Monday, June 16, 2003

Orwell And Me -- By Margaret Atwood


"As Orwell taught, it isn't the labels - Christianity, Socialism, Islam,
Democracy, Two Legs Bad, Four Legs Good, the works - that are definitive,
but the acts done in their name."


Orwell And Me

by Margaret Atwood ; The Guardian; June 16, 2003

I grew up with George Orwell. I was born in 1939, and Animal Farm was
published in 1945. Thus, I was able to read it at the age of nine. It was
lying around the house, and I mistook it for a book about talking animals,
sort of like Wind in the Willows. I knew nothing about the kind of politics
in the book - the child's version of politics then, just after the war,
consisted of the simple notion that Hitler was bad but dead.

So I gobbled up the adventures of Napoleon and Snowball, the smart, greedy,
upwardly mobile pigs, and Squealer the spin-doctor, and Boxer the noble but
thick-witted horse, and the easily led, slogan-chanting sheep, without
making any connection with historical events.

To say that I was horrified by this book is an understatement. The fate of
the farm animals was so grim, the pigs so mean and mendacious and
treacherous, the sheep so stupid. Children have a keen sense of injustice,
and this was the thing that upset me the most: the pigs were so unjust. I
cried my eyes out when Boxer the horse had an accident and was carted off to
be made into dog food, instead of being given the quiet corner of the
pasture he'd been promised.

The whole experience was deeply disturbing to me, but I am forever grateful
to Orwell for alerting me early to the danger flags I've tried to watch out
for since. In the world of Animal Farm, most speechifying and public palaver
is bullshit and instigated lying, and though many characters are
good-hearted and mean well, they can be frightened into closing their eyes
to what's really going on.

The pigs browbeat the others with ideology, then twist that ideology to suit
their own purposes: their language games were evident to me even at that
age. As Orwell taught, it isn't the labels - Christianity, Socialism, Islam,
Democracy, Two Legs Bad, Four Legs Good, the works - that are definitive,
but the acts done in their name.

I could see, too, how easily those who have toppled an oppressive power take
on its trappings and habits. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was right to warn us that
democracy is the hardest form of government to maintain; Orwell knew that to
the marrow of his bones, because he had seen it in action.

How quickly the precept "All Animals Are Equal" is changed into "All Animals
Are Equal, but Some Are More Equal Than Others". What oily concern the pigs
show for the welfare of the other animals, a concern that disguises their
contempt for those they are manipulating.

With what alacrity do they put on the once-despised uniforms of the
tyrannous humans they have overthrown, and learn to use their whips. How
self-righteously they justify their actions, helped by the verbal
web-spinning of Squealer, their nimble-tongued press agent, until all power
is in their trotters, pretence is no longer necessary, and they rule by
naked force.

A revolution often means only that: a revolving, a turn of the wheel of
fortune, by which those who were at the bottom mount to the top, and assume
the choice positions, crushing the former power-holders beneath them. We
should beware of all those who plaster the landscape with large portraits of
themselves, like the evil pig, Napoleon.

Animal Farm is one of the most spectacular Emperor-Has-No-Clothes books of
the 20th century, and it got George Orwell into trouble. People who run
counter to the current popular wisdom, who point out the uncomfortably
obvious, are likely to be strenuously baa-ed at by herds of angry sheep. I
didn't have all that figured out at the age of nine, of course - not in any
conscious way. But we learn the patterns of stories before we learn their
meanings, and Animal Farm has a very clear pattern.

Then along came Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 1949. Thus, I
read it in paperback a couple of years later, when I was in high school.
Then I read it again, and again: it was right up there among my favourite
books, along with Wuthering Heights.

At the same time, I absorbed its two companions, Arthur Koestler's Darkness
At Noon and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I was keen on all three of
them, but I understood Darkness At Noon to be a tragedy about events that
had already happened, and Brave New World to be a satirical comedy, with
events that were unlikely to unfold in exactly that way. (Orgy-Porgy,
indeed.)

Nineteen Eighty-Four struck me as more realistic, probably because Winston
Smith was more like me - a skinny person who got tired a lot and was
subjected to physical education under chilly conditions (this was a feature
of my school) - and who was silently at odds with the ideas and the manner
of life proposed for him. (This may be one of the reasons
Nineteen-Eighty-Four is best read when you are an adolescent: most
adolescents feel like that.)

I sympathised particularly with Winston's desire to write his forbidden
thoughts down in a deliciously tempting, secret blank book: I had not yet
started to write, but I could see the attractions of it. I could also see
the dangers, because it's this scribbling of his - along with illicit sex,
another item with considerable allure for a teenager of the 50s - that gets
Winston into such a mess.

Animal Farm charts the progress of an idealistic movement of liberation
towards a totalitarian dictatorship headed by a despotic tyrant; Nineteen
Eighty-Four describes what it's like to live entirely within such a system.
Its hero, Winston, has only fragmentary memories of what life was like
before the present dreadful regime set in: he's an orphan, a child of the
collectivity. His father died in the war that has ushered in the repression,
and his mother has disappeared, leaving him with only the reproachful glance
she gave him as he betrayed her over a chocolate bar - a small betrayal that
acts both as the key to Winston's character and as a precursor to the many
other betrayals in the book.

The government of Airstrip One, Winston's "country", is brutal. The constant
surveillance, the impossibility of speaking frankly to anyone, the looming,
ominous figure of Big Brother, the regime's need for enemies and wars -
fictitious though both may be - which are used to terrify the people and
unite them in hatred, the mind-numbing slogans, the distortions of language,
the destruction of what has really happened by stuffing any record of it
down the Memory Hole - these made a deep impression on me. Let me re-state
that: they frightened the stuffing out of me. Orwell was writing a satire
about Stalin's Soviet Union, a place about which I knew very little at the
age of 14, but he did it so well that I could imagine such things happening
anywhere.

There is no love interest in Animal Farm, but there is in Nineteen
Eighty-Four. Winston finds a soulmate in Julia; outwardly a devoted Party
fanatic, secretly a girl who enjoys sex and makeup and other spots of
decadence. But the two lovers are discovered, and Winston is tortured for
thought-crime - inner disloyalty to the regime.

He feels that if he can only remain faithful in his heart to Julia, his soul
will be saved - a romantic concept, though one we are likely to endorse. But
like all absolutist governments and religions, the Party demands that every
personal loyalty be sacrificed to it, and replaced with an absolute loyalty
to Big Brother.

Confronted with his worst fear in the dreaded Room 101, where a nasty device
involving a cage-full of starving rats can be fitted to the eyes, Winston
breaks: "Don't do it to me," he pleads, "do it to Julia." (This sentence has
become shorthand in our household for the avoidance of onerous duties. Poor
Julia - how hard we would make her life if she actually existed. She'd have
to be on a lot of panel discussions, for instance.)

After his betrayal of Julia, Winston becomes a handful of malleable goo. He
truly believes that two and two make five, and that he loves Big Brother.
Our last glimpse of him is sitting drink-sodden at an outdoor cafe, knowing
he's a dead man walking and having learned that Julia has betrayed him, too,
while he listens to a popular refrain: "Under the spreading chestnut tree/ I
sold you and you sold me ..."

Orwell has been accused of bitterness and pessimism - of leaving us with a
vision of the future in which the individual has no chance, and where the
brutal, totalitarian boot of the all-controlling Party will grind into the
human face, for ever.

But this view of Orwell is contradicted by the last chapter in the book, an
essay on Newspeak - the doublethink language concocted by the regime. By
expurgating all words that might be troublesome - "bad" is no longer
permitted, but becomes "double-plus-ungood" - and by making other words mean
the opposite of what they used to mean - the place where people get tortured
is the Ministry of Love, the building where the past is destroyed is the
Ministry of Information - the rulers of Airstrip One wish to make it
literally impossible for people to think straight. However, the essay on
Newspeak is written in standard English, in the third person, and in the
past tense, which can only mean that the regime has fallen, and that
language and individuality have survived. For whoever has written the essay
on Newspeak, the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is over. Thus, it's my view
that Orwell had much more faith in the resilience of the human spirit than
he's usually been given credit for.

Orwell became a direct model for me much later in my life - in the real
1984, the year in which I began writing a somewhat different dystopia, The
Handmaid's Tale. By that time I was 44, and I had learned enough about real
despotisms - through the reading of history, travel, and my membership of
Amnesty International - so that I didn't need to rely on Orwell alone.

The majority of dystopias - Orwell's included - have been written by men,
and the point of view has been male. When women have appeared in them, they
have been either sexless automatons or rebels who have defied the sex rules
of the regime. They have acted as the temptresses of the male protagonists,
however welcome this temptation may be to the men themselves.

Thus Julia; thus the cami-knicker-wearing, orgy-porgy seducer of the Savage
in Brave New World; thus the subversive femme fatale of Yevgeny Zamyatin's
1924 seminal classic, We. I wanted to try a dystopia from the female point
of view - the world according to Julia, as it were. However, this does not
make The Handmaid's Tale a "feminist dystopia", except insofar as giving a
woman a voice and an inner life will always be considered "feminist" by
those who think women ought not to have these things.

The 20th century could be seen as a race between two versions of man-made
hell - the jackbooted state totalitarianism of Orwell's Nineteen Eight-Four,
and the hedonistic ersatz paradise of Brave New World, where absolutely
everything is a consumer good and human beings are engineered to be happy.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it seemed for a time that Brave
New World had won - from henceforth, state control would be minimal, and all
we would have to do was go shopping and smile a lot, and wallow in
pleasures, popping a pill or two when depression set in.

But with 9/11, all that changed. Now it appears we face the prospect of two
contradictory dystopias at once - open markets, closed minds - because state
surveillance is back again with a vengeance. The torturer's dreaded Room 101
has been with us for millennia. The dungeons of Rome, the Inquisition, the
Star Chamber, the Bastille, the proceedings of General Pinochet and of the
junta in Argentina - all have depended on secrecy and on the abuse of power.
Lots of countries have had their versions of it - their ways of silencing
troublesome dissent.

Democracies have traditionally defined themselves by, among other things -
openness and the rule of law. But now it seems that we in the west are
tacitly legitimising the methods of the darker human past, upgraded
technologically and sanctified to our own uses, of course. For the sake of
freedom, freedom must be renounced. To move us towards the improved world -
the utopia we're promised - dystopia must first hold sway.

It's a concept worthy of doublethink. It's also, in its ordering of events,
strangely Marxist. First the dictatorship of the proletariat, in which lots
of heads must roll; then the pie-in-the-sky classless society, which oddly
enough never materialises. Instead, we just get pigs with whips.

I often ask myself: what would George Orwell have to say about it?

Quite a lot.


- This is an edited extract from Margaret Atwood's contribution to BBC Radio
3's Twenty Minutes: The Orwell Essays series, broadcast tonight at 8.05pm.
Roy Hattersley's and John Carey's essays will be broadcast at the same time
on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Margaret Atwood's latest novel, Oryx
and Crake, is published by Bloomsbury.

---

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Four Poems of Emily Dickinson (1830–86).


Poem 1:

PAIN has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

--------

Poem 2:

HE ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days, 5
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

-------

Poem 3:

EACH life converges to some centre
Expressed or still;
Exists in every human nature
A goal,

Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be, 5
Too fair
For credibility’s temerity
To dare.

Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
To reach 10
Were hopeless as the rainbow’s raiment
To touch,

Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
How high
Unto the saints’ slow diligence 15
The sky!

Ungained, it may be, by a life’s low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring
Again.

---------

Poem 4:

BECAUSE I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste, 5
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school where children played
At wrestling in a ring; 10
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible, 15
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity. 20

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The Infallibility
By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
June 10, 2003


Martha Stewart’s indictment, Sammy Sosa’s corked bat and Hilary Rodham Clinton’s tell-all book are getting lots of coverage in the media. Last month Jason Blair, the condemned journalist and his editors of The New York Times were on the front pages. Punditry was there; opinions were there. But collectively what do they mean? Why are we seemingly attracted to read or hear these stories? At the same time we feel that we are betrayed by our ideologues, our heroes. Why?

James Carroll, the Boston Globe columnist provides a possible answer: “Human beings, implicitly aware of their own flaws, seem to have a constitutional urge to attribute flawlessness to a chosen elite. That urge explains the political submission to monarchs and oligarchs. It explains religious deference to priests. It explains the bourgeois assumption that, in F. Scott Fitzgerald's phrase, the rich ''are different from you and me.'' It explains the cult of celebrity. And it explains the exceedingly dangerous idea at the heart of fascism that some human beings are better than others.” [1]

The roots of fascism depend on feeling infallible, having sure dogmatic belief on one’s individual superiority of others. This is the reason we can conveniently ignore the pains of others, the sufferings of billions.

The Boston Globe columnist says that democracy assumes that all citizens are equally worthy of responsibility for the community. But there is the inherent problem of self-deception, aggrandizement of one’s individual selfishness over others. That’s the assumption democracy imposes that “all citizens are equally inclined to the self-deception that leads to the deceit of others.”[1] And because of this intrinsic problem, the democratic societies establish the very necessary check and balance systems so that these “self-deceptions” can be reigned in from getting out of bound, destroying the all valuable democracy and mutating it into deceptive “oligarchy” or jubilant plutocracy.

Power has its infinite charms and attraction that hypnotize many. And as Mr. Carroll describes that everyone of us are capable of abusing power. If allowed, most of us would have crossed the moral boundaries, and the politicians and leaders of any nations are not immune to this law of the jungle.

This is the reason there is “Bill of Rights”, there is secular constitution, legal codes. And thousands of years ago, religions presented “divine” scriptures with moral principles and strict commandments applicable to that thousands of years old dark era but later transcended to the thousands of more generations to this 21st century. But the freedom and civil rights did not fall from the sky like easy rain.

Only a few decades ago there were strenuous struggle for civil rights in America, the 1971 war in Bangladesh for freedom from oppression, the struggle against juggernaut rulers, colonialists and exploiters around the globe, the repressions of women by the Mullahs and Talibans, “holy” priests’ evangelic tortures, rabbis’ incitements on settlers’ violence, brahmanic pundits’ staunch embrace of the caste system, the segregation of lower economic classes by concocted divine decrees, the Nazi and Stalinist “superior” citizens, these are some of the tricks of the tricksters to preserve their contested power or for attaining more.

The brutal oppressions of Palestinians by the Israeli military in the occupying territory, the denial of basic rights of Palestinians in their homeland, and revenge attacks by the Palestinians on Israeli civilians, are perhaps modes of similar expression of power and rage. And that same infallible feelings against the other tribes, economic class, nations or “despised” believers of other religions explain massacres in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and many other devastated places in Africa.

And how do the societies or nations deny this imperfect “impulse” of power? James Carroll provides another subtle answer: “You do that by elevating some members of the community and denigrating others. The severest denigration is reserved, of course, for those who were first elevated, which is why Sosa, Stewart, and The New York Times fall with such a thud. If culprits are always wide-eyed with surprise when they are found out, it is because their inevitable claim that they did not know what they were doing is the exact truth. The great mystery of evil lies in the way people who choose it think they are doing something good. That is true of so-called ''venial sins,'' but it is also true of the most heinous crimes in history. The Nazis could embark on a program of anti-Jewish genocide, and Germans could acquiesce in it, only because the elimination of Jews could be seen as a positive turn (''racial purity'') in human evolution.” [1]

Many around the world fear Bush Administration’s aggressive preventive wars, many believe that the adherence to the international laws shown by the most nations who had embraced American leadership in devising these laws for the betterment of the world in the past half a century, to prevent war and more bloodshed, are in serious jeopardy.

George Soros, the billionaire American philanthropist, wrote in his recent article published in The American Prospect that the Bush administration is leading the United States and the world in the wrong direction. He said that in the past his philanthropy focused on defeating communism and helping with the transition from closed societies to open societies in the former Soviet empire. “Now I would go so far as to say that the fight for a global open society has to be fought in the United States. In short, America ought to play a very different role in the world than it is playing today.” [2]

Contrary to the popular belief held by the vast majority of people that Bush administration has chosen this “wrong direction” for greed of oil, lust for power, etc., but perhaps the Bush administration “is aiming for what it thinks of as virtue” and James Carroll describes it an earnest attempt to protect that self-same order. [1] But attaining that “virtue”, when it is fulfilled with “state-sponsored violence”, James Carroll opines that as “a line is crossed”. [1]

Here is James Carroll’s summation of argument: “The official act of killing is an assertion of absolute domination, requiring, in the case of a democracy, the obliteration of its normal self-criticism. Human beings always go to war armed first with self-deception and second with a sense of high virtue. Doubt is incompatible with war, which is why war is the natural mode of dictatorship. War makes an implicit claim to infallibility that citizens of a democracy have by definition rejected. That is why in wartime, as now in the United States, democratic structures are easily undermined.” [1]

It was philosopher Karl R. Popper, who promoted the concept of open society in his book “Open Society and Its Enemies”. Popper gives the description of “totalitarian ideologies -- such as communism and fascism” that posed a threat to an open society because of their dogmatic claim on final solution. Popper believed that “the ultimate truth is beyond human reach. Those who say they are in possession of it are making a false claim, and they can enforce it only by coercion and repression.” [2]

The Talibans adopted the similar totalitarian ideologies in their coercive repressions of millions of Afghanistanis, imposing brutal punishments on the Afghan women for violating the “veil code” or no-school for women policy or twenty-four hour male attendant requirements under the scorching sun or eclipsed moon.

Saddam the “evildoers”, placed on the throne and pampered for decades by the foreign interventionists and profiteers, committed gross human rights violations, killed thousands of innocent Iraqis and through bloody war and invasion against Iranians and Kuwaitis in the name of preservation of his “virtue”.

James Carroll depicts that all these despotic rulers believed in their causes, however inhumane they may seem to the outside world, for them, they were pursuing a “greater purpose”. Extermination of the oppositions and “inferiors” and “infidels” or “evildoers” in Bush’s coined terms, are cent percent legitimate in their book of “morality”. Or should we say “immorality”?

Men are not infallible and are not enshrined with endless virtues. And this is the reason as James Carroll points out that democracy matters. It matters because it shows “why war is wrong and why nonviolence must come”. [1]




References
1. James Carroll, “Fallibility, Democracy, and War”, The Boston Globe, June 10, 2003. http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/161/oped/Fallibility_democracy_and_war+.shtml

2. George Soros, “America’s Global Role”, The American Prospect, http://www.prospect.org/print/V14/6/soros-g.html

3. Picture Reference: http://naid.sppsr.ucla.edu/expo67/map-docs/images/mancommunity.jpg



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Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: sohelkarim@yahoo.com.

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America's Global Role

Dear Readers,

I had read the attached article by George Soros while I was writing an article earlier this evening. Mr. Soros has done commendable job in describing the relevant issue of our time in accessible language.

Regards,
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
June 10, 2003


America's Global Role

Why the fight for a worldwide open society begins at home
By George Soros

On May 27, 1999, at the invitation of then-Dean Paul Wolfowitz, I delivered a commencement address at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. I spoke about my vision for a global open society and Wolfowitz, now deputy secretary of defense, seemed to be on the same wavelength. We had both participated in a small group called The Action Council for the Balkans, which was agitating for a more muscular policy against Slobodan Milosevic. We advocated military intervention in Bosnia much sooner than it happened. I remember a lively exchange with Colin Powell when I questioned the Powell doctrine of "we do deserts but we don't do mountains." I was very supportive of Madeleine Albright's activism on Kosovo, where I was in favor of a coalition of the willing: NATO intervention without United Nations authorization.

On March 7, 2003, on the eve of war with Iraq, I gave another speech at the same graduate school. This article is adapted from that speech. I was then and continue to be in favor of the removal from power of Saddam Hussein, who was, because of his chemical and biological weapons, an even more dangerous despot than Milosevic. I would like to see regime change in many other places. I am particularly concerned about Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe's regime is going from bad to worse. I also see Muammar Quaddafi as a dangerous troublemaker in Africa. I support a project on Burma, or Myanmar as it is now called, which backs Aung San Suu Kyi as the democratically elected leader. I have foundations in central Asia, and I would like to see regime change in countries such as Turkmenistan. And, of course, I hoped for an easy victory in Iraq, if we went to war at all.

Yet I am profoundly opposed to the Bush administration's policies, not only in Iraq but altogether. My opposition is much more profound than it was in the case of the Clinton administration. I believe the Bush administration is leading the United States and the world in the wrong direction. In the past, my philanthropy focused on defeating communism and helping with the transition from closed societies to open societies in the former Soviet empire. Now I would go so far as to say that the fight for a global open society has to be fought in the United States. In short, America ought to play a very different role in the world than it is playing today.

Because open society is an abstract idea, I shall proceed from the abstract and general to the concrete and particular. The concept of "open society" was developed by philosopher Karl R. Popper, whose book Open Society and Its Enemies argued that totalitarian ideologies -- such as communism and fascism -- posed a threat to an open society because they claimed to have found the final solution. The ultimate truth is beyond human reach. Those who say they are in possession of it are making a false claim, and they can enforce it only by coercion and repression. So Popper derived the principles of freedom and democracy -- the same principles that President Bush championed in his February speech on Iraq -- from the recognition that we may be wrong.

That brings us to the crux of the matter. Bush makes absolutely no allowance for the possibility that we may be wrong, and he has no tolerance for dissenting opinion. If you are not with us you are against us, he proclaims. Donald Rumsfeld berates our European allies who disagree with him on Iraq in no uncertain terms, and he has a visceral aversion to international cooperation, be it with NATO or UN peacekeepers in Afghanistan. And John Ashcroft accuses those who opposed the USA Patriot Act of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. These are the views of extremists, not adherents to an open society. Perhaps because of my background, these views push the wrong buttons in me. And I am amazed and disappointed that the general public does not have a similar allergic reaction. Of course, that has a lot to do with September 11.

But the trouble goes much deeper. It is not merely that the Bush administration's policies may be wrong, it is that they are wrong, and I would go even further: They are bound to be wrong because they are based on a false ideology. A dominant faction within the Bush administration believes that international relations are relations of power. Because we are unquestionably the most powerful, they claim, we have earned the right to impose our will on the rest of the world.

This position is enshrined in the Bush doctrine that was first enunciated in the president's speech at West Point in June 2002 and then incorporated in the National Security Strategy last September.

The Bush doctrine is built on two pillars: First, the United States will do everything in its power to maintain its unquestioned military supremacy, and second, the United States arrogates the right to preemptive action. Taken together, these two pillars support two classes of sovereignty: the sovereignty of the United States, which takes precedence over international treaties and obligations, and the sovereignty of all other states, which is subject to the Bush doctrine. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm: All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

To be sure, the Bush doctrine is not stated so starkly; it is buried in Orwellian doublespeak. The doublespeak is needed because there is a contradiction between the Bush administration's concepts of freedom and democracy and the principles of open society.

In an open society, people can decide for themselves what they mean by freedom and democracy. But the Bush administration claims that we have discovered the ultimate truth. The very first sentence of our latest National Security Strategy reads as follows:

"The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom -- and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise."

This statement is false on two counts. First, there is no single, sustainable model for national success. And second, our model, which has been successful, is not available to others because our success depends greatly on our dominant position at the center of the global capitalist system, and that position is not attainable by others.

According to the ideologues of the far right, who currently dominate the Bush administration, the success of the American model has been brought about by a combination of market fundamentalism in economic matters and the pursuit of military supremacy in international relations. These two objectives fit neatly together into a coherent ideology -- an ideology that is internally consistent but does not jibe with reality or with the principles of open society. It is a kind of crude social Darwinism in which the survival of the fittest depends on competition, not cooperation. In the economy, the competition is among firms; in international relations, among states. Cooperation does not seem necessary because there is supposed to be an invisible hand at work that will ensure that as long as everybody looks out for his or her own interests, the common interest will look after itself.

This doctrine is false, even with regard to the economy. Financial markets left to their own devices do not tend toward an equilibrium that guarantees the optimum allocation of resources. The theories of efficient markets and rational expectations don't stand up to critical examination. But at least these theories exist, and they are widely accepted.

No similar theory can reasonably be proposed with regard to international relations. There is the well-known doctrine of geopolitical realism according to which states have interests but no principles. But nobody can deny that there are common human interests that transcend national interests.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world and, due to the progress of technology, our power over nature has increased by leaps and bounds. Unless we use that power wisely, we are in danger of damaging or destroying both our environment and our civilization. These are not empty words. Terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction give us a taste of what lies ahead. The need for a better world order predates September 11, but the terrorist threat has rendered international cooperation all the more necessary.

That is not how the Bush administration sees the world. Its perspective is not totally false but it emphasizes one aspect of reality to the exclusion of others. The aspect it stresses is power, and in particular military power. But military power is not the only kind of power; no empire could ever be held together by military power alone. Joseph S. Nye Jr., in his recent book The Paradox of American Power, introduced the concept of "soft power" to bring the point home.

I would go even further. Applying the concept of power to human affairs is altogether questionable. In physics, power or force governs the behavior of objects. That is a misleading analogy for human affairs. People have a will of their own. They may be cowed by military power or other forms of repression, but that is not a sound principle of social organization. Might is not right.

Yet that is the belief that guides the Bush administration. Israel's Ariel Sharon shares the same belief, and look where that has led. The idea that might is right cannot be reconciled with the idea of an open society.

The objective of disarming Saddam Hussein was a valid one, but the way the U.S. government has gone about it is not. That is why there was so much opposition to the war throughout the world and at home. That is why I shall remain opposed to the Bush administration's conduct of foreign policy.

There is an alternative vision of the role that the United States ought to play in the world, and it is based on the concept of open society. The current world order is a distorted form of a global open society. It is distorted because we have global markets but we do not have global political institutions. As a consequence, we are much better at producing private goods than taking care of public goods such as preserving peace, protecting the environment and ensuring economic stability, progress and social justice. This is not by accident.

Globalization -- and by that I mean the globalization of financial markets -- was a market fundamentalist project, and the United States was its chief architect. We are also the chief beneficiary. We are unquestionably the dominant power in the world today. Our dominance is not only economic and financial but also military and technological. No other country can even come close to us.

This puts us in a position of unique responsibility. Other countries have to respond to U.S. policy, but the United States is in a position to choose the policy to which others have to respond. We have a greater degree of discretion than anybody else in deciding what shape the world should take. Therefore it is not enough for the United States to preserve its supremacy over other states; it must also concern itself with the well-being of the world.

There were great tensions in the global capitalist system prior to September 11, but they have gotten much worse since then. We must work to reduce the tensions and make the system stable and equitable so that we can maintain our dominant position within it.

That is the responsibility that we fail to live up to. Worse, the Bush administration does not even acknowledge that we bear such a responsibility. It attributes our dominant position to the success of the American model in fair competition with other countries. But that is a self-deception.

Contrary to the tenets of market fundamentalism, the global capitalist system does not constitute a level playing field. In economic and financial matters, there is a disparity between the center and the periphery. And in military matters, there is a disparity between the United States and the rest of the world because the European Union, as distinct from its member states, does not seek to be a military power. There are large and growing inequalities in the world, and we lack the mechanism for reducing them. Therefore we need to strengthen our international political institutions to match the globalization of our markets. Only the United States can lead the way because without U.S. participation, nothing much can be done in the way of international cooperation.

A world order based on the sovereignty of states, moreover, cannot take care of our common human interests. The main source of poverty and misery in the world today is bad government -- repressive, corrupt regimes and failed states. And yet it is difficult to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries because the principle of sovereignty stands in the way.

One way to overcome the problem is to offer countries positive inducements for becoming open societies. That is the missing ingredient in the current world order. There are penalties for bad behavior, from trade sanctions to military intervention, but not enough incentives and reinforcements for good behavior. A global open society would achieve certain standards by providing assistance to those who are unable to meet them. States that violate the standards could be punished through exclusion. There would be a better balance between rewards and reinforcements on the one hand and penalties on the other. In a global open society, every country would benefit from belonging to it. Developing countries would get better access to markets under the World Trade Organization. Countries at the periphery, such as Brazil, would be guaranteed an adequate supply of credit through the International Monetary Fund as long as they followed sound policies, and there would be a genuine attempt to meet the UN's millennium goals of reducing poverty and improving lives throughout the world.

Providing incentives, of course, would not be sufficient. Not all countries have governments that want or tolerate an open society. A rogue regime such as Saddam Hussein's was a threat to the rest of the world, and a global open society must be able to defend itself. But the use of military force must remain a last resort.

The United States cannot create a global open society on its own. No single country can act as the police officer or the benefactor of the entire world. But a global open society cannot be achieved without American leadership. This means that the United States must engage in international cooperation. It must be willing to abide by the rules it seeks to impose on others, to accept its share of the costs and, most importantly, to accept that other participants are bound to have other opinions, and other states other national interests. The United States will always have veto rights due to its weight and importance.

Here is an alternative vision of America's role in the world. It is the vision of America leading the world toward a global open society. Such a vision is badly needed. After September 11, President Bush has managed to convince the country that it is unpatriotic to disagree with him.

The two visions -- American supremacy and America as the leader of a global open society -- are not that far apart. In fact, they are so close to each other that I am afraid that when the pursuit of American supremacy fails -- as it is bound to fail -- the vision of a global open society will also be abandoned. That is why it is so important to distinguish between them.

Both visions recognize the dominant position of the United States. Both agree that the United States has to take an active leadership role in international affairs. Both favor preemptive action. But when it comes to the kind of preemptive action that America ought to take, the two visions differ. A global open society requires affirmative action on a global scale while the Bush approach is restricted to punitive action. In the open-society version, crisis prevention cannot start early enough; it is impossible to predict which grievance will develop into bloodshed, and by the time we know, it is too late. That is why the best way to prevent conflicts is to foster open societies.

The Bush administration claims to be fostering democracy by invading Iraq. But democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. I have been actively involved in building open societies in a number of countries through my network of foundations. Speaking from experience, I would never choose Iraq for nation building.

Military occupation is the easy part; what comes afterward is what should give us pause. The internal tensions and the external ones with neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iran will make it very difficult to establish a democratic Iraqi regime. To impose a military regime as Douglas MacArthur did in post-World War II Japan would be to court disaster.

It would have been easier to achieve success in Afghanistan because both the Taliban and al-Qaeda were alien oppressors. But having won a resounding military victory, we failed to follow through with nation building. Secretary Rumsfeld opposed the extension of UN peacekeeping beyond Kabul, and, as a result, law and order have still not been fully established outside the capital. Hamid Karzai needs to be protected by American bodyguards. His government is making slow progress, but the historic opportunity to build on the momentum of liberation was irretrievably lost.

The war with Iraq does not help the building of open societies in other countries, either. In our efforts to gain allies and buy votes in the United Nations, we have become less concerned with internal conditions in those countries than we ought to be. This is true of Russia and Pakistan and all the central Asian republics, not to mention Angola and Cameroon, which are among the most corrupt regimes in Africa. To claim that we are invading Iraq for the sake of establishing democracy is a sham, and the rest of the world sees it as such. The Atlantic Alliance has been severely disrupted, and both NATO and the European Union are in disarray.

Disarming Iraq is a valid objective, but with regard to weapons of mass destruction, Iraq ought not to be the top priority today. North Korea is much more dangerous, and it has to be said that President Bush precipitated the current crisis. North Korea's nuclear program had been more or less contained in 1994 by the Agreed Framework concluded by the Clinton administration. In the meantime, President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea had engaged in a sunshine policy, and it began to bear fruit. There was progress in removing land mines along the border, and a direct train connection was about to be opened. The North Korean leadership seemed to become increasingly aware that it needed economic reforms.

When Kim Dae Jung came to Washington as the first foreign head of state to visit President Bush, he wanted to enlist the president's support for the sunshine policy. But Bush rebuffed him rather brusquely and publicly. Bush disapproved of what he regarded as the appeasement of North Korea, and he was eager to establish a discontinuity with the Clinton administration. He also needed North Korea out in the cold in order to justify the first phase of the National Missile Defense program, the initial linchpin in the Bush strategy of asserting U.S. supremacy. Then came the "axis of evil" speech, and when North Korea surprised the Bush administration by admitting its uranium-enrichment program (strictly speaking not in violation of the Agreed Framework because that covered only plutonium), Bush cut off the supply of fuel oil. North Korea responded with various provocations.

As this magazine goes to press, North Korea could soon start producing a nuclear bomb a month. In mid-April, it backed off its demand for bilateral talks with the United States and agreed to three-way talks with the United States and China. But a serious rift between the United States and South Korea remains. South Koreans now regard the United States as being as much of an aggressor as North Korea, and this renders our position very difficult.

The Bush administration's policies have brought about many unintended, adverse consequences. Indeed, it is difficult to find a similar time span during which political and economic conditions have deteriorated as rapidly as they have in the last couple of years.

But the game is not yet over. The quick victory in Iraq could bring about a dramatic change in the overall situation. The price of oil could fall, the stock market could celebrate, consumers could overcome their anxieties and resume spending, and business could respond by stepping up capital expenditures. The United States could reduce its dependency on Saudi Arabia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could become more tractable and negotiations with North Korea could calm tensions with Pyongyang. That is what the Bush administration is counting on.

The jury is out. But whatever the outcome in Iraq, I predict that the Bush approach is bound to fail eventually because it is based on false premises. I base my prediction on my theory of reflexivity and my study of boom-bust processes, or bubbles, in the financial markets.

Bubbles do not grow out of thin air. They have a solid basis in reality, but misconception distorts reality. In this case, the dominant position of the United States is the reality, the pursuit of American supremacy the misconception. For a while, reality can reinforce the misconception, but eventually it is bound to become unsustainable. During the self-reinforcing phase, the misconception seems irresistible but, unless it is corrected earlier, a dramatic reversal becomes inevitable. The later it comes the more devastating the consequences. There seems to be an inexorable quality about the course of events, but, of course, a boom-bust process can be aborted at any stage. Most stock-market booms are aborted long before the extremes of the recent bull market are reached. The sooner it happens, the better. That is how I feel about the Bush doctrine.

I firmly believe that President Bush is leading the United States and the world in the wrong direction and I consider it nothing short of tragic that the terrorist threat has induced the country to line up behind him so uncritically. The Bush administration came into office with an unsound and eventually unsustainable ideology. Prior to September 11, it could not make much headway in implementing its ideology because it lacked a clear mandate and a clearly defined enemy. September 11 changed all that. The terrorist attack removed both constraints.

Terrorism is the ideal enemy because it is invisible and therefore never disappears. Having an enemy that poses a genuine and widely recognized threat can be very effective in holding the nation together. That is particularly useful when the prevailing ideology is based on the unabashed pursuit of self-interest. By declaring war on terrorism, President Bush gained the mandate he had previously lacked to pursue his goals. The Bush administration is deliberately fostering fear because it helps to keep the nation lined up behind the president. We have come a long way from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

But the war on terrorism -- which is supposed to include the war on Iraq -- cannot be accepted as the guiding principle of our foreign policy. What will happen to the world if the most powerful country on earth -- the one that sets the agenda -- is solely preoccupied with self-preservation? America must play a more constructive role if humanity is to make any progress.

Acting as the leader of a global open society will not protect the United States from terrorist attacks. But by playing a constructive role, we can regain the respect and support of the world, and this will make the task of fighting terrorism easier.

The Bush vision of American supremacy is not only unsound and unsustainable, it is also in contradiction with American values. We are an open society. The principles of open society are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. And the institutions of our democracy are protected by our Constitution. The fact that we have a bunch of far-right ideologues in our executive branch does not turn us into a totalitarian dictatorship. There are checks and balances, and the president must obtain the support of the people. I put my faith in the people. But in the end, open society will not survive unless those who live in it believe in it.


Source: George Soros, "America's Global Role," The American Prospect vol. 14 no. 6, June 1, 2003

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh: The Clear and Present Danger

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
June 8, 2003


The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it the “biggest mass poisoning of a population in history”. There are millions of Bangladeshis exposed to poisonous arsenic from drinking water. Even rice and other crops irrigated with toxic water are in question. The rise of cancer, ulcers, gangrene, and painful warts are reported from various corners of Bangladesh those are directly linked to arsenic poisoning. WHO says that within the next decade one-tenth of all deaths in southern Bangladesh will be due to this arsenic crisis. That is about 20,000 deaths per year.

Will anyone be held responsible for this?


Arsenic, Microbes and Tragedy of Turtle Pace

Scientists observe that the arsenic poisoning in water is a natural phenomenon. Many of them believe that arsenic has been eroded naturally from the Himalayas by the Ganges over thousands of years and deposited amid silt in the river’s delta region. [1] Many believe that arsenic used to be attached with the silt on iron hydroxide particles. And now, either “as bacteria break down the iron compounds, “ or “due to changes caused by pumping” [1] of millions of wells, arsenic is coming loose from the silt and seeping into the water. Most wells in Bangladesh get their water from the depth zone of 65 to 260 feet below the surface level, and this is the same zone that arsenic is poisoning water as well.

A few MIT scientists put emphasis on the microbe’s involvement; they believe that “arsenic-breathing bacteria may be playing a role in the arsenic contamination of water wells in Bangladesh.” [2] This research may provide valuable insights on the ongoing efforts by the researchers on this tragic issue.

There are lots to learn on these arsenic-breathing microbes. In an article published in the Science journal, two of the researchers wrote, “It's possible that they are environmentally significant. For instance, they may play a role in arsenic contamination of water wells by converting arsenic from a largely inert form into a toxic, water-soluble form.”[2]

Many calls it a great tragedy for the poor people of Bangladesh who are already suffering from devastating yearly floods, immense poverty, corruption and other misfortunes associated with any other poor nations.

The Bangladeshi government and other international organizations have taken a few good steps. The World Bank is currently funding a project to survey and replace wells in 4000 villages of Bangladesh. But due to the sheer bureaucracy since the inception of this project in 1998, “so far, only about 15 percent of the country’s wells have been tested”. [1] That’s called the turtle pace and is not acceptable in this increasingly alarming arsenic crisis.


Noble Goal of UNICEF and Bangladesh Government?

Drinking water is becoming more and more a scarce resource around the globe. On June 5, the World’s “Environment Day”, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan provided a stark gloomy picture of this priceless commodity, he said, “Water-related diseases kill a child every eight seconds. One person in six lives without regular access to safe drinking water. Over twice that number -- 2.4 billion -- lack access to adequate sanitation." [3]

In the beginning, a few decades ago, due to the pollution on the surface water in Bangladesh, due to the rising cholera and typhoid and other water born diseases among the populace, especially the children, it was UNICEF that led the mass wells digging effort in Bangladesh. About 10 million or more wells now exist in Bangladesh from this massive effort. UNICEF’s original goal and intention were noble. They wanted to replace the polluted water sources, rivers and ponds that caused diseases and deaths among the populace.

In the time of distress, and arsenic is nothing but a full-blown catastrophe that is still materializing, one cannot stop wondering, is their any responsibilities that UNICEF should assume? Does the past and previous Bangladeshi government have any dubious roles in this tragedy? No saner person can accuse any purposeful, intentional maligns regarding arsenic crisis in Bangladesh, but is there any criminal negligence involved?

From the very beginning when this crisis came out to the public, UNICEF kept their points of opinion straight regarding their inability of identifying arsenic in any possible testing before undertaking the massive well-digging operations in Bangladesh. They maintain that at the time, standard procedures for testing the safety of groundwater did not include tests for arsenic [which] had never before been found in the kind of geological formations that exist in Bangladesh. [4]

But there are critics who do not buy into UNICEF’s official hand-wash version of responsibility. Many believes that it was religion like dogma held by the public health officials at the time without the knowledge of local geology, who maintained that ground water was safe without initiating a thorough scientific tests that would include arsenic test as well. Even in late 1980, before the arsenic news finally came out from its slumber, a British engineer named Peter Ravenscroft blew the alarm whistle on arsenic in ground water from his testing in Bangladesh. He said that he first found arsenic in groundwater in the late 1980s and published his findings in 1990. [4]

Though there were alarming number of arsenic poisoning cases being reported across Bangladesh, as far as 1985 when ill Bangladeshis were crossing border to India for medical treatment, but the Government of Bangladesh maintains that it knew about the crisis from 1993. It took another two precious years before acknowledging the widespread arsenic problem. And it took a few more years for the international organizations before offering their monetary help in the battle against arsenic.


The British Geological Survey Saga

The British Geological Survey is in trouble. In May 2003, a British judge ruled that 750 Bangladeshi arsenic victims should be able to sue the British Geological Survey, or BGS, a British government-owned research body, for failing to spot the poison in wells sunk across Bangladesh over the past 20 years. [1]

In 1992, BGS conducted a “reconnaissance survey” in Bangladesh to find out water quality in 150 wells “in central and northeastern Bangladesh”. [1] Though the World Health Organization had set international standards for testing arsenic in water supplies [1] eight years prior to BGS’ survey in Bangladesh, BGS for seemingly unexplainable “ignorant” reasons did not include arsenic as the trace elements in their tests.

Geochemistry professor John McArthur at London’s University College firmly believe that BGS should have looked for arsenic in their tests since “the BGS should have known about a series of studies linking an epidemic of arsenic poisoning just over the border in western India to contaminated water pumped up from the Ganges delta. They included a report by the World Health Organization published four years before.” [1] The British judge was quite right that there is indeed a case that BGS must explain about its inability to conduct the arsenic test that could have detected the crisis years earlier.


Statistics of Deaths of the Poor

For the vast majority of poor Bangladeshis, who have limited access to clean water, their ponds, rivers are polluted, who had depended on the deep-wells for so long, now are facing dilemma.

Water is the most essential element of life. And now they have the choice of drinking either the polluted water from the surface sources or poisoned water from deep-wells.

Arsenic is a slow killer. There are already high rises of malicious diseases among the Bangladeshi populace, and in this impoverished nation, who keeps the meticulous statistics of deaths of the poor on the countryside?


Bottled Water: Are They Safe?

Like sprouted mushrooms, there are plentiful of bottled water industries already doing good business, taking this lucrative water-crisis as a profit making opportunity. It is not to say that there is anything wrong in this type of business if they really can provide safe drinking water for the mass. In a recent two-year research studies conducted by the international researchers [6], it was found that most bottled water on sale in Bangladesh is unsafe for drinking. These researchers claimed that the bottled water does not conform to international standards for safe drinking water.

Here are their findings: “More than half the bottles carried information about minerals and other constituents, which were not well founded. The researchers, however, didn't disclose the brand names of the bottled water, certified mostly by the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute, the official authority to certify safety of these products. Plasma Plus, an application research laboratory, carried out the water sample analysis on 58 brands of drinking water including four imported brands labeled as mineral water. The study also showed 80 percent of the manufacturers didn't mention the address or location of their plants as required by the regulation. Some addresses were also found to be false.” [6]

Even if with strict government policies and regulations, safer water can be purchased through these bottled water companies, it cannot be the solution for the millions of poor Bangladeshis who won’t be able to afford the relatively exorbitant price associated with these bottle water that only well-to-do folks can afford in Bangladesh.


Promising Developments

There are some promising developments in tackling the arsenic problem are starting to coming out for the public. “Procter Gamble is developing a flocculant agent to remove arsenic and heavy metals from water — a procedure that is being field tested in Bangladesh” last winter. [7] There are positive developments on harvesting rainwater as the possible solution to this crisis; many Bangladeshi villages have already adopted this technique. Other manufacturers, researchers are developing new water purification equipments, methods. The major obstacle is to developing and marketing the water purification equipments that can be affordable for all Bangladeshis.

The World Bank and UNICEF are jointly working on this aspect, lending their essential monetary help for various projects. And why shouldn’t they? It’s their gone awry “good” project is the cause of arsenic crisis in Bangladesh. They should open their coffers more leniently in finding the permanent solutions of this dreadful crisis.


References

1. Fred Pearce, “Is the British Geological Survey Responsible for Massive Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh?” The Boston Globe, June 3, 2003. http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/154/science/Poisoned_wells+.shtml
2. David Fox, “World Marks Environment Day with Focus on Water”, Reuters, June 5, 2003. http://asia.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=2880784

3. Byron Spice, “Arsenic: Toxic to People, Vital to Some Microbes”, Post-Gazette, May 19, 2003. http://www.post-gazette.com/healthscience/20030519arsenic0519p2.asp

4. Fred Pearce, “Bangladesh’s Arsenic Poisoning: Who is to Blame?”, The Courier, Unesco, January 2001. http://www.unesco.org/courier/2001_01/uk/planet.htm

5. Mahmud Hanif, “Arsenic in Bangladesh: Why is Responsible? Who is Paying?”, Meghbarta, February/March 2002. http://www.eng-consult.com/arsenic/article/Arsenic-Meghbarta.htm

6. “Bangladesh Study Rips Water”, Water Conditioning and Purification Magazine, February 2003: Volume 45, Number 2, http://www.wcp.net/NewsView.cfm?pkArticleID=1979

7. Wendy Wolfson, “Safe Water World”, Bio IT World, February 10, 2003. http://www.bio-itworld.com/archive/021003/horizons_water.html

8. Picture Reference: http://www.nature.com/nsu/011011/images/arsenic_160.jpg

Note: I find the following site quite helpful on Bangladesh arsenic crisis: http://www.eng-consult.com/arsenic/arsarticles.htm


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Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: sohelkarim@yahoo.com.

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Friday, June 06, 2003

Spinning Away Trust

Dear Readers,

Senator Robert Byrd, that man with gold heart and enviable guts that many in the political arena are apparently lacking right this moment, pronounced with great solemnity last month, “Truth will emerge”. And truth has ways to emerge. It may takes months or years, but historical truths do come out of the magic bags.

The neocons are not the quitter. They are repeating their infallible mantra, but the mantra sounds tiresome and perhaps not much energy in it anymore. William Kristol, one of the neocon gurus, was explaining other day Wolfwitz’s “explaining” regarding WMD statement. But this time, it was not the same feisty Kristol talking, as if, the neocons are all kind of scared, at least right this moment, anyway.

And they must be afraid. Their deception might get completely exposed to the patient Americans. Even Senator Biden, who was the Iraq war supporter said, “"I think that unless they find what was documented before, or something in addition to that, I think our credibility is damaged among our friends”.

And now the fellow Republican, Bush’s own party man, the Nebraskan Senator Chuck Hagel says, "There's no question, that the government's credibility is at issue on weapons of mass destruction, given the very strong statements of the president and the vice president" and Bush administration’s cabinet members. Senator Hagel wants to know as the rest of the world wish to know: "Where are they?” Where are those tons and tons of WMDs that was presented as the main cause of this war? When innocent bystanders die, like thousands of innocent Iraqis and soldiers, hundreds of American soldiers, there must be no hanky-panky allowed in this grievous matter.

“Citizens in a democracy accept deceiving an enemy during war. What is not acceptable is for a free government to mislead its own people to bring them around to supporting a war.” – E. J. Dionne Jr. writes in his opinion editorial in Washington Post. These are unpalatable for the neocons, but must be said for the sake of democracy.

Senator Hagel said, “The coin of the realm for everything in life, but especially for government and politics, is trust.” Heavy words. But unmistakably powerful notion that feed democracy, this is trust that people bestow to their government for the administration of their nation on their behalf, and this is trust, that must not be broken by anyone, even the superpower. E. J. Dionne is perfectly right about this.

Regards,
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
June 6, 2003


Spinning Away Trust

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Friday, June 6, 2003; Page A27

It would seem an ungracious moment to challenge the Bush administration on whether it hyped the evidence to push Americans into endorsing the war in Iraq.

After all, one core claim of the war's supporters was vindicated on Wednesday when Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, his Palestinian counterpart, committed themselves to the president's pathway to peace. Defenders of the war always said that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would change the political dynamics of the Middle East. In the short term, at least, they have been proved right.

For the Bush administration's champions, such results -- and the simple fact that a wretched dictatorship has been overthrown -- should be enough. Those who insist on holding the administration accountable for the claims it made before the war, Bush allies say, are churlish losers. The president's friends at the Wall Street Journal editorial page noted that the war's opponents are so upset about Bush's success that they "are now trying to make a war crime out of the fact that the allies haven't yet found weapons of mass destruction."

But the president's defenders have it exactly backward. The people who should worry most about the credibility gap are those who support Bush's foreign policy.

If no weapons are found, and if the administration does not come clean about why it said what it said before the war, America's ability to rally the rest of the world against future threats will be greatly weakened. So will the president's ability to rally his own nation.

Citizens in a democracy accept deceiving an enemy during war. What is not acceptable is for a free government to mislead its own people to bring them around to supporting a war.

Whether the administration likes it or not, that is the suspicion it now confronts. And while the Bush team rarely listens to its opponents, it might consider paying attention to rumblings in Congress and the warnings coming even from those who supported the president on Iraq.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, still thinks the United States was right to fight the war. Under U.N. resolutions and the peace agreement after the 1991 Gulf War, he says, the burden was on Saddam Hussein "to prove that he had destroyed what the U.N. Security Council acknowledged he possessed, as certified by the U.N. weapons inspectors."

But Biden says the administration damaged itself by "hyping" the imminence of the threat from Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his links with al Qaeda, and by greatly exaggerating his nuclear threat.

That makes it all the more urgent for the administration to either find the weapons or explain why it can't. "I think that unless they find what was documented before, or something in addition to that, I think our credibility is damaged among our friends and we've given significant political ammunition to our enemies," Biden said in an interview.

"There's no question," adds Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, "that the government's credibility is at issue on weapons of mass destruction, given the very strong statements of the president and the vice president" and members of the Cabinet. "Where are they?"

Hagel, like Biden, does not rule out the possibility that the weapons will be found. But both senators dismissed the president's claim that the discovery of two trailers allegedly used for weapons production proves that, as the president put it, "we have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The president referred to those labs again when he addressed U.S. troops in Qatar yesterday. But this time, he seemed to acknowledge the need for more convincing proof. "You know better than me he's got a big country to hide them in," Bush told the troops. "We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth."

The truth -- unvarnished and unspun -- is exactly what's required. "I'm not accusing anyone of anything right now," Hagel said yesterday, "but we have to get the facts out."

Maybe the weapons will turn up. Or perhaps the administration figures it can just ride out this challenge, as it has so many others since 9/11, and move on to other things. But as Hagel says, "the coin of the realm for everything in life, but especially for government and politics, is trust." That dictum applies even to superpowers. Two trailers and the fact that Iraq is a big country may cut it with the president's base, but not with the rest of the world.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21731-2003Jun5.html

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Douse That Killer Puff
By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
June 3, 2003


“Come on buddy! Have a puff.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing. I just don’t like smoking.”

“Hey guys! Listen! He doesn’t like smoking. Ha! Ha! Ha! Are you a chicken?”

“Please stop laughing at me.”

“If you are man enough you must smoke with us. Just a puff, please, please, please.”

“Didn’t you see that movie with the dashing hero, the Marlboro man, smoking his cigarettes, and all the girls, the prettiest ones, were dying to get his love?”

“That’s just a movie.”

“Well, smoking is cool. And if you want to be our friend, you must smoke with us.”

“Okay, just one puff, not more.”

“All righty! Just a puff.”




Thus begins the addiction of smoking. The one puff becomes the second one, then the third one, and what you know? You are addicted to the hypnotic nicotine for the rest of your life.

The billion dollar global smoking industries spend enormous amount of their investment in attracting kids, teens; the allusion of smoking mesmerizes even the grown up men and women. In pop culture, smoking is considered to be cool. It is the bastion of one’s following the “cool” dashing symbol of modernity.

And the oncology departments, the hospitals, the cardiology departments, if you ever have to visit, you will see downtrodden faces, the sleepless relatives’ glaring stares, dried tears on their cheeks still visible, waiting patiently in front of the operation theater, or emergency room. Their loved one’s stopped heart is being put under current filled electrodes for the jump start, or the resident surgeons are washing hands with crystal colored soap before doing another bloody surgery to save a patient’s life. There are painkillers, morphine, to curb the unbearable pain from cancers of all kinds, the chemotherapy, the latest gizmo of cancer experiments, are all there. But there are deaths that cannot be stopped from stealing another life, someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, or beloved wife or husband; even the small children are not immune from these tragic deaths.

Death is a certainty for us mortals. There are researches to prolong life, anti-ageing, cure for all kinds of diseases, social and political regulations to avoid tragic accidents, at work or home, or on the road from a drunken driver, but death always finds us in its unstoppable ways.

But some deaths are surely preventable. Studies after studies have conclusively proved the viciousness of smoking, the link between smoking and cancer and heart disease are made years ago. These findings are confirmed, reconfirmed in new studies, new laws are enacted to curb the smoking, higher taxes are imposed per packets of cigarettes to discourage the smokers. There are cities, municipalities around the globe where public place smoking is banned officially, with stiff fine for the law breakers, but smoking is still not been abated.

A few positive steps are taken recently, especially, the World Health Organization (WHO) has arranged The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that was concluded on March 1st 2003. The various responsible world organizations provided undisputed studies that had shown a stunning statistics that “unless countries adopt tougher anti-tobacco measures, the annual death toll will exceed 10 million by 2020, with 70% of the victims in the developing world.” [1]

Although this statistical information stuns many, but the powerful interests, the political lobbying groups, brawny from cigarette producers’ limitless coffers, are in action as well. Once they used to counter the anti-smoking camps with their own employed “scientific researchers” to prove that “cigarette is cool”. But the thousands of proven scientific cases and experiments that conclusively linked cigarette smoking with premature deaths, the cigarettes makers have backed down from pursuing their pseudo scientific theories. Now they are employing other tricks, they are raising the economic devastation myths.

Kenneth E. Warner is the University of Michigan’s Professor of Public Health. In his recent article that was published by the World Bank Group, he has flawlessly sliced the cigarette makers’ new trickery tricks.

The cigarette makers are now saying that they agree with the negative health consequences of smoking but they are against the anti-smoking policies of a nation because, according to them it will ruin a nation’s treasury because many nations depend on revenues generated by cigarette makers, the tobacco farmers will be devastated, there will be thousands of job losses in this lucrative sector. “The industry wields its argument - with country-specific estimates of the toll - every time that legislatures contemplate adopting tobacco control policies, ranging from restrictions on cigarette advertising to increased cigarette taxes to bans on smoking in public places.” [3]

And the smooth talks of cigarette makers’ dashing or beauty representatives convince the legislators of these nations. Perhaps there are more economic incentives, like kickbacks to a few influential corrupted hands are involved on the top of displaying of beauties.

Professor Warner here presents gripping viewpoints: “The industry's argument sounds compelling to the intended audience because the listeners fail to appreciate the distinction between tobacco's presence in a country and that country's dependence on tobacco. The presence of tobacco agriculture and cigarette manufacture and sale does mean that significant numbers of workers are employed in tobacco-related economic activity. The industry informs legislators and other policy influentials that a health policy-induced loss of, for example, 5% of cigarette sales will translate into a comparable loss in jobs. However, this perspective treats reduced spending on tobacco products as if it simply went up in smoke. In point of fact, if people spend less money on tobacco products, they will devote the "windfall" to other spending (and possibly some saving). That alternative pattern of spending will create jobs in other industries comparable in number to those lost in tobacco. As economists appreciate, economies are built to support a given level of employment regardless of marginal changes in spending patterns. Economists appreciate that; legislators do not. The simple fact is that, despite tobacco's widespread presence in numerous national economies, no more than a handful of countries are at all dependent on tobacco.” [3]

Also, as Professor Warner points out that even the nations who are the most successful in curbing smoking, are able to diminish it at a mere rate of 2% annually, “This means that the transition away from spending on tobacco occurs so gradually that no one need be thrown out of work. Rather, normal attrition, through voluntary job changes, retirements, and deaths, will handle any loss of tobacco industry jobs. As economist Tom Schelling put it nearly 20 years ago, success in tobacco control means not that tobacco farmers will lose their jobs, but rather that their children will be less likely to go into tobacco farming.” [3]

The fresh studies show that the poorer nations will be paying the most with their citizens’ lives since 70% of the deaths related to cigarette smoking will be coming from these poverty stricken nations.

The recent steps by the World Health Organization are encouraging, but the steps to curb smoking effectively are filled with havoc. The powerful interest groups, especially from USA, Germany, Japan, China and many other tobacco producer nations will employ their best lawyers, public speakers, hired “researchers” and goofy or charming entertainers to foil the anti-smoking initiatives. They have immense amount of resources. They are well organized, working in unison under billions of dollar worth cigarette makers’ enviable network spread from the richest to the poorest nations. But the struggles for smoking-ban is taking hold on nations; people have started asking questions on the fancy myths generated by these profit seeking, smoking greedy bunches.

In Bangladesh, “anti-smoking campaigners found that appealing to people to stop smoking for the sake of their health was ineffective. However, when campaigners showed how money spent on cigarettes meant there was less food for poor families to eat, while half of all young Bangladeshi children are malnourished, the impact was dramatic.” [1]

And in Poland, “the country’s traditional smoking culture has been turned on its head over the last 10 years, as policymakers and the medical community have helped engineer a social revolution that reduced the numbers of Polish men smoking tobacco, and has already sharply reduced lung cancer rates among young men.” [1]

The luscious smiles of model girls holding the arms of muscular Marlboro man in talismanic billboards that can be found in any metropolitan cities, the full-page colorful adds of coolness of cigarettes in glossy magazines, newspapers, and every other possible advertising mediums, are still not been thrown out into the deserved waste bins. But that day is perhaps not far away.



References
1. “Curbing the Tobacco Epidemic”, The World Bank Group, June 2, 2003.

2. “Framework Convention Alliance”, Cancer Foundation of Western Australia.

3. Kenneth E. Warner, “The Economic Consequences of Tobacco: Dispelling the Myths”, The World Bank Group.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: sohelkarim@yahoo.com.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Douse That Killer Puff


By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)

June 3, 2003



“Come on buddy! Have a puff.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing. I just don’t like smoking.”

“Hey guys! Listen! He doesn’t like smoking. Ha! Ha! Ha! Are you a chicken?”

“Please stop laughing at me.”

“If you are man enough you must smoke with us. Just a puff, please, please, please.”

“Didn’t you see that movie with the dashing hero, the Marlboro man, smoking his cigarettes, and all the girls, the prettiest ones, were dying to get his love?”

“That’s just a movie.”

“Well, smoking is cool. And if you want to be our friend, you must smoke with us.”

“Okay, just one puff, not more.”

“All righty! Just a puff.”


Thus begins the addiction of smoking. The one puff becomes the second one, then the third one, and what you know? You are addicted to the hypnotic nicotine for the rest of your life.

The billion dollar global smoking industries spend enormous amount of their investment in attracting kids, teens; the allusion of smoking mesmerizes even the grown up men and women. In pop culture, smoking is considered to be cool. It is the bastion of one’s following the “cool” dashing symbol of modernity.

And the oncology departments, the hospitals, the cardiology departments, if you ever have to visit, you will see downtrodden faces, the sleepless relatives’ glaring stares, dried tears on their cheeks still visible, waiting patiently in front of the operation theater, or emergency room. Their loved one’s stopped heart is being put under current filled electrodes for the jump start, or the resident surgeons are washing hands with crystal colored soap before doing another bloody surgery to save a patient’s life. There are painkillers, morphine, to curb the unbearable pain from cancers of all kinds, the chemotherapy, the latest gizmo of cancer experiments, are all there. But there are deaths that cannot be stopped from stealing another life, someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, or beloved wife or husband; even the small children are not immune from these tragic deaths.

Death is a certainty for us mortals. There are researches to prolong life, anti-ageing, cure for all kinds of diseases, social and political regulations to avoid tragic accidents, at work or home, or on the road from a drunken driver, but death always finds us in its unstoppable ways.

But some deaths are surely preventable. Studies after studies have conclusively proved the viciousness of smoking, the link between smoking and cancer and heart disease are made years ago. These findings are confirmed, reconfirmed in new studies, new laws are enacted to curb the smoking, higher taxes are imposed per packets of cigarettes to discourage the smokers. There are cities, municipalities around the globe where public place smoking is banned officially, with stiff fine for the law breakers, but smoking is still not been abated.

A few positive steps are taken recently, especially, the World Health Organization (WHO) has arranged The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that was concluded on March 1st 2003. The various responsible world organizations provided undisputed studies that had shown a stunning statistics that “unless countries adopt tougher anti-tobacco measures, the annual death toll will exceed 10 million by 2020, with 70% of the victims in the developing world.” [1]

Although this statistical information stuns many, but the powerful interests, the political lobbying groups, brawny from cigarette producers’ limitless coffers, are in action as well. Once they used to counter the anti-smoking camps with their own employed “scientific researchers” to prove that “cigarette is cool”. But the thousands of proven scientific cases and experiments that conclusively linked cigarette smoking with premature deaths, the cigarettes makers have backed down from pursuing their pseudo scientific theories. Now they are employing other tricks, they are raising the economic devastation myths.

Kenneth E. Warner is the University of Michigan’s Professor of Public Health. In his recent article that was published by the World Bank Group, he has flawlessly sliced the cigarette makers’ new trickery tricks.

The cigarette makers are now saying that they agree with the negative health consequences of smoking but they are against the anti-smoking policies of a nation because, according to them it will ruin a nation’s treasury because many nations depend on revenues generated by cigarette makers, the tobacco farmers will be devastated, there will be thousands of job losses in this lucrative sector. “The industry wields its argument - with country-specific estimates of the toll - every time that legislatures contemplate adopting tobacco control policies, ranging from restrictions on cigarette advertising to increased cigarette taxes to bans on smoking in public places.” [3]

And the smooth talks of cigarette makers’ dashing or beauty representatives convince the legislators of these nations. Perhaps there are more economic incentives, like kickbacks to a few influential corrupted hands are involved on the top of displaying of beauties.

Professor Warner here presents gripping viewpoints: “The industry's argument sounds compelling to the intended audience because the listeners fail to appreciate the distinction between tobacco's presence in a country and that country's dependence on tobacco. The presence of tobacco agriculture and cigarette manufacture and sale does mean that significant numbers of workers are employed in tobacco-related economic activity. The industry informs legislators and other policy influentials that a health policy-induced loss of, for example, 5% of cigarette sales will translate into a comparable loss in jobs. However, this perspective treats reduced spending on tobacco products as if it simply went up in smoke. In point of fact, if people spend less money on tobacco products, they will devote the "windfall" to other spending (and possibly some saving). That alternative pattern of spending will create jobs in other industries comparable in number to those lost in tobacco. As economists appreciate, economies are built to support a given level of employment regardless of marginal changes in spending patterns. Economists appreciate that; legislators do not. The simple fact is that, despite tobacco's widespread presence in numerous national economies, no more than a handful of countries are at all dependent on tobacco.” [3]

Also, as Professor Warner points out that even the nations who are the most successful in curbing smoking, are able to diminish it at a mere rate of 2% annually, “This means that the transition away from spending on tobacco occurs so gradually that no one need be thrown out of work. Rather, normal attrition, through voluntary job changes, retirements, and deaths, will handle any loss of tobacco industry jobs. As economist Tom Schelling put it nearly 20 years ago, success in tobacco control means not that tobacco farmers will lose their jobs, but rather that their children will be less likely to go into tobacco farming.” [3]

The fresh studies show that the poorer nations will be paying the most with their citizens’ lives since 70% of the deaths related to cigarette smoking will be coming from these poverty stricken nations.

The recent steps by the World Health Organization are encouraging, but the steps to curb smoking effectively are filled with havoc. The powerful interest groups, especially from USA, Germany, Japan, China and many other tobacco producer nations will employ their best lawyers, public speakers, hired “researchers” and goofy or charming entertainers to foil the anti-smoking initiatives. They have immense amount of resources. They are well organized, working in unison under billions of dollar worth cigarette makers’ enviable network spread from the richest to the poorest nations. But the struggles for smoking-ban is taking hold on nations; people have started asking questions on the fancy myths generated by these profit seeking, smoking greedy bunches.

In Bangladesh, “anti-smoking campaigners found that appealing to people to stop smoking for the sake of their health was ineffective. However, when campaigners showed how money spent on cigarettes meant there was less food for poor families to eat, while half of all young Bangladeshi children are malnourished, the impact was dramatic.” [1]

And in Poland, “the country’s traditional smoking culture has been turned on its head over the last 10 years, as policymakers and the medical community have helped engineer a social revolution that reduced the numbers of Polish men smoking tobacco, and has already sharply reduced lung cancer rates among young men.” [1]

The luscious smiles of model girls holding the arms of muscular Marlboro man in talismanic billboards that can be found in any metropolitan cities, the full-page colorful adds of coolness of cigarettes in glossy magazines, newspapers, and every other possible advertising mediums, are still not been thrown out into the deserved waste bins. But that day is perhaps not far away.



References
1. “Curbing the Tobacco Epidemic”, The World Bank Group, June 2, 2003.

2. “Framework Convention Alliance”, Cancer Foundation of Western Australia.

3. Kenneth E. Warner, “The Economic Consequences of Tobacco: Dispelling the Myths”, The World Bank Group.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: sohelkarim@yahoo.com.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday, June 02, 2003

Beat Cancer

Dear Readers,

Yahoo has done commendable job in promoting Cancer Prevention theme in its home page. June 1st was the National Cancer Survival Day. The following inspiring quotations of leaders and celebrities provide hopeful messages beating Cancer, the big C. Cancer is one fight that human species must win, and this is a winnable battle. Early detection is one of the keys beating cancer now, but there are tremendous amount of scientific research going on around the globe. Hopefully, with combined efforts, the ingenuity of men and women will make cancer the defeated disease for our and future generations.

Regards,
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
June 2, 2003

Source of the following quotations is: http://health.yahoo.com/health/centers/bone_health/6661.html


"Like so many others, I became more intimately involved with the fight against breast cancer when my mother, Carol, was stricken by this terrible disease in the late 80's. What I found to be particularly troubling was that while the rate for breast cancer was at an unacceptable 1 in 9 women nationally, the local rate on Long Island was a disproportional and catastrophic 1 in 6. For nearly a decade, my mother and her friends have provided support, raised awareness and funds to help find a cure through the Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund."

- Billy Baldwin, (Actor)


"As a cancer survivor, I cannot overstate the importance of early medical screening. Early detection has saved thousands of lives, including mine."

- Roy Blunt, (House Majority Whip)


"Because of the medical industry's advances in detection, I was able to stop cancer before it started. The awareness of modern prevention, early detection methodologies and modern treatments remain key to the battle to beat cancer, and I'd like to remind the American people that this is a fight we should all be determined to win."

- Conrad Burns, (U.S. Senator, R-Montana)


"The National Cancer Survivors Day is an opportunity for all of us to recognize that there are people who have survived this disease and can be an inspiration to all those who are facing the challenge of cancer. Let us learn from these people and put our collective efforts in doing everything possible in overcoming this disease."

- Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, (The Chopra Center at La Costa Resort and Spa)


"I lost my brother to leukemia when he was nearly four. Today, he would have an 80% survival rate. Let's keep fighting the fight against cancer!"

- Cindy Crawford, (Supermodel)


"National Cancer Survivors Day is a triumph of human spirit and medical science. It is a testament to how far cancer treatment has come and a tribute to the nearly 9 million Americans continuing to live their lives after a cancer diagnosis. The courage of these survivors is an inspiration to us all. It is also a reminder of what is possible -- and why we must continue this essential work to save lives."

- Tom Daschle, (U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, D-South Dakota)


"I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. My cancer was found accidentally - the doctors were looking for something else. Following my diagnosis, I was hospitalized three times and made it through radiation treatment. I have been cancer-free for seventeen years now. I know how lucky I was that my cancer was found in the early stages, when chances of long-term survival are close to 95 percent. But no woman should have to depend on luck when it comes to deciding life and death. There is still no early detection tool, like a mammogram, to detect ovarian cancer in the early stages when it is highly curable, and as a result ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers. We need to be vigilant and press Congress, our health research institutions, and private manufacturers to continue the investment in research that will unlock the mysteries that still surround ovarian cancer and give us an accurate screening method."

- Rosa DeLauro, (U.S. Congresswoman, D-Third District of Connecticut)


"Cancer affects everyone, regardless of race, ancestry or gender - we are all at risk. I'm proud to stand with cancer survivors across America as we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day together. Great progress has been made in cancer research and technologies over the years. I am confident that together, through research, science, and sheer perseverance, we will be able to conquer this disease once and for all. Early detection is crucial in the battle against cancer, where every second counts. Sadly, many Americans, particularly the uninsured, are forced to wait until it is too late to seek proper treatment. We must commit ourselves to ensuring that health care - and cancer detection services - are available to all Americans."

- John D. Dingell, (Congressman, D-Michigan)


"I am a cancer survivor. Although I'm not glad I had cancer, and I don't wish it on anybody, I am better for it. Sometimes the best gifts come in the ugliest packages!"

- Fran Drescher, (Actress, Cancer Survivor)


"I lost my father to colon cancer but am happy to say I have several family members who are long time cancer survivors. Everyone needs to be pro-active and know the various warning signs. We still need to find the cures, BUT early detection and research to make detection easier at earlier stages, along with the treatments needs, is still a must. I salute all those winning the battle."

- Dennis Franz, (Emmy Award winning actor and an NCCRA celebrity ambassador)


"Like so many of you, cancer has affected me personally. My only two sisters lost their lives to breast cancer and two of my brothers also died of the disease. I strongly believe we must do more to fight this disease. One of the ways I feel that we can win the battle against cancer is through increased research. As chair and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that funds health initiatives, I am proud that we were able to appropriate more than $4.62 billion for the National Cancer Institute. We must ensure that cancer is detected early enough to apply treatments effectively, and we must continue to press hard to find a cure. Together, we can win the fight against this terrible disease."

- Tom Harkin, (U.S. Senator, D-Iowa)


"Cancer has affected each and every person in some way, whether touching a cherished family member, friend or dealing with cancer yourself. The mere mention of the word can invoke terror. My mother survived breast cancer and my grandmother did not. Early detection is the best defense and information and education, the key to staying healthy."

- Mary Hart, (Co-Host, Entertainment Tonight)


"All cancers are terrible diseases and take their toll on a person's life and family. Leukemia left it's mark on my family by taking my father. His passing was a difficult time made easier by my father's personal strength and the advancements in medication. With continued research we are bound to stop these diseases from effecting our families in the future."

- Todd Martin, (Professional Tennis Player)


"I am proud to stand among the over 8.9 million cancer survivors to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day. Cancer strikes millions of Americans each year and it is important to remember that the fight against cancer can be won. My support goes to those currently suffering from cancer, and I look forward to celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day with you in the future.

To those who have not been afflicted, preventative measures can save your life. Use sun screen, observe early screening procedures for all types of cancer. But most importantly, be proactive with your health."

- John McCain, (U.S. Senator, R-Arizona)


"I feel so fortunate and grateful to be a survivor of Breast Cancer. I was diagnosed in 1992 and I am so happy to report it is now 2003 and I am cancer free! I feel I owe my good health to several things particularly my wonderful doctors! A positive attitude, which is essential to ones ultimate survival, good nutrition both emotionally and in a dietary sense are invaluable. I balanced my western chemotherapy and surgery with eastern philosophies and practiced meditation, yoga and prayer. I complimented my treatments with herbs, homeopathy and acupuncture to combat my nausea and to help me stay centered and focused. Equally important were my conversations with other women who have gone through the same treatment. It helped me to understand what was ahead of me. Last but not least, the support of my family and good friends was priceless and lots of laughter-the best medicine of all!!! I realize that I am blessed to be alive and every day I acknowledge and affirm that life is a gift--so live in the present!"

- Olivia Newton-John, (Actress, Singer)


"I survived cancer. I'm one of the lucky ones. I strongly believe that with early detection most cancer is treatable, but public awareness and access to low-cost or free cancer screenings is essential to beating this disease. My mission is to share my personal experiences overcoming cancer in the hopes of inspiring others to get tested early."

- Sharon Osbourne, (Cancer Survivor)


"In many ways, going through a diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer changed my life for the better. I know it's easy to say now that they gave me the official 'cure.' ...but I've lived every day of my life as if it were my last. I have cherished every single second of every single day. Only we who have survived, are surviving and will survive can understand that. In another way, it seems like a lesson from God to appreciate every solitary aspect of life itself."

- Joe Piscopo, (Actor, Comedian)


"I support the fight against cancer because early detection means the chance of a greater and more productive life."

- Sherri Shepherd, (Actress)


"I support the fight against cancer and the need for researchers to be generously funded because this is one fight we CAN win!"

- Sally Struthers


"My 84-year-old mother from Chackbay, Louisiana is a three-time cancer survivor. But she hasn't let that slow her down. She is a regular competitor in the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games where she has won both the shot put and javelin competitions. My mother is one tough lady and a good example of how proper treatment can save lives. Yet she would not be with us today without the early detection through regular examinations that she received from Medicare. Medical science is advancing at a rapid pace and new discoveries in cancer prevention and treatment are being made each day. I will continue to do all I can to ensure this research receives the support it needs to fight and win the war against cancer."

- W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, (Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce)