Thursday, June 07, 2007

Great Articles On Mideast By Stack And Friedman

Two truly remarkable articles on the situation in the Middle East, by Megan Stack in the Los Angeles Times and columnist Tom Friedman in the New York Times, on Wednesday, June 6, showed clearly the moral squalor and impossible political situation in that region, so critical to peace in the world.

Stack's article, on her reporting experiences in Saudi Arabia over the last four years, could have served as a companion piece to the article that recently appeared in the Times by Borzou Daragahi on his experiences reporting in Iraq. Both pieces showed the tremendous resiliency and sensitivity of the reporters and allowed the readers of the Times to vicariously participate with them in those experiences. Both demonstrated the complexity in trying to decide what is both a just and realistic policy toward this benighted region, saddled with age old ethnic rivalries and a religion which long ago outlived its primitive usefulness

Stack's article was particularly poignant, showing the barbaric conditions under which all Saudi Arabian women live.

There is something terribly wrong with the male culture of the Saudi kingdom, and what to do about it poses fundamental questions for the rest of the world. No one can read about the inequalities seemingly built into Islam without feeling a deep sense of anger that, just like slavery in America, such blots on civilization can even exist.

It took a great war to eradicate slavery in the United States, since the South was no more ready to give it up peacefully than male Saudis, fortified by the brutal religious police, are willing to emancipate women.

As I read this, I wondered how eventually the Saudi situation can be ameliorated. One historic example, although not very acceptable, can be seen in the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Peru, when, finding barbaric religions that countenanced slavery and even human sacrifice, the Spanish simply destroyed them, forcibly converting the Aztecs and Incas to Catholicism, but at tremendous human costs which centuries later are still being felt. A more encouraging example can be seen in the nonviolent change brought about by such great moral leaders and revolutionary strugglers as Mahatma Gandhi, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Lech Walesa. All led great movements which destroyed evil systems, and did so without the murderous conduct that marked the Spaniards, Lenin in Russia or Mao Tse Tung in China.

What seems clear when one reads Stack is that the world has a tremendous stake in the eventual reformation of Islam, and that we must hope that the few humane women campaigners for justice in the Muslim world will ultimately gain decisive victories. It is not going to be easy.

Meanwhile, we can only thank Stack for her sacrifices as a reporter in the Middle East. She has now gone on to another challenging assignment, in Moscow.

The second remarkable piece Wednesday, which like Stack's article ran in a publication not owned by Rupert Murdoch, was by Friedman, His column, "What a Mess," examined the political situation in the Middle East, where, as Friedman succinctly put it, "Gaza is turning into Mogadishu. Hamas is shelling Israel. Israel is retaliating. Iraq is a boiling pot. Iran is about to go nuclear. Lebanon is being pulled apart. Syria is being investigated for murdering Lebanon's prime minister. I could go on."

Friedman has to resort to quoting Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat," to characterize the situation:

"Then he shut the Things
in the box with the hook.
And the cat went away
With a sad kind of look.
"That is good," said the fish.
"He has gone away, Yes
but your mother will come,
She will find this big mess!
And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall.
we can not pick it up.
There is no way at all."

What to do? Friedman is not certain. He is not like the American presidential candidates who, day after day, have glib, simple answers for devilishly complicated problems.

"Bottom line," he concludes, "I don't know if there is a fourth way." He hopes there is, he says, "Otherwise, the mess will get even bigger, deeper and taller."

Why are newspapers so valuable. All we have to do is read Stack and Friedman to know the answer.

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