Friday, September 14, 2007

A Workshop in UK

Tuesday, 07 August 2007

By Sabria Jawhar

Earlier this year, I wrote a column entitled "When a turkey's life is more valuable than a human." In that column I mentioned a story about an American friend who, knowing only a little about my culture, sent me an e-greeting card on the occasion of Thanksgiving. In that e-mail he told me jokingly that President George W. Bush had forgiven his bird this year and granted it a reprieve.
It did not take me long, however, to find out that the big bird's life was more precious to President Bush than that of a Muslim or an Arab in the Middle East. The same talk applied to some Arab governments that didn't show any sign of caring about the feelings of their own people nor their interests.
As I woke up in the early morning of Eid Al-Fitr last year, I was shocked, like million of Muslims, by the announcement of Saddam Hussein's execution.
"He was hanged after he was convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shia villagers in the town of Dujail," the crawl across the bottom of my television screen said.
Regardless of my stand on the whole issue, my concern at that time was basically about the timing of the execution coinciding with Islam's holiest day. The picture of the forgiven big bird came to my mind along with the image of Saddam's corpse.
Yesterday, I was also following the news on television when another crawl on the screen said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had broken off his vacation on Saturday and returned to London to closely follow the case of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. A drug company is at the center of the investigation.
There were reports hundreds of cattle have been slaughtered in a cull of animals at the infected farm and those at high risk nearby. The British Prime Minister chaired several emergency meetings on the matter.
He also appeared on television talking to the public about what has been and what will be done.
Regardless of the motives behind the prime minister's action and whether it has something to do with the voters' judgment of him, he showed care if not for the 7 million animals that were slaughtered, than to the estimated €12 billion that the crisis would cost the British economy, not to mention its effect on tourism.
On the other hand, while the whole world is moving and calling for real solutions for the Middle East, in general, and for Iraq, in particular, the Iraqi parliament is taking a month off.
The break comes at a time when very serious decisions concerning the future of the whole nation such as those related to Iraqi oil should be taken.
It also came at a time when the American Congress was supposed to decide on the defense bill that is partially related to spending on the Iraqi war.
I am really confused whether this decision to go on vacation is a sign of indifference regarding the Iraqi people or a way of saying "no" to President Bush, who is working hard to get the "oil law" through the Iraqi parliament.
Is British livestock more important to the UK prime minister than the Iraqi people to their government? Is this an analogy to making an animal life more important than that of a human being? Is taking a summer vacation a must for all politicians despite the vital decisions that are to be taken?
Another question also puzzles me: where are the Iraqi politicians spending their vacations? Are they going to spend them in Iraq enjoying the beauty of blood and destruction on every single street in Baghdad? I have been told that nothing is more attractive than the combination of red blood and green grass.
Are they going to spend their money in promoting local tourism or are they going to enjoy the breeze and nice weather in one of Europe's great capitals? If "yes," what is their destination?
Let's not jump to conclusions. Maybe they are attending a workshop presented by the British Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, who recently announced that "it was vital to contain the outbreak, which infected a local herd of cattle and could cost the British livestock industry up to $30 million a week in lost exports."
If this is the case then I am quite sure that after failing to bring about prosperity, peace or even security to their own people, Iraqi lawmakers could learn from the British how to care about the hundreds of people who die daily on Baghdad's streets.

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