Tuesday, August 31, 2004

What's a Muslim Republican Leader To Do?

Syed Rifat Mahmood has been an active Republican for decades. He was the Republican candidate for Congress from California's 13th Congressional District *after* 9/11 (before the War in Iraq started). The way in which he balanced his own position on a possible War in Iraq with his party's line was, in my opinion, pretty classy. However, it did lead to the American Muslim community organizations not listing
him on their list of candidates to support. (He wouldn't come out and
breath fire and promise brimstone.)

[By way of disclosure, Mr Mahmood is one of the elders of my own family by virtue of being the eldest relative I have in the United States. But when you hear a first cousin of your mother answer a question about his stand on Gay Rights--being a Republican *and* a former President of the United Muslims of America, mind you--with an appeal for freedom of choice, it takes him to a whole 'nother level, I tell ya.]

So what does a Muslim Republican leader do at a time like this? Read on.

[Carried by the Argus in Fremont, the Daily Review and one other
publication I forget right now.]
Rep. Pete Stark represents California's 13th Congressional District, which includes Alameda, Fremont, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Sunol, Union City and small portions of Oakland and Pleasanton. Syed Mahmood, a resident of Union City, is a business consultant and founder and president of American Institute of International Studies. He was Stark's Republican opponent in 2002.
Stark, Mahmood Offer Bipartisan Rebuke of Bush Policies

Fortney Pete Start & Syed Mahmood

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - AS a Democrat and a Republican who two years ago ran against each other for a seat in Congress, one wouldn't think there's much on which we agree.

We've debated many issues and disagreed often, as Republicans and Democrats do. That said, with our nation and world in turmoil, there is one issue on which we both agree: the United States needs a dramatic new foreign policy.

The Bush Administration is pursuing a foreign policy that is reckless, irresponsible and dangerous. In addition to making our country less safe, it has seriously wounded the international reputation and credibility of the United States.

How can a bad situation turn into an ugly one? Let's look at the present condition of Afghanistan and Iraq. After the attack on 9/11, the whole world united against this heinous crime, an act of terrorism perpetuated against humanity. And what did the Bush Administration do with that unity? It squandered it. By alienating our allies and starting an unjust war, the Bush Administration obliterated any hope of international cooperation and exposed Americans to greater risk.

It is far easier to win the war than to win the peace, as the Bush Administration is just now realizing. The U.S. is still struggling to pacify Afghanistan. Just after 9/11, the United States ousted the Taliban and its crooked regime. Now, more than two years later, most of Afghanistan is still under the control of warlords. The opium trade is thriving, reconstruction work is very slow, and 50 percent of Afghanis are out of work. Monumental work remains to be done in Afghanistan and the United States should have concentrated its efforts on finishing the job. Instead, George W. Bush decided to go to Baghdad.

The invasion of Iraq was a monumental blunder. To begin with, it was founded on false pretenses: 1) that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction putting us in imminent danger; (2) that the removal of Saddam from power would help resolve the Israeli and the Palestinian issue; 3) that the war would bring democracy to Iraq; and, (4) that the war would make the world a safer place. None of these have proved to be true.

What has the U.S. achieved so far except deposing Saddam Hussein from power? Our young soldiers of underprivileged families are dying every day. The elites of our society are enjoying life without sacrificing any of their luxuries. We agree with U.S. retired General and a former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, Anthony Zinni, who said: "Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time -- with the wrong strategy."

It is important that we recognize the very real costs imposed by President Bush's Iraq policy, not just in lost American and Iraqi lives, but lost opportunities here at home.

Our intervention in Iraq has diverted needed attention and scarce resources away from the 44 million Americans without health insurance, 9 million of whom are children. It has taken billions of dollars away from programs to train teachers, reduce class sizes and improve failing public schools, all of which are vital to ensuring opportunity for the next generation of Americans. It has broken our promise to provide a secure retirement to seniors and future generations of Americans by borrowing against Social Security.

We need to forge a new bipartisan commitment to these issues. And we must forge a new foreign policy, based on international cooperation, to restore America's place in the world and bring us real security. Republicans and Democrats must come together as we, two former adversaries have, to forge this new vision. Our nation itself is at risk.

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