Limitations of a superpower

By Anwar Syed


SINCE the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 the United States has been referred to as the sole superpower in the world, which has thus become “unipolar.” Until then the Soviet Union was also a superpower, and we lived in a bipolar world.

A state possessing a level of military capability unsurpassed by that of most others may be called a superpower. During the cold war years the United States and the Soviet Union, each, had the capacity to destroy our planet three or more times over. Russia (successor to the old Soviet Union) still has much of the same capacity but it does not have the resources to keep it operational, with the result that it can no longer function as a superpower.

How did the two superpowers act in relation to the rest of the world? Following the end of World War II, the Soviet Union placed units of the Red Army in East Germany and the countries of Eastern Europe (except Yugoslavia), installed a communist regime in each one of them, controlled their economies to its own advantage and directed their military establishments and their foreign and domestic policies. This nearly comprehensive system of control was made possible by the presence of the Red Army on the soil of these nations. Each time forces within any of them revolted — as they did in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia — Soviet tanks rolled in to suppress the uprising.

The United States could not act the way the Soviets did. It stationed its forces, as a protecting power, in West Berlin and West Germany but nowhere else in Western Europe. It recruited some of the West European nations as allies in Nato, but it did not attempt to convert any of them into a “satellite.” It exercised influence in the region, but not control. It had to be content with influence, partly because the nations involved would not submit to control.

The nations of Western Europe followed the American line in their approaches to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but not in relation to much of the rest of the world. As their perception of a Soviet threat to their security changed, so did their commitment to the American strategy. Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor (1969-74), initiated a policy known as an “opening to the East” that stood for closer and more cooperative interaction with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, especially the latter. Charles de Gaulle, president of France (1959-69), insisted on developing his country’s own independent nuclear capability, refused to integrate its forces with those of Nato, took French troops out of Nato, and expelled its headquarters from Paris. In another gesture of defiance he indicated that France might want to convert its dollar holdings into gold, which precipitated the dollar’s de-linking from gold in 1970.

America’s allies and clients in the Middle East and Southeast Asia followed its guideline in relation to the Soviet Union but, with the exception of Pakistan, they went their own ways in fashioning their state structures and in formulating their domestic policies. In the case of Pakistan, it may be said that direction was invited more than it was imposed.

In the early stages of the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union went out to recruit Third World nations, and essentially each said to them: “if you are not with us, you are against us.” Yet, quite a few of them chose to remain non-aligned. In competing for the allegiance of nations outside their established spheres of influence, each of the two superpowers acted as a counterpoise to the other. Does the demise of the Soviet Union mean that the United States is now free to dictate its will to other nations, and that they have no option other than compliance? I don’t think so.

We all know that in recent weeks several European nations, notably France and Germany, have denounced the American invasion of Iraq. Many other governments in the world have done the same. In spite of promises of reward and threats of penalty, the United States was not able to obtain the support of more than five or six of the fifteen members of the UN Security Council, or that of the UN secretary-general, for its resolve to invade. Turkey, an old ally, refused to allow the United States the use of its territory for moving ground forces to northern Iraq.

There was a time when power and responsibility did not have to go together. Changez Khan was once the head of a superpower, and so was Halaku. The force they commanded was unsurpassed and irresistible. They entertained no sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of the people they subjugated. But times have changed, and crude plunder will no longer do. George Bush is the president of a country whose people, for the most part, are civil, sensitive to moral values, moved by humane and sympathetic impulses. They will not let him act like another Changez or Halaku. After Iraq has been conquered, he will have to take steps towards its political and economic reconstruction.

The war itself may not take long, but reconstruction will. Who will pay for all this? Mr Bush has asked Congress for an appropriation of $75 billion to meet the cost of this war. This is only an initial figure, and one may be sure that as the war proceeds there will be requests for additional funds. The “hawks” who urge Mr Bush to march into Syria and then into Iran after his mission in Iraq is accomplished are talking nonsense. The United States simply does not have the financial, political, and diplomatic resources to undertake these reckless ventures.

The British government and others are trying to persuade Mr Bush to get the United Nations on board for the job of post-war reconstruction. Will the more prosperous member nations share the cost of that project? Perhaps, but it is possible also that they will turn around and say that since America has wrought the destruction in Iraq, and thus created the need for reconstruction, it should pay for it.

In that event the American taxpayers will ultimately end up paying both for the war and for the subsequent reconstruction. On the other hand, if other wealthy nations do agree to share the cost, they will also want a share in the direction and management of the redevelopment (both political and economic) to come. America will then lose control of the project, which is surely a bitter pill for Mr Bush to swallow.

If he does not want to share control with others, he will have to saddle his own people with the entire cost. A theory, popular with his critics, has it that he will make Iraq pay all of the cost. This is unlikely. Iraq’s oil revenues will barely suffice for meeting the most basic needs of its own people, and it does not have other noteworthy surpluses. As I have said once before, expecting Iraq to pay for the war against itself, and for the repairs and reforms that outsiders will devise, is like hoping to draw blood from a stone.

Americans will probably be horrified when the realization dawns that their government expects them to give billions of dollars every year for an indefinite period of time in order that Iraq may be rebuilt in Mr Bush’s evangelical image. Apart from the matter of cost, America is deeply divided over the morality of the whole undertaking. Granted that the protest against the war engages only a minority of the population, it is one that will become ever more vocal if its professed aims are not achieved soon. Recall also that it was a minority, protesting against the war in Vietnam, that forced President Lyndon Johnson to give up the idea of a second term and withdraw from the race in the 1968 presidential election.

Rule of law is a core value in the American political culture, as it is in that of other established democracies. Observance of international law is an essential part of a civilized approach to international relations. That states in the international system are all sovereign, and that none may interfere in the internal affairs of others, are settled principles. Mr Bush’s doctrines of pre-emption, and of right to secure regime changes in other countries, will work to legitimize resort to brute force in international relations. As many American commentators have noted, Mr Bush is in effect saying that he will not play by the rules, that he will do as he wishes, and if the law does not go along with it, so much the worse for the law. There can be little doubt that not only outsiders but in time Americans themselves will repudiate this approach.

One cannot overstate the danger to the world order that Mr Bush’s doctrines pose. If might is right for him, it can also be right for Mr Vajpayee. He can embark upon a campaign of converting Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Burma into India’s vassals, and he can begin providing large-scale financial and military aid to subversive or separatist groups in Pakistan to break it up or to set up a puppet regime in that country. Governments of large countries elsewhere may be encouraged to do the same in their neighbourhoods.

The American people may, sooner than later, disown Mr Bush and his way of thinking, but what can Pakistan do in the meantime to resist the trend he is setting in motion? One cannot think of anything other than that its government and political leaders should move as quickly as possible to establish internal cohesion, strengthen national solidarity, and evolve a system of governance that commands the respect and loyalty of their people. Only a nation thus united and made whole can resist foreign intervention and attempts to control its destiny.

The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, US.

E-mail: syed.anwar@attbi.com

Nuclear power and Kashmir

By Kunwar Idris


NO other country is so conscious of, and vocal about, its being a nuclear power as Pakistan is. The government ministers crow about it all the time. Here is a sample from their recent published statements:

Defence minister Rao Sikandar: The country’s ultimate security lies in the use of the atom bomb; it is not a mere showpiece. Chief of the ruling coalition Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain: The bomb is made for war and not for fireworks on a festive night. Information minister Shaikh Rashid: Anyone casting a “dirty” (evil) eye on Pakistan will be taught a lesson of a lifetime.

The effect of the ministerial rhetoric in popular imagination is buttressed by President Musharraf and PM Zafarullah Jamali’s frequent assurances to the soldiers and people alike that the defence of the country is impregnable and that India should have no delusion, nor anyone else any doubt, that it can get away with a pre-emptive strike at Pakistan.

Both have been circumspect enough not to mention the possession or use of the bomb in their claims to invincibility, though, the other day, the president chose, of all the forums, a tribal jirga to declare that Pakistan’s nuclear capability is a guarantee of its sovereignty.

The boasts about the bomb were earlier confined to Jihadi clerics. It is made to fire and not to eat, Maulana Samiul Haq had once said. The doctrine of pre-emption, or attack as a means of self-defence, now established by America, and threats by India’s new hawkish Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha to invoke it against Pakistan has sucked Pakistan’s responsible officials also into the nuclear bombast. It is amazing how nuclear horror is reduced to political banter. They all need to make a trip to Hiroshima.

Being lost in the process is a good opportunity by our irrepressible leaders to refurbish Pakistan’s generally perceived terrorist image by showing equanimity in the face of Sinha’s bellicosity. Once again, the world is advising India to show restraint while, in its eyes, Pakistan remains in the dock for brandishing its bomb and fomenting rebellion in Kashmir. Repression and killings by the Indian troops attract no censure nor does the fight for freedom win any sympathy.

The support of the world community for the Kashmir cause that Pakistan could have mustered as a quid pro quo for its pivotal role in the regime change in Afghanistan, and now for its ambivalence in Iraq crisis, has been squandered by our leaders in the government and opposition alike.

Keeping the political passions and bomb bravado aside, the overwhelming opinion in the country today is for creating conditions conducive to a settlement on Kashmir. Every political party or leader of note is for it. Chaudhry Shujaat in his Dawn Dialogue conceded that some “unpopular decisions” shall have to be made to resolve the Kashmir problem by “going beyond the UN resolutions.”

Imran Khan in his Dialogue held that Pakistan has lost the moral stamina to stand by the people of Kashmir and now has to rely on the liberal elements in India to promote a settlement in the midst of a surging tide of a Hindu fundamentalism. Even Qazi Hussain Ahmad whose party, flouting the rule of customary hospitality extended to guests, had converted the Lahore streets into a battleground on Vajpayee’s visit is also now in favour of talks with India.

Punjab, which for long has been the only part of the country unwilling to compromise on the right of self-determination, is now reconciled to a Kashmir solution which is achievable rather than ideal. If there is now a realization in Pakistan that it cannot wrest Kashmir by force, India too has learnt its lesson that it cannot ever quell either the spirit of the freedom movement in Kashmir or its violence, as it has not been able to do over the past 13 years despite the trickery of elections and deploying half a million troops.

How quickly and smoothly can a settlement be negotiated depends now entirely on the president and the army. Pakistan may be militarily invincible, if he insists, but Kashmir problem out of the way will also make it economically and politically stronger. The “principled stand” he vows never to give up has brought nothing for over half a century but death and sorrow — mainly to the people of Kashmir and Pakistan and very little to India.

The paranoia of being “next on the list” has made Pakistan more vulnerable now than when it was not a nuclear power. America and Britain now seem inclined to help. They may not be once the resistance in Afghanistan is liquidated or some other deal is struck leaving Pakistan to hold the baby (of refugees, illicit arms and drugs) as it did when the Russians departed.

Even in this situation where America is willing to help because it needs us, Colin Powell mentions the “painful and difficult actions” across the Line of Control but not in the valley, so deep rooted is the bias against Pakistan and its fundamentalism. The will to help is only under compulsion and it is transitory. Odds already appear to be stacking against Pakistan.

The American government at this critical juncture, when it needs Pakistan, could not have imposed sanctions on Kahuta laboratories had it not been in possession of some evidence, however tiny, of Pakistan’s nuclear collaboration with North Korea. An Islamabad defence analyst in a BBC interview the other day lent credence to the American action when she noted a marked similarity between the North Korean and Pakistani missiles.

To the Americans, North Korea is a rogue state. Pakistan may escape punitive action for now for the suspected deal but not for all times. Saddam Hussein didn’t for long though, egged on by America, he had inflicted uncounted deaths and untold sufferings on the Iranian, as well as his own, people for eight long years.

Pakistan cannot stand by its outdated, unhelpful principles when the overriding rule of international politics and warfare is the national interest. And then no principle can stand above the safety and prosperity of the people for whom it is fashioned.

Extortionists on the prowl

By Ardeshir Cowasjee


THE time frame: 1995-1996, with the second of the Benazir Bhutto PPP governments in power, and with Benazir, husband Asif Zardari, and their closet cabinet conducting their businesses from the prime ministerial mansion in Islamabad.

The monthly magazine, Newsline, in its June 1996 issue carried an article headed ‘Crash Landing?’ with the sub-heading ‘The country’s premier courier service (TCS) paid 250,000 US dollars to a PPP MNA to stay in business.’

Allegedly, in June 1995 a PPP-MNA had ‘persuaded’ the prime minister to instruct her secretariat to suspend the TCS aviation services unless the company agreed to ‘pay him a substantial sum in extortion money’. This would have brought all TCS operations to a halt, but there was no option for the company but to pay up.

Newsline story’s closing paragraph reads: “What happened with the company is perhaps one small example of how the political leadership of the country is brazenly involved in extortion. Will the superior courts of the country take notice of these criminal and unlawful acts being committed under the patronage of higher authorities?”

In those days it was not only the PPP which engaged itself in the extortion game. We also had operating in Sindh the party of the Pir of London, the MQM, freely and with impunity collecting what is known as ‘bhatta’. This practice has continued down the years whenever the MQM has been in any position of power.

At the end of last year, President General Pervez Musharraf, in his efforts to cobble together some form of democratic government, found it expedient to make peace with the MQM and thus try to ensure that a modicum of law and order prevails in Sindh. This had the converse of a calming effect on the people of the province who are convinced that the party will turn to its old tricks of extortion and terror. Musharraf’s governor in our province is the all-powerful Ishratul Ibad of the MQM, imported from London. Ibad’s first act in office was to promulgate on December 28, 2002, an ordinance: ‘The Sindh Eradication and Curbing the Menace of Involuntary Donation or Forced Chanda Ordinance 2002.’ Now, was this a brazen-faced admission that extortion did exist or was the governor trying to tell us that as it had never existed, it never would?

Dawn on December 29 2002, under the headline ‘Ordinance banning extortion promulgated,’ quoted the wording of the ordinance. Interestingly, if an extortionist is caught and then miraculously convicted he “shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.”

And now what? The life of this ordinance came to an end on March 27, 2003, and the next day TCS was again the victim of, this time, merely an attempt at extortion.

On the morning of Friday, March 28 two men arrived at the entrance to the TCS office premises at Block 6, PECHS. They stood, with the company security guard watching them, shouting various and colourful abuses and threats against the company and its executives, all clearly audible from within the office building.

The TCS head of corporate affairs, Ali Leghari, hearing the ‘pandemonium’ (as he puts it), went to the gate to see what it was all about and tried to calm down the two men by suggesting that they come in, come up to his office and unburden themselves. At this stage the original two were joined by two other shouter-screamers. The clamour continued while the four were being taken into the building and up to the boardroom.

Two of them were brothers, Haider Raza and Asif Raza. Haider came out with the ‘demand’, the reason for the abusive and threatening tirade. Asif, his brother, was a former TCS employee whose services had been terminated in 1996 — seven years prior to this incident. Apparently, the loss of a job had caused the family great hardship and they now ‘demanded’ that TCS pay them one million dollars within two days, failing which, with the clout they wielded, TCS would be eliminated, wiped out, vapourized.

The clout claimed was a close relationship with prime minister Zafarullah Jamali’s family, and links with the MQM — the latter proven by a visiting card with Farooq Sattar’s name printed on it and a handwritten note on the reverse addressed to Leghari: “Janab Ali Leghari/TCS. As discussed sending Capt. Asif Ali Raza, with some progress from his side on his matter. Please extend cooperation and oblige. Thank you.” With great pride, Haider announced that he was an old party stalwart, famously known as ‘Haider Commando’, and had the distinction of having trained many of the able MQM activists in the useful skill of martial arts (knee-drilling, body-bagging?).

The other two (one claiming to be a Pathan from Zhob) enforced the demand by announcing that if the money was not paid in time, all TCS operations, starting from Quetta and Peshawar downwards, would be disrupted, all offices and vehicles set on fire, the company would be defamed in the press, and the lives of the chairman, Khalid Awan, and of Leghari endangered.

This time, TCS decided to stand firm. They contacted mediamen and their friends in the army who persuaded the ISI to admit to its existence, and plans were laid to nab the extortionists. The two Raza brothers paid three subsequent visits to Leghari’s office. On one occasion Haider Commando bragged that with the help of the prime minister, he had certain requirements waved and obtained permission to set up an aviation company.

The deadline given to TCS was April 5. On the evening of April 4, Leghari received a telephone call from a man claiming to be an MNA by the name of Haider Rizvi, who had a message to convey from Farooq Sattar — the message, do the needful for ‘Asif Sahib’.

Leghari by this time was convinced that the entire matter was a hoax and a crude attempt at extortion. So when Haider Commando and brother arrived the next day they were told that the game was up and they should just leave immediately. Commando naturally reacted to this with further threats as to the destruction of TCS and the death of Leghari.

But the ISI had done a good job, organized things, and on their way out the MQM Rizvis were arrested and jailed, and Leghari filed an FIR (124/03) and submitted supporting documents at the Ferozabad police station in which he has recorded the above happenings.

End of story? No. Musclemen Rizvis are assets to be preserved. Two earthshaking telephone calls came from London to the Sindh home minister, Sardar Ahmad. The Voice admonished him for allowing the Rizvis to be arrested and jailed and he was told to ‘fix’ matters. What do we do, Sardar asked the governor? A magistrate was lined up to do the needful, bail of Rs.30,000 per brother was granted the next day and the Rizvis were released.

And now, amidst the mayhem, the CPLC has been rendered ineffective. Jamil Yusuf who in the past has taken on the MQM was removed in the middle of the night. (The CPLC records which incriminate many of those now in power have been destroyed. But that is another story.)

Why is General Musharraf doing his best to lose the goodwill of the people? With the installation of either real or sham democracy, a good many of the people of this indebted, bankrupt, overpopulated country still consider him to be the best of a bad lot.

Trashing Richard Perle

MEANWHILE, on the home front ... Richard Perle resigned as chairman of the Defence Policy Board last Thursday. I’m sorry. He was forced out by unfriendly fire.

Perle remains a member of the Board, which advises the Pentagon on how to run the war. He is also a bosom buddy of Donald Rumsfeld, Vice-President Cheney and possibly the president.

Despite what Maureen Dowd and other liberal columnists wrote about him, I think Perle is a law-abiding, ethical man.

This is what the critics said about Perle: Although he was only getting paid one dollar by the Defence Department for his advice, he had just signed a contract with Global Crossing, a company that’s in deep doo-doo for losing billions of dollars. They said they would give Perle $725,000 for his advice.

It turns out that Global Crossing, which is bankrupt, wants to sell their company to a Hong Kong firm. The holdup is that the Defence Department won’t approve of the sale because of national security. Because of all the publicity, Global Crossing cancelled its contract with Perle.

His critics said Perle was wearing two hats. He wore the white one when he was Rumsfeld’s devoted advisor and the black one when he ran his consulting firm. They said he wore the black hat when he was hired by Global Crossing to persuade the Pentagon to change its mind.

Was this a normal business deal or conflict of interest?

I thought it was a normal deal and I sent an e-mail to Maureen Dowd.

Dear Maureen,

Perle was only doing what dozens of former cabinet officers have done, beginning with Henry Kissinger — and that is advising his clients about how to profit from a war.

Influence peddling in Washington is as common as mom’s apple pie. Who says a well-known consultant can’t charge a fee to clients for opening doors for them?

Perle is no different from anybody else. He has to make a living. Why wouldn’t Global Crossing want Perle to front for them? It would have been a perfect fit.

Now the other thing that Perle does is advise banks and corporations on what to expect after the war with Iraq is over. He was in a position to do this because, as a Defence Policy Board advisor, he would suggest how much the country is going to spend during Iraqi reconstruction.

A lot of his consulting is top secret, but Perle knows what buttons to push to get things done.

Perle is taking it hard. He feels the press treated him unfairly.—Dawn/Tribune Media Services

War is violation of the UN Charter

By A.B.S. Jafri


US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have said in categorical terms that they see a ‘vital’ role for the United Nations in post-war revival, reconstruction and restoration of Iraq. First of all, this commitment comes at least three weeks too late. Due recognition to the ‘vital’ role of the UN should have been shown and respected before they launched the war on Iraq. Indeed, the war could not have been launched if they honestly believed in a UN role.

During the fairly long Security Council debate on the Iraq crisis, Bush had said he saw no relevance of the United Nations as far as his plans for Iraq were concerned. Tony Blair had described the United Nations as a ‘talk-shop’ in a statement made from the floor of the House of Commons. At that defining moment the secretary-general of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, had explicitly warned that any military action without endorsement from the world body would lack legitimacy.

Having made those derogatory statements about the status and relevance of the United Nations, and having arrogantly disregarded the warning from the UN secretary-general, and having walked out of the Security-Council session, these two gentlemen launched a full-scale war on Iraq, already reduced virtually defenceless, thanks to more than a decade of stifling sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

The US president and the British prime minister are no strangers to the United Nations. Nor strangers to its Charter that their predecessors led the world in formulating. They know, or ought to, that military action against a sovereign state, and one that is a member of the United Nations, would be a violation of international law and morality. Such unilateral military action would be an outrage, arguably tantamount to a crime in international law and against humanity.

This offence takes on a wholly inexcusable aspect when it is realized that the Iraq issue had been under debate in the United Nations for nearly a decade and a half. The Security Council was engaged in a profoundly seriously discussion for several weeks. The United States and the United Kingdom knew that a majority of the permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russia — had made it perfectly clear that they were opposed to any use of force without the consent of the Security Council. They had also come to know without any shadow of doubt that a majority of all the members in the Security Council was opposed to the war plans of the US-led coalition.

Now to sum up, let it be noted that the war in Iraq was launched against the explicitly expressed sentiment and stand of: (1) the Majority of the permanent members of the Security Council; (2) against a majority of the total strength of the Security Council; (3) in disregard of the warning from the UN secretary-general; (4) in the knowledge that war would be perilously close to a violation of the United Nations Charter; (5) and in full awareness that war would be unacceptable to a vast majority of the United Nations General Assembly.

If a clarification of the assertion about the majority of the General Assembly being opposed to war is needed, here it is. The assiduously cobbled up ‘coalition,’ the product of the known stratagems of superpowers, has in its fold 40-odd (out of 191) members of the United Nations. Among these ‘coalition’ fellow travellers one can see the breakaway remnants of what President Ronald Reagan relished calling the ‘evil empire.’ There are several lightweights, including one state with a population of around 18,000 souls! Except for the US, UK, Japan, Turkey and Spain, no member of this ‘coalition’ would count for much on a world-level reckoning.

This unquestionably establishes the substance of the contention that the majority of the member states of the United Nations were, are, and would continue to be, opposed to this war, because they see it as a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter and of international law. In addition, this war is patently subversive of the universally accepted norms of international morality. For civilized people war is unacceptable per se. Use of force is irreconcilable with civilized conduct, be at individual, institutional or state level.

This belated gesture to the ‘vital’ and ‘pivotal’ role for the United Nations looks very much like a device to throw a veil over the lack of legitimacy of the war that has been waged in reckless disregard of all the ‘vital’ signals from all the ‘vital’ institutions relevant to contemporary international ethos, legality and culture. Arguably, this war can be held to be a crime, and those responsible for it and involved in it, made liable to be taken to an international court and tried for culpable infraction of international law and the United Nations Charter.

There is the precedent for war crimes trials. The Nuremberg court set up after World War II conducted war crimes trials and handed out punishments. That precedent has the force of law to take cognizance of war crimes. If President Bush and Prime Minister Blair insist, Saddam Hussein and his associates be tried for war crimes, this can also be considered by the world community, in addition to the authors of the most recent infringement of the international law. Be it noted that the crimes tried at Nuremberg were committed before the culture of resolving international issues by peaceful means had been established with the consent and support of the world community. World War II was fought before the birth of the United Nations. Any wars waged after the emergence of the United Nations become infinitely more reprehensible, with the UN being there and available to those who uphold the supremacy of United Nations Charter over individual state sovereignty.

By now the world should be fully aware that a move has already been initiated within the United States that demands the impeachment of US President George Bush. It is headed by no less a giant than Ramsey Clark, a former attorney-general (law minister) of the United States. Top-ranking lawyers in the United Kingdom have expressed the opinion that without the consent of the United Nations, this war remains totally devoid of legality and legitimacy. Leading figures in the Geneva-based Institute of Jurists were quick to declare the war as being violative of international law.

Millions around the world would point out that, Pope Johan Paul II has repeatedly condemned the idea and then the event of this war. The pontiff has left nobody in any doubt that he is opposed to this or any other war without any reservation. He has seen it as tantamount to sin.

Those who have watched the war on their television screens may now be wondering if it is not already time to give the issue of weapons of mass destruction a second thought. Haven’t we watched the ferocity of reckless bombing and the mass destruction wrought by such excessive use of weapons? In less than three weeks this war has claimed the lives of more journalists than any comparative combat ever before? Were the weapons used in this war not causing ‘mass destruction?’

Look at it from any angle you choose, it remains a slur on the face of our contemporary culture. We have been hearing of the “Clash of Civilizations.” For many of us this is be a stupid proposition. The civilized do not clash — most certainly not with guns. The civilized would prefer reaching a civilized solution in every situation. Those who fail to do so cast themselves out of the family of civilized human beings. Every time one thinks of war, one is convinced that whatever be the circumstances, war remains outside the domain of civilized thought and deed.

Something to chew on

DON’T tell her, of course, but now medical researchers report that, once again, Mom was right: You should always eat slowly and chew well. That’s very hard to do in a modern, urban, fast-food world where meals are rarely communal experiences anymore with all family members gathered at one table, sans TV, to share the day’s schedule or fresh experiences.

Instead, American meals often become NASCAR pit stops for the mouth as hurried diners pull into the kitchen individually to refuel with prepackaged, microwaveable consumables before getting on ASAP with the important business of being very busy elsewhere.

“Do you think someone’s going to steal that food?” mothers would slowly ask childish fast-eaters in a previous era. In those days everything and everyone from ballgames in the street to nervous dates would have to wait outside for the official end of the family meal inside.

That table was where all members listened, shared stories and comments, answered parental questions and downloaded their verdicts and values. There was no point in hurried chewing because a larger family agenda, not an empty plate, determined the meal’s adjournment.

Eating more slowly is not just more mannerly, as outdated as that sounds. It is more healthful, according to researchers at the University of Florida. They’ve been eavesdropping on brain activity, discovering how and when influential chemicals there begin mounting the message to the body that its fuel gauge needle is getting closer to F. For centuries, humans ate when they had food to assuage their hunger.—Los Angeles Times'

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