like Daniel McCarthy, Richard Hartzell and Richard Radcliffe, it's obvious that the USA is desperate to keep its client state of Taiwan just as surely as it wishes to keep its greedy hands on glorified American colonies like Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti. Like all good American imperialists, McCarthy and Hartzell attempt to dress up their agenda behind stirring propaganda about defending Taiwanese "sovereignty" - as if being an American-backed, -armed and -supported quisling state has anything to do with true independence. Moreover, Radcliffe's letters are an excellent example of how the American military is nothing more than a fascist institution which churns out patriotic American drones who spew outrageous nonsense that would embarrass even the shills at Fox News. This American thug, for example, waxes nostalgic over Hong Kong's mythical "traditions of freedom and self-rule established by Her Britannic Majesty's governments from the days of the Opium Wars" [letter below, Mar 1]. In the Orwellian mind of Washington war criminals and their mercenaries like Radcliffe, Western colonial occupation and domination are "freedom and self-rule". Radcliffe must be going senile in his retirement and should go over to Iraq to see Anglo-American "freedom and self-rule" in action. It would be interesting to see how long Radcliffe lasts before he is on the receiving end of an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade]. As for Hartzell, he offers the comical proposition that Taiwan concretize its true status as a ward of the American Empire with his latest exercise in lawyerly chicanery [Taiwan poll should ask about US sovereignty, Feb 27, and letter below, Mar 1]. (No wonder the USA has a reputation of being a nation of shyster lawyers!) I have a much better idea, however. How about having indigenous Hawaiians and Mexicans vote to decide the sovereignty of Hawaii or Aztlan (aka the so-called American Southwest)? Since McCarthy, Hartzell and Radcliffe posture as defenders of sovereignty and independence, let them prove it by supporting the independence of nations that were both colonized by the American Empire in its bloody past. Of course, the entire American nation-state itself is nothing more than a white-settler colony - founded upon the conquest of native American lands by the murderous ancestors of people like McCarthy, Hartzell and Radcliffe. Ultimately, American apologists should understand one thing: your All-American lies about freedom, democracy, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction fool no one with a brain, no matter how desperately you promote them.
XOY
Texas (Mar 2, '04)


Richard W Hartzell wrote in his letter [Mar 1]: "Back in October 1945, the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek came to Taiwan to accept the surrender of Japanese troops based on General Douglas MacArthur's instructions, as given in General Order No 1 of September 2, 1945. General MacArthur was the head of the United States Military Government." The statement was meant to support his view in the original article [Taiwan poll should ask about US sovereignty, Feb 27]: "Looking at the situation of Taiwan from this perspective, we note that the head of the US Military Government, General Douglas MacArthur, directed the representatives of Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to come to Taiwan and accept the surrender of Japanese military forces - so October 25, 1945, clearly marks the beginning of the belligerent occupation of 'Formosa and the Pescadores'. International law dictates that 'military occupation does not transfer sovereignty', so of course there was no transfer of sovereignty on that date. On April 28, 1952, the SFPT [San Francisco Peace Treaty] went into effect, but 'Formosa and the Pescadores' were not ceded to the Republic of China, nor to any other country. And so it follows that the sovereignty of these areas continues to be held as interim status by the principal occupying power, which is the United States as per Article 23. This is a fiduciary relationship, and not 'ownership' or 'annexation' per se. Under this analysis, it is clear that the 'Republic of China [ROC] on Taiwan' is not a sovereign nation. This is exactly the view both of the US State Department and of the People's Republic of China [PRC]." The view expressed by Mr Hartzell is based on distortion of historical facts. The PRC does not recognize the ROC on Taiwan as a sovereign government of China not because Taiwan is not Chinese territory, but because Taiwan is only a province of China. The Second World War was not an exclusively American war. It was a war between two coalitions: the Axis Powers which included Japan, and the Allies, of which the US was a member, as was China. MacArthur in accepting Japanese surrender was acting as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, which included China, as represented by the Republic of China at that time. ROC forces accepted Japanese surrender on Taiwan not by order of an American general, but as a member of the victorious Allies, as per agreement openly declared by members of the coalition. After being defeated by Japan in the Sino-Japan War, China ceded Taiwan to Japan under the Shimonoseki Treaty in 1895. Taiwan was returned to China at the end of World War II in 1945 as per the 1943 agreement of the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations. The Japanese government accepted the terms of unconditional surrender that stated in these documents: "... that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, [and] the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China". Article 2 of the 1952 Treaty of Peace with Japan signed by Japan and the Allied Powers in San Francisco (excluding both the ROC and the PRC) stated, "Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Paracels." Article 4 of the separate Peace Treaty signed between Japan and the ROC in 1952 declared that all agreements between Japan and China before 1941 were null and void. On October 2, 1971, China put forward the "Three Principles on the Restoration of Sino-Japanese Diplomatic Relations?: (1) The People's Republic of China is the sole legal government of China; (2) Taiwan is an inalienable part of territory of the People's Republic of China; (3) The "Peace Treaty? between Japan and Chiang Kai-shek authorities is illegal and it must be abrogated. On September 25, 1972, Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka visited China. On September 29, both the Chinese and Japanese governments issued a Sino-Japanese Joint Statement affirming the Three Principles. The restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries was based on the Three Principles. On August 12, 1978, China and Japan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the People's Republic of China and Japan based on the Three Principles. On October 22, Chinese vice premier Deng Xiaoping visited Japan. On October 23, China and Japan exchanged instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. On October 23, 1992, Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michito visited China, the first ever by a Japanese emperor. It opened a new age in the history of Sino-Japanese relations. The visit of the Japanese emperor confirmed the Three Principles. While there exist ambiguities on the meaning of a "one China" principle between the US and China, there is no ambiguity or dispute between the two governments on Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. By the argument of Mr Hartzell, "if we accept these four stipulations [of the Montevideo Convention] for recognizing a 'sovereign state'" in the case of the United States, "we are immediately faced with the conclusion that 'military occupation does transfer sovereignty'" (from native Americans) "which is a clear violation of international law, as specified in the Geneva and Hague Conventions".
Henry C K Liu (Mar 2, '04)


It s unfortunate that letter writer "Frank" of Seattle, Washington, (who is not brave enough to even state his name - perhaps due to fear of speaking his opinion learned in China?) [Mar 1], sees US presence in Asia as a mere ploy to kill Asians. Such a view hardly merits a response, but I would like to remind "Frank" that the last time we heard the argument of "Asia for Asians", it came from the Empire of Japan. Is "Frank" suggesting that his beloved Chinese Communist Party is planning a similar ruthless conquest across Asia?
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 2, '04)


Richard Radcliffe [letter below, Mar 1] is making an ignorant [person] out of himself again. China is anything but communist today. Today's Asia is completely different than the Asia he bombed 30 years ago. When he was in Vietnam, could Captain Radcliffe imagine that one day he would use a computer made in China with a Taiwanese microprocessor? Could he image that [so] many young Americans would love to buy Korean-made cars with CD players made in Thailand? Could he imagine that one day he would have dinner in California over shrimps produced in the same Vietnam he bombed into a graveyard? I recommend Captain Radcliffe pay a peaceful visit to China. I am sure he will change a lot. Then, please drop a line to Asia Times, let us know what you see, and how shocked you are.
Frank
Seattle (Mar 2, '04)


In response to the letter from Richard Radcliffe [Mar 1] again stating that China's intention [is] to invade Taiwan: He mentions in his letter that "Beijing attacks Hong Kong democrats" and states that the primary objective of the "Butchers of Tiananmen Square" is Taiwan. China has everything to lose and little to gain by invading Taiwan. It may growl and snarl at times, but overall it will wait for Taiwan to join its nation. After all, China waited 150 years to regain Hong Kong through diplomacy, and could have invaded the New Territories without crossing a large body of water. The cost to China by invading Taiwan would be an immediate diplomatic isolation and halt in trade with the rest of the world due to shipping suspension in a war zone. Everything Taiwan has in economic terms is being duplicated in China, so there is no great advantage or oil. One may presume the loss of face is a predominant factor, yet "one does not cut off his male stalk to spite a jade gate". Additionally Richard Radcliffe criticizes the communist nature of the present government in China. Though I understand his concerns along with many Chinese-Americans and others who fled the regime, I beg his indulgence on the part of ruling the largest nation on the Earth. Imagine the outcome if China announced full democratic opportunities for all of its citizens. Thousands of new political parties will sprout overnight seeking the votes of billions of people. Chaos will result and China's international power would be diminished. Just look at America's Congress and multiply the lack of efficiency by a factor of five or 10. Although it may be in the short-term interest of America to see a fractured China, it is not in the long-term interest of world peace. China understands that democracy is a fragile flower that must be nurtured carefully through all seasons. It may take decades, or a century, or China may develop a new political institution to lead the world in the new millennium. My full criticism falls on the Bush administration that walked into the North Korean trap constructed by China. [Former US president Bill] Clinton correctly saw the lure and quickly negotiated a treaty that was condemned by the neo-cons as appeasement. Yet after China reset the bait, [President George W] Bush falls in, eyes wide shut and may have to accept a similar treaty, leaving Japan and South Korea wondering what it was all about. Lastly, I mean no disrespect to Richard Radcliffe personally or his positions and welcome his letters. And I thank the Asia Times Online for the opportunity for everyone to air their views on geopolitical affairs and to debate in a civilized fashion.
Bob
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Mar 2, '04)


Re Gaffes, gullibility: NY Times gets it wrong (Feb 28). I find Jim Lobe's explanation for why the New York Times reported only the [George W Bush] administration's fantasies somewhat wanting. I find no evidence in his article that hope and fear pushed the reportage forward. What could have been [reporter Judith] Miller's hopes? That the US would beat the pants off of Saddam [Hussein]? Her home and her friends are liberal-leaning, so I doubt that. As far as I can see, her biggest hope was to leverage her 10-year-long relationship with [Ahmad] Chalabi to advance her career. Fear? Of what? Certainly not that Saddam was an imminent threat; that was fantastical from the beginning. A more credible possibility is that she feared the famous retribution of the Bush forces who were already famous for this. They certainly could have set her career back. I think the details of the Jason Blair affair provide some clues. What was most notable about the Times' lengthy description of what happened was that journalistic integrity was the last thing on the mind of Blair's editors. Blair, after all, was repeatedly let off the hook for blatant lying. And in general, the Times itself is famous for rarely acknowledging errors. The Times has a culture of self-congratulation, entirely unable to look at itself because individual careers are more important than journalistic integrity. As far as I can see, Miller had invested 10 years carefully nurturing her relationship with Chalabi, and she was not about to set her career back by asking him some hard questions. There [are] only three things wrong with the New York Times culture: careerism, careerism and careerism. It has thoroughly infected their journalism. They have become a newspaper "off record" and they are certainly off my table. My hope is that Americans will gradually realize that they can and should keep the New York Times in the bathroom where it belongs - and not for reading. Americans can find far better journalism on the Internet (of which Asia Times Online is an outstanding example) and selected articles in newspapers across the US that still want to keep investigative journalism alive.
Chuck Palson
FITE (Fairness In Taxes for Everyone)
Sherborn, Massachusetts (Mar 1, '04)


Anil Netto [Malaysia braces for snap election, Feb 28] talks nonsense when he says "Abdullah is carrying on the tradition - seen in very few other democratic nations - of keeping the country guessing as to when the polls will be held until the very last moment. Guessing the date of the polls has become something of a national obsession in Malaysia and shifts the focus of the polls from the real issues." Netto must not be aware that this is a common practice in most Commonwealth parliamentary democracies. Even as we speak, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is keeping his country guessing when he will call elections. In any case, it is no secret that elections will have to be held within the next few months and any observer of Malaysian politics would have noted that campaigning has already begun. Any Malaysian political party that is caught unawares when elections are called has got to be really dumb.
Dennis Ignatius
Ottawa, Ontario (Mar 1, '04)

Netto's article states in the third paragraph: "But over the years, opposition politicians have wised up to the hints and signs of impending polls." - ATol


I was surprised to read in the book review Honey, he trashed the Bushes! [Feb 28] that US Attorney General John Ashcroft has defended "several constitutional rights" after September 11 [2001]. The limitations of your authors are coming home to me now. Chanakya Sen poses like a critic of the Bush neo-cons but gives Ashcroft a clean chit. Maybe God should turn him into an Arab and put him in Yankee land for him to realize the Ashcroft reality!
Hugh Millis
Scarborough, UK (Mar 1, '04)

The sentence should have read "John Ashcroft has attacked several constitutional rights". The article has been corrected. - ATol


Your proposition that the US is in fact the sovereign of Taiwan is quaintly amusing at best [Taiwan poll should ask about US sovereignty, Feb 27]. I highly doubt that even the independence advocates of the island would agree with you on this one. Taiwan, like any other Chinese province, belongs to China. In fact, both the ROC [Republic of China] and the PRC [People's Republic of China] belong to one eternal "China". Indeed, when the two reconcile their political difference in due time, this will be the case. Your silly pseudo-academic argument of US sovereignty will be laughed out of both halls of power in Beijing and Taipei ... and might I add that one of three conditions for an imminent Chinese military attack is the occupation of the island by a foreign force. If the US is so hell-bent on keeping the ROC and the PRC separate, then we can all expect a war over the issue.
ML Massachusetts, USA (Mar 1, '04)


Richard W Hartzell responds:
The Treaty of Shimonoseki ceded "Formosa and the Pescadores" to Japan in 1895. That is an internationally recognized treaty. China signed it. Japan signed it. According to the historical record, Japan was ready to invade Beijing - so China was given a choice, sign the peace treaty, accepting all its provisions, or prepare to meet the end of the Chinese nation as you know it. The Chinese delegate, Mr Lee, signed it. In fact, looking back into Chinese history, one can find many examples which were similar, where the victorious (or stronger) party was stipulating various terms and conditions to the weaker party. Certainly, this is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of Chinese history, other than to say that the Chinese were the weaker party at this point. Taiwan was not returned to the Republic of China in the peace treaties after World War II, and the PRC has never held administrative authority over, or stationed any officials on, Taiwan from 1949 to the present. Clearly, the legal claim that the PRC authorities have over Taiwan is only based on the "successor government theory". However, the "successor government theory" can only be valid if the Republic of China has actually held the sovereignty of "Formosa and the Pescadores". But, according to the treaties concluded after World War II, the sovereignty of Japan was valid over "Formosa and the Pescadores" up to April 28, 1952. Hence the claim (of some parties) that October 25, 1945, is "Taiwan Retrocession Day" is clearly without legal basis. Moreover, the claim that there is any legal validity to the pronouncements of the Republic of China in the late 1930s or early 1940s unilaterally renouncing the 1895 treaty and "immediately restoring" the sovereignty of Formosa and the Pescadores to China is even more ridiculous. In fact, in the Chinese-Japanese Peace Treaty, which came into effect on August 5, 1952, it is clearly stated that all bilateral treaties (concluded prior to 1941) are "terminated" (or "ended") as a result of the end of World War II, and this further shows that all previous pronouncements of the Republic of China in this regard are meaningless. You will recall that China did indeed sign the Chinese-Japanese Peace Treaty and does recognize its validity, including the Article 2 stipulation that the disposition of "Formosa and the Pescadores" has already been dealt with according to the provisions of Article 2b of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) of April 28, 1952. Hence it is impossible to conclude that the Chinese-Japanese Peace Treaty awarded the "sovereignty" of Formosa and the Pescadores to China, since that does not correspond to the provisions of the SFPT, which came into effect some five months previously. According to international law, October 25, 1945, can only be regarded as the beginning of the military occupation of Formosa and the Pescadores, and according to Article 23 of the SFPT, the United States Military Government is the principal occupying power. Back in October 1945, the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek came to Taiwan to accept the surrender of Japanese troops based on General Douglas MacArthur's instructions, as given in General Order No 1 of September 2, 1945. General MacArthur was the head of the United States Military Government. I further note that the Taiwan Relations Act is a domestic law of the United States. Perhaps you could inform me why you hold to the position that "Taiwan is an eternal part of China", which is, I might add, a position which both the Taiwan independence advocates and even many scholars of no particular political leanings totally reject.
Richard W Hartzell (Mar 1, '04)


Richard Hartzell makes a valid point that Taiwan was not turned over to any nation in particular at the end of World War II [Taiwan poll should ask about US sovereignty, Feb 27]. But he must have noticed when he entered Taiwan that the customs agents who examined his foreign passport were not American and were engaged in the act of controlling the borders of their sovereign country. Although Mr Hartzell may not find Taiwan listed as a sovereign nation on the US State Department website, he need only look out his front door to see Taiwanese exercising complete sovereignty over Taiwan, not Americans or Chinese.
Daniel McCarthy
Salt Lake City, Utah (Mar 1, '04)


I hope [letter writers] Richard Radcliffe and Daniel McCarthy do not represent the majority of Americans with their hawkish and anti-China views. They are as usually long on ideology, short on analysis. Radcliffe needs to read the Taiwan Relations Act before stating that the US supports a free and independent Taiwan according to this act. This is completely false and with such a big faulty premise, his entire conclusion cannot be true. The US may not accept China's sovereignty over Taiwan, but neither does it support Taiwan separatism. Both Radcliffe and McCarthy probably never have been to mainland China and are trying to portray an enemy in their hateful mind with cheap rhetoric. You should both be very careful what you ask for.
J Zhang
The Netherlands (Mar 1, '04)


Richard Radcliffe and Daniel McCarthy have short-lived memories. Not very long ago, the United States asked China repeatedly to step into the North Korea crisis. After the negotiation started, all parties are seeking benefit out of it. That includes the United States. Looking at history, any time the United States steps into Asian affairs, Americans and Asians are killed. I am just stating a fact here. That is not hate. The only thing I hate to see is that Asians help their killers to kill their brothers and sisters. I hope Kumar is not one of them. However, I appreciate the responds from other readers.
Frank
Seattle, Washington (Mar 1, '04)


Though I must agree with part of Daniel McCarthy's letter [Feb 27] stating that China is throwing sand in the USA's eyes over North Korea, I must disagree with the endgame. Taiwan is not really China's objective, since it will fall into their laps eventually. One should never climb a tree to pluck an apple when one can wait for it to fall into one's hands. China's overall objective is Central Asia, with its vast energy resources for China's growing economy. The article Oil-rich US ally Kazakhstan looks to China [Feb 27] reveals China's true intentions and pulls a few hairs out of Uncle Sam's beard. Rummy [US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld] is going to be a very frequent flier to Central Asia in the coming months and the "Stans" will milk America while looking to the East. While neophyte geopolitical analysts like [US President George W] Bush look to Taiwan, true masters of the game know that nothing but the names have changed in Central Asia in the last 200 years.
Bob
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Mar 1, '04)


The International Herald Tribune website carried an article [last week] by Joseph Kahn that should be read by all. The title of the article is "Beijing attacks Hong Kong democrats". In this article, Kahn postulates that the Hong Kong electorate could freely elect their legislature and executive as early as 2007, the year prior to the Beijing Olympics. What is at stake here is the definition of "patriotism". Is the definition to be the one from Webster's Dictionary or the definition promulgated by Deng Xiaoping? I would suggest that the people of Hong Kong, having been educated in Her Britannic Majesty's and therefore Webster's definition of democracy, are loath to accept Deng Xiaoping's Communist Party-centric definition of patriotism, that is: slavish adherence to the Chinese Communist Party's "line". The Chinese Communist Party continues to fail to understand that Hong Kong and Taiwan are different from the "mainland". These are territories that have been and were self-governing for many years and have deeply rooted traditions of personal freedom. It should be no mystery to the People's Republic that "Taiwan compatriots" are not eager to accede to the "one China" principle when they see the people of Hong Kong vilified as "unpatriotic" for wanting to carry on the traditions of freedom and self-rule established by Her Britannic Majesty's governments from the days of the Opium Wars until the return of Hong Kong to the People's Republic at the expiration of the lease. Therein lies the danger to the peace of Eastern Asia, from the Mekong Delta to Vladivostok. No one should fail to understand that the absorption of Taiwan into the People's Republic is anything other than the primary objective of the Butchers of Tiananmen Square. Failure to focus on this objective and its ramifications for all other issues in East Asia will lead to consequences for all the countries in the region that no one wishes to contemplate. [The] People's Daily again strongly criticized the upcoming referendum on missiles to be held concurrently with the Taiwanese presidential election. To quote the People's Daily Online English Edition: " 'The referendum is a plot to change the cross-Strait status quo and to sabotage the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait', Li [Weiyi, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council] said. He said the 'one China' principle, which maintains Taiwan as an integral part of China, is the foundation of the stability and development of cross-Strait relations." No, the referendum is not a plot to change cross-Strait relations. It is simply a political device to determine the desires of the populace on a particular question. California just had a referendum on its governor and changed governors very peacefully and in line with the wishes of the people of California. But to a communist, any recourse to the people that cannot be controlled is an anathema. How dare the people be so bold as to question the Party?! Well, Butchers of Tiananmen Square, get used to it. You have one special administrative region that has basically told you to "take a hike". Were it not for the presence of the People's Liberation Army, there is little doubt that communists would not be present in the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. And you continue to wonder why "Taiwan compatriots" want nothing to do with you? To be continued. But then, the six-way talks are in progress. Stay tuned for further developments.
Richard Radcliffe
Captain, US Air Force, Retired
Apple Valley, California (Mar 1, '04)


Re: Bin Laden between a hammer and a hard place [Feb 21] by Syed Saleem Shahzad. This really interesting article was ruined by the way it ended. Syed speculated that if the US ends up being drawn deeper into the morass in Afghanistan, it could set off a chain of events that would ultimately result in another major terrorist attack in the US of the magnitude of September 11 [2001]. I am intensely curious what he imagines the intermediate events in this chain might be. Does he know something that he's not sharing with his readers, or is this wishful thinking being shared?
Karezzi
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Mar 1, '04)


Please do not stain your highly regarded news [medium] with scum like Spengler and [Daniel] Pipes. They are no scholars. They are racists in disguise and self-centered people who have lost a right perspective of the world. Western leaders and so-called scholars are nothing but liars, colonialists and vultures preying on weak, hungry and destitute people of the world. They cannot see the biggest protests in human history against the Iraq war in their own countries. So-called leaders of democratic countries are so democratic that they ignore the majority voices of their own country. Bomb AlJazeera's offices to promote democracy - right?
Shab Qureshi
US (Mar 1, '04)

Asia Times Online dropped Daniel Pipes' column last year. - ATol


[Re editor's note of Feb 27 about "filtering" letters:] My point exactly. You published my previous letter, which was deliberately meant to provoke a reaction. It makes me wonder if you get some voyeuristic joy out of publishing antagonistic letters, rather than foster genuine debate (such as the one between Daniel McCarthy and Piers Wood). I realize that my letters, or this forum, are of no consequence in the grand scheme of things, but I still believe that publishing too much flame mail belittles your publication.
S Kumar
Sydney, Australia (Mar 1, '04)

We do screen letters that are obvious nonsense, gratuitously hateful or libelous. However, our letter writers hail from a very wide variety of cultures and they write, often passionately, on a wide variety of subjects. We may publish the occasional disingenuous "flame mail", but that is the price of not censoring honestly held viewpoints. If you are concerned that your own letters might "belittle" us, then don't send them. - ATol


Mr RA himself states (see the letter below [Feb 27]) very explicitly that the movement for Pakistan was driven by the ambitions of a few elite Muslims. If a few powerful elites bulldoze their ideas on the people without taking into consideration the latter's opinion (not just Muslims alone) in this scheme, what do you call this? Does the massacre of a million justify the cause of a homeland? Is human life so expendable that the death and destruction of millions is just a statistical figure on the sheet? Any right-thinking human will be ashamed of the genocide (during partition and in Gujarat) whatever may be the justification. The colonial Indian political parties, including Congress, were essentially a club of the elites and had nothing to do with the toiling masses until [Mahatma] Gandhi "hijacked" it and made it a pan-Indian freedom movement. The single most important achievement of Gandhi was to spread the message of the freedom struggle among the common man across the country with primitive but effective communication skills. In all fairness to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, initially he did have the confidence of both Congress and the Muslim League and he even played an intermediary role between the two. But later with the emergence of new leaders in the Congress he felt sidelined and opted out of Congress and began a negative campaign of not just the leaders but the entire religious community. RA, education does not start and end with religious study alone. The curriculum also should include tolerance for other religions besides science and math. Maybe in themadrassa that Maulana RA graduated from there is a compulsory course on anti-Hindu studies spiced with the juiciest stories on the sex lives of the Hindu rulers. That makes the study interesting and could attract and retain the students. Pakistanis view the world with a Muslim/Kafir lens and have two sets of views on the same subject depending on the religions of the perpetrator and the victim: If a crime is done by a Muslim, the response is attenuated, and the same done by a Kafir elicits an amplified protest. That is the reason why they hate Narendra Modi but have no hesitation in embracing Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and even Dawood Ibrahim. If September 11 [2001] did not happen, Pakistan would still be playing host to all the three figures mentioned above "in public" and might have even awarded them. No one denies that in India minorities (by religion, language, caste) face problems. But we are not ashamed to express this openly. At the time of partition Pakistan had 17 percent Hindus and now it is 95 percent Muslims. If Jinnah (and his successors) "truly" believed in equality of all religions, where are the minorities? Pakistan had one simple solution to the minority problem: elimination (and yes, true to the words: a land of the pure).
Kannan (Mar 1, '04)


My friend RA (letter below) calls me a Hindu chauvinist, terrorist etc. Fair. What did I do to earn his respect? I criticized "secular" Hindu and Muslim writers like Sultan Shahin, Praful Bidwai etc for essentially equating secular with Islamic in Indian polity. Last time I checked, Muslims constitute 15 percent of India's population. I for one cannot figure out why my money should be subsidizing Muslim tourism to Saudi Arabia, which is essentially a religious fundamentalist country, or paid Muslim holidays (remember, 85 percent of people are not Muslim). Of course, the likes of Sultan Shahin and Praful Bidwai will term me Hindu nationalist for that. But I have a better idea for my Pakistani friends RA, Hugh Jackson (from Peshawar) etc (letters below). Leading by example is always a good idea. Asia Times Online, in Speaking Freely, please allow these gentlemen (or women) to report on issues like democracy, rights of women, status of minorities, judiciary in Pakistan. Facts like how much taxpayer money is used to educate minorities, maintain non-Islamic sites like Mohen-jo-daro, Taxila etc would be useful. In case my friends have a sudden bout of speechlessness, please find some Pakistani or Muslim writers to report on social issues. This would be a good change from the usual Hindu-bashing from Indian and Pakistani writers. Perhaps, in these times of tension in South Asia, they can serve as a beacon for everyone else to follow.
AP (Mar 1, '04)


The letter from Mr Hugh Jackson below [Feb 27] confirms he is a brainwashed fundamentalist and not a bona fide American citizen. These kinds of people use fake names and locations so as to hide their identity. Dawood Ibrahim is a No 1 criminal and Muslim fundamentalist from [Mumbai] and was running hawala, smuggling, drugs, mafia, extortion, prostitution etc. He was a main cause behind the 1993 [Mumbai] bomb blasts and was in hiding in the neighboring hostile country. It seems Mr Jackson has some secret funding from Hindu haters. Does Mr Jackson know that Dawood's brother is behind bars in India and also confessed the whereabouts of Dawood? It's funny and ironic that Mr Jackson is talking about India's credibility. What qualification has he to talk about India's credibility? It seems he is staunch supporter of the hostile neighboring country ... At least India does not have the shame of having a military and a president who were once staunch supporters of terrorist groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, etc.
Kumar (Mar 1, '04)


I must take issue with Michael Wahrman's statement [letter, Feb 26] that US General [William] Boykin in not a fanatic, just an ordinary Christian. I have spent most of my 50 years in born-again circles, and if General Boykin is not a fanatic, I do not know who is. The fact that President [George W] Bush tolerates this kind of fanaticism in an important official makes me fear that the president is a religious fanatic too.
Lester Ness, PhD
Putian City, China (Mar 1, '04)


I have bookmarked your front page and will return often to get a refreshing, enjoyable perspective on world news. My family and I have noticed for years that our Western media feed us pabulum, lullabies, drivel and propaganda. They are sold out. Everybody knows it. Most of us don't even care anymore. The Western news media [have] contributed greatly to a deep and underlying mistrust of "the establishment". President [George W] Bush even told Dianne Sawyer of ABC News lately, "I get my information from people who know what they are talking about [not the news media]."
Sonya Finkey
Keaau, Hawaii (Mar 1, '04)


My brother just visited me in Thailand and returned to his home via Thai Airways. He wrote this: "Well, I forgot to tell you ... they served chicken on the plane on the way back from [Bangkok]. I asked the flight attendant if it came from Thailand, and she said, 'Why, is there a problem with the chicken in Thailand? Please, sir, don't worry.' She was Thai ..."
Bradley B
Naresuan University
Phitsanulok, Thailand (Mar 1, '04)