Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Anderson Appropriately Notes that Congress' Refusal to Impeach Bush and Cheney in 2007 is Promoting the Bin Ladens of this World--IMPEACH NOW!

Anderson Appropriately Notes that Congress' Refusal to Impeach Bush and Cheney in 2007 is Promoting the Bin Ladens of this World--IMPEACH NOW!
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was on Democracy Now this past Monday(June 25, 2007). I want to share with you what was said in that interview. Anderson most appropriately has noted that by not-impeaching the president and vice-president of the United States our U.S. Congress is playing into the hands of the Bin Ladens of this World.

AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson, the Mayor of Salt Lake City, is one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration and the Iraq war. Earlier this year he called for the impeachment of President Bush, calling him a “war criminal” who has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.Rocky Anderson is also well regarded for his local politics. Last year, The Nation magazine praised him instituting “some of the most creative, thoughtful and radical urban policies anywhere in America.”

"Today, Rocky Anderson is in New York to participate in an evening event calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. He will be speaking at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Mayor Anderson joins us now. Welcome to Democracy Now! "

ROCKY ANDERSON: Real pleasure to see you, Amy. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Impeachment is off the table, though, in Washington, D.C. Your party, the Democratic Party, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said no, that that’s not the direction they’re going to go. One of the chief proponents of it, John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, has backed off of that demand, yet you continue.

ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, yeah, I’ve taken my “proud Democrat” coffee mug out of my shelf and put it into storage for a while.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to do like Michael Bloomberg has done? Are you going to leave your party?

ROCKY ANDERSON: I’m not proud of my party. You know, I expected a George Bush and Cheney will come along and try to abuse their power and usurp and undermine the balance of power, disregard the rule of law, and I expect sometimes that the Republican Party is going to support them in that, as we saw during the regime of Richard Nixon.

What I don't expect is that we not have an opposition party all these years, that we not have a party who will stand up against the fiscal recklessness, about the lies that have driven us into this disastrous war of aggression. And I am ashamed of the Democratic Party. There have been a few heroes, a few people that have stood up, but the party as a whole, I think, has been a dismal failure these last several years in standing up to this insanity.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to last October. The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader in the then-Republican-controlled Congress, was asked by 60 Minutes’s Lesley Stahl whether the Democrats would pursue the impeachment of President Bush if Democrats gained control of the House.

NANCY PELOSI: Impeachment is off the table.

LESLEY STAHL: Off the table. And that’s a pledge?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, it’s a pledge. Yes, and it’s a pledge. Of course, it is. And it is a waste of time.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Nancy Pelosi.

ROCKY ANDERSON: It seems very odd to me that any Democrat would say that a constitutional remedy, a remedy the founders felt very strongly about, when a president through his or her wrongdoing is doing damage to our country, that that remedy would ever be off the table. There can only be one reason for it, and that’s the Democrats want to politically cash in on this disastrous administration in the 2008 elections. And I think that’s wrong.

I think that when we have a president who has blatantly violated our own Constitution, our own treaty obligations, our own statutory law, abused his powers in remarkable ways, undermined the balance of power, exerted a unitary executive power unknown to this country and to our democracy, and at the same time betrayed his trust with our Congress, with the American people, by his deceit in leading us into this war and through his utter incompetency -- if impeachment were ever called for, this is certainly the time, and this is exactly what the founders had in mind.

AMY GOODMAN: The Democratic leadership argues that it would distract from other things that need to get passed.

ROCKY ANDERSON: We need some people in Congress who can multitask. It’s been done before. You know, the Republicans were able to do it in the case against President Clinton, where there was no harm to the country alleged. They were talking about a lie in a private lawsuit having to do with a private affair, not an impeachable offense. Never was that sort of kind -- that kind of thing contemplated by the founders.

But here, we have an instance where our country is suffering in so many ways across the board: our young men and women are being killed, hundreds of thousands in another country that pose no danger to us are being killed, all the wounded, the financial implications that will be felt for generations, and all of us being lied to, to get to this point.

Impeachment, although I understand people's reticence about it, if you take a step back and look at all that’s happened, impeachment has never been more justified. And my point is, let us make that statement to the rest of the world that this is not the American values. This is not who we are as the American people. We don't believe in kidnapping, disappearing, torturing people as a matter of official policy. And it’s absolutely unprecedented in our nation’s history that we’re engaging in those sorts of things: the warrantless wiretapping of people's conversations, of their emails, United States citizens; arresting, basically kidnapping, American citizens and denying them any due process, the right to a lawyer, right to a trial, the right to habeas corpus.

We have become, not becoming, but we have become, as a nation, under the Bush administration, the sort of totalitarian country like those from whom we have always been proud to distinguish ourselves. We’ve always looked at other nations and said they’re the ones that kidnap, disappear, and torture their people, and even kill them, when they're perceived to be on the other side. Now, that’s exactly what this president is doing in our nation's name. We need to stand up as a people, let the world know, let posterity know, that’s not who Americans are, this doesn't reflect our values.

AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Anderson, how would you end this war?

ROCKY ANDERSON: I would end this war by going to the United Nations and saying there need to be peacekeeping troops. We need to work with the entire region. We need to have discussions with neighboring countries, countries that this administration has refused to deal with, like Iran, like Syria. But we need to pull our troops out, because every day American troops have a presence there, we're seen as the occupying force. And as long as we’re seen as the occupying force, there will be more terrorists.

We're feeding right into bin Laden's plan. We’re feeding right into his perception of who the United States is, this imperialist country. This war would never have begun, the attacks on 9/11 would never have happened, Osama bin Laden's declaration of war against the United States would never have happened, had we not maintained permanent bases in Saudi Arabia, contrary to Dick Cheney’s promises when he was Secretary of Defense, that after the first Gulf War we would remove those bases. Osama bin Laden saw those bases as basically a Christian and Jewish occupying of the Muslim holy lands.

And now, what have we done? We’ve invaded and occupied another Muslim country that posed no danger whatsoever to the United States and let the Muslim world know that we are asserting that kind of control, that we’re going to tell them what kind of government they have, that we’re going to tell their military what to do. Every single day that happens with our troops, we're making the situation worse. And it is so far worse off for the Iraqi people.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your feeling in Utah? Your constituents, your community, Salt Lake City -- you have many young men and women who have been sent to Iraq -- how do they respond to you?

ROCKY ANDERSON: It’s a mixed bag. We’ve had some huge demonstrations there. The last two times President Bush has come to town, we’ve held demonstrations. I spoke at both of those. And there’s a lot of controversy around it. But I can tell you, after the last time he came, although there were those who thought that just because he’s the President I should lay out the welcoming mat and shut up, there was far less, on the merits, being said in support of the war. And as I said at the time, you know, I’m speaking up, and if anybody wants to stand up and support the kidnapping, disappearing and torture of human beings, if anybody wants to stand up and justify the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, if somebody wants to stand up and defend this nation being deceived into this war of aggression against a country that posed no danger to us, I’m happy to hear that from you. I think you should stand up and support the President. We never heard that.

All we heard was this sort of mindless, “Well, he's the President, and we need to get behind him and support him,” or this notion that you can't support the troops if you’re not supporting the war at the same time. I can tell you, more and more, and I’m even hearing it not just from families of American servicemen and -women in active duty, I’m hearing it from people in the active duty right now: we’ve got to end this war. We're not accomplishing anything. We're working against our own interest and even have good longtime Republicans coming up and, mostly whispering -- they’re not out there in the streets yelling, although some of them do come to the demonstrations now -- they're telling me, “You’re absolutely right. This president is ruining this country. He needs to go.”

AMY GOODMAN: When I came out to Salt Lake City, I interviewed you and also Sergeant Marshall Thompson, who was the officer in Iraq. He actually was the editor of the Anaconda Times. He was a military journalist and said he had interviewed many, many soldiers, many of them opposed to war -- this was in Iraq -- and when he came home to Utah, the reddest state in the nation, he and his wife walked across the state protesting the war and were joined by many people, actually, across the political spectrum. His website was “A Soldier's Peace.” And he said, in that way, he would participate -- his father, the ex-mayor of Logan, Utah.

Mitt Romney -- can you talk about this adopted son of Utah who also has a vacation home there? He just did a campaign swing through Utah. He has a home in Utah, also in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, claimed residency in Utah from 1999 to 2002 during his time as president of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee. Now, of course, Republican presidential candidate.

ROCKY ANDERSON: Mitt’s a great friend. We worked together very closely on the Olympics. We got to know each other very well. And his wife Ann, lovely woman, dedicated herself to a lot of human rights causes, has done a lot of work in the community with young people. I really admired both of them very much. And I must say that I am very surprised that somebody like Mitt Romney, who I always felt had such great integrity and was so reasonable, would have caved into his handlers and flip-flopped on so many issues that he used to say he felt so strongly about, things like choice. His coming out against stem cell research was just absolutely incredible to me.

AMY GOODMAN: What about his past record on choice, on stem cell research?

ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, he was very clearly supportive of Roe v. Wade. He said that as he ran for governor, as he ran for senator in Massachusetts. He told me, going into that race, that Roe v. Wade is working, we need to get beyond this issue. And he felt that it was important that women have choice, so...

But you can see very clearly what’s happening -- it’s so transparent -- that a year before the presidential race, all of a sudden he’s got these new positions on these issues. But then he’s also said now that he was a lifetime hunter, having, I think, hunted once when he was a young boy and then a little while back, after practicing shooting a shotgun, I guess he went out with some Republican funders. That also is just absolutely untrue.

He needs to be himself. If Mitt Romney would be himself, true to himself, true to the people of this country, I think he would be a great president. But he has fallen for these handlers and flip-flopped on these issues and, I think, is misleading us in terms of his positions.

But the thing that I find incredibly frightening is that Mitt Romney -- and this has stunned me -- that he could stand up and say, number one, that he would support this war, that he would have gone about this much like President Bush has, that he supports torture and that he would double the size of Guantanamo. That, for me, is just so absolutely unconscionable. And I have tried to get him to meet with some retired generals and admirals. Human Rights First has been lining some of these people up to talk to the presidential candidates about what is happening, about what the heritage, history, has been, in the armed forces, how important it is even for the safety of our own servicemen and -women to abide by the Geneva Conventions or their equivalent under international law and also abide by our own domestic law in these areas. And to this point, he has refused to meet with them. And I just -- I do not understand that. And I think that it’s so frightening that it’s perceived by any presidential candidate that that is going to help them get elected, standing up for torture, saying that this is a good thing for the first time in our nation's history as a matter of official policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Before he went through Salt Lake City on Saturday, Mitt Romney said, on Friday, when meeting with a convention of Montana Republicans, “I believe Guantanamo plays an important role in protecting our nation from violent, heinous terrorists. Guantanamo is a symbol of our resolve.” He went on to say, if he were elected, there will be a war waged on terrorists. He said, terrorist suspects need to be kept at Guantanamo so they don't get safe harbor in the legal system. “Terrorists,” he said, “don’t get such constitutional rights.”

ROCKY ANDERSON: You know, to talk about safe harbor, the reason that we’ve had upwards of 70% of those at Guantanamo who are innocent of any wrongdoing -- and those are the latest findings; look at the hundreds of people who have been released without any prosecution, any other legal action taken against them -- a lot of these people were fingered by warlords. A lot of them were fingered because there were rewards available for people to identify terrorists or insurgents. They end up at Guantanamo, and then we find out that there was nothing to it, just like when we kidnapped citizens of Germany or Canada and sent them off to be tortured and then found out months later, after torturing them, after holding them without their families knowing where they were, that there was no wrongdoing. And they were set at loose. Maher Arar from Canada, El-Masri from Germany, who was picked up in Macedonia, both of them shipped off to torture camps and innocent. So how a president of the United States could say that there should be safe harbor from any legal protections, it is absolutely counter to our American traditions.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Mitt Romney is changing his mind on these issues?

ROCKY ANDERSON: Absolutely. This is not Mitt Romney. It you asked Mitt Romney, sat down and got the real Mitt Romney, first of all, he would say we never should have been in Iraq. Never would Mitt Romney and his wife -- and they're a team, believe me -- they would never support the concept of kidnapping and torturing human beings. They have always stood up for human rights, fundamental human rights. So this is an enormous clash of values. And I think that he's just trying to sound tough in the face of terror. And I guess that sells to the rightwing Christian Coalition, as does his newfound opposition to free choice, his opposition to stem cell research. This is not the Mitt Romney I knew, and it really saddens me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Mayor Rocky Anderson, for joining us, the Mayor of Salt Lake City. He’ll be speaking tonight at the New York Ethical Culture Society.

Write and call your congressmen to IMPEACH NOW! We need to improve America's image in the world as a country consisting of citizens who want justice, peace, democracy and human rights NOW!


Sunday, June 24, 2007


By Kevin Stoda


Some five years ago, I contacted the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in the USA and Canada concerning the abuse of its long-earned good name as a benevolence agency by the American media. One programmer had intentionally used the name of their very agency in a TV series which glorified violent tactics of the CIA in defense of the homeland.

At that time, I was living in Mexico and I was watching FX-TV when a program I’d never seen before came on the air. It was called THE AGENCY. It sought to both glorify and humanize the CIA as a weekly television drama.

In this particular episode, an American-Palestinian working for the U.S. government was forced to become involved with a terrible terrorist group of sadists in Palestine, who were threatening to kill his nearest family members if he didn’t agree to cooperate with them. Two other CIA operatives followed the man’s trail back to Palestine by posing as MCC workers from Canada.

I was irate as I observed the storyline enfold. THE AGENCY portrayed the two covert CIA agents disguised as MCC’s volunteers working with the Palestinians for most of the episode. As I watched, it dawned on me how this sort of program might draw CIA-enemy fire to unsuspecting MCC (development) volunteers around the globe

I immediately sent e-mails of enquiry out to MCC representatives in Pennsylvania and in Ontario.

“Had they seen their good name services drug through the grime and sludge of an imaginary--but representational-- CIA counter operation?”

“ Was MCC worried at all that their benevolent work and their volunteer workers around the world would not only be defamed—but would have their lives and their work threatened by groups who don’t understand the difference between TV portrayals and real life activities of the MCC?”

Let me explain!

I have known 100s of Americans and Canadians who have volunteered to work with MCC in the four corners of the globe to empower peoples in developing countries over the past four decades. I, myself, donated money to some MCC projects and their educational projects in Nicaragua while I lived and taught there over a decade ago. Over the past three decades, I have regularly donated to MCC projects--especially in Palestine, Lebanon, South Asian and Indonesia in recent years.


In short, I was sincerely worried by the fact that this program, THE AGENCY, was endangering (or was potentially endangering) benevolent efforts around the globe now and probably in the far-distant future. This long-term worry of mine had been spawned by the recognition that I was watching a rerun of that program of THE AGENCY in my Monterrey, Mexico home. I thought: “Someone in the future in Taleban regions of remote Asia might see the program and unfairly link MCC efforts with CIA ones.”

What if this episode (and others like it) are played over-and-over again around the world or in specific regions until slowly the local population in a particular part-of-the-globe equate benevolent development work with working hand-in-hand with the CIA. In other words, it wasn’t only defamation of MCC’s projects that I was worried about, I was worried about the negative educational and propaganda value that all America TV series and movies receive in every corner of the globe. Basically, reruns can run forever.

Having lived in over ten countries (including some in the Middle East) and having traveled to or done volunteer work in many others over the prior decades, I know how much supposed-knowledge about America is acquired and misunderstood through media, film, and other cultural exports.

Just last month, I heard an Arab-expatriate here in Kuwait claim that the reason the young people in Kuwait and other Arab lands drive so recklessly is because of what they see glorified constantly in American cinema and film. (Currently, Kuwait is the second most-dangerous country to drive in.)

I laughed to myself at the blame-game represented by this Arab man’s claim that the American media could encourage disrespect for human life on the roads of Kuwait. On the other hand, as an educator, I have to recognize that there are many things children and youth don’t learn from their parents--but rather learn from TV, play station, and film.


Five years ago, one of the MCC-USA offices, whom I wrote to via e-mail, did get back to me. After further investigation of the matter, the representative admitted that MCC had received some other concerned letters and phone calls concerning that episode of THE AGENCY. However, after contacting various active MCCers, the benevolent agency had determined that there was no evidence of backlash against MCC workers (or their projects in the Middle East or around the globe). Meanwhile, MCC-Canada never replied at all to my enquiry.

With this particular response to my enquiry of concern, I decided to not discuss publicly this matter until today. If the people involved on the ground at MCC and in other volunteer agencies did not desire to raise a fuss about THE AGENCY episode’s repeated showing around the globe, why should I raise a fuss?

[Admittedly, I had already written a few of my U.S. congressmen and senators from my home state of Kansas about my concern for the good name and safety of MCCers, but I never received a reply from them either.]


I heard on the Voice of America Radio today from a young American, who like me, has spent extensive time in the Middle East, i.e. living and traveling in numerous countries there during this first decade of the 21st Century. This particular American being interviewed on VOA had taken time to improve his colloquial Arabic and did most of his research out of Jordan.

Through his tales, he confirmed my own belief that most citizens around the world can really tell the difference between “a nation” and “people of a nation” much better than most Americans apparently do.

As that radio interview on Press-Conference USA (VOA Radio) continued, this young American stated that as long as our own government isn’t achieving real peace in the Middle East in a reasonable amount of time soon, it was up to people-to-people efforts to make the bigger difference in how Americans are viewed abroad.

Currently, there are too few Americans volunteering and working shoulder-to-shoulder in the Middle East solving long-term development problems.

Part of this is due to the result of our own government’s short-sighted policies over the decades in supporting the status-quo and supporting economic and social elite who have left a large number of the region’s peoples under-trained and in poverty --as well as left out of major decision making circles. The tragic events of 9-11 were the tip of the iceberg of a groundswell of resentment at USA foreign, economic and indirect social policies dating back over a century.

Admittedly, an even greater part of the problem in the region has had to do with the under-education and lack of good governance in these same regions. This has led to joblessness and powerlessness among the various tribes and peoples of the semi-continent.

This under-education and lack of training, however, provide opportunities for doctors, nurses, teachers, and all kinds of technical persons to come and serve here.


On the other hand, we need to recognize that American media, film, popular culture, and literature also make a difference, too. Even if the great majority of the non-Americans who see such exploitive TV productions, like THE AGENCY, do not unfairly link volunteer organizations to the troublesome history (and present) of the CIA, such a TV series surely makes some potential volunteers in the USA think twice about volunteering in the Middle East--as fear of terrorism and its backlash leads to increased pressure upon their loved ones’ viewing and responding to the fears awoken by such a program.

Other USA and Canadian TV programs, like the series “24”, create a situation in North America where people who might otherwise volunteer to serve in the Middle East might believe that they would be stigmatized as a CIA operatives just by showing up. That is, they would potentially start-off on the wrong-foot in their journey abroad by being overly cautious as they begin to anticipate not being welcomed (due to the same concerns I raised after I viewed the images on that MCC episode of THE AGENCY).

On the other hand, it is sometimes appropriate for some Americans in some instances to travel under the guise of being Canadian amongst some unknown groups in the Middle East. (By "unknown", I mean groups or circles of peoples whom the traveler doesn't know and feels might not like Americans.) At least, this is what the American interviewed on the VOA news program indicated.

However, such a Canadian cover is seldom—if ever—necessary when working and traveling abroad. I have never used one myself.

Naturally, such concerns about being stigmatized by either the American government or media/film/literature often proves warrant-less. This is because, as I mentioned above, most Middle Easterners (and other peoples around the globe) don’t confuse individual Americans for the American nation’s policies or for its abusive cultural manipulation as forged by TV reruns.

Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the fact that some Americans have been unfairly kidnapped and attacked by peoples who have become twisted by poverty and/or circumstance. I, for example, still mourn the horrible execution and death of the young Mr. Berg in neighboring Iraq three years ago. Berg had traveled in the Middle East to help Iraqis to build their country—i.e. he had nothing but benevolent intentions.

Therefore, one certainly needs to be careful if one comes to volunteer, to work, or to participate in people-to-people exchanges in the Middle East.

However, you should be even more ready to be embraced upon arrival by Middle Easterners--as long as you show great willingness in getting-to-know those peoples you should be coming prepared to encounter and to work with in the first place.


Far too many Americans, for example, in Egypt where I visited twice this past year, go there to work and simply live most of their lives in compounds or in semi-closed communities--and really don’t get to know much about what all the peoples around them are thinking and feeling.

I have seen a similar lack of local knowledge at and around American military facilities and in too many ex-pat communities in most other corners of the globe.

Too little contact is made also in the country of Kuwait where I now live. This wasn’t always the case. Hospitality in the region was once legendary.

In a land once known far-and-wide for its hospitality, the growth in the numbers of foreigners here has sadly led to a decline in person-to-person exchanges. This is partially due to the fact that many rich Kuwaitis had their hospitality abused by the growing number of foreign workers (now numbering 2 to 1 against the local population). On the other hand, a culture of wasta (which means favoritism through connections) and striving towards elitism, also leads Kuwaitis to separate themselves from vast numbers of foreigners.

On the other hand, tens of thousands of American soldiers are also cordoned off from the local peoples of Kuwait at the U.S. military encampments set far out in the desert—far away from where most of the more cosmopolitan Kuwaiti's interacts.

In short, the majority of the 10s of 1000s of U.S. military personnel stationed in Kuwait each year are not permitted regularly and freely to interact with the local population at all in any homely or natural setting. This is particularly sad because Kuwait is likely the most pro-USA country in the region.

This intentional isolation is ostensibly carried out in Kuwait is because there are two million other foreigners here—some of whom may not be so happy to receive US troops.

This sort of fear is certainly perpetrated by some of the realities on the ground. These realities include the fact that Americans know so little about the countries that they are sent to as soldiers that they can’t readily tell different peoples—for example, between Kuwaitis, Egyptians, Saudi, Yemeni, Iranians, and Iraqis.

Moreover, news TV from some neighboring countries and the influence of indirect USA-media propaganda from reruns of TV series, like THE AGENCY, and the showing of movies, like THE SEIGE, lead to sudden rises or peaks in anti-American sentiment among the non-Kuwaitis.

Finally, to some small degree, there is an elitist desire in Kuwait not to allow Americans to get too intimately involved with other locals and local groups in forging a more progressive and equitable country and multicultural people in this 21st century.

Despite the three rationales noted above for separating 1000s of Americans from local contact with Kuwaitis, I think Americans can do (and are welcome to do) more to reach out and get to know the country they are stationed in—along with the great variety of peoples who live here.

Moreover, recently, one Kuwaiti friend of mine who once studied and graduated from at my alma mater in Kansas told me directly, “We need more Kansas in Kuwait. Just as you need more Kuwait in Kansas.”

[That’s right, America, maybe there is something you can learn and bring home, too, when you spend more time meeting peoples in this region of the world face-to-face! This Kuwait friend was referring to "family values", i.e. where one receives support throughout one's life from one's extended family. He was saying that American culture enforces a sense of lack of identity which leads to many young people adrift.]


Saturday, June 16, 2007



By Kevin A. Stoda

The special issue of NEWSWEEK on April 2, 2007 was entitled “Voices of the Fallen”. The issue focused on: “The Iraq War in the Words of America’s Dead.” It was a fairly nice commemorative using stories from blogs, diaries, and letters (along with comments by loved ones) from American soldiers who have died or been killed due to the military invasion and subsequent conflicts in Iraq. Surprisingly, embedded in this special edition’s collection of somewhat noble and exploitive articles and summaries of American’s abused and killed in Iraq (and even stories of Iraqis being abused and killed in their homeland) was a Japanese written editorial on p. 15 in the “World View” section.
This particular editorial on p. 15 in the “World View” section of that Newsweek Special Edition was by the Japanese historian, Hideaki, Kase and was called “The Use and Abuse of the Past”. It was outrageous for Newsweek to even consider publishing the piece—let alone to taint American blood & memories of war by such a farcical retelling of history.

Kase is a historian who served as adviser to two Japanese Prime Ministers in recent decades: Takeo Fukuda and Yasuhiro Nakasone. Kase’s article is an unapologetic reflection upon why recent Japanese governments are willing to get rid of two cherished notions or ideals in post-WWII Japanese history. These are (1) a peace constitution that officially prohibits a standing Japanese military and (2) an unofficial tradition of pacifistic education (and ideology) that has naturally included an anti-nuclear foreign policy.

As one example of this anti-nuclear tradition in Japan, for over two decades now America’s nuclear navy has been prohibited from officially entering the waters of Japan—because the U.S. refuses to tell whether nuclear weapons are on their ships or not. Another facet of this peace tradition has been the long opposition in the Japanese Diet (and among most parts of the nation’s society) to ever arming Japan with atomic or nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, the mantle of victim-hood in Nagasaki and Hiroshima are worn by almost all Japanese. Almost every high school and many junior highs in the country annually make one school excursion to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Park for even just an afternoon. In the famed Hiroshima Peace Park, one can also find educational monuments reflecting on the abuse of child labor and foreigners in 1930s and 1940s, i.e. during the infamous era of Japanese Imperialist War. In short, over the past 6 decades, Japan has cultivated a “peaceful image”—even if its government and textbook writers have often failed to a great extant to tell the fuller and truer stories of Japanese atrocities and war crimes of the WWII era. For example, only one or two textbooks have ever covered the Nanking massacre or the subject of comfort women—that is women who were forced to work as prostitutes by the occupiers.

Now for over a decade, successive leaders in Japan—especially in the wake of the nuclearization and creation of advanced missile technology in North Korea—have been trying to march the Japanese people back into marching form for further arms build ups in coming years. Just as Germany did in the 1990s, Japan wants to reassert itself at the tables of the great military powers of the world.

Moreover, the recent rise of a newly powerful China has also certainly contributed to this turn to the far right in Japanese public discourse. It is for this reason that Japanese rightists might desire it was time to plant in U.S. papers an article such as this particular one written by Kase. The refrain in this Newsweek article by Kase is simply that America should not challenge this new rightist (or fascist) trend in rhetoric and activities among the growingly conservative Japanese political leadership.

Interestingly, this article of notoriety was published less than a month before the pacifist mayor of Nagasaki was gunned down in the streets of that ill-fated city (in one of the more beautiful corners of the Japanese archipelago). In contrast to what Kase has written in his Newsweek editorial (disguised as news), now it might be more appropriate in the wake of so many official and unofficial attacks on the pacifist leftist tradition in Japan if Americans (and their government) once-again held Japan to a higher standard than many of its Asian neighbors. Japan needs to be asked to clean house once and for all the closet violent and fascistic trends which marked too much of Japan’s modern history already.

All-in-all, this extremely unbalanced piece on Japanese history by Kase reflects sadly more the “abuse and use of the past” in present day Japan by a long line of short-term premiers in Japan who have made their rightwing credentials by visiting the most infamous Shrine in Japan. These wishful thinking historians, part-time politicians, and part-time historian politicians (and even gangsters, like those who gunned down the Mayor of Nagasaki,) want Japan to continue to be seen as a Post-WWII victim of the U.S. occupation and victims of liable by anti-Japanese Asians.

Kase’s writing completely whitewashes the details of Japan’s decades-long occupations of its neighbors from Russia to Indonesia (from Burma to the Phillipines). This so-called historian Kase tries to argue that the fact that the governments of Korea, Taiwan, China, and other previously occupied and abused neighboring Asian governments failed to lodge international protests against the Japanese war crimes (of the 1930s and 1940s) immediately in the post-WWII era is proof enough that no war crimes occurred.
Such nonsense! That is the language of a slick and shady lawyer but no statesman would ever rely on such language. Moreover, no real historian would accept such poor logic in making a proper narration of WWII or 20th Century Asian history.
Come on, Mr. Historian Kase!!!!

Who during the era of anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s and 1960s would have wanted to force Japan to be even more isolated and more economically handicapped?
A history of a Japan feeling isolated, playing the role of victim or late comer on the world stage had led previously in history to only war. Japan was on its back in the 1950s-- and threatened by China and Russia. Neither America nor Western Europe wanted to isolate Japan any further either at that point in history. Those states all recognized by that time that their own faulty 19th Century imperialistic economic and political development practices and their designs on neighboring Asian territory had propelled Japan onto the path of military imperialism in the 1880s in the first place.

Any good historian and statesmen knows this. When Japan is backed into a corner, it copies what its adversaries are up to and takes competition to a new level or it simply goes down in one bloody bath as it did in the midst of its great civil wars of the 16th and 19th centuries--and again in the 1943-45 period.

Moreover, Mr. Kase took time the opportunity in his piece to imply that the Japanese military never forced women into slavery, especially sex-slavery. Again, the jury is not out on this matter either Mr. Japanese historian! The number of abuses from Japanese occupying forces from the Phillipines or the Koreans to central China and back down to Burma and Indonesia are heftily documented in fifty some archives around the globe.

For example, Mr. Historian, just check with the numerous Dutch women who were abuse and have filed complaints in recent years. Again, the reasons for a minor cover-up by the victims, i.e. many women who were raped and abused for months and years in prostitution camps did not want to continue in the role of victim after the end of Japanese occupation. Many women sought to start over in their societies and naturally sought to cover-up the abuses in order to build a better post-WWII planet.

Are you saying, Mr. Historian, that you find silence in the face of horror as different for the real victims of Japanese’s Imperialism throughout Eastern Asian as surprise? How could you not interpret silence on rape more properly? Your own country covered up the great abuses in your homelands for many decades after WWII! These horrors include the facts that in the name of the nation and in the name of the Emperor women, children, and grandparents in villages across the land were forced for months-on-end to prepare and attack and fight the fully-armed Allied forces (carrying automatic weapons) with wooden swords until they had victory or succumbed to death.

No good historian should assume that silence on a matter by anyone is simply proof that something never happened. If Mr. Kase would meet with the women who were so abused—some abused for over many years under the severest conditions of Japanese occupation, whereby these women and teenage girls had to decide between hunger (and death) in a camp nearby or the horror and abuse of a life as a Japanese sex slave.

Mr. Kase reveals no evidence that he ever tried to personally meet with such women. (My friend D.D. has a Dutch aunt who survived one of the Japanese camps in Indonesia. Her story and others true stories have been portrayed in many films in recent years. Didn’t Mr. Kase study this phenomena in film or documentary either?)

In conclusion, this so-called historian Hideaki Kase who somehow got his editorial entitled “The Use and Abuse of the Past” is guilty of a crime against humanity’s valuable memories himself. If what he wrote is not a crime, it should be if he and his cronies succeed in rolling back the memories of the past and painting the Japanese as the only victims of Asian war in the 20th Century.

Further, I have to ask how could the USA periodical Newsweek have published such a week and ill-thought out piece. The article looks like nothing more than Japanese government style propaganda?

I can only imagine that some under-the-table or quid-pro-quo deal took place either at Newsweek or through pressures at the governmental level—whereby the USA government, too, is known for getting its own propaganda published as “news” in periodicals in neighboring lands around the globe.

One final caveat: Thirteen years ago I wrote a poorly written piece in a Japanese periodical, THE JET JOURNAL. Interestingly, the title of that writing of mine had a similar title to the one published by Kase in Newsweek in its April 2007 special edition on war memories. My article had been about the abuse and use of English in Japan and was called: "Homo Milk: Abusive Language and Abuse of Language”.

This admittedly poorly thought out piece of mine was critical towards the thoughtlessness with which Japanese peoples were using English and other foreign languages in Japan to market themselves and their identities. The Japanese government and numerous NGOs in Japan were trying to promote international awareness in Japan, and I thought my article would provide some insights. (That particular journal targets foreign language teachers and others interested cross-cultural and language issues in Japan and abroad.)
Now that I am older and have more years of experience working internationally than when I wrote my 1994 article on the “Abuse of Language”, I would say that the whining tone of that writing was manipulative and placed foreigners in the position of seeing themselves as victims in the Japanese society. What I had wanted to say was simply that Japanese ought to be more thoughtful about how they were going about creating new international identities by appropriating and misusing other nations’ cultures & languages in marketing, on television, in magazines, etc. When I reread the article after it was published in 1994 in The JET JOURNAL , I saw that it had also been published with many inaccuracies and I am not proud of how the piece came out.
In short, I can recognize and admit when my writings are off-target. It is rare for Japanese leadership, however, to apologize for much of anything when it comes to history, but that doesn’t mean that historian kase can’t burn a new path by apologizing for misleading readers in Newsweek on April 2, 2007.
If Historian Kase is now ashamed at what Newsweek published (or the slant Newsweek gave his writing), I invite him to come out and admit it. Meanwhile, I think Newsweek itself has a lot of explaining to do to the American public. Why did the publishers decide to taint that special issue on American soldiers in Iraq( and their families at home) by putting that Japanese governmental propaganda article in the very same issue as if it were (1) fact, (2) newsworthy, and (3) connected at all to the reality on the ground in the Middle East today or in Asia in either the past or in the near future.?


Monday, June 11, 2007



By Kevin Stoda

Over the last few years, the world has witnessed resurgence in Japanese memory-loss related to WWII and the invasion of China at the government level. Not a month seems to go by without the Japanese Prime Minister or some other official visiting or sending gifts to the infamous Yasukuni Shrine near Tokyo. Luckily, in the 2006-2007 period, Clint Eastwood's film "Letters from Iwo Jima" showed not only “the humanity behind the brutality of war, thus honouring the past and opening hearts in the present”, but also severely criticized the unfair situation the Japanese government, the Emperors’ house, and nationalist leaders put the nation (and neighboring nations) in.

This a theme was wonderfully discussed in the review of the film by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, author of "Kamikaze Diaries". I suggest you all read it: “Letters to the Past: Iwa Jima and Japanese Memory.”

The paradox is that the topic of needing to both mourn and feel sad at the guilt of Japanese leadership’s guilt for war crimes and misuse of the use of the Japanese nation as presented in this film had never (until now) been broached in a Japanese language film—and certainly seldom even touched upon by the greatest Japanese movie makers in any way that resembles the approach the American director, who was formerly a super-tough guy actor, Eastwood has done in this particular film.

Ohnuki-Tierney notes, as well, “that the paradox [of Eastwood’s film] was well expressed by Onda Taeko, writing on Yomiuri Online: ‘Today the person who had the power to tell us the Japanese experience during the war was Clint Eastwood, an American.’”

This film experience brought great emotions out all over Japan. These emotions were of shared hurt, anguish and sorrow at what people had done to their Japanese ancestors in forcing them to fight a supposedly endless war. Such public emotion and mourning is the excepton in Japanese WWII reception to the sins of the fathers.

The film and the reaction to the films is also certainly quite a contrast with what the conservative parties (or club of elite) of Japan are calling on the State of Japan to do in the near future. This conservative led regime is seeking to turn back-the-clock and make Japan a tough cowboy-type (or samurai-type) who can call China or North Korea to task without seeking support from either the USA or world community.

These memory whitewashers desire to cleanse Japanese memory of the horrors of real misbegotten follow-the-leader history that was the rise to Imperialism in Japan, which started with the takeover and long-occupation of Korea and Taiwan at the end of the 19th century.

This movement will likely follow the same path that the similar conservative took many steps at the governmental level to restored the honor of the house of the Japanese Emperor in the decades after that last-war-to-end-all-wars: WWII. That whitewashing of Hirohito (called Showa in Japan) was a particular fascinating rewriting of history, whereby over a 5-6 decade period almost every fingerprint by the emperor’s house related the crimes of Japanese Imperialism from 1930 through 1945 was cleansed or eliminated from national memory—or simply denied until few bother to bring the facts forward any more.

Naturally, China, the Koreas, Taiwan and other Asian states are not going to forget the period of forced occupation, enslavement, murder and maltreatment of their ancestors by Japanese forces. However, the Bush administration and many of its predecessors in recent years have not only promoted the build-up of the Japanese Self-Defense forces but have hardly ever encouraged their Japanese brethren to come clean on what transpired in the 1930s and 1940s. (This contrasts sharply with the 1940s approach to Japan that U.S. media and government propaganda types force fed on the American, Japanese, and world public at that time.)

Note: The Japanese Self-Defense Force is the pseudonym that Japan uses for its own armed forces. Although a standing military is prohibited in Japan’s own constitution, Japan has long since become the biggest military spender in the world after the U.S. (OK, the U.S. spends well more than quadruple what most other nations on military expenditure year-after-year!)

Luckily, as Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney has pointed out, through his timely film “Clint Eastwood has given this mosaic of groups [opposing the Japanese Government’s ultra-patriotic leadership] much‑needed moral support at a time when elements in Japan's government are seeking ways to increase the country's military power.”

Ohnuki-Tierney explained, “The deep wounds of the war have spurred enduring peace movements of several kinds: among women and organised labour, by the members of Kyujo-no-kai (The Association for Article 9), which strives to prevent the re‑militarisation of Japan, and a group of top scientists at Sogokenkyu University who hold a series of peace symposiums.”

Moreover, the documentary of Eastwood’s had done a lot to great mutual empathy between American and Japanese soldiers of that era. Ohnuki-Tierney concludes:

“On the western side of the Pacific, Japanese soldiers have for six decades remained the utmost "other," the epitome of "the inscrutable Oriental", even after the veterans of Iwo Jima on both sides pledged reconciliation and resolved never to repeat the brutality of a terrible war. In laying aside this image and courageously portraying Japanese soldiers as human beings, Clint Eastwood deserves great credit. That the film has been enormously successful in the US, receiving sixteen awards so far (including an Oscar nomination), is truly remarkable, perhaps a sign of the times when more than half of Americans oppose the Iraq war. Its deepest message, however, is sent by those letters: the universality of the bonds of love, family and humanity itself.”

This is certainly important because in a peculiar quirk of history, Americans and especially American soldiers have tended to be more forgiving of Germany and their Nazi supporting ancestors than of the Japanese and their leadership loving fascists of the Japanese Imperialist era.

I have always wondered whether one of the reasons that the Germans were integrated more quickly into the hearts of the American populace in the post-WWII period was the result of unconscious process whereby Americans were observing already in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s (in the period was growing up) that Germans had either come clean or were in the process of coming clean on the sins of their fathers.

This growing sense of national guilt or memory in Germany contrasted greatly with the silence in contrition coming out of Japan in those same years—and still seems to be the status quo in Japan in 2007.


Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko, “Letters to the Past: Iwa Jima and Japanese Memory”, http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Film/iwo_jima_4381.jsp


Saturday, June 09, 2007




About one to two decades ago, it was popular to bash Japan by calling it one big cartel or megalopolis of cartels. American economists, businessmen, and cheap political hacks named the country: JAPAN INC. There were many “Rising Sun” fear mongering movies and other forms of Western backlash against Japan. Washington, D.C. sent numerous negotiators to get Japan to let American businesses into the somewhat isolated markets and business world of Japan.

In the wake of the recession and deflation in Japan, which lasted approximately from 1989 through 2003, one seldom hears of a good article on the cartelism in that country. Meanwhile, last May I read a special report in the FRIDAY TIMES (May 11, 2007) a brilliant summary about cartels in the Arab states. The piece was by Jamie Etheridge and was entitled: “Gentlemen’s Agreements and Developing Kuwait”. The political economic analysis of the author reminded me both a bit about my experiences in Japan and of my homeland, America.


Etheridge notes: “In the Arab Gulf, oil-rich governments have long celebrated their natural monopoly over the energy sector, state utilities, infrastructure projects, real estate development and myriad other aspects of the local economy.” However, in recent decades both

(1) globalized economic and political pressures combined with
(2) a growing wariness in placing a nation’s trust too much in the volatile energy sector

have led governments in the Gulf Arab world to call for an end to monopolies and for economic liberalization.

Sadly, in the Gulf this does not necessarily translate into a real free market of forces coming to be developed. This is because competitiveness is often still missing. Rather, these calls for the end of monopolies and liberalization have led to growth in cartels.

One finds that this problem in Kuwait is evidenced quite clearly in the communications, insurance, and hotel sectors. A fairly tiny elite, who support the current regimes at all costs, are the beneficiaries of ownership in these lucrative sectors.

Besides international or globalized pressures, Stratfor researchers have indicated, “Governments, especially the ones in the Gulf Cooperation Countries, will move from a monopoly to a cartel when the private sector tends to expand and [when] there are an increasing number of actors that do not represent the interests of elite. This is where moving to [a] cartel system will help” sustain the current government—and, of course, the particular form of current regime governance, i.e. described as “emir-ship” in many Gulf states.

Etheridge explains that “the Arab Gulf states adopt the lingo and mechanisms of the West—they ‘liberalize’, they ‘privatize’. But they avoid the potential dangerous consequences of greater economic—and by extension political—participation by a greater diversity of society.”


Now, before, I return to Etheridge’s writing, I think it needs to be added that the USA, too, also has large oil cartels who participate with the world’s largest cartel OPEC. Moreover, these cartels of oil have great influence on the U.S. government and the stability of whomever is in power, i.e. whether the White House or congress is Democrat of Republican. This is why many of the most critical analysts of the elite oriented Washington, D.C. leadership have called the USA virtually a one-party state.

For example, even the currently expanding bio-fuels sector in the United States seems to be dominated by a single owner or group of owner. Meanwhile, only one source of this type of alternative fuel has been properly subsidized in the USA over the past 30 years—this is corn. Meanwhile, quite obviously as Brazil is showing the world that sugar cane is a much more efficient bio fuel to be using and investing one’s time in developing.

Only an elite cartel could force a shift away from efficiency like we have been seeing in the biofuels in North America in the supposedly most free business market in the world—my homeland, the USA.

Moreover, lobbyists from the traditional energy sector elite as well as their political cohorts in the USA have until now refused to invest to any great in the alternatives to the petroleum and natural gas or coal sectors. If the finance market in the USA were freer and less-dependent on the political and economic elites who currently run the country, thousands of new local cooperatives across the nation would have been formed already and would have been issuing bonds to create and use energy from alternative fuel sources at local levels—including wind-, geothermal-, solar- and other energy sources that have till-now had to rely on the supposedly free market for investment.


While we are at it, why don’t we look at China and begin to try and count the cartels and monopolies. I don’t see much opening in the finance sector or other economic sectors that the government of China doesn’t ultimately have its finger in. Worse still, the government of China is more defensive of criticism from anyone—not just the west—who may cry foul to any of its labor, financing, or market regulatory practices.

I recall how China Inc. moved in and out of a the small town of Vernon, Texas a few years ago. The Chinese wheelers and dealers bought land and received all kinds of subsidized benefits and a limited tax free-status to build helicopters in the town just west of Wichita Falls where I used to teach at university. They promised the local people jobs for years. Within less than 5-years, the Chinese firm had learned to build helicopters from their American partners.

The Chinese firm then picked up the whole helicopter manufacturing plant and shipped everything back to China, the land that free marketers raise up as the future for the world.

Vernon, Texas ended up with nothing. This is what happens when free market without some sort of social commitment locally is not practiced. This is why China will pass the USA in less than 5 to 10 years in green house gas creation. China Inc. is, in some of its manifestation, a greater threat to the world than Japan ever was or the Arab world will ever be to the rest of the planet.

What is amazing is that China is not getting taken to the WTO courts on an hourly basis! Until proper pressure is put on China from investors, governments, and people concerned with the rights of labor or human rights, the problems of cartelism will remain tiny in contrast to the Chinese century we are facing if China is not forced to play by some common rules that are good for all in all of its sectors—from environmental sector, to safety & foods as well as in financing, China could do a lot better than it is.

In any case, China is stealing so many ideas from so many corners of the globe currently that it would take a fool not implement what the so-called Chinese miracle leaders have claimed to do or have been hyped in doing over the past twenty years.


“Monopolies are natural phenomena in the Arab Gulf. Most of the region’s economies are dominated by state-owned monopolies in the energy and telecommunications sector. As these economies develop and engage more with the rest of the global economy, they have come under pressure to liberalize.” Etheridge adds, “But economic reform often masks the creation of a cartel.”

For example, in Kuwait the state-owned Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) dominated the nation for 24 years. Finally, in the name of liberalization, a new competitor was created about a decade ago. Alas, this single competitor is almost wholly owned by the children and relatives of the ruling family, the Al-Sabahs. Now, a decade after Kuwait entered the WTO, Kuwait has no competitors for these two companies, and Kuwait residents pay for this expensive cartel out-their-ears. Furthermore, this cartel adversely affects the development of the internet and other related sectors across the state.

Similarly, hotel rates, the prices of automobiles and prices in many restaurant chains are fixed high. These are all examples of supposedly informal cartels sealed with a handshake, but this leads then to massive earnings for the elite and far too little trickle down to the others in the land of 3.4 million people. For example, at our local Chile’s Restaurant on Gulf Road—which is the Chile’s that year-after-year is the highest earner of all Chile’s restaurants on the entire planet—the average wage for a 48 or more hour work week is under 600 dollars and sometimes as low as 400 dollars a month.

Etheridge explains, “The cartels begin as patronage from the government. The merchant elite often then hammer out ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ to control the market and maintain prices. The gentlemen’s agreement can take many forms but the basic plan is the same: control prices and access to products and services, limit potential newcomers the ability to enter the market and reap as high as profit as possible.”

In short, this model of development in some ways is more extreme and anti-developmental (in the long term for the region) than the post-WW2 economic model that Japan showed the world.

It is more like the earlier models of cartelism which led to WW1 and ensure that an extremely imbalanced class system is maintained among the Kuwaiti population, i.e. in a way similar to how Bismarck and his successors ran the supposedly modern unified Germany from 1870 through 1918. Moreover, this cartel model has already created a population of about 2.4 million foreigners (67% of the population) in a land where racism in pay and treatment is already rampant, i.e. similar to some of the worst racism found in the USA or Europe at the beginning of the 20th Century.


Strangely, in an otherwise impeccable article, Etheridge claims, “Cartels might not be good for the economy but the politics of cartels are sound.” She says this because ruling families in the Gulf, like the al-Sauds in Arabia or the al-Sabahs in Kuwait, are doing a marvelous job of balancing “demands for greater political participation with economic favoritism.” Etheridge explains that this is why there is surprisingly stable support for the regimes in the Gulf Arab states, especially among each state’s nationals.

I am not certain that Etheridge is on the mark here when she claims that there is economic soundness to cartels. The fact that the women’s franchise was delayed in Kuwait over three decades had to do with the fact that Kuwaiti women were not allowed to have a political voice when the first parliament was formed in Kuwait in the 1960s. In other words, males took over as in the word monopoly.

Lack of women’s voices in politics in Kuwait (and in some other Gulf states) and disgust at the isolated elite class had led thousands of Kuwaitis to flee the country to live abroad over the decades. Moreover, health care, health services, and other societal areas have been far-to-long adversely affected because women were not able to push for reform and better care for all.

Let’s take health care as an example. It is traditional in Kuwait for women to run the households in Kuwait. Thus, women are more likely to take care of the sick and elderly—or at least oversee someone else taking over such care at a small fee. Such women would have certainly demanded more quality than has been provided by hthe Kuwait health care system—a system that is regularly ridiculed almost by one-and-all. This mismanagement of health care and treatment of patients is not only true in Kuwait, but neighboring Saudi Arabia with a much larger national population has an even worse reputation for providing health care.

Compare that to the reputation of pre-1990 Iraq where the political-economic system had developed much differently than in neighboring lands. Iraq had the greatest number of doctors, good hospitals, and specialists in the Arab Gulf region for decades. This fact was not just the result of having a larger population, but because Iraq had the best educational system in the region.

Education in all the Gulf states, except Iraq and Iran, has always been well-behind the curve of other Arab lands in the Middle East. This was certainly partially due to the pre-oil era poverty and isolation of these states. However, it was also the result of a political economic system which favored elites over the vast majority of peoples.

This is why the majority of the grandparents of my former students in private university in Kuwait had not learned either to read or write.

Even in the 1960s, after the country of Kuwait had taken control of its destiny—as Saudi Arabia had done decades earlier—, Kuwait chose to use a communist model of development that relied on state largess and jobs over personal initiative. That is why the Kuwait leadership failed to permit real competition in its university system in the 1960s, and then waited for 4 decades to allow a single private university to be founded in the land. The only alternative for decades was for citizens to go abroad and find better education than the government of Kuwait afforded them at Kuwait University, now with a campus of over 30,000.

This 4-decade leg in developing competitive private university alternatives to the state-run higher educational programs will continue to hurt the nation for decades. It also puts a lot of pressure on the newer universities to follow the bribe or favor-for-the-well-connected ridden traditions of the much older private education institutions and public schools in Kuwait. In short, due to decades of having an under-educated citizenry, Kuwait has expected too little in terms of standards of many of its youths and the educational institutions that form working adults in society.

Although more than 5 new private universities have opened in Kuwait in the last seven years—when the new university law went into effect--, none of these universities has been able to develop into an institution which in any ways mirrors western or global standards in higher education. The Kuwait elitist oriented society as it currently functions is fully dependent on family and tribal connections to get good jobs for its youth. Therefore, family and friends do not support good study habits. That is, families and friends don’t support high levels of academic focus from its young people or young friends. Unlike in other developing nations and advanced nations around the globe friends and family demand students focus on family time and on honing tribal or future relationships over undertaking serious university studies.

My own experience in Kuwait leads me to believe that nearly anywhere in Kuwait family, friends, and the building of connections encompasses 50% to 90% of the student’s out-of-class time (including the time that they should be sleeping or resting). How could anyone be a serious university student if he only budgeted 10 % or less of his time each week to coursework?

Further, the foundations of such new private educational institutions and universities have been hindered by the cartel-like system which one might call “the nation of Kuwait”, whereby the same leaders who sit in the ministry of education or work at Kuwait university end up leading the new private universities.

Hence, the system fails to train good leaders who could hope to change if Kuwait needs to change quickly—such as when oil demand drops abruptly as has occurred more than once in the state’s short history. Meanwhile, the need for leadership is obviously there. Kuwaitis of all ages are constantly asking for good leadership and complaining about the lack of leadership. In short, the entire system is unsound in its development of leaders who can take the country out of a cycle of corruption and bad management at any speed that is reasonable and helps the greatest variety of people.

Worse still, besides failing to develop good leadership, Kuwait and other Gulf States often create a nation of workers who feel alienated and misused. This is not sound and surely leads to growing demands and outlets for anger, such as alcohol, drugs, and suicidal tendencies when driving one’s car. (Kuwait is considered the second most dangerous country in the world to drive in. Sadly, Kuwaitis and other ex-pats tell me that driving in Saudi Arabia is even worse.)

In a way, some of what I have observed in Kuwait over the past four years has struck me as similar to what I observed in Japan when I worked there in the 1990s—as well as to the USA I have grown up or lived in over four decades. For example, in Japan inefficiencies were excessively high at Japanese universities and in their educational systems in general, too. Many Japanese were alienated and suicide was high. (In the USA, suicide is also high among all age groups compared to other nations around the globe.) Moreover, many Japanese felt like they were being trained to sit in offices and just look out their windows all their life—rather than being asked to dig-in, show strong drive, and creativity. Similarly, America of the 1980s and 1990s attempted to copy parts of the Japanese Inc. model of running companies. For example, the Japanese emphasis on outsourcing became a major theme of doing business in the USA and in companies it dealt with throughout the world.

All the Gulf Arab oil states offer similar outlooks for youth and young adults entering the working world. In Kuwait, I recently taught a student who said that she had been trained at Kuwait University to be a petroleum engineer. After graduating four years ago from that university, she said that she was soon given a job in the oil ministry where she did basically nothing for three years.

The young Kuwaiti engineer continued. She would go to here office at the ministry in the morning. She had a computer and worked at it—playing games, surfing the internet, and occasionally typing something up that was, indeed, related to work. However, most of the time there was nothing at all to do there--except to sit around talking to here colleagues.

This young mother of two told me, “I was bored to death.” She applied three straight years to be accepted at a government-run oil firm instead. Finally, she was accepted, but instead of placing the woman in a job immediately where she could use her engineering skills, she was initially sent to work in data processing. (I believe she has now been transferred to a more amicable job.)

In short, the inefficiencies of patronage and unsoundness of the economic system which is currently preferred in Kuwait is dangerous to many citizen’s mental and spiritual health in many ways. It is also an inefficient use of trained labor.

This disrespect for even Kuwaiti national laborers and specialists has helped lead to a great brain drain (from one of the wealthiest countries in the world) as the many foreign-trained Kuwaitis—such as health care specialists and doctors--often quickly give-up and take on better job offers & under better working conditions in other lands around the globe.


Concerning the role of ex-pat or native entrepreneurs working in the Gulf Arab states, an editor for the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin notes, “Economic activity throughout the Arab world is dominated by the state and by businessmen who benefit from government patronage. Successful businessmen in the Arab world are far more concerned about preserving their own preferential individual relationships with government officials than they are about whether their governments gain entry into the World Trade Oranganisation or lift restrictions.”

There are many Arab and non-Arab ex-pats that thrive in the business world of the Gulf. Nonetheless, as Etheridge points out, “The cost of monopolies cum cartels is paid by the whole society.” She lists the problems as follows:

(1) Prices for consumer goods and services tend to be inflated, often
running several times higher than the international average.
(2) Competition is stifled and newcomers to the marketplace find it difficult,
if not nearly impossible to break in.
(3) Customer service is nearly non-existent.
(4) Innovation, research and development are stifled. Product or service quality is inconsistent and typically below the international average.

Whereas, these problems may be less endemic in Dubai than in other Gulf Arab states or regional emirates, I recall that for decades the current leader of Dubai and head of the UAE owned exclusively all rights to taxis in the emirates—making this famed free-marketer very wealthy indeed.

Having previously lived in the neighboring Emirate of Sharjah and having paid cheaper rates for taxi service there than in Dubai City, I know that a lot of poor foreign workers in Dubai were forced to pay more-than-they-should-have in taxi fairs to help make this Emir ever better-off financially.

Moreover, lack of competition in the water-desalinization sector in Kuwait is costing Kuwait residents greatly in terms of inconvenience. It currently costs the government-run plants some 45 dollars a barrel to produce water. I am quite certain that if private water desalinization firms from various corners of the world were invited to open up shop and were finally given proper access to do so by the Kuwait economy, they could cut that cost of production in half within a year or two.

Certainly, petroleum and water are subsidized in Kuwait and in other gulf countries. This leads constantly to inefficiencies in conservation and urban design that will continue to hurt the land for many more decades. (Saudi Arabia is ranked even worse in this area than Kuwait.)

One final example, a metro has been needed in Kuwait since before I arrived here in January 2004. Yet, no construction has started and the usual elitist suspects (or patronage cronies in the government) will eventually get the construction contract. Similarly, in Dubai, although construction of its metro is nearing completion now, it has already taken too long and the roadways are horribly paralyzing to commute on 12 hours or more each day.


Strangely, the IMF has continued to give the Gulf regions positive forecasts for 2007 and 2008 simply based upon the facts that oil prices will remain high. The IMF peculiarly “lauds the region, noting that government economic policies are ‘on the right track’ with many oil-exporting countries stepping up spending and upgrading infrastructure. It cites, for example, the Gulf Cooperation council (GCC) countries’ plans to invest $700 billion from 2006 through 2010 to cover upgrades and development of the energy sector, infrastructure and real estate.”

Rightly, Etheridge has criticized the IMF on this, “This seems all well and good-until the tenders are issued and the two same construction firms take 80 Percent of the project or until the five major hotel chains get together and agree to raise room rates by 15 percent, regardless of occupancy.”

Similar to the sad lack of criticism from the IMF, the USA’s leadership has been lax in the last few years in seriously castigating Kuwait and other Gulf states in their lack of seriousness in carrying out international promises and trade & tariff treaties.

For example, Kuwait and most of the other Gulf Arab states are already members of the WTO, but they have not been taking seriously the rules on business, financing, transparency, anti-monopoly legislation enforcement, and on treatment of labor. This American silence is certainly to some degree a result of the fact that the USA has its handful already with neighboring Iraq and Iran. Hence, it has apparently decided to kiss-up to the Gulf Arab state governments for the coming years. This means that American and European petroleum users will continue to support these WTO abusers with little criticism or threat of retaliation for many of their closed markets in the foreseeable future.

The only good news in sight has been the renewed willingness of the Kuwaiti Parliament to take on the elite status quo by proposing a series of anti-monopoly and anti-cartel laws. However, that promising legislation has been hung up since December 2006 and there are rumors that the Emir may call for snap elections within the next 12-months. This means that there will be a tendency for the current parliament to put these and other important legislation off until new elections have been held.


Etheridge cites local chamber of commerce officials in Kuwait implying that transparency will be sufficient to make the economies in the Gulf Arab world run much better. This will help the local governments to monitor and close down cartels as well, they say. They do not mention that some of the government members have family members who don’t wish to reveal how much money is flowing in and out of their hands—and out of the hands of favored companies and cartels.

I am not sure that transparency is the panacea that it is all made up to be for the Gulf Arab economies. This comes from my observing that the country of Kuwait has had a region-leading free press for many decades. Nevertheless, Kuwait was bypassed in terms of economic efficiency well over a decade ago in economic development by younger Arab states, whom had not experienced such a free press for nearly so long a time. (These more successful upstarts include those 7 emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates in terms of economic efficiency. Meanwhile, both the Emirates and Qatar are making greater strides in developing higher education than is Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.)

More than just transparency, a nation needs leadership and the public demand to improve, i.e. common vision and hope among the populace is needed, too. One needs rigorous legislation that is enforceable and enforced. In other words, one needs enough people who are not tainted by the old-guard elite who can force a change and see it beneficial to carry out these reforms.

On the other hand, there is certainly one aspect of transparency which would really shake up the elite and provide a revolution in Kuwait. This would be to make public the earnings and wages of all the elite companies and wealthiest political elite, via some sort of enforced income tax.

If accounting books, especially at state-run firms, had to be kept more public for tax purposes, the huge black markets and shadow economies would be significantly reduced. Moreover, inefficient businesses would be seen for what they are, market losers than need to be sold off and not subsidized by banks and the economy as a whole. Moreover, international and local competitors could better see how to enter the market if accounting was much more thorough and public.

Further, bribes, abuse of connections and rank, insider deals, and stolen funds could all be reduced in the same fashion as accountability for the books and numbers could help oversight to soar.

Similarly, putting all public expenditures on-line would be helpful.

I recall that the city of Monterrey, Mexico—where I also used to work and teach—put the government’s expenditure on-line in the early part of this decade. It has been beneficial in fighting corruption in that developing nation. It could do the same here in the Gulf. It helped government watchdogs in Monterrey immensely. This sort of transparency would certainly increase government accountability in spending and use of resources. It would also lead to more competitive bidding. Finally, it would lead politicians to think twice before raising certain pork barrel projects targeting a certain tribe or political elite.

In short, the elite in Kuwait have got to learn that at some point, their party will be over. However, with the Gulf Arab governments consisting of family members of many these elite or consisting of political hacks receiving benevolences from these same families, I don’t see much happening from within soon in the Gulf. That is why it might seem that it would be better to focus on the abuses of China Inc., India Inc. or even American Inc. (or Japan Inc. again) in the coming decade

On the other hand, in the absence of many critical and extremely vocal Kuwaitis, non-Kuwaiti voices are needed. The non-elite Kuwaitis are already running up huge financial debts trying to half-way keep up with the monstrous wealth of the tiny elitist in-crowd that has run the land for far too long. Such groups of Kuwaitis are a divided bunch and don’t have any leadership or political-economic savvy to take on the established elites.

With so many ex-pats working hard making Kuwait what it is and trying to make it better, we have got to voice our concerns and get our own WTO member governments to get Kuwait and other Gulf Arab states to play by the fair free market game—or prepare to surrender our futures to this sort of behavior more and more as the 21st century becomes the Asia century & dominated by Asian cartels from the Gulf to China or Japan--with far too little real experience in either fair or free trade.


Etheridge, Jamie, “Gentlemen’s Agreements and Developing Kuwait”, FRIDAY TIMES (May 11, 2007), p. 3.


Sunday, June 03, 2007


At the end of May 2007, the AWARE Center in Surra, Kuwait invited three noted female Kuwaiti activists to speak on and reflect on the previous year’s elections. That is when women voted and ran for office of their National Parliament in Kuwait for the first time in that nation’s history. The first speaker was Lubna Al-Kazi who has been active in the women’s rights movement in Kuwait for several decades. She was followed by a younger outspoken economist named Dr. Rola Dashti. Finally, a statistical analysis of tendencies of Kuwait voters was given by Dr. Khadeeja Al-Mahameed, who noted that she had been participating in the movement for franchise in Kuwait since 1972.

After a slight disruption by one local human rights activists who shouted slogans and made complaints against the Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Stewart Laing-- who was in attendance to hear the three women speakers--, Lubna Al-Kazi gave a short historical overview of the movement to enfranchise Kuwaiti women. She explained first that from its inception, the 1962 constitution of Kuwait never has specifically prohibited women from political action or participation.


Lubna Al-Kazi indicated that the women of Kuwait had nearly received the vote in the 1970s before other disorienting political matters arose in the country. Al-Nazi did not note exactly what these other matters were, but most Kuwaitis would have recognized these issues as (1) the rise of fundamentalists and radical fundamentalism, (2) ethnic conflict in Kuwait and in the region, and (3) the wars in Iran, Iraq and Kuwait itself—all pushed the women’s demands off of center stage.

Women were very active in the resistance against Iraq during the occupation in 1991-1992. Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Government in Exile promised women the right to enfranchisement. Sadly, once the government returned to office in 1992, the same government leadership soon indicated that it would be at least 1997 before women could vote or run for office.

By 1995, a grand coalition of men and women, known as the COMMITTEE ON WOMEN’S ISSUES, had been organized and became very active. This movement included women--with and without abeyas (head coverings)--, young women, and both male and females of various age groups who took part in a series of demonstrations and sit-down strikes all over the country at the headquarters or meeting places of the male-only political groupings.

Al-Nazi noted that over the previous decades various Kuwaiti women and women’s groups had tried to sue in court to obtain the right to vote. Nonetheless, once again in 1997, women of Kuwait failed to receive the vote right from the all-male dominated--and increasingly tradition oriented--national parliament.

This is why the Emir of Kuwait in a special governmental proclamation attempted to give women the franchise in 1999. However, at that time the Parliament of Kuwait was not in session. Therefore, tragically when the parliament returned to session that year, it overturned the Emir’s proclamation by taking the case to the Supreme Court of Kuwait.

Meanwhile, more and more women and other interested groups continued to file suits against discrimination against women in various Kuwait courts. Finally, a new long sustained series of protests at the national parliament of Kuwait began in March 2005. This movement included a sustained series of protests at the national parliament of Kuwait. This particular campaign was called simply “NOW”—as in “Give Women the Franchise Now!” To the relief of many Kuwaitis—both male and female--, the Kuwaiti Parliament in mid-May 2005 passed the law giving women full-participation in elections as voters and candidates.


By early spring 2006, women were voting and running for offices in local elections. One of them who ran in those local elections was Dr. Dashti, who spoke second. To the surprise of the sadly somewhat disorganized women’s organizations—who had apparently slacked off after receiving the vote the year earlier--, the Parliament was closed by the Emir and snap elections were called. They were set for the first part of summer 2006.

In all, there was only about thirty-days allowed for the Parliamentary election period. Nonetheless, despite being caught off-guard, women’s groups, female campaigners, and various female organizations--who had just finished participating for local elections in April 2006--gave their best to make a good showing in the elections set for later June 2006 in Kuwait. Eventually, Kuwaiti women from all quarters of society came out in full force during one of the hottest months of the year to run or to support other female candidates.

Dr. Rola Dashti noted in her speech given at the AWARE Center that there were many pleasant surprises everywhere to be observed as women participated in national elections in Kuwait for the first time in the nation’s history.

First of all, it turned out that the 27 women who, in fact, did announce their candidacies and run for parliament represented all age groups and all segments of Kuwaiti society. The candidates were from a tremendous variety of backgrounds: rich, poor, conservative, modern, single, married, divorced, tribal-oriented, city oriented, non-educated, & college-educated.

There were women who wore abeyas, there were women who wore birkas (face coverings), and there were modern un-covered female candidates. In short, the female Kuwaiti candidates were as diverse as anyone could have ever hoped for.

More surprises in June 2006 included the fact that all of the strongly male-clannish groups around the nation opened their private meeting places to the women candidates and women voters for the first time. More importantly, these women candidates were taken seriously and, according to Dashti, were given very serious treatment in the questions raised by these male-only organizations.

Feedback from these men’s meetings, called “diwaniya”, was positive with the men often noting that the women generally had fuller platforms and plans for what they would like to see done by parliament in Kuwait than some of their male counterparts. All in all, Dashti emphasizes that Kuwaiti women demonstrated well in summer 2006: “We know politics.”

In order to aid women’s enfranchisement, at the very same time in May 2006 that the Emir of Kuwait had called for snap elections, he ordered the election boards all around the country to automatically register to vote all women who had proper civil IDs and were eligible according to the law. This is certainly one reason why women were able to outvote men in many townships throughout the country.

Sadly, even with women making up over 53% of the total votes for the National Parliament, none of these 27 women was actually elected to office in that summer of 2006. Nonetheless, Dashti notes that women definitely influenced the campaigns of all political groupings in the country that election period by emphasizing issues related to education, women, family, society and citizenship—as well as many matters of which had not been to any great degree part of such campaigns before.

For example, one woman candidate in one district which largely consists of disenfranchised Bedouins ran on a platform to give her husband and many other males and females there full citizenship rights—a claim many have been making since Kuwait became a country in 1961. Because this particular female candidate lived in a district where women significantly outnumber men, all other candidates in that district had to take on the issues raised by this first-time female politician.

Similarly, changes in how male candidates ran their own campaigns occurred all over Kuwait. Some male candidates, for the first time, even hired female advisors to help them run their own campaigns. In addition, Dashti notes, thousands of women—many of whom had never participated in politics before became involved in supporting both male and female candidates at the grass roots level.

Thousands of more women for the first time also simply went to sit under the same tents as their male voting counterparts to hear various candidates speak and took time to ask these campaigners questions about issues that mattered to them--and that they felt society needed to worry about. For example, poor education is of great concern throughout Kuwait. Other areas of concern in the Kuwaiti society include the need for better health care, job place issues, and youth problems, like drug abuse.

Dr. Rola Dashti says she will never forget the glorious day back in May 2005 when women were first given the franchise in parliament. She indicated she had tears in her eyes that day, and this moment will likely be recalled as the highpoint in her life. However, she ended her speech by indicating how proud she was when on one of the hottest days of the entire year in June 2006, many women stood for over three hours in line to cast their votes for the first time in history.

When asked what she thought about the possibilities of women being more successful in coming elections, Dashti said she, as women candidate in local elections herself, certainly had now learned what it was like to run a campaign for office. Many others had gained experience in 2006 which will help them the next time around.

Nevertheless, Dashti did indicate that she preferred something like an affirmative access quota of 25% to enable women to overcome historical baggage, tradition and structural biases in the Kuwaiti system--in order to make it impossible for women to represent their peers more fully in future campaigns. (This sort of affirmative access quota would not automatically give 25% of the seats to women’s candidates but would allow historically adversely affected groups of both men and women to gain fuller political representation.)


The final speaker at the AWARE Center on that night of May 23, 2007 was Kuwait University professor of sociology, Dr. Khadeeja Al-Mahameed who has not only been politically active herself but spent much of 2005 and 2006, i.e. in the days leading up to the national elections in June 2006, surveying Kuwaiti townships in a rigorous academic manner in order to comprehend what the most influential factors in life and politics for the country’s adult population.

Her study involved equally (50%-50%) males and females of voting age in 16 districts of the country. There were 1600 participants who were asked to answer fairly detailed questions on what thoughts or authorities influenced their decision-making process in the year leading up to national elections in Kuwait, i.e. that year involving female participation in elections for the first time. The results of her survey point to why women failed to win any national seats in their first attempts at national office as political candidates.

The types of questions undertaken in al-Mahameed’s research included one similar to this:

--When making decisions about whether women should be active in politics, what influences your opinion the most?

(a) Fatwa of an imam
(b) Personal opinion
(c) Constitution of the country
(d) Social customs
(e) The true social need
(f) Competency of the women
(g) Other

Dr. Al-Mahameed had hypothesized in advance that social or tribal customs would have the greatest influence on the most respondents--regardless of class, gender, or whether one was identified as a city dweller or a village Bedouin. Second, Al-Mahameed predicted that Kuwaiti’s second strongest influence in developing opinions or attitudes towards women’s participation would be what religious figures or authorities were stating.

To her surprise, the results of Al-Mahameed’s study revealed that the individual’s thinking about religion was by far more influential on how to vote or whether to support women’s political participation. This result is interesting because it reveals a great lack of understanding about Islamic precepts and practices in the voting community of Kuwait.

Clearly, as Al-Mahameed advocated, one of the most important things to do in order to help women receive fuller participation of governance is to retrain or better educate imams and other religious leadership in Kuwait.

She stated this by noting that in most Islamic nations, women vote, and more importantly, the Koran does not prohibit women from voting. Nor does the Koran prohibit women of Islamic faith from participating in politics in any form. Nonetheless, in Kuwait there is a perception among voters of the Islamic faith that there is a strong contradiction posed by the practices of politics and what they perceive women’s roles in their faith ought to be.

One reason, Dr. Al-Mahameed had been incorrect in assuming that tribal and social values are only of secondary importance in making political decisions at this time in Kuwait’s history is that over recent decades, the country has significantly urbanized and become more modern and urban. Moreover, even in the rural areas modern media is now reaching every home and citizen’s tastes, opinions, and customs are evolving towards a more modern dimension of decision making or preference building.

Despite a slowly growing detachment to social traditions and tribal customs in Kuwait, those factors along with even more decisive factors of religious beliefs, faith and religious leadership do indeed continue to influence Kuwaitis greatly in their living and voting choices. In the wake of these findings, Dr. Al-Mahameed differed with Dr. Dashti and advocated that women be given a clear quota system in coming elections.

However, Dr. Al-Mahameed also clearly stated that the best way to change the way people think about women in politics is to change the opinions of imams and other opinion authority figures in the religious world of Kuwait. As well, a more widespread 7 public discussion of what Islam does in reality say about women in politics needs to be undertaken.

Dr. Al-Mahameed authoritavely noted that there was substantial literature by imams and religious councils all over the Islamic parts of the world who have made very strong cases for fuller participation of women in politics. This knowledge of the sacred writings of the Koran and of other religious authorities needed to become more publicly documented for educators and community leadership to fall back on and refer to in public and private discourse.