"Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it... I know some people will think it was naïve [to return despite death threats], but if you believe in a cause you have to pay the price." Cited in the Times Online
As I watch the wall-to-wall news coverage on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and listen to heated debates over the (ir)rationality of her controversial and ultimately fatal return to Pakistan, I keep thinking of a recent discussion on a Cameroonian internet forum where members were asked to name their heroes. To me, the word “hero” does not describe godlike, infallible or perfect human beings, but regular folks doing extra-ordinary things. In fact, it best describes flawed and even damaged individualswho are able to go beyond their flaws and fears to answer to the call of destiny not because of the absence of risk, but in spite of huge risks to life limb and liberty. The Gandhis, the Martin Luther Kings, the Mandelas and many more faceless people the world over fall in this category.
The first annual Global Peace Index, which ranks countries according to their level of peacefulness, was recently made public. The index was compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The data were drawn from the United Nations, the World Bank, peace groups and the magazine researchers' own assessments.
Parade Magazine, which is distributed with the Saturday editions of major daily newspapers in the United States, has published its list of the world’s 20 worst dictators for 2007.
(c) Parade Magazine
The magazine defines a dictator as “a head of state who exercises arbitrary authority over the lives of his citizens and who cannot be removed from power through legal means. The worst commit terrible human-rights abuses.”
Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold - that crack of the neck at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed - by the Iraqi "government", but on behalf of the Americans - on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.
I have tried very hard to be “intellectual” and “academic” about what is going on in Lebanon, and to rationalize Israeli actions as a desperate act of self preservation (in fact this article was initially conceived in that mold), but I cannot just bring myself to accept that conclusion. There is no justification, moral, legal or otherwise, for the complete destruction of a country and its infrastructure, and for the indiscriminate killing of innocent and hapless civilians as it happened in Qana, in the name of the right to self defense.
Elegant buildings lie in ruins. The heady scent of gardenias gives way to the acrid stench of bombed-out oil installations. And everywhere terrified people are scrambling to get out of a city that seems tragically doomed to chaos and destruction. As Beirut - 'the Paris of the East' - is defiled yet again, Robert Fisk, a resident for 30 years, asks: how much more punishment can it take?