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Archive for March, 2003

Reaping the Whirlwind

Barely past the first week the Coalition has had to twice change/adjust its war strategy. Instead of a cataclysmic strike by 3000 precision guided munitions (PGMs) hitting Baghdad and other Iraqi command centers, in a major surprise the war started with a limited surgical strike to take out (the exact words “decapacitate”) Saddam Hussain and his inner coterie. The Coalition checked for effect, if any, for 24 hours before launching the ground war with an attempted end run (blitzkreig) around major urban areas to Baghdad, an outflanking maneuver through the Southern Iraqi desert. Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe” massive strike came a day after the ground war started. The Iraqis were supposed to roll over and play dead or better still, surrender in droves (Gulf War I – circa 1991) on primetime TV. With the Iraqis fighting back at virtually every major urban area crossing, the plan deviated from the script. For a change, the Iraqis used their military (rather than emotional) head in not giving pitched battle in any open areas (“he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”) where the Coalition would have loved to pulverize them by superior firepower. Using classic guerrilla tactics, the Iraqis resorted to small unit “hit and run” attacks, providing very few fixed targets for the PGMs (precision-guided munitions) to be effective.

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Sowing the Wind

The sound of a bullet is a great equalizer, the sharp snap as it goes past is the moment of truth which separates the men from the boys. The silence of waiting had been deafening, the sound of war started with a sharp clap, this will soon build into a crescendo. As soon as the US ultimatum expired an opportunity presented itself for the targeted assassination of members of the Iraqi regime, Saddam Hussain among them, militarily speaking the actual war will go into full swing as soon as the sandstorms stop! Having delivered an ultimatum, for the US to back down would have been to lose credibility as a military superpower. One silver lining should assuage the feelings of the Muslim World, shepherd to a flock of 1.5 billion Christians, the Pope condemned the war in the strongest possible language. The French, Germans, Russians and Chinese (and millions more in the streets of the western world) had already bankrupted Samuel Huntington’s theory about “Clash among Civilizations”, Our religious leaders must applaud the fact that there are no unipolar Christian and Jewish forces ganging up against Islam as was being widely apprehended in the Islamic world. Morally right or wrong will be on display once the war starts because the Iraqis will certainly use the “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) if they have them. One thing Bush got right, Saddam Hussain is an obnoxious tyrant whose time has come. It is no use repeating all the atrocities he has visited on humanity, his monstrosity is very well documented. Shed no tears for this despicable person, his associates or his immediate family, they are fully culpable for their share of disseminating cruelty and torture on the Iraqi people. The first “opportunity” attacks were right in being Saddam-specific, instead of bombing Baghdad (and Iraqis) indiscriminately, this is the way to go!

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Raw Spirit and Body Language

Hospitalized several weeks ago with severe kidney pain in Abu Dhabi while attending a Conference, the doctor’s advice was to come back immediately for a pain-killer injection on recurrence of the pain. When the pain returned in strength at 1 a.m. the following night, the Pathan taxi cab driver who took me to the hospital a few minutes car-ride away would not take the taxi fare. He refused to leave me alone unless either I was admitted or ready to go back to the hotel. When I did come out, he was stubbornly refusing a couple who wanted to hire his taxi (few taxis being available at that time of the night). When the pain came back again the next night, the taxi driver (another Pakistani) insisted on going into the hospital with me and stayed till he dropped me back to the hotel. My Pakistani colleagues had left strict instructions that I should not go alone to the hospital, the “Reception” staff at the Hotel had to be stopped from waking them up. This was symbolic of pure Pakistani spirit, a Pakistani was in some trouble, colleagues or utter strangers, everyone responded unitedly quite selflessly.

One can understand the Pakistan-bonding with each other but why do we as a nation, volunteer to be the champions of all Muslim causes, particularly when some of those affected have no love lost for us? One can understand the religious aspect, Iraq is home to a major number of muslim holy places, fourth in emotional muslim religious issues, after Haram Sharif in Mecca, Masjid-e-Nabvi in Madinah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. With Iraq astride a vast reservoir of oil and Iraq surrounded by half a dozen countries, anyone sitting in Baghdad can call the shots as the geo-politically dominant force in the region. That’s what the suspicion is among the Muslim countries, i.e. apart from the usual Israeli bogey. A million-man protest march in Karachi against a US-led war against Iraq was tall on organization but short in number of participants, less than 150,000, the same as the Rawalpindi million-man march a week later. Nevertheless the public sentiment was impressive, the largest by far in the country for over two decades, matching the return of Ms. Benazir to Lahore from self-exile in 1986 but far less than the non-denominational universal protest witnessed in London and Paris a few weeks ago. The Iraqi people have been oppressed by more than three decades of Saddam Hussain’s tyranny, war would only add to the misery of innocent civilians, Saddam will quite deliberately and callously put them in harm’s way by having his Army fight in urban areas. One has to target Saddam Hussain, not Iraq; that about sums up the world’s message.

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Investing In Reality

Writing in TIME magazine issue of March 13, 2006, noted analyst Alex Perry says that three days before US President Bush arrived in Hyderabad “to praise everything that is right about India”, Naxalites (Marxists who take their name from the 1967 villagers’ revolt in Naxalbari) killed 30 government followers in a landmine attack a short distance away. An estimated 10000 Naxalite guerillas control hundreds of square miles in the central hinterland. Taking over an entire town in November 2005 for a few hours, Naxalites freed 400 prisoners from the district jail. The Naxal movement claimed 892 lives in 2005, up from the 653 killed in 2004.

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E-ducation without Borders

For sheer innovation in ideas in a wide range of disciplines varying from business to pleasure, Pakistan has a lot to learn from the UAE, this country is certainly the “new frontier”. One can never cease to be surprised by the new in the Emirates every other day. Strategic planners in education should look at the model of the recent international 3-day student conference ‘e-ducation Without Borders 2003’ (EWB 2003) in Abu Dhabi organized by the Higher Colleges of Education (HCT) in Abu Dhabi. The brainchild of HE Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the UAE Minister for Higher Education, this extraordinary idea was crafted into shape by the brilliant Vice-Chancellor of HCT, Dr Tayyab Kamali. Being personally closely associated with Shaikh Nahayan for over 5 years in a professional capacity in a financial entity, one now takes it to be the norm that this outstanding leader always combines his experience and knowledge with an inherent instinct to achieve what others would consider amazing. With a profound vision for the future, His Highness gave the ebullient Dr Kamali the necessary space and freedom to design EWB 2003 not only to be a portal for global initiatives in implementation of technology in education and lifelong learning to be explored but also a platform for discussions and creation of focus group for dialogue that would create an unique education environment in the global community.

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