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Re:'Culture' is no excuse (David Aaaronovtich)

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Joined: 16 Jan 2004
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Location: UK

Post Post subject: Re:'Culture' is no excuse (David Aaaronovtich) Reply with quote

Re:'Culture' is no excuse

Savage executions in the Arab world must be condemned as wrong by anyone's standards

Dear Mr Aaaronovtich.

I was hoping you could shed some light on a few queries. After all, I did come along to your talk in Brighton!

>”A man from Maidstone had this letter published in the Independent last week. 'Why is it barbaric,' he asked, 'to decapitate an innocent man with a knife but civilised to do it with a laser-guided bomb?' Or to rephrase the question, is the video executioner of Nicholas Berg in any way morally deficient compared to the general or politician who gives an order that - whatever the intention - will almost certainly lead to the death of an innocent somewhere? “

>>Here is another letter:
“David Aaronovitch accuses the Bush protesters of double standards and complains that they were not there at Ceaucescu's state visit in 1978 (Comment, last week).
This is a bit rich since, as I recall, David was a member of the Communist Party in 1978, while many of those protesting were not even born. He fails to recognise the motivations of the protesters, most of whom are likely to join him in abhorring state or terrorist violence. But, as UK citizens, our first duty is to hold our own government and its allies to account for an unjust and unjustifiable war.
Jane South
Ilkley, West Yorkshire “
>>Would you be kind enough to comment on that last sentence?

>”And then there is something implied, as it has been implied in virtually every anti-war position which has ignored the question of what would have been happening in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere had the invasion not taken place. This something is the idea that, even if you were to forget about Fallujah and the abuse of detainees, 'our way' is no better than 'their' way. That what is going on is essentially, a collision of two cultures, with ours wrongly attempting to gain supremacy. “

>>Please stop. Just stop. We are questioning what are Government does because that is what patriotism is. Anti-War positions do not forget Abu Ghraib. Equally though, we do not take our moral compass from Saddam, so why do you try and tar us with this brush? I was against Saddam’s rule ever since the killing of the Observer journalist. I was against the arming of Saddam. However, I was also against the War because of the reason given. WMD. Why do you conveniently forget your stance on this? Even if our Government had gone to war over the human right issue, I would have demanded that they first promised to stop arming and supporting dictators. Then I would have wanted a public notice from the Government stating, “We are now going to war in order to rectify our mistakes”. Even then I would have wanted to ensure that all means available were taken to allow the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam.

>>”A week before the Berg killing I found myself in conversation with an Iranian man in his late thirties. He told me how he had run a family business in Tehran. There, five years ago, he met a girl, they had had an affair, and shortly afterwards he came to Europe. After his departure there was silence from his lover - she didn't return letters and her phone was silent. A year or so later an aunt advised him to stop looking for the girl. 'She is dead,' the woman said. 'She was pregnant and they executed her. So don't ask any more.' And this, the Iranian man said with contempt, in the 21st century.

I was worried about this story so I began researching into judicial executions for sexual impropriety in Iran, and - because this was also possible - into extra-judicial honour killings. Sure enough, until very recently women (and men) were being stoned to death in Iran for adultery. In July 2001, according to the Financial Times, a Maryam Ayoubi was executed at Tehran's Evin prison at dawn. Iranian newspapers carried an account of her being ritually washed, wrapped in a white shroud and then carried to the place of execution on a stretcher where she was buried up to her armpits. There were many such stonings during the Nineties.

In 2003 an aide to the governor of the Iranian province of Khuzestan told the press that his office had received reports of the murder of 45 young women in a two-month period in honour killings. None of these crimes were prosecuted. Honour killings are rife in Pakistan, and there are a large number in Iraqi Kurdistan. In Jordan the sentence for carrying out an honour killing is set at six months. In the first part of this year more than a dozen Jordanian women were killed by their relations for having 'sullied the reputation of their family'.

And just so that we have an idea of what we may be talking about here, a fortnight ago there was a report from Istanbul about the trial of the father and brothers of a 14-year-old girl. This child had been raped and imprisoned by another man. The men of the family, from eastern Turkey, held a council and decided their honour could only be salvaged if the girl was killed. She was strangled by her father with a piece of electrical flex. He told police: 'She begged as I was strangling her ... but I did not take notice of her cries.'

In the 21st century? And there are less appalling variants of the same attitude. In Baghdad a month ago, while Nick Berg was staying at a hotel just down the road, I spoke with a representative of Moqtada al-Sadr. There were two things that concerned this cleric most about the new Iraq. The first was the rights of minorities to exercise a constitutional veto, which he opposed, and the second - more substantial - concerned his rejection of a code enshrining equality for women. He wanted it to be illegal to dress 'immodestly', for example. This was his red line. “

>> You devoted 524 words to this cause. A worthy one indeed. One wonders though, isn’t all so convenient for you to link Islam, Iran and Moqtada al-Sadr? Link Syria and North Korea into this and there you’ll have it.

>> Also you say “..I was worried about this story so I began researching into judicial executions for sexual impropriety in Iran,”. Forgive my cynicism, but this research wasn’t just for your ‘worry’ as it proved to be part of your article. Was that just a coincidence or do you really research worries presented to you? If you do, I have one for you. It’s called Sudan and Biafra. Perhaps you’ll even have it printed by sheer coincidence.

>“Do we agree with this? And if we agree with it here, why would we not agree with it in Iraq or anywhere else? True, an easy assumption of superior virtue can blind you to what is good about others and what is bad about yourself. But do we really believe that it is the same thing accidentally to kill a civilian with a bomb as it is to cut off his head on camera? Or that a society and polity that is rightly horrified by prisoner abuse is to be compared with the one presided over by Stalin? “”

>> Two things here. Second one first. ‘prisoner abuse’????? Does the word ‘torture’ take up too many letters or is there another reason? Secondly, you said, there is vast cultural difference between ‘accidentally’ killing “…a civilian with a bomb..” and cutting “ his head on camera”. Sir, there is no accident when it comes to killing a civilian. It is simple really why. It’s the bomb that should not have been there, NOT the civilian. If Mr Sadr dropped a bomb in the Iraqi hotel you were staying at, hoping to kill a certain Coalition leader, would you think it is ok to ‘accidentally’ decapitate kill you? Would you (from above of course) approve of the debate asking whether it was more horrifying to die on camera? You see, I have a funny feeling the civilians in both cases would care very little about the distinction.

Sun May 16, 2004 2:30 am
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