Patriotism and politics

Patriotism is what holds a country together. Without it there can no be sense of belonging to it. But it shouldn’t be used as a political tool by some political leaders to reach their political ambitions and anyone opposing them is considered as a traitor. There were many human rights abuses because of the exploitation of patriotism as a pretext to jail or kill political opponents.

Through the use of patriotism, some governments wage wars and consider sacrifices as an honour. Anyone opposing such a war is considered as traitor.

But real patriotism is that when one asks what he has done for his country and not what their country has done for them. There should be a competition for its best. A country belongs to all its citizens. Zealous and blind patriotism on the part of political leaders can lead them to taking excessive measures regardless of the expectations f their people or the international community.

Immigrants, especially in Europe and the United States still have attachments to their countries of origin. In 1998 Football World Cup, the Americans of Irish origins were supporting both the USA and the Irish teams, for them either winning was for them a victory. In Florida, Americans of Cuban origin are still attached to Cuba, by actively opposing the communist government there.

In short, patriotism and politics go hand in hand for people living inside or outside their countries. But patriotism shouldn’t poison politics to the extent of making a country victim of its zealous patriots, through wars, international economic sanctions and human rights abuses.

Patriotism shouldn’t be limited to boisterous speeches, statutes, museums and military and other spectacular parades. For many countries in the third world, patriotism is linked to fighting for liberation and independence. Patriotism should be about the present and not a eulogy of the past in an exaggerated and selective way, especially when it comes to the glorification of a leader that should be regarded above question.


George Bush legacy

George Bush will be remembered as the president who made the USA a hated nation, especially in Latin America and in the Muslim world, especially after the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was unlucky to start his presidency with 9/11 attacks which must have shaped his whole internal and external policies.
But the fact that he was re-elected in 2004 shows that he isn’t a minority in his country. The republicans are historically the most electable to the White House. In the past forty years, there were only two democrat presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Contrasting Clinton with Bush, the first ended his term as one of the most popular presidents in US history, because it was a time of peace and economic prosperity. He left a surplus of $1, 3 trillion which was used by Bush to finance his wars.
Concerning the Middle East, he was true to his words when he threatened to remove Saddam from power. But he failed in his peaceful initiatives. Iraq is still unstable. There is no peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and it remains doubtful if the Palestinians can have their state by the end of his term.
What should he be considered: a disastrous choice, a ruthless and opportunistic war-monger?After his election, he was described as a cowboy in the White House. As a cowboy he tried to be heroic in every aspect, but wars have so far proved more costly than decisive.
What will he leave the world on January 20th, 2009?On the one hand he will leave the wars he has started. His successor will have the challenge to establish peace in the troubled regions like Iraq and Afghanistan. He will leave him to deal with a more obstinate Iran concerning its nuclear program. He will leave him with a more militarily powerful Russia and a more economically powerful China. Internally, he will leave an economy that needs redressing after being battered by the war efforts, the oil prices and the fall of the dollar. These are just some examples.
The good point is that he will leave his successor some strong allies in Europe, particularly, France, Germany, UK and Italy.
In case, the Republican John McCain gets to the White House, not all the blame should be on George Bush since it is the will of the majority of the voters to have a president with conservative ideals. In case Obama wins, how far can he undo what was done by Bush during his eighth years in office, especially foreign policy. Time will tell.

Is it still the greatest honour to die for your country?

War has always been a dreadful event to the weak party despite the pretence of courage. Soldiers are the first to pay for it with their lives. No soldier is ready to die gratuitously. No army likes to have its soldier die. The death of just one soldier in a war can shake the whole nation. It’s not like any other death. His death is for a whole country. The bigger is the number of casualties, the bigger is the grief of the nation. In the USA, there is an opposition to the war in Iraq because of the number of soldiers killed there. The USA has never suffered such a large number of deaths since the Vietnam War.

Among soldiers, there are conscientious objectors, who see war as futile and inhumane. They see it as a disgrace to fight it and to die in it. They either desert or refuse to join the troops.

A nation, without its courageous, well-equipped and trained army is defenceless in time of attacks. The soldiers’ role is to defend it and die for it. Death can be a great honour as dead soldiers are remembered by the nation as heroes. Some see accepting death as a matter of principle because they will die for a cause that can benefit the human race. So it’s no wonder if intellectuals also join the army. Among the US soldiers who died in Iraq, there were those with university degrees and multiple vocations who joined the army voluntarily.

The soldiers’ lot is to face danger. They’re at war to face all possible dreadful consequences from capture, injuries and infirmity to death. At least, those who die in war should be honoured through memorials. Their families, especially their children should be taken care of. They shouldn’t be easily forgotten through the passage of time.

As long as soldiers fight and die for a justified cause, their death should be a great honour. It is when they are made to fight a war to serve the interests of just a particular political class or to wage aggression against a weak nation refusing to submit to a strong one that their death becomes futile.

There is a military joke. A young soldier was stranding next to his general. Suddenly a general from the enemy side was moving towards them. The soldier tried to shoot the general when his general told him, “Stop! Generals don’t shoot at one another.”

When there is a war, it is rare that high ranking officers die in the same proportion as low ranking soldiers who should be at the front. Generals are lucky as they must have survived the wars they took part in. In their current positions they give their orders from remote and secure areas through modern communication systems.

It is still the dream of the American army to invent machines that can make wars by being remotely controlled by satellite. If that happens, the future wars will be a sort of video games and the notion of dying for honour will be a matter of the past. Only machines will be at the front.

But still it is wrong to make wars because of its great cost in human lives and property. It is still a dream that Man can use his intelligence to “invent” tactics for peace. But as there is still literatures and movies glorifying past and imaginary wars, wars will still capture the imagination of many. For many soldiers fighting wars is their raison-d’être. As such, it is still debatable if dying in a war is for honour or just the consequence of mad decisions resulting from the inability to find reasonable peaceful solutions.

Should a woman be a virgin when she marries?

A French Muslim couple have opposed a government decision to contest a court ruling annulling their marriage because the bride lied about being a virgin.

The Herald Tribune published an article about Muslim women in Europe who resort to medical restoration of their virginity. It also linked this with the issue of the Muslim couple in France whose marriage was annulled by court because the bride had lied about her virginity.

Is virginity really important for marriage? Which is better for a Muslim woman: to tell the truth about not being virgin or to cheat her future husband in believing that she is virgin by resorting to a medical operation? Does the importance of virginity affect women’s rights, especially when it comes to sexual freedom?

Virginity is still a big issue in Muslim societies. In Morocco for families to preserve the virginity of their daughters is to prevent them from mixing with the opposite sex. But this is becoming impossible as girls and boys mix at an early age at schools and later in life, they mix at work. During and after adolescence there is the temptation to engage in sex one way or the other.

Although girls and women try to keep their virginity till marriage, many of them engage in sex in one way or another. Virginity is important not only for the woman but for her family. A woman losing her virginity is a dishonour to her family. For them, she can have sex with anyone. She can even be described as a whore. The catastrophe for her family is when she falls pregnant. This means, besides being a disgrace to them, she has little chances of getting married. There were cases of unmarried women who died attempting abortions as there are cases of women who abandoned and even killed their new born babies because of having them out of wedlock or from an unknown father.

A man wanting to marry a woman has the right to ask her to produce a medical certificate showing her virginity in case she has never been married. He also has the right to divorce her in case he discovers she isn’t virgin. One of the reasons is that the husband fears that she can have sex with another man days before their marriage and in case of pregnancy, he will father a child that isn’t his.

It is still an insult in Morocco to ask an unmarried woman if she is still virgin. Because this means describing her as being morally loose.

What is interesting to notice is the hypocrisy surrounding the attitude to women sexuality before marriage. A woman can secretly have sex before getting married. But the important is to keep her virginity. There are degrees concerning this.

1) The woman should keep chaste until marriage.

2) She should keep her virginity in case of having sex. This is the minimum damage, as she can keep intact for marriage.

3) She can lose her virginity, which a disgrace to her and her family.

Men should become realistic about the sexuality of women. In the past it was possible for women to get married as young as 14. Now with social changes, the majority of women get married later in their twenties. It is unimaginable that they can abstain from sex, especially if they have a male friend they trust and love.

Marriage after all means coexistence, mutual support and love. What matters is marital life after marriage contract is the personality of the couple. Degrading a woman because of not being virgin is like sentencing a person to long term imprisonment for an act that harms no one, but which is seen as harmful by the others who can’t at least be forgiving. In other words, women shouldn’t be seen just a mere bodies. They are persons with their own personalities.

Sex is sex. Some men accept to marry a divorced or a widowed woman but refuse to marry one who isn’t virgin. It’s better to marry who isn’t virgin but proves to be a good wife than to marry a virgin who later becomes unfaithful or keeping her love for another man she never had the chance to have sex with. Don’t they say, “Don’t commit adultery in your heart.”? Some women can be adulterous by keeping their love for another man and there is no physical evidence to find it out because it’s all in their hearts.

It is just the mentality that decides the attitude. In UK, Edward VIII ,only months into his reign, forced a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. He had to abdicate to marry her. In the 21st century, it has become normal for royalties to marry divorced women. Prince Charles married Camilla. In Spain, Crown Prince Felipe married Letizia, a divorced journalist. In the West, it took a long time to accept to see a woman for what she is.

Can Zimbabwe crisis be solved?

Zimbabwe, like many other countries in a similar situation, has the chance of only being extensively in the media reports. For politicians, it isn’t an urgent matter as the regime there is a threat only to its people and not to the interests of other countries. Zimbabwe doesn’t have huge reserves of oil. It doesn’t have nuclear weapons or on the way to developing them.

It’s unlikely that there will be a military intervention in this country. Countries have seen worse situations and it took a long time to send peace mission there. There are the example of Liberia and Sierra Leone that witnessed human atrocities of big magnitude like limb amputations. Comparatively, in Zimbabwe there are just harsh beatings of the opposition supporters leading to crack in their heads or severe bruises on their bodies.

The economic sanctions are useless in a country having inflation currently at 120,000%. Mugabe in defiance of the international community has also banned international aid to his country.

Quiet diplomacy can work if there are solid grounds of negotiations between Mugabe clan and the opposition. Mugabe accuses the opposition of being supported by the imperialists, mainly UK. Maybe UK should step aside when it comes to international mediation not to give excuses for Mugabe not to agree on a face-saving solution to the current crisis. Maybe solutions should be found only through African mediations as African leaders know each other better through the way they run their countries. The majority of them have as a common denominator the monopoly of power by whatever means. Some excel in doing this by keeping their countries at least stable.

The arrest of Mugabe is unlikely as he has the military behind him. Arresting him will amount to a massive military operation. Mugabe can fear prosecution if he loses power after the elections on June 27th. Instead he should be guaranteed immunity as a way to end the current deadlock.

Zimbabwe needn’t eat out itself further more. Zimbabweans needn’t continue living in further humiliations through repression at home and xenophobia in South Africa. Zimbabwe still has the chance to rise again from its current crisis if only all its major political players can work out practical solutions to live side by side instead of seeking ways to put a deadly end to each other.

The prospects of Barack Obama’s policy in the Arab world

Whatever the results in November 2008, Morocco and the USA will geographically remain the Atlantic Ocean apart when it comes to how the Moroccans view the USA.

Policies between the two countries usually take care of themselves because of historical relationships dating to the 18th century. The governments of the two countries are close allies. Morocco has been given the status of non-NATO ally by Washington, which has praised its support for the US-led war on terror. There is a free trade agreement between the two countries. The US is also a strong ally of Morocco on the issue of Western Sahara.

At the public level, the USA administration is always seen with suspicion. Morocco is still one of the countries whose citizens meet great difficulties to get a visa to enter it, because it considers it as a home of terrorists following the terrorist attacks in Morocco On May 16th, 2003 and after three suspected militants blew themselves up during a police raid on April 7th, 2007.

The fact that Obama has pledged support for Israel: will make him look no different from John McCain. They can make a difference at home. But inherited foreign policies will make it hard for them to change things overnight, especially policies which are the core of any decision-making like those towards Cuba, Iran and the Middle-East.

Can Obama make a difference for Africa?

Can Barack Obama and John McCain make a difference for Africa? Surely the Africans must first realize their dream of a United Africa without too much foreign interference. Locking to the USA as big brother through Obama I likely to leave them decades behind as the US at best can help them if they can help themselves.

Africa has got the attention of the current administration through the recent tour of the continent by George Bush, during which he pledged economic support. But the USA can’t go beyond what its economic interests will allow in the face o Chinese competition there.
The Africans have to wake up. They’ve had only very few successful black leaders. If not how comes that Africa is the poorest continent in the world despite its vast riches. Many Africans leaders filled their people with great hopes during colonialism. After independence, Africa became ruled by undemocratic leaders. Africa has leaders it can be proud of like Nelson Mandela. But currently it has Robert Mugabe who is considered as a disgrace to his country and continent.

They will be wrong if they depend solely on Obama. Africa needs to create its own role models for the present instead of continuing to idealize past ones like Mandela. Obama, before being black, is American. His environment is different. He has to keep the power of his country, contrary to current African leaders who are desperately trying to empower their continent. He doesn’t have the same worries as Africans do in their countries where there are shameful corruption, mismanagement and limitless loss of opportunities. In other words, Obama as well as McCain think American. Africans should think in an African way. It isn’t enough to celebrate the others’ victories. They should find their own victories to celebrate.

Saving the world from hunger

In 1990, Muamar Gaddafi of Libya made a speech in which he attacked the USA. In it he said half the grains produced by the Americans was fed to cow and 25% of those cows meat is served as food to dogs. That was when he was still on the terrorist list by the USA.

There are demands for people to go vegetarians. But can their pets also go vegetarians as in the USA alone there are more than 162 million dogs and cats, for which their owners have to buy adequate food, including meat. Here some figures about their number in million:

Cat 88.3

Dog 74.8
Equine 13.8

Reptile 13.4

From the same source the cost is staggering. Just for 2008, it is estimated that it will be $43.4 billion when the hungry in the world according to UN chief Ban Ki-moon need US$15 billion to US$20 billion each year to boost food production to combat hunger.

The same figures can proportionately be given about other rich countries in which pets are a must in the household. In the third world countries, such animals have to fetch for their food. In poor countries, the majority of people are vegetarians not out of choice but by necessity as meat there is still very expensive and sometimes it is consumed there in adequate quantity just as a luxury or when there is a special occasion.

Energy is a great worry today because of the lack of the political will and the absence of peace. The Congo River can generate electricity for 500 million people in Africa. But DR Congo first needs peace and stability for the realisation of this project. There are other sources of energy like wind and solar powers, not to forget the other controversial alternative which is nuclear energy.

Feeding the whole world adequately is impeded by political obstacle and the notions of national sovereignty. Sudan, for example has a very fertile land. It can be used to produce food for dry countries in the sub-Saharan region. But this country has the Darfur crisis. Countries on the coast can desalinate sea water for irrigation.

Also as long as there are business interests, it’s unlikely that many producers will accept to offer the quantity of food that can plunge the prices. Currently there are many food producers and dealers who are enriching themselves through the food crisis and “shortage”.

What remains is that each country should have vigorous methods to secure its food. Those who are helpless because of their climatic and geographical conditions should be helped by the rest of the world.

Can Barack Obama be the first US black president?

Barack Obama has declared himself “the Democratic nominee for president of the United States”.

It’s almost a year now since Barack Obama has captured the attention of the world and not just the Americans’ attention because of his colour and age. Through him issues of race and colour were extensively raised either to show the era of favouring just white candidate, preferably of Anglo-Saxon decent is over.

If Obama is confirmed as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, the presidential campaign will be one of the most exciting in the US history. Those fearful of black leadership have just to count successful black American politicians. The most notable are Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, although the first will remain associated with the now unpopular president Bush.

But surely Obama won’t be naïve to present himself as the first black as this will deter potential non-black voters for him. He got the support of the Americans of different races because of his ideas speaking about change. If he becomes president he will have to be the president of all the Americans. If he concentrates just on the issues of black people, he will trigger just racial confrontations in the USA.

It will also be unthinkable that the cabinet will largely be made of black members and he will give a minor role to white people to realize the black revolution his predecessors, like Martin Luther King dreamt of.

The White House can have a black president. But it’s unlikely that it will change its policies concerning major international issues. Obama will inherit issues like Iran nuclear programme, Russia’s new military policies, the Middle-East etc.

Obama still needs three stages to count on the world stage:

a) to defeat Hillary Clinton,

b) to defeat John McCain

c) to be confirmed as president.

While none of these points haven’t been confirmed yet, Obama will continue to be the centre of the campaign and he will be remembered as the first black candidate to have mounted a real challenge to the “white supremacy” running through centuries.

Personally I don’t care who wins. Whatever the results, Morocco and the USA will geographically remain the Atlantic Ocean apart. It will take just time to get visually accustomed to the new president.

Policies between the two countries usually take care of themselves because of historical relationships dating to the 18th century. The governments of the two countries are close allies. Morocco has been given the status of non-NATO ally by Washington, which has praised its support for the US-led war on terror. At the public level the USA administration is always seen with suspicion.

Obama has pledged support for Israel. He said real security came from lasting peace and he would work from the start of his administration to achieve a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one – but with Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. This will make him look no different from whomever president will get to the White house. He can make a difference at home. But inherited foreign policies will make it hard for him change things overnight, especially policies which are the core of any decision-making like those towards Cuba, Iran and the Middle-East. But he still has Africa, a metaphorically virgin land, as anti-Americanism isn’t very widespread and people there can easily adapt to Afro-American cooperation. The hard job is in the Muslim World where religion and politics strangely mingle.

Here are some worthless pieces of advice from someone who has never been to the USA and who has more admiration to US movie, sport and pop stars than to US politicians!

1) John McCain should stop giving the impression that he is a war-monger. In a speech, he said that he was ready to give up presidential candidacy rather than be soft on the situation in Iraq and other parts of the world.

He should continue to look invigorated and vivacious as his age can play against him.

2) For Obama, he shouldn’t sound too soft when it comes to foreign policies. He still has Iran and Russia to deal with militarily. Iran is “threatening” the USA with its nuclear programme. Russia is back to the world stage through its new military policy and its huge reserves of oil and gas.

President Bush tarnished the image of the USA through his invasion of Iraq and its huge cost running into trillions of dollars. Obama has the chance to redress the situation by having more lenient approaches. Tough approaches by the current administration have brought little results. They have made the USA a more paranoiac society, fearful of many nationalities around the world. Entering the USA has become like a camel trying to go through a needle’s eye!

Sex and public image

Sexual freedom is a right that should be respected. But there are limits to it when it affects the norms. Public figures have to set the standards by avoiding being morally loose. Although people take sexual freedom for granted, they still look to public figures as models when it comes to morality. In France, President Sarkozy drew a lot of criticism because of his open relationship with then his girl friend Carla Bruni, now his wife. The public was expecting from him to look presidential and not an adult in his second adolescence.

In Italy, a teacher who performed as a porn star in her spare time was suspended . This means when it comes to education, teachers are still expected to set some standard and not to inculcate in young pupils that all forms of sex can be OK. Schools in other words aren’t expected to be equated with brothels where the learners are trained to be porn figures.

The second term of Bill Clinton presidency was marked/marred by the revelations of his sexual misconduct/adventures. While that was devastating for his family, especially his wife Hillary, it was a very exciting period for the whole country when the economy was booming and it wasn’t yet plagued by the spectre of terrorism.

Clinton’s sexual behaviour was an occasion to get more audience for shows like Tonight Show and Late Tonight Show on CNBC, where there were ample jokes about it. It also added $1billion in the US economy through the sales of items like doles featuring Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. There was even an opera about this.

American society was forgiving, perhaps because people in their hearts knew that they could do the same had they had the same chances. There were even some who came to Bill’s defence by saying that political power was always coupled with sexual power. In other words, Clinton enjoyed his full manhood and masculinity by offering himself full sexual liberty.

At least during his presidency Clinton, a son of the sixties, just made love; contrary to President Bush who made war. So the question is, “which is better to make love or to make war?” It also shows that sex can make or break as it happened with former Israeli president.

People still hold views of the others according to their sexual conduct and orientations. The fact that sexual behaviour of known figures still catches press coverage means it still matters.

In sport, Brazilian football star Ronaldo was caught up in a sex scandal with three cross-dressing prostitutes. , which must have an effect on his image among his fans and his girlfriend.

Sex life can be private, but not as private as it should be when it comes to private people with whom we share our lives like the family. Families are generally held together, among other things, through proper sexual conduct. If a couple is entitled to have a sex life outside their private relations, this means there is no strong bond uniting them and they have to look for satisfaction with other people.

Sex is a source of pleasure. When it becomes a scandal it turns into disrepute, especially for those claiming to have conservative views and to defend society from becoming morally loose. Those who have the “vice” of sexual adventures despite public and family commitment should be clever to do it without being found out. Sex still sells well. The media can’t turn a blind eye to sexual scandals when it will provide it with a good material to fill its space with.