|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Is this man the mastermind of the massacres?
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, March 7, 2004
There was something terribly predictable about that first explosion we heard from 100 metres away. What may have saved our lives is the fact that we had left the crowded main streets just minutes before it happened. The crowds were too easy a target for a suicide bomber, we decided. Slightly embarrassed that we might be being paranoid, we cut down a back street. And then the first explosion came. It was not paranoia. [...]
However expected it was, there are a lot of questions still to be answered about what happened in Karbala that day. Iraqi police appeared to have worked out how much of it was done. How the first explosion was a suicide bomber who just mingled with the crowd. How those responsible appear to have smuggled explosives into the city on the wooden carts that are used to bring in food supplies and carry elderly and crippled pilgrims during Ashoura, and how some of the explosions were probably mortars fired into the crowd from outside the city.
But, despite the confidence with which American military spokesmen appeared before the cameras within hours to pin the blame on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - a Jordanian militant linked to al-Qa'ida whom the US accuses of being behind many of the suicide bombings and other outrages in Iraq - we still have remarkably little hard evidence as to who was really behind the simultaneous attacks in Karbala, and on a Shia shrine in Baghdad on Tuesday. [complete article]
Bush hails Iraq constitution in address
By Jennifer Loven, Associated Press (via Yahoo), March 6, 2004
President Bush on Saturday hailed a new interim constitution as "excellent progress" toward democracy in Iraq, painting an upbeat picture that ignored the cancellation of Friday's scheduled signing of the document.
An elaborate ceremony planned by U.S. and Iraqi officials for Friday was scotched indefinitely after Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, rejected portions of the charter. The enactment of an interim constitution represents a key step in the U.S. plan to hand over power to Iraqis on June 30.
Bush, delivering his weekly radio address, didn't mention the unwelcome developments at all. [complete article]
Need to build a case for war? Step forward Mr Chalabi
By Isabel Hilton, The Guardian, March 6, 2004
In the mayhem that followed the explosions in Baghdad and Karbala this week, Ahmad Chalabi, an ever more powerful member of the Iraqi Governing Council and a Pentagon favourite, was swiftly at the scene, behaving like a politician come to offer sympathy. It was a shrewd piece of public relations - if you forget the responsibility Chalabi bears for Iraq's present tragic condition. It was Chalabi, more than any other individual, who helped persuade the US that toppling Saddam Hussein would bring peace and democracy, and break the link that he alleged existed between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaida.
The argument surrounding the decision to go to war in Iraq, Tony Blair said yesterday, is not about trust or integrity but about judgment and intelligence. That is also the case his critics make. In the approach to war, both the US and the UK governments mobilised a mishmash of arguments in a campaign of persuasion that was based not on rigorous analysis of intelligence but on the selective use of data and informants. And in this sorry tale, no one played a more critical role than the man many proclaim the most likely future leader of Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi. [complete article]
Kennedy gives Bush stinging rebuke on war
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, March 6, 2004
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts delivered a blistering indictment on Friday of President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, accusing Mr. Bush of deliberately exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's government.
The speech by Senator Kennedy, to the Council on Foreign Relations, was one of the most detailed and caustic Democratic assaults to date on the issue. Mr. Kennedy has played a high-profile role in Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign, and the tone and timing of his remarks suggest that Democrats plan a new election-year challenge on the issue of Mr. Bush's credibility.
Mr. Kennedy accused the president of resorting to "pure, unadulterated fear-mongering, based on a devious strategy to convince the American people that Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to Al Qaeda justified immediate war."
He also accused the Bush administration of going well beyond the assessments provided by intelligence agencies in prewar depictions of Iraq, its reputed illicit arsenal and its ties to terrorism. The senator singled out George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, as having failed to correct statements by Mr. Bush that described the Iraqi threat as "unique and urgent" and "grave." [complete article]
As U.S. watches, Iraq warms to old enemy
By Jim Krane, Associated Press (via Newsday), March 6, 2004
With the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has begun a new friendship with Shiite Iran, a move that upends decades of U.S. policy that sought to keep the two Persian Gulf nations apart.
Shiite Muslims, who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, were long oppressed under Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.
Now Shiites are headed for control of Iraq's next government, a move expected to build strong relations between the two former enemies, who spent eight years locked in a war that saw a million killed and wounded.
Washington appears to be resigned to the new state of affairs. [complete article]
Iraq and the costs of war
By William D. Hartung, Foreign Policy in Focus, March, 2004
Wars are costly undertakings. They almost always cost more than government officials claim they will. Yale economist William D. Nordhaus has suggested that governments have an incentive to understate the costs of conflict because "If wars are thought to be short, cheap, and bloodless, then it is easier to persuade the populace and the Congress to defer to the President." Robert Hormats, the Vice-Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, observed during the run-up to the current war in Iraq:
History is littered with gross underestimates of the cost of war. Lincoln originally thought the civil war could last 90 days. His Treasury told him it would cost $250 million. It lasted four years and cost $3.3 billion. The First World War was originally forecast to be short and inexpensive. The Vietnam war cost 90% more than forecast.
Even conflicts that appear at first to be relatively "cheap," like the 1991 Persian Gulf War, often end up having substantial, hidden, long-term costs. In that conflict, the bulk of the $76 billion in direct war costs were paid for by U.S. allies, and U.S. combat deaths were relatively low, at 148 personnel lost. But more than a decade later, U.S. taxpayers are absorbing billions of dollars in costs for treating the service-related injuries and disabilities of the veterans of that conflict. More than one-third of the veterans of the 1990/1991 Gulf War--over 206,000 in all--have filed for service-related disabilities, and as of early 2003, more than 159,000 of those claims had been approved. This extraordinary "postwar casualty rate" puts the lie to the idea that the first Gulf War was either a cheap or easy victory. [complete article]
Insurer warns of global warming catastrophe
By Thomas Atkins, Reuters, March 3, 2004
The world's second-largest reinsurer Swiss Re warns that the costs of global warming threaten to spiral out of control, forcing the human race into a catastrophe of its own making.
In a report revealing how climate change is rising on the corporate agenda, Swiss Re said the economic costs of global warming threatened to double to $150 billion (81 billion pounds) a year in 10 years, hitting insurers with $30-40 billion in claims, or the equivalent of one World Trade Centre attack annually.
"There is a danger that human intervention will accelerate and intensify natural climate changes to such a point that it will become impossible to adapt our socio-economic systems in time," Swiss Re said in the report.
"The human race can lead itself into this climatic catastrophe -- or it can avert it."
The report comes as a growing number of policy experts warn that the environment is emerging as the security threat of the 21st century, eclipsing terrorism. [complete article]
No Arabic at McDonald's Israel
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram, March 4, 2004
A photograph of Abeer Zinaty shows the 20- year-old student from the mixed Arab and Jewish city of Ramle in central Israel wearing a T- shirt branded with the logo "Excellent Worker 2003 -- McDonald's Israel". Less than a year later she is unemployed, fired by the world's most famous fast food company. Her crime, according to the branch manager, is that she was caught speaking Arabic to another Arab employee.
Zinaty's treatment at the hands of the Israeli management of McDonald's is a stark illustration of an ever-swelling tide of discrimination against Arab workers, director of Mossawa -- a political lobbying group for Israel's one million Palestinian citizens -- Jafar Ferah told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Nominally, Arabic is an official language of the State of Israel, but it has been long-standing practice in many Israeli firms to ban its use among staff. It is the first time, however, that a company of McDonald's stature has implicitly acknowledged that speaking in Arabic provides grounds for dismissal. The decision to fire Zinaty for speaking Arabic was confirmed by McDonald's Ramle branch manager to Al- Ittihad, a local Arab daily newspaper, last month. [complete article]
The rise of Shi'ite 'Petrolistan'
By Mai Yamani, Strait Times, March 6, 2004
The hideous bombings of the Shi'ite shrines in Karbala will neither change nor obscure a powerful new fact of life in the Middle East. Now that the dust of the Iraq war has settled, it is clear the Shi'ites have emerged, blinking in the sunlight, as the unexpected winners.
Governments that have oppressed the Shi'ites for decades may still be in denial about this, but the terrorists who planted those bombs are not. They recognise, as the Shi'ites now do, that across the Gulf, Shi'ite Muslims are gaining massively in political power, and have awakened to their ability both to organise themselves and to the gift that lies under their feet: oil.
After years of repression at the hands of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Shi'ites are tasting freedom - and spurring their religious counterparts throughout the Gulf to become more assertive.
They've also woken up to the accident of geography that has placed the world's major oil supplies in areas where they form the majority: Iran, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and southern Iraq. Welcome to the new commonwealth of 'Petrolistan'. [complete article]
Shiites: The partisans of Ali insist on a divine choice for succession
By Tamim al-Barghouti, Daily Star, March 6, 2004
Anyone who is exposed to American media will find many references to Shiites and Sunnis almost on a daily basis. Nevertheless, nowhere in such media, and one is inclined to say, almost nowhere in American academia, are the two sects really understood. Many of those who deal with Islam in the United States think of it as a redundant imitation of Christianity, therefore the differences between Islamic sects are, either consciously or subconsciously, believed to correspond to the differences between Christian sects.
I was once asked by an American political science professor, while giving a guest lecture on Islamic sects, whether Shiism was more like Catholicism or Protestantism a question akin to whether a star was more like a river or a sea! [complete article]
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani: The real face of power in Iraq
By Paul Vallely, The Independent, March 6, 2004
He is seldom seen in public. He does not do TV interviews. He communicates only through written edicts or through lower-ranking members of the network of scholars who study the Koran and Islamic law in the provincial town of Najaf. And yet the 75-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani is undoubtedly now the most powerful man in Iraq. Revealingly it has taken almost a year for George Bush to wake up to that fact.
The events of this week have underscored the importance of the venerable Shia cleric who in January called 100,000 demonstrators on to the streets of five key cities to protest against America's refusal to allow immediate direct elections in Iraq - and who, more significantly, was able to send them all back home, with the ease of a man turning off a tap, when he had secured the concession from the Americans he had been seeking.
This week, when 180 pilgrims were killed by bombs targeted at the Shia community, could have seen the start of a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but the Ayatollah swiftly clamped down on talk of retaliation.
But he was happy to scupper the signing by Iraq's provisional Governing Council of an interim constitution yesterday to pave the way to the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraqis and the holding of full elections. At the behest of the Ayatollah five Shia members of the council refused to append their names .
What is becoming clear is that Ayatollah Sistani represents the most significant political challenge encountered so far by the US-led coalition. Twice already he has forced Washington to rewrite its political road map. At his behest the US has reversed its plan to write a constitution before elections: the elected assembly will now write the constitution. He has also successfully demanded that the United Nations be brought in to assess the feasibility of the elections. [complete article]
Some Shiites blame Wahhabis for atrocities
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via Seattle PI), March 6, 2004
Some Iraqi Shiites suspect this week's deadly bombings of pilgrims may have been the work of Wahhabis, traditional enemies who consider Shiites heretics and whose warrior ancestors often raided their holy cities during two centuries of animosity.
Born on the Arabian Peninsula in the 18th century, Wahhabism is among the strictest Islamic movements and considers Muslims who do not follow its teachings to be heathens and enemies. Al-Qaida terror network leader Osama bin Laden was raised as a Wahhabi.
Shiite preacher Hazim al-Aaraji has openly accused Wahhabis and al-Qaida of carrying out Tuesday's attacks, which killed at least 181 people and wounded 553 during one of the most important Shiite holidays. [complete article]
As life looks bleaker, suicide bombers get younger
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 2004
Sixteen-year-old Iyad Masri started to withdraw from everyone. He read loudly from the Koran until well after midnight, and blasted tapes of Koranic verses from behind his bedroom door.
His parents knew he was distraught over his younger brother's death two months ago. But they never imagined that Iyad would consider strapping a belt of explosives around his waist. In early January, he met with members of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group that rejects all compromise with Israel. He asked them to prepare him to be a martyr, a suicide bomber. Iyad died days later when the belt went off accidentally, killing only himself.
The Masri family's tragedy is part of a trend that many Palestinians see as a worrisome mark of desperation: younger and younger Palestinians enlisting for suicide missions against Israel. [complete article]
Signing of Iraqi charter is delayed by Shiite objections
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, March 5, 2004
The deadlock [over Iraq's temporary constitution] arose after a meeting between Shiite members of the Iraqi's Governing Council and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most powerful religious leader. [...]
The delay represented a major embarrassment for the American officials here, who had guided the negotiations on the constitution and helped break numerous deadlocks. L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator here, was supposed to appear at the ceremony and sign the completed constitution.
The delay demonstrated anew the political power of Ayatollah Sistani, the country's most powerful religious leader. Despite repeated avowals that he would remain above the push-and-pull of politics, and that he would keep Islam separate from the state, he has repeatedly shown his willingness to involve himself in political debates.
But while his previous interventions have concerned broad issues that affected the overall direction of the country, this is the first instance when the ayatollah has interceded directly on behalf of the Shiite majority. [complete article]
Last minute differences delay signing of Iraq's interim basic law
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), March 5, 2004
A dispute between Iraq's leaders over a referendum clause in the new temporary constitution has pushed back its signing indefinitely, Iraqi officials said late Friday. [complete article]
GUEST COMMENTARY BY TONY KARON (TIME.COM):
"Both by some of the issues they've raised and by their timing, the Shiite representatives who sabotaged Paul Bremer's constitution signing ceremony on Friday are making a fundamental point: They see the interim administrative law as nothing more than a temporary set of rules governing the brief interlude between the U.S. handover and Iraqi elections -- an interim measured in months. And they are sticking hard by Ayatollah Sistani's insistence that the constitution of a new Iraq be adopted by an elected body. That accounts, in particular, for their rejection of the provisos inserted at the insistence of the Kurds that a majority veto in any region would prevent the adoption of a new constitution. The Kurds are trying to use the last months of the formal occupation to codify their autonomy and create legal obstacles to reversing it, and the Shiite leadership is plainly having none of it. The fact that the Shiites see the document as nothing more than an interim agreement to facilitate the July 1 handover also explains their very deliberate upstaging of Bremer's showcase. They appear to want none of the pageantry of chamber orchestras and Founding Fathers-type signing ceremonies which might imply greater historical significance for the document than they're prepared to grant. For Sistani's supporters, plainly, the Founding Fathers moment comes only in 2005, when a constitution drafted by an elected body is adopted, and Bremer watches from the audience in his capacity as U.S. ambassador."
Tony Karon is Senior Editor for world coverage at TIME.com. Besides daily analyses of the top international stories such as the conflict in Iraq, the Middle East crisis and the war on terrorism, he writes an occasional column, titled "Undiplomatic Dispatch."
"GUEST COMMENTARY" is a new feature at The War in Context where I'll be soliciting comments from journalists, academics and other specialists whose insights will add depth to our understanding of the news. If you'd like to participate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org -- Paul Woodward, Editor
A Caliphate in the mountains
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram, March 4, 2004
The stone and mud-walled houses cling like leeches to a mountain pass. On the grassy plain sweeping before them lies the debris of a destroyed Kurdish village, one of the 3,000 razed by the Iraqi army during Saddam Hussein's 1988 Anfal campaign. Above them yawns the blackened mouth of a cave.
The village is Sargat. The mountain marks the Iraq-Iranian border. And the cave was once the military headquarters of Ansar Al- Islam, a radical Kurdish Islamist movement and -- insist the Americans -- the missing link that binds Saddam Hussein, Al-Qa'eda and Iran together.
On 27 and 28 April last year US Special Forces and Kurdish peshmerga guerrillas ousted Ansar from its mountain emirate. Amina Mohammed Othman -- a Kurdish journalist -- was among the first to see the aftermath.
"The Ansar men were lying dead in the field. They were completely black -- black clothes with black paint to cover their faces and hands. Beside them were syringes. I don't know what for. A doctor said it might be to inject themselves with painkillers so that they could continue fighting after they had been hit".
In its own small way Ansar Al-Islam mirrors the vicissitudes of political Islam throughout the Muslim world. Its peculiar origins are a resurgent Kurdish Islamism, enabled by the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 and stoked by the civil war that then filled the vacuum, when the main Kurdish nationalist parties -- the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) -- fought murderously and uselessly over the spoils of their "autonomy". [complete article]
Who will keep the peace in Iraq?
By Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 5, 2004
Who will provide Iraqis with the security they need to rebuild their country, hold elections, and restart their lives?
As Iraqis bury their dead after the grisly bombings that killed hundreds on the holiest Shiite Muslim day of the year, this question haunts the entire U.S. project in Iraq.
The ongoing violence threatens efforts to restore sovereignty and normality to the country. But U.S. occupation authorities haven't built up Iraqi forces capable of fighting insurgents and terrorists. [complete article]
Grand jury to review call logs from Bush’s jet in probe of how a CIA agent’s cover was blown
By Tom Brune, Newsday, March 5, 2004
The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.
Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets. [complete article]
From his first day in office, Bush was ousting Aristide
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2004
The United States has repeatedly sponsored coups and uprisings in Haiti and in neighboring Caribbean countries.
Ominously, before this week, the most recent such episode in Haiti came in 1991, during the first Bush administration, when thugs on the CIA payroll were among the leaders of paramilitary groups that toppled Aristide after his 1990 election.
Some of the players in this round are familiar from the previous Bush administration, including of course Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Also key is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega -- a longtime aide to Jesse Helms and a notorious Aristide-hater -- widely thought to have been central to the departure of Aristide. He is going to find it much harder to engineer the departure of gun-toting rebels who entered Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.
Rarely has an episode so brilliantly exposed Santayana's famous aphorism that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." [complete article]
Experts say U.S. never spoke to source of tip on bioweapons
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, March 5, 2004
The Bush administration's prewar assertion that Saddam Hussein had a fleet of mobile labs that could produce bioweapons rested largely on information from an Iraqi defector working with another government who was never interviewed by U.S. intelligence officers, according to current and former senior intelligence officials and congressional experts who have studied classified documents.
In his presentation before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said "firsthand descriptions" of the mobile bioweapons fleet had come from an Iraqi chemical engineer who had defected and is "currently hiding in another country with the certain knowledge that Saddam Hussein will kill him if he finds him."
The claims about the mobile facilities remain unverified, however, and now U.S. officials are trying to get access to the Iraqi engineer to verify his story, the sources said, particularly because intelligence officials have discovered that he is related to a senior official in Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles who actively encouraged the United States to invade Iraq. [complete article]
Bombing suspects seized by Iraqi police
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, March 5, 2004
Iraqi police arrested 15 terror suspects in two different locations and officials of the U.S.-led military occupation announced that the death toll from Tuesday's bombings at Shiite Muslim shrines in the capital and in the holy city of Karbala had climbed to 181.
Fourteen Iraqis were taken into custody late Wednesday in an operation near the city of Baqubah, an area about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad where resistance has been strong and where attackers have blown up the police station. The military said one is suspected of leading a cell of Wahhabi Muslims, followers of a strict form of Islam embraced by Osama bin Laden. [complete article]
Kurdish peshmerga fighters determined to remain military unit
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, March 4, 2004
A flame from a kerosene heater flickered in the mountain breeze and illuminated the hardened faces of Kurdish militiamen who are the only security force for this northern Iraqi village.
Huddling together for warmth in a stark outpost last week, these members of the peshmerga couldn't imagine why their quiet existence in a remote village is causing so much fuss in Baghdad, more than 250 miles south. The men fought bloody battles against Saddam Hussein's former regime, were the only indigenous force helping the U.S.-led coalition during the war and are heroes to the besieged Kurds they protected.
Now they're fighting against pressure from Baghdad to disband or come under outside control if they're to remain the faces of law and order in an autonomous Kurdish state. [complete article]
Iraqi forces lack chain of command
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, March 5, 2004
Army Gen. John Abizaid, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf region, said yesterday that Iraqi security forces still lack adequate equipment and training in many cases and have yet to establish a chain of senior officers linking troops in the field with a higher headquarters.
The remarks before a Senate panel provided an unusually frank assessment of the fledgling Iraqi security services, an assortment of forces that administration officials have repeatedly described as critical to the long-term U.S. strategy of withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Pentagon authorities have spoken frequently of their desire to have Iraqi forces assume more responsibility for securing Iraq. But the forces, which range from police, border patrol and building guards to soldiers and civil defense militia, were recruited quickly after last year's U.S.-led invasion and generally given minimal training and gear. [complete article]
Iraqi hospitals on life support
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, March 5, 2004
The stout woman, covered from head to toe in a black abaya, shuffled into the crowded hospital. She went straight to the emergency room and opened her robe to reveal a tiny baby wrapped in fuzzy blankets. The boy had been born prematurely, and the family was afraid he was going to die.
Uday Abdul Ridha took a quick look and shook his head. The physician put his hands on the woman's shoulders in sympathy, but his words were blunt. "I'm sorry," he said. "We cannot help you. We don't have an incubator, and even if we did, we are short on oxygen. Please try another hospital."
Scenes like this one at the Pediatric Teaching Hospital in Baghdad's Iskan neighborhood have become common in Iraq in recent months, as the health care system has been hit by a critical shortage of basic medications and equipment. Babies die of simple infections because they can't get the proper antibiotics. Surgeries are delayed because there is no oxygen. And patients in critical condition are turned away because there isn't enough equipment. [complete article]
Soldier one moment, peacekeeper the next
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 2004
The still night air is shattered by the deep thump of an exploding rocket-propelled grenade. For the six soldiers with Apache Company, 1st battalion 34th Armor regiment staked out on the roof of a derelict building beside the Khaldiyah river bridge, the elusive "RPG guy" has struck again.
"Let's go. Move," orders Sgt. Spencer Hill, from Bremerton, Wash. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle clatters down the highway, halting briefly to pick up the soldiers.
Moments later, as the Bradley approaches the scene of the RPG attack in the center of this ramshackle town, the intercom crackles, "There are two people running down the alley. Go get them."
The Bradley lurches to a stop, the rear ramp is lowered and the soldiers spill out. They move swiftly but cautiously down the gloomy alley, guns raised, eyes scanning the shadow- dappled houses on either side.
Hours earlier, soldiers from Apache Company were patrolling the same dusty streets, handing out copies of "Freedom," the coalition's Arabic-language magazine, smiling and waving at passersby and listening sympathetically to the grumbles of local residents. [complete article]
Blix: Iraq war was illegal
By Anne Penketh and Andrew Grice, The Independent, March 5, 2004
The former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has declared that the war in Iraq was illegal, dealing another devastating blow to Tony Blair.
Mr Blix, speaking to The Independent, said the Attorney General's legal advice to the Government on the eve of war, giving cover for military action by the US and Britain, had no lawful justification. He said it would have required a second United Nations resolution explicitly authorising the use of force for the invasion of Iraq last March to have been legal.
His intervention goes to the heart of the current controversy over Lord Goldsmith's advice, and comes as the Prime Minister begins his fightback with a speech on Iraq today. [complete article]
See also, A truth too terrible to contemplate (The Guardian).
Sunnis and Shias must play an equal part in a new Iraq
By Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, March 5, 2004
It is typical of how Middle Eastern politics is rooted in past history that the date which sprang to many Shia minds after the bombs in Kerbala this week was May 1801, when Wahhabi warriors swept in from what is now Saudi Arabia and sacked the city. According to a European chronicler, the raiders converted the shrine of Imam Hussein "into a cloaca of abomination and blood".
Two centuries later that assault by the Sunni Muslims most intolerant of Shi'ism reverberates down the years, even though most of the Sunni world is far from sharing such views. What these memories underline is that intervention in Iraq has severely shaken up both Sunni and Shia society across the Middle East. On the one hand they are drawn toward embracing a common solidarity against extremism and expressing a common distaste for outside interference. On the other, their interests diverge, their religious choices still divide them and, in particular, their attitudes to the US attempt to transform Iraq are very different. [complete article]
Outsourcing the Friedman
By Naomi Klein, The Nation, March 4, 2004
Thomas Friedman hasn't been this worked up about free trade since the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Back then, he told New York Times readers that the work environment in a Sri Lankan Victoria's Secret factory was so terrific "that, in terms of conditions, I would let my own daughters work" there.
He never did update readers on how the girls enjoyed their stint stitching undergarments, but Friedman has since moved on--now to the joys of call-center work in Bangalore. These jobs, he wrote on February 29, are giving young people "self-confidence, dignity and optimism"--and that's not just good for Indians, but for Americans as well. Why? Because happy workers paid to help US tourists locate the luggage they've lost on Delta flights are less inclined to strap on dynamite and blow up those same planes.
Confused? Friedman explains the connection: "Listening to these Indian young people, I had a deja vu. Five months ago, I was in Ramallah, on the West Bank, talking to three young Palestinian men, also in their 20's.... They talked of having no hope, no jobs and no dignity, and they each nodded when one of them said they were all 'suicide bombers in waiting.'" From this he concludes that outsourcing fights terrorism: By moving "low-wage, low-prestige" jobs to "places like India or Pakistan...we make not only a more prosperous world, but a safer world for our own 20-year-olds."
Where to begin with such an argument? [complete article]
Get Osama - but where, and when?
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, March 5, 2004
Asia Times Online has learned from tribal-connected sources in Peshawar in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden is believed to have left southeastern Afghanistan late last week for South Waziristan in Pakistan. According to the sources, and as has been reported in sections of the Pakistani Urdu Press, bin Laden is said to be under the protection of concentric rings formed by dozens of al-Qaeda fighters and more than 1,200 Taliban - all easily blended in as local Pashtun tribals.
This means that bin Laden and his entourage were previously hiding in Paktika province in Afghanistan, and may have crossed to South Waziristan via the Khand pass - in the easternmost flank of the rugged Toba Kakar mountain range, where the weather is unforgiving and the desolation extreme: the nearest town is Wana, in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan.
This information, if confirmed, also contradicts reports of a previous bin Laden sighting, already reported in Asia Times Online, according to which the fugitives - in much smaller number - were placed further south, between the tiny villages of Khanozai and Murgha Faqirzai, in Balochistan province. So bin Laden was not in Kunar province in Afghanistan or in Pakistani Balochistan, but in an Afghan province, Paktika, where every day there are clashes between Taliban and US forces. [complete article]
U.S. divided over foreign agents in Iraq
By Jim Krane, Associated Press (via Yahoo), March 4, 2004
Top U.S. military and civilian officials were at odds Thursday over the role of foreign fighters in this week's savage bombings at Shiite Muslim religious shrines -- acts of violence that raised the specter of sectarian war.
U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said it was "increasingly apparent" terrorism was coming from outside Iraq, but some American generals were far less certain about the extent of the foreign role.
The brutal sophistication of Tuesday's bombings in Karbala and Baghdad pointed to a foreign influence on an insurgency that is still mainly homegrown, said Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, which controls Baghdad.
"It's far more than a supposition and far less than empirical evidence" to say Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected anti-U.S. militant with ties to al-Qaida, had a hand in the Tuesday blasts, Dempsey said. "It's a very educated guess." [complete article]
Baghdad attack leaders to return to Iraq
By Russ Bynum, Associated Press (via Yahoo), March 4, 2004
The Army division that spearheaded the assault on Baghdad has been ordered to get ready to return to Iraq as early as November.
The announcement Thursday comes just six months after most members of the 3rd Infantry Division returned to Fort Stewart from the war. The new deployment is expected between November and February 2005. [complete article]
Bush campaign defends use of 9/11 in TV ads
By Kirk Semple, New York Times, March 4, 2004
The Bush re-election campaign and the White House stepped up today their defense of three new advertisements that use images of the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center, arguing that the device is appropriate in an election campaign that will be waged, in part, on the candidates' abilities to fight the war on terror. [...]
Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, answered reporters' questions about the use of the imagery by saying that the Sept. 11 attacks continued to be an important object lesson in the need for strong national security.
"It is vital to our future that we learn what September 11th taught us," he said. [complete article]
Comment -- If Scott McClellan thinks that it's vital we learn what 9-11 taught us, can he explain why President Bush has offered only one hour of his time to be questioned by the 9-11 commission?
Sept. 11 families disgusted by Bush campaign ads
By Mark Egan, Reuters (via Yahoo), March 4, 2004
Families who lost relatives in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks voiced outrage on Thursday at President Bush's first ads of his re-election campaign that use images of the devastated World Trade Center to portray him as the right leader for tumultuous times.
"Families are enraged," said Bill Doyle, 57, of New York, who is active in several Sept. 11 family groups. "What I think is distasteful is that the president is trying to use 9/11 as a springboard for his re-election."
"It's entirely wrong. He's had 3,500 deaths on his watch, including Iraq," said Doyle, whose 25-year-old son Joseph died at the trade center.
Long time Bush adviser Karen Hughes defended the four commercials -- which began running on Thursday in at least 16 important battleground states -- as "tastefully done." [complete article]
House of Saud - to fall or not?
By Ashraf Fahim, Asia Times, March 5, 2004
The vilification of Saudi Arabia by many in Washington after September 11, 2001, led to rash speculation that the United States might eventually turn on its longtime ally. But the sound and fury of ongoing neo-conservative polemics against the al-Saud dynasty have not signified a change in policy. The Saudi-US partnership is too profitable to risk throwing the baby out with the bath water, and it seems destined to endure, at least until the long-predicted fall of the House of Saud.
The United States and the House of Saud have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship for decades under which the US has gained access to the Arabian Peninsula's oil reserves and Saudi Arabia has willingly received US shipments of arms. But aside from the obvious economic incentives for a continuation of the status quo, Dr Sa'd al-Fagih, a Saudi dissident who heads the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), believes that Washington's dependence on Saudi cooperation in its "war on terror" has delivered it into a cul-de-sac, forcing the partnership on. "The Americans are stuck," he says. "They have gone too far in linking their fate with al-Saud. They had the chance to maneuver before September 11," but not now. [complete article]
The wild weapons of DARPA
By Nicholas Turse, Tom Engelhardt's TomDispatch, March 4, 2004
When, in October 1957, the USSR launched the first man-made earth satellite, the basketball-sized Sputnik, it caught the United States off guard and sent the government into fits. Not only had the Soviets exploded an atomic bomb years before the Americans predicted they would, but now they were leading the "space race." In response, the Defense Department approved funding for a new U.S. satellite project, headed by former Nazi SS officer Wernher von Braun, and created, in 1958, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to make certain that the United States forever after maintained "a lead in applying state-of-the-art technology for military capabilities and to prevent technological surprise from her adversaries."
Almost half a century later, what's left of the USSR is a collapsed group of half-failed states, while the U.S. stands alone as the globe's sole hyperpower. Yet DARPA, the agency for an arms-race world, seems only to be warming up to the chase. There may be no country left to take the lead from us, the nearest military competitor being China which reportedly had $65 billion in military expenditures in 2002 (compared to our $466 billion according to GlobalSecurity.org) and which, only in 2003, put its first "Taikonaut" into outer space. Undaunted, DARPA continues to develop high-tech weapons systems for 2025-2050 and beyond -- some of them standard fare like your run-of-the-mill hypersonic bombers, others more exotic. [complete article]
Comment -- Although this review of DARPA projects focuses on the exotic, it's worth noting that some of DARPA's recent projects are well on their way through the development pipeline and destined to change the face of modern warfare. For instance, the X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle should be ready for use before the end of this decade. It is anticipated that it may render manned fighter aircraft obsolete and usher in a brave new world in which America can fight its wars without the loss of any American lives. As future US governments contemplate their ability to fight wars in which the only casualties are non-American, who will be able to impose limits on their exercise of power?
If Kerry wins, little will change in U.S. regional policy
By Chris Toensing, Daily Star, March 4, 2004
The victory of John Kerry in the Democratic Party primaries following "Super Tuesday" this week leads to an observation. To a remarkable degree, the urgent desire to deny US President George W. Bush a second term in the White House has papered over the schisms in the broad Democrat church, even enticing many members of renegade sects back into the fold.
A lesser tenet in the "anybody but Bush" catechism is that a Democrat, any Democrat, would perforce clean up the mess that Bush has made in the Middle East. At first, those candidates who are incumbent congressmen shied away from substantive criticism of the Bush administration's Iraqi adventure or its imperial "forward strategy of freedom" for the Arab-Islamic world. Then, to blunt the appeal of Vermont Governor Howard Dean to party activists, Washington Democratic insiders gradually adopted his rhetoric. [complete article]
Comment -- Eight months is going to provide a painfully long period during which many progressive Democrats will be wrestling with their doubts about supporting John Kerry. There is a real danger that if we harbor too many doubts for too long none of them will be resolved because the paralysis they engender will help George Bush get reelected. The cynicism with which some progressives are responding to the fight to stop Bush derives from a perverse form of idealism that refuses to acknowledge any significant differences between the candidates or their power bases. That our next president be John Kerry is not an imperative that should be driven by illusions about the nature of the Democratic party or unrealistic expectations that Kerry will utterly transform the political landscape. But those who minimize the differences between a Kerry presidency and another Bush presidency seem, in part, to be expressing their own comfort in standing out as voices of dissent. Rather than being willing to temper the advance of their own agendas at a time when this is called for by a broader and more immediate cause, they apparently prefer to be right even when it amounts to a confirmation of impotence. There is real wisdom in fighting the fights that can be won, and those who console themselves with the belief that truth and justice are by their side each time they get defeated need to ask themselves whether they truly want to be instruments of change.
Investigations could make or break Bush
By Josh Marshall, The Hill, March 4, 2004
Candidates and political parties that bank on their opponents' getting dragged down by scandal usually end up disappointed -- think the Democrats in 1984 and the Republicans in 1996. Barring earth-shattering revelations, elections get decided on the incumbent's management of the economy and foreign affairs.
But for President Bush this year, neither looks to be holding unambiguous election-year advantages. And there are increasing signs a perfect storm of scandals is brewing, one that could end up making a real difference in what is bound to be a down-to-the-wire election this fall. [complete article]
Illusions of empire: Defining the new American order
By G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2004
The debate on empire is back. This is not surprising, as the United States dominates the world as no state ever has. It emerged from the Cold War the only superpower, and no geopolitical or ideological contenders are in sight. Europe is drawn inward, and Japan is stagnant. A half-century after their occupation, the United States still provides security for Japan and Germany -- the world's second- and third-largest economies. U.S. military bases and carrier battle groups ring the world. Russia is in a quasi-formal security partnership with the United States, and China has accommodated itself to U.S. dominance, at least for the moment. For the first time in the modern era, the world's most powerful state can operate on the global stage without the constraints of other great powers. We have entered the American unipolar age.
The Bush administration's war on terrorism, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, expanded military budget, and controversial 2002 National Security Strategy have thrust American power into the light of day -- and, in doing so, deeply unsettled much of the world. Worry about the implications of American unipolarity is the not-so-hidden subtext of recent U.S.-European tension and has figured prominently in recent presidential elections in Germany, Brazil, and South Korea. The most fundamental questions about the nature of global politics -- who commands and who benefits -- are now the subject of conversation among long-time allies and adversaries alike. [complete article]
New thrust in hunt for bin Laden
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2004
Out in the wilds of Waziristan, the Pakistani Army has moved in force, bringing in thousands of troops to seal off roads in an area that may be Osama bin Laden's last stand.
By all accounts, the massive operation has the makings of a protracted siege carried out among fiercely independent mountain villages along the Afghan border. Saturday, Pakistani troops fired on a minibus full of civilians at a checkpoint near Wana, killing 14. Pakistan's government offered compensation to victims' families Monday.
But as difficult as this operation is on a military level, observers here say the political implications of the spring offensive against Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas may be even greater and more far-reaching. By putting Pakistani troops into the once-autonomous region of ethnic Pashtun tribes - an area never conquered by the British, the Persians, or even Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes - Pakistan risks a wider Pashtun rebellion that the Pakistani Army could find difficult to control. [complete article]
Alleged statement says extremist killed
By Lee Keath, Associated Press (via Yahoo), March 4, 2004
A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombing and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a statement allegedly from an insurgent group west of the capital said.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq "during the American bombing there," according to a statement circulated in Fallujah this week and signed by the "Leadership of the Allahu Akbar Mujahedeen."
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement, one of many leaflets put out by a variety of groups taking part in the anti-U.S. resistance. [complete article]
See also Purported Al Qaeda letter denies role in Iraq blasts (Reuters).
Feuding factions united in mourning
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, March 4, 2004
The fissures between Shia and Sunni Arabs are nowhere more palpable than the districts of Kadhimiya and Adhamiya, which face each other across a bend in the river Tigris.
Locals say that under Saddam Hussein little love was lost between the two areas. Gangs of youths from the Shia side on the west bank would stage regular clashes with rival Sunni gangs from the east.
Their field of battle was the Imam's Bridge, so called because it leads from the Shia shrine of Imam Khadim - where so many lost their lives on Tuesday - to the capital's main Sunni mosque, dedicated to Abu Hanifa. But in the wake of the carnage and widespread talk of sectarian strife, the Imam's Bridge has become an unlikely symbol of unity.
Yesterday people on either side of it dismissed talk of civil war as thousands of Shia from eastern Baghdad walked peacefully through Sunni Adhamiya on their way to pay their respects across the river. [complete article]
Violence, turnover blunt CIA effort in Iraq
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, March 4, 2004
The CIA has rushed to Iraq four times as many clandestine officers as it had planned on, but it has had little success penetrating the resistance and identifying foreign terrorists involved in the insurgency, according to senior intelligence officials and intelligence experts recently briefed on Iraq.
The CIA mission in Iraq, originally slated to have 85 officers, has grown to more than 300 full-time case officers and close to 500 personnel in total, including contractors and people on temporary assignment. It is widely known among agency officials to be the largest station in the world, and the biggest since Saigon during the Vietnam War 30 years ago.
Despite the size of the contingent, the agency's efforts to penetrate Iraq's ethnic factions and gain intelligence about the insurgency have been hampered by continued violence, the use of temporary and short-term personnel, and the pressing demands of military commanders for tactical intelligence they can use in daily confrontations with armed insurgents. [complete article]
Iraq's Shiites renew call for militias
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, March 4, 2004
Rifle-toting Shiite Muslim militiamen, some in crisp uniforms and others in civilian attire, deployed in force Wednesday around a bomb-scarred shrine in Baghdad, setting up dozens of checkpoints on bustling streets devoid of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police officers.
The militiamen, loyal to various Shiite political parties, joined a contingent of armed guards from the Imam Kadhim mausoleum in asserting control over the neighborhood surrounding the gold-domed shrine, which was attacked by three suicide bombers on Tuesday morning as tens of thousands of Shiites gathered to commemorate a religious holiday.
The attack on the mausoleum and simultaneous blasts in the holy city of Karbala have intensified Shiite demands to retain militias affiliated with political parties and other unofficial armies. Shiite leaders insist their own security forces, not the Iraqi police or American troops, are their best defense against terrorist attacks. The death toll from the attacks was set at 117 by the U.S. military, but the president of the Iraqi Governing Council said 271 people had died. [complete article]
The Ugly Israeli affair - Sharon's downfall?
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz, March 4, 2004
For many in this country, he is the embodiment of the Ugly Israeli - bottomlessly amoral, self-interested to the point of socio-pathology, the aging warrior gone to paunch and hair dye, double lives and mysterious travel.
The picture that emerges from growing media reports is that Elhanan Tennenbaum, at best, may be a compulsive gambler who has exploited and neglected ex-lovers and at least one child born out of wedlock, turning to drug-dealing to pay for colossal losses at the tables.
At worst, he may be a traitor who parlayed access to state secrets for personal gain. He may also be a threat to the career of the very prime minister who worked so hard to free him. [complete article]
Sharon faces new questions over an exchange of prisoners
By Greg Myre, New York Times, March 4, 2004
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was embroiled in a new controversy on Wednesday after an Israeli newspaper questioned his motives for approving a lopsided prisoner exchange in January that freed more than 400 Arabs in return for an Israeli man kidnapped while pursuing a dubious business venture.
Mr. Sharon is already the subject of two investigations into possible political corruption. The article in the newspaper, Maariv, which took up the first 11 pages of its Wednesday issue, said Mr. Sharon once had business ties with the father-in-law of Elhanan Tannenbaum, the Israeli businessman freed Jan. 29 by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.
The article suggested that those links, which date to the 1970's, might have influenced the prime minister's decision to push for the one-sided prisoner exchange. Some Israelis have argued that the country paid too high a price for Mr. Tannenbaum and the remains of three soldiers. [complete article]
A year of silence since Rachel Corrie died
By Elizabeth Corrie, International Herald Tribune, March 4, 2004
Only a year ago, the month of March would have held the same positive associations for me as it has for many -- the beginning of the end of winter, the promise of springtime and even summer. This year, and for every year for the rest of my life, the approach of March will mean something else entirely -- the anniversary of the brutal death of my cousin, Rachel Corrie.
On March 16, 2003, an Israeli soldier and his commander ran over Rachel with a nine-ton Caterpillar bulldozer while she stood - unarmed, clearly visible in her orange fluorescent jacket -- protecting a Palestinian home slated for demolition by the Israeli army. The death of Rachel Corrie, and the response that her case has -- and has not -- received, reveal several disturbing, indeed immoral and criminal, truths. [complete article]
Arab leaders seek to counter U.S. plan for Mideast overhaul
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, March 4, 2004
Arab governments, suspicious that the Bush administration plans to give priority to changing how the region is ruled rather than solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, began thrashing over a joint position on Wednesday to counter any such American initiative.
In the absence of any formal plan yet from Washington, the Arab League foreign ministers meeting here were less than unified in how to deal with an American strategy known basically through leaks or policy speeches. But the level of concern among the 22 ministers, who were in Cairo to create the agenda for a meeting of Arab leaders later this month in Tunisia, seemed to ensure that the issue would be a priority.
"The idea is to come up with a homegrown process in order that others not impose something from the outside," said Marwan Muasher, the Jordanian foreign minister, noting that Arab governments especially want to keep the focus on ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. [complete article]
Fashionable protest, lost in translation
By James Bennet, New York Times, March 4, 2004
It has been said that there are two schools of thought about what fuels conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: one, that the two peoples do not understand each other; two, that they understand each other all too well and so are trying to do one another in.
Wednesday, when scandalized Palestinians gaped at fashion models sashaying on behalf of an Israeli designer along the barrier Israel is building to enclose Jerusalem, was a banner day for proponents of the first theory.
Their lacquered faces composed in haughty neutrality, three models struck poses at the foot of the 25-foot-high concrete wall, beneath white graffiti in swirling Arabic. They seemed unaware that the words meant "I Am a Big Donkey." [complete article]
9/11 panel rejects White House limits on interviews
By Philip Shenon, New York Times, March 3, 2004
The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is refusing to accept strict conditions from the White House for interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and is renewing its request that Mr. Bush's national security adviser testify in public, commission members said Tuesday.
The panel members, interviewed after a private meeting on Tuesday, said the commission had decided for now to reject a White House request that the interview with Mr. Bush be limited to one hour and that the questioners be only the panel's chairman and vice chairman.
The members said the commission had also decided to continue to press the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to reconsider her refusal to testify at a public hearing. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are expected to be asked about how they had reacted to intelligence reports before Sept. 11, 2001, suggesting that Al Qaeda might be planning a large attack. Panel members want to ask Ms. Rice the same questions in public. [complete article]
Jailed 9/11 plotter wins right to retrial
By Sabine Siebold, Reuters (via Yahoo), March 4, 2004
The only man convicted of helping the September 11 suicide hijackers has won the right to a retrial after a successful appeal at Germany's Supreme Court.
Mounir El Motassadeq, a Moroccan, was jailed for 15 years in February 2003 for conspiring to murder nearly 3,000 people in the 2001 attacks on America and for membership of a terrorist organisation, a German al Qaeda cell which included three of the suicide pilots.
Presiding judge Klaus Tolksdorf told the court on Thursday the state could not abandon principles of justice, however grave the crime.
"The fight against terrorism cannot be a wild, uncontrolled war," Tolksdorf said. [complete article]
Treasury Department is warning publishers of the perils of criminal editing of the enemy
By Adam Liptak, New York Times, February 28, 2004
Writers often grumble about the criminal things editors do to their prose. The federal government has recently weighed in on the same issue -- literally.
It has warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy.
Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace "inappropriate words," according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months.
Adding illustrations is prohibited, too. To the baffled dismay of publishers, editors and translators who have been briefed about the policy, only publication of "camera-ready copies of manuscripts" is allowed.
The Treasury letters concerned Iran. But the logic, experts said, would seem to extend to Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license. [complete article]
The tragedy of Haiti
By Noam Chomsky, Chapter 8 from Year 501 (via ZNet), 1993
"Haiti was more than the New World's second oldest republic," anthropologist Ira Lowenthal observed, "more than even the first black republic of the modern world. Haiti was the first free nation of free men to arise within, and in resistance to, the emerging constellation of Western European empire." The interaction of the New World's two oldest republics for 200 years again illustrates the persistence of basic themes of policy, their institutional roots and cultural concomitants. [complete article]
Nukes 'r' us
By Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz, New York Times, March 4, 2004
America's relations with Pakistan and several other Asian countries have been rocked by the discovery of the vast smuggling network run by the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Unfortunately, one American ally at the heart of the scandal, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, seems to be escaping punishment despite its role as the key transfer point in Dr. Khan's atomic bazaar.
Dubai's involvement is no surprise to those who follow the murky world of nuclear technology sales. For the last two decades it, along with other points in the emirates, has been the main hub through which traffickers have routed their illegal commerce to hide their trails. Yet the United States, which has depended on the emirates as a pillar of relative stability in the Middle East and, since 1991, as a host to American troops, has done little to pressure it to crack down on illicit arms trade. [complete article]
Pakistan may make Nigeria a nuclear power
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, March 4, 2004
Pakistan yesterday offered to share military assistance, including "nuclear power" with Nigeria, in defiance of President George Bush's new counter-proliferation initiative.
The offer was announced by the Nigerian defence ministry in a statement saying that General Muhammad Aziz Khan, chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff, had made the offer to the Nigerian defence minister, Rabiu Kwankwaso, during a visit to the west African state's capital, Abuja.
"Speaking at the opening of the discussions, the Pakistani chairman of joint chiefs of staff ... said that his country is working out the dynamics of how they can assist Nigeria's armed forces to strengthen its military capability and to acquire nuclear power," the Nigerian press release said. Neither the Pakistani nor the Nigerian governments clarified what Gen Khan had in mind.
The announcement is likely to provoke consternation in Washington, coming just a month after the mastermind behind Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted publicly that he had run a black market in nuclear weapons materials. [complete article]
For Bush, an election-year powder keg
By Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, Washington Post, March 3, 2004
The terrorists probably did not plan yesterday's attacks on Iraqi Shiites to coincide with the American electoral festival of Super Tuesday. But the timing is an apt reminder that this year's presidential election is likely to be shaped by events the Bush administration cannot control.
Vice President Cheney, in a trio of interviews with cable news outlets yesterday, brushed off the attacks as a sign of "desperation" among U.S. foes -- a response the administration has used for other bloody setbacks in Iraq. But administration officials also acknowledge that there is little that can be done to stop the attacks and that such violence is likely to worsen as power is transferred to Iraqis on June 30.
That raises the danger for President Bush that the public will come to see the attacks not as an inevitable side effect of democratic progress in Iraq but as the unraveling of the nearly year-old U.S. occupation there -- the main foreign enterprise of the Bush presidency. With the presidential election looming, Bush needs to show by this fall that democracy is waxing in Iraq and violence is waning. [complete article]
Photo essay: The damage done
By Verlyn Klinkenborg, Mother Jones, March 3, 2004
It's hard to say just when the word "hero" went bankrupt. But in the aftermath of 9/11, America became, to its own mind, a nation of heroes. We spread the word around like butter on toast. It has become cultural pabulum, a national panacea, a psychological commonplace. Children are now encouraged by well-meaning adults to grow up to become their own heroes, as if that wouldn't make them insufferable. And yet in a nation that is sick with celebrity, the word "hero" works in strange ways. We fear the elitism of the word, and so we democratize it, bestowing it everywhere, without really understanding what we're doing. In the past few years, our overuse of the word has trivialized the notion of duty and diminished the idea of professionalism. We say the word "hero" so much that we must be very afraid, as if a world full of heroes felt safer or at least more interesting. Somehow our lives suddenly seem to require heroism to sustain them. It's the password in an insecure world, the mantra we use against the dullness of ordinary life.
The men in these photographs are soldiers who were wounded in Iraq. Two of them were wounded in firefights. One was delivering ice. Another walked off into the desert on a bathroom break and stepped on a mine. One was wounded while blowing up a munitions dump. Two of the soldiers who look the least damaged are blind, far more damaged than the camera can record. Whatever they may feel about their condition now, these men tend to sum up our involvement in Iraq in simple, blunt phrases. Like this, from a double amputee: "The reasons for going to war were bogus, but we were right to go in there. Saddam was a bad guy."
No one has the right to say that these men are not heroes. But I also suspect that few people understand the contemporary hollowness of that word better than they do. [complete article]
Terror suspect's ambitions worry U.S. officials
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, March 3, 2004
The Jordanian-born jihadist who quickly became a suspect in yesterday's bombings in Iraq also wants to assume a leading, independent role in future terrorist operations in other countries, according to senior intelligence officials.
Abu Musab Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for two dozen bombings in recent months and was on record threatening new attacks against Iraqi Shiites before yesterday's attacks. But U.S. officials are also increasingly concerned about Zarqawi's ambitions beyond Iraq. Although Zarqawi has worked with al Qaeda in the past, officials say it is increasingly clear he operates independently of Osama bin Laden's organization and has developed his own network of operatives. [...]
The focus on Zarqawi, his network and his longer-term plans had intensified before yesterday's attacks. It comes as U.S. intelligence officials recalibrate their tactics in the fight against terrorists, paying particular attention to the emergence of such smaller, largely autonomous groups. [complete article]
Comment -- Some observers would argue that the transformation of al Qaeda recently described by CIA director Tenet would more accurately be described as an improvement in the CIA's understanding of the structure of al Qaeda. Whether this shift in perception from organization to movement represents a genuine evolution in intelligence, or whether the initial characterization of al Qaeda as an organization had more to do with a pre-determined definition for a war on terrorism, remains an open question. After 9-11, it certainly looked like it was more urgent to send out the posse than be sure where it was going.
U.S. has become easy scapegoat for Iraqis
By Patrick J. McDonnell and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2004
The guard at the mosque of the Mehdi stood vigil Tuesday at the bloody site where, two hours earlier, a suicide bomber had detonated his payload, killing more than a dozen Shiite Muslim worshipers waiting to enter the grounds of the blue-domed house of worship.
"It was the Americans who did this," said the guard, Abu Yaarub Khafaji, 26. "We saw their helicopters yesterday. They were doing aerial surveillance for the bombings today."
No matter who the perpetrators are, it seems the U.S. is blamed by Iraqis each time a bomb explodes -- or almost anytime something bad happens. [complete article]
A constitution drenched in blood
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, March 4, 2004
This is the new Iraq - where the process for a new democratic constitution is greeted by the specter of civil war.
On midnight last Saturday the Iraq Governing Council (IGC) failed to meet a deadline - imposed by American proconsul L Paul Bremer - to reach agreement on a draft constitution. Bremer himself intervened, applying heavy pressure. At 4:30am on Monday, the IGC proclaimed that it had finally agreed on a draft. Then on Tuesday morning the devastating anti-Shi'ite attacks took place in Baghdad and Karbala.
As early as Tuesday afternoon, fingers were already pointing toward a suspect, alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose purported letter was unearthed last month on a computer disk that fell into US hands and which supplies the perfect motive: al-Qaeda wants a civil war in Iraq.
How did Iraq slide in 24 hours from adopting a draft constitution that could pave the way for democracy into a state where civil war is a definite step closer? Simple. Blame it on al-Qaeda. It's the easy way out. But the attacks against the Shi'ites must be interpreted in light of what happened behind the closed doors of the US-appointed IGC during the weekend. [complete article]
Doubts cast on efforts to link Saddam, al-Qaida
By Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott, Knight Ridder, March 2, 2004
The Bush administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida - one of the administration's central arguments for a pre-emptive war - appears to have been based on even less solid intelligence than the administration's claims that Iraq had hidden stocks of chemical and biological weapons.
Nearly a year after U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq, no evidence has turned up to verify allegations of Saddam's links with al-Qaida, and several key parts of the administration's case have either proved false or seem increasingly doubtful.
Senior U.S. officials now say there never was any evidence that Saddam's secular police state and Osama bin Laden's Islamic terrorism network were in league. At most, there were occasional meetings.
Moreover, the U.S. intelligence community never concluded that those meetings produced an operational relationship, American officials said. That verdict was in a secret report by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence that was updated in January 2003, on the eve of the war.
Orphans of Somali lose their home in war on terrorism
By Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph, February 28, 2004
Shaking his head in disgust, Ali Haji watched as his young charges loaded their meagre possessions into wooden wheelbarrows and prepared to leave Somalia's largest orphanage for the last time.
"Bush and his administration have been fighting an unjust war against Muslims, but now he is fighting against children, too," he said.
Home to 3,060 children, victims of a 13-year civil war that has turned Somalia into the world's most anarchic country, al-Haramain Orphanage has been forced to close its doors after Washington accused its patrons of funding al-Qa'eda.
President Bush announced measures to shut down the worldwide al-Haramain network, based in Saudi Arabia, two years ago, but Riyadh turned a blind eye to the continued channelling of funds because it did not trust American intelligence.
Under duress, funding was finally cut off late last year, which the US government hailed as a major victory in the war on terrorism. [complete article]
Pakistan stirs a tribal war
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, March 3, 2004
The weekend's incident of "mistaken fire" in which Pakistani soldiers killed at least 11 people in a shooting incident in Wana in the tribal region of South Waziristan near the Afghan border has virtually overnight changed the rules of the game in the region.
The Pakistani army says that its soldiers were firing back at militants who had attacked an army camp, but tribesmen say that the troops opened fire on two vehicles that failed to stop at a road block; local people and Afghans were among the dead.
The Pakistani army last week launched a fresh offensive against al-Qaeda, Taliban and key Afghan resistance suspects in the tribal areas, a highly sensitive move at the best of times in the semi-autonomous region where the writ of Islamabad does not apply. [complete article]
The inspector's final report
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, March 3, 2004
In simply stating that there were no stockpiles, [chief weapons inspector David] Kay declared that the would-be emperors on both sides of the Atlantic had no clothes. His call for a full inquiry ultimately tipped the balance in Washington and led to the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the intelligence fiasco. That, in turn, stampeded Blair into the Butler inquiry.
But nothing stays clear for long when it comes to the justification for the Iraq war. Even since Kay's seminal testimony there have been attempts to reinterpret what he actually said. The media has been accused of focusing on a single soundbite, ignoring the ISG's findings that the Iraqis had indeed been trying to develop long-range missiles they were not entitled to, and had the means to reconstitute their weapons programmes once the international pressure was off.
In person, however, Kay's message is clear. "I was convinced and still am convinced that there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction at the time of the war," he told the Guardian in an interview in Washington. He now believes that any weapons the Iraqis had were probably destroyed before 1998. "There were continuing clandestine activities but increasingly driven more by corruption than driven by purposeful directed weapons programmes," argued the 63-year-old former diplomat and sleuth.
Coming from a hawk and advocate of the Iraq invasion, that is a depressing conclusion for an administration at the start of an unpredictable election year. Worse still, Kay is now calling on the White House to come clean about its mistakes and defend the war instead as a liberation of an oppressed people. [complete article]
U.N. Iraq inspectors say U.S. has not cooperated
By Evelyn Leopold, Reuters (via WP), March 2, 2004
U.N. arms inspectors on Tuesday complained that a lack of cooperation by the United States had stymied their efforts to completely account for Iraqi weapons.
The latest quarterly report by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC, says Washington never gave the commission a copy of U.S. inspector David Kay's findings on Iraqi weapons, and it failed to seek any U.N. information for Kay's team. [complete article]
The day of desecration: How bombs tore apart a festival of hope
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, March 3, 2004
It was the Shia's 11 September: a massacre of men, women and children who tried helplessly to escape as suicide bombs exploded and mortars fell among packed crowds. Survivors scrambled desperately over the severed limbs of the dead that littered the streets.
It came on the holiest day in the Shia calendar, and millions of their fellow believers around the world watched it play out on their television screens. They watched as their holiest shrines were desecrated with the blood of the innocent. They watched as what was supposed to be a day of liberation - the first time for years that the Ashoura ceremony, which was banned by Saddam Hussein, was allowed to take place in Iraq - ended with the streets of Karbala littered with the bodies of women and children. At least 160 people were killed in attacks on Shia in Iraq yesterday, 85 of them in Karbala.
The images are indelible. I was 100 metres away from the first explosion, but you didn't have to be that close. Millions of Shia saw that first terrifying explosion, which sent a great burst of yellow fire bellowing over the roofs of Karbala; cameras were already filming the ceremonies. [complete article]
Huge blasts attack Iraq unity
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 2004
Iraq's leaders rallied to stamp out the specter of civil war Tuesday after simultaneous attacks against two Shiite shrines killed at least 140 worshippers and wounded hundreds more as they marked the holy day of Ashoura unhindered for the first time in more than two decades.
Declaring three days of mourning, Iraq's interim Governing Council condemned the attacks, blaming "terrorists and evildoers," and insisted that it would not shatter the country's unity.
Many Shiites, reeling from the bloodiest day in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled from power, were swift to pin blame on the US and "outsiders." [complete article]
Israel's army markets to foreign armies its expertise fighting Palestinian uprising
By Peter Enav, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle), March 1, 2004
Israel is building a mock Arab town at a military base in southern Israel for millions of dollars -- part of a new sales pitch to foreign armies to teach them how to fight insurgencies.
Later this month, the Israeli military is hosting an arms show and seminar on "low-intensity conflict" for defense officials from 20 countries.
The campaign comes as the country moves into the 42nd month of its current round of fighting with the Palestinians.
Some experts wondered, however, how Israel could market "success," since it has failed to halt attacks by Palestinian militants and is considering withdrawing unilaterally from parts of the West Bank and most of the Gaza Strip. [complete article]
Death of N. Korean woman offers clues to Pakistani nuclear deals
By Paul Watson and Mubashir Zaidi, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2004
Ten days after Pakistan tested its first atomic bomb in 1998, the wife of a major North Korean arms dealer was shot to death near the heavily guarded home here of the nuclear program's leader, Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Authorities hushed up the mysterious shooting of Kim Sa Nae, and it was more than a year before news broke that she was probably killed by North Koreans. After Khan's confession in early February that he secretly sold nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya, Kim's death is taking on a new meaning as fresh details emerge.
Pakistan's government and military say that Khan and at least seven associates were motivated by greed and acted without official knowledge or approval. But details of Kim's death on June 7, 1998, and the way Pakistani authorities handled it, may hold clues to what officials actually knew about Khan's activities. [complete article]
GOP plans votes to put Democrats on the spot
By Jim VandeHei and Charles Babington, Washington Post, March 2, 2004
Republicans plan to use Congress to pull Sen. John F. Kerry and vulnerable Democrats into the cultural wars over gay rights, abortion and guns, envisioning a series of debates and votes that will highlight the candidates' positions on divisive issues, according to congressional aides and GOP officials.
The strategy will be on full display today, as Kerry (Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), the leading Democratic presidential candidates, plan to interrupt their Super Tuesday campaigning to fly to Washington for half a dozen votes on gun legislation, including liability protections for gun manufacturers. Both men oppose the liability bill, placing them in their party's majority even though some prominent Democrats -- including Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) -- support the bill.
A top Edwards aide said the senator is "not thrilled" to be voting on gun control one week before southern states such as Texas hold their primaries. Kerry, who has missed every Senate vote this year -- plus several key votes last year -- canceled a Florida campaign event tonight to be on hand for the gun votes, several of which are expected to be close. [complete article]
Haiti: Dangerous muddle
By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus, March, 2004
In 1994, when President Bill Clinton sent 20,000 American troops into Haiti to restore Jean-Bernard Aristide to the presidency, there was widespread support for a mission aimed at restoring democracy and relieving the misery of the Haitian people. It also seemed to herald a new day in the post-cold war world, when American invasions were not automatically synonymous with supporting some Latin American caudillo or South East Asian despot.
With the exception of the isolationist Right, virtually every voice in the political spectrum cheered the policy of "liberal intervention." The use of American power to make good things happen was a heady drug.
Unfortunately, an addictive one.
Although there is no question that the 1994 intervention was good for Haiti , military intervention has turned out to be fraught with problems, particularly when it is wielded by one country. [...]
It is tempting to pin the problematical aspects of the policy on the Bush administration and its coterie of aggressive, neocon policymakers. But the fissures in "liberal intervention" began showing up long before the Republicans took control of the White House. [complete article]
Foreign suicide bombers in video boast of Jihad missions against U.S. occupation
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, March 2, 2004
A video disc being distributed in Baghdad shows that foreign Islamic militants and Iraqi resistance fighters are working together against the American occupation.
Hundreds of Iraqis have died in suicide bombings since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but the identity of most of them has remained a mystery.
The video shows the faces of what it alleges are some of those bombers, in videotaped statements. The video, which has been seen by The Independent, includes what appears to be original video footage of rocket attacks and roadside bombings filmed from close up by the insurgents themselves.
The commentary claims the video is produced by Jeish Ansar al-Sunna, a little known group that claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing in Arbil last month that killed more than 100 people. [...]
Seven alleged suicide bombers are shown on the video. Most of the alleged suicide bombers are identifiable as Arabs from outside Iraq by their appearances, their accents, and in some cases their names. One is identified with the distinctively Saudi name Abu Hafez al-Najdi. Only one is identified as Iraqi: a Kurd from Arbil named only as Barwa. But unlike the others, his statement has been voiced over. [complete article]
Attacks on Shias inflame ancient schism
By Gareth Smyth, Financial Times, March 2, 2004
It is difficult to imagine actions more calculated to inflame Shia Muslims than setting off explosions in Karbala and Kadhimiya, in northern Baghdad, during Ashura, the day on which Shia Muslims remember the sacrifice of Hussein on the plain of Karbala in the 61st year of the Hijra (680 in the Christian calendar).
It is also difficult to imagine actions more designed to emphasise the divisions between Shia and Sunni Muslims. For the pilgrims who were slaughtered were marking the event that, more than any other, created Islam's main schism.
The pilgrims came from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and elsewhere - and the bombs will send shock waves throughout a Shia community that totals more than 100m worldwide. When last August, a bomb nearly killed Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Said al-Hakim in Najaf, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah in Lebanon, warned that the Shia would not tolerate such attacks on its spiritual leaders. [complete article]
Blasts at Iraqi Shi'ite ceremonies kill more than 100
By Suleiman al-Khalidi and Luke Baker, Reuters, March 2, 2004
Blasts tore through throngs of Shi'ites marking a religious ceremony in Baghdad and the holy city of Kerbala on Tuesday, killing at least 105 people and enraging Iraq's majority Shi'ites.
It was one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since a U.S.-led coalition toppled President Saddam Hussein last year, and doctors said the toll was likely to soar.
In a separate attack in Baghdad, guerrillas threw a bomb at a U.S. military vehicle early on Tuesday, killing one American soldier and seriously wounding another, the army said. The death took to 379 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action since the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Four explosions hit Baghdad's holiest Shi'ite mosque, the Kadhimiya mosque in the north of the city, and officials at a nearby hospital said at least 75 bodies had been brought to the morgue. Scores more Shi'ites were wounded.
In Kerbala, five explosions shook the city, where more than two million Shi'ites from Iraq, Iran and further afield had gathered. Hussein Mahdi, a senior official with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told Reuters at least 30 had been killed and more than 100 wounded. [complete article]
Comment -- While the debate about the mix between domestic and foreign directed violence in Iraq remains politically charged, it's worth remembering the depth of animosity for Shi'ites that has been expressed by al Qaeda. As Princeton scholar, Michael Scott Doran writes, 'Many Sunnis, especially religious extremists, hate Shiites more than they hate Israel. Al Qaeda's basic credo puts the matter bluntly: "We believe that the Shiites are . . . the most evil creatures under the heavens."'
29 killed in attack on Shiite procession in Pakistan
Associated Press (via Baltimore Sun), March 2, 2004
A bombing and shooting attack on Shiite Muslim worshipers during a religious procession in southwestern Pakistan killed at least 29 people today and wounded more than 150, authorities said. The city's mayor declared an immediate curfew and deployed security forces on the streets.
An explosion and gunfire rang out in a congested area of Quetta, the main city in southwest Baluchistan province, as hundreds of Shiite Muslims marking the Muharram holiday passed by, officials said. Authorities were trying to determine the source of the explosion and the affiliations of the shooters.
Soon after, a Sunni Muslim mosque, a television network office and several shops were set afire as Shiites rioted in parts of the city, and a shootout occurred near the scene of the initial attack, police said. [complete article]
What's right with Kerry
By David Corn, The Nation, March 15, 2004
In the heat of battle, with his campaign crumbling, Howard Dean lashed out at John Kerry. First, he called the leader in the Democratic presidential race a "Republican." Then he said, "When Senator Kerry's record is examined by the public at a more leisurely time...he's going to turn out to be just like George Bush."
Just like George Bush? It is true that Kerry, another Yalie and Skull and Bones alum, has voted in favor of NAFTA and other corporate-friendly trade pacts, that he once raised questions about affirmative action (while still supporting it), that he has, like almost every Democratic senator, accepted contributions from special-interest lobbyists (while being one of the few to eschew political action committee donations), that he voted to grant Bush the authority to invade Iraq. But this hardly makes him Bush lite. There is, as evidence, his nineteen-year Senate record, during which he has voted consistently in favor of abortion rights and environmental policies, opposed Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, led the effort against drilling in the Alaskan wilderness, pushed for higher fuel economy standards, advocated boosting the minimum wage and pressed for global warming remedies. But what distinguishes Kerry's career are key moments when he displayed guts and took tough actions that few colleagues would imitate. One rap on Kerry is that he is overly cautious and conventional. He's no firebrand on the stump, nor does he come across as the most passionate and exciting force for change. But his history in Washington includes episodes in which he demonstrated a willingness to confront hard issues, to challenge power, to pursue values rather than political advantage, to take risks for the public interest. [complete article]
By Joe Klein, The Guardian, March 2, 2004
[John Kerry's] great strength is his mastery of foreign affairs and military policy. His willingness to criticise the Bush administration on these subjects has distinguished him from the other eminent Democrats who wandered the country during the 2002 election season.
Kerry's criticism of the Bush foreign policy is meticulous and comprehensive. It begins with the administration's gratuitously ideological diplomatic actions in the year before the September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001. On Bush's decision to simply walk away from the Kyoto global-warming treaty, for example, he told me, "One hundred and sixty nations spent 10 years working to get to a certain place and the United States just stands up and dismisses it out of hand. The administration doesn't say we're going to try to fix it, doesn't say we respect your work, doesn't say we're going to try to find the common ground where we do have some differences. It just declares it dead. Now, what do we think those presidents of those countries, those prime ministers and those finance ministers, those environmental ministers are? Are they all dumb? Are we telling them they are absolutely incapable of making judgments about science, that the 10 years of work that they've invested in conference after conference, many of which I attended, was absolutely for naught? That makes us friends in the world?" [complete article]
Treat the cause, not the symptoms
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, March 2, 2004
An icy wind was blowing in the streets of Westminster and there were flakes of snow in the air, but the hotel was warm inside. With its wood panelling and comfy armchairs, the lobby resembled something between a gentleman's club and a country mansion: the essence of Englishness.
Enter the incongruous figure of Judge Hamoud Abdulhamid al-Hitar, dressed in a long black robe, a ceremonial dagger at his waist and a copy of the Guardian under his arm.
A judge in the high court of Yemen, he had been invited to London by the British government because the Foreign Office, the attorney general and the Metropolitan police, not to mention several Muslim organisations, all wanted to know about his unusual method of fighting terrorism - by theological dialogue.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the Yemeni authorities, under considerable pressure from the United States, rounded up several hundred suspected troublemakers and kept them in jail without trial. Many, the authorities readily admit, had not committed any crime but were known as sympathisers - if not active supporters - of Osama bin Laden.
The approach pioneered by Judge Hitar, who is also chairman of the Yemeni Human Rights Organisation, is to "re-educate" and release them, subject to guarantees of good behaviour. The success rate in re-education is about 90%, according to Judge Hitar, and more than 100 have been freed so far. [complete article]
U.N.: Iraq had no WMD after 1994
By Bill Nichols, USA Today, March 2, 2004
A report from U.N. weapons inspectors to be released today says they now believe there were no weapons of mass destruction of any significance in Iraq after 1994, according to two U.N. diplomats who have seen the document.
The historical review of inspections in Iraq is the first outside study to confirm the recent conclusion by David Kay, the former U.S. chief inspector, that Iraq had no banned weapons before last year's U.S-led invasion. It also goes further than prewar U.N. reports, which said no weapons had been found but noted that Iraq had not fully accounted for weapons it was known to have had at the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
The report, to be outlined to the U.N. Security Council as early as Friday, is based on information gathered over more than seven years of U.N. inspections in Iraq before the 2003 war, plus postwar findings discussed publicly by Kay. [complete article]
Blair under fire as opposition quits Iraq probe
By Mike Peacock and Peter Graff, Reuters (via Yahoo), March 1, 2004
Tony Blair's hopes of putting questions over Iraq behind him suffered a fresh setback on Monday when Britain's main opposition party withdrew support for a probe into the intelligence that sent the country to war.
Without support from the opposition Conservative Party, the inquiry -- set up last month to look into the quality of British intelligence on banned Iraqi weapons -- will give Blair little ammunition to silence his critics. [complete article]
U.S. considers larger Iraqi governing council
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, March 2, 2004
The United States is working on a new plan for turning over political power to Iraq by June 30 that could expand the Iraqi Governing Council but limit its powers to avoid another confrontation with Iraq's leading religious cleric, U.S. officials said.
This latest proposal would create a new Consultative Council to assume sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition and run Iraq until direct elections can be held, the officials added. Although the coalition has developed several other options, the Bush administration discussed this plan with its partners in the coalition and U.N. diplomats last week, according to U.S. officials. [complete article]
The spread of nuclear know-how
By Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 2004
In the early 1970s, at a factory in the Dutch town of Almelo, the governments of Britain, West Germany, and the Netherlands were perfecting a secret uranium-enrichment technology: the ultracentrifuge.
The machines were made of precisely crafted tubes of metal that spun at fantastic speeds.
The centrifugal force this spinning created was so great it could physically separate the different isotopes of natural uranium.
Naturally, this technology was housed in a factory that was supposed to be secure.
But in practice the atmosphere at Almelo was relaxed. The centrifuge building housed a snack shop, and workers without full clearance routinely filtered through - including a well-liked Pakistani metallurgist named Abdul Qadeer Khan. [complete article]
Bush's policies on Haiti at issue
By Peter Wallsten, Miami Herald, March 2, 2004
Lingering questions over what role the White House played in the Haiti uprising -- and whether race was a factor in sending back hundreds of fleeing refugees -- could haunt President Bush as he tries to win Florida again this year and secure reelection.
Leading Democrats, including presidential front-runner John Kerry, moved quickly Sunday in the wake of Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation to condemn Bush -- painting the situation as a foreign policy failure by a president whose reelection campaign is based largely on national security.
''The United States should have been an honest broker for nonviolence,'' Kerry told The Herald in a telephone interview from New York, where he was campaigning for the Tuesday Democratic primary. "This is one more indication of how the administration comes late to an issue, very ideologically colored in their approach, and allows things to get out of control as they have elsewhere in the world.''
Kerry also described the Bush administration's policy of blocking Haitians from fleeing the chaos while giving greater access to Cubans escaping communism as a ''double standard,'' but he stopped short of critics who call the Haitian policy racist. [complete article]
Round 2 for U.S. nation-building in Haiti
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 2004
As the US puts its soldiers' boots on Haitian soil for the second time in a decade, questions are arising about what went wrong the first time, when the Clinton administration sent 20,000 Marines in 1994 to return to power a president deposed by a military coup.
The idea then was to provide Haiti with the tools it needed - a clean national police, a competent and impartial judiciary, fair elections, and the foundation for economic development - to build the democracy it had never become.
This time, the marines' assignment appears to be much more limited - at least initially: to secure Port-au-Prince's airport and looted port so that much-needed supplies can begin flowing in again.
But coming as it does on the heels of America's deep involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Haiti expedition is again putting a spotlight on the idea of nation-building. [complete article]
Afghan al-Qaida sweep a daunting task
By Amir Shah, Associated Press (via Yahoo), March 1, 2004
In sight of Osama bin Laden's last known redoubt, and spitting distance from one of the least-tamed borders in the world, a group of young Afghan soldiers erected a lonely tent Monday -- a humble outpost meant to discourage al-Qaida and Taliban fighters from slipping back and forth from Pakistan.
The work is part of a U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani effort to cut off al-Qaida's mobility -- and officials say they are hopeful it will produce results.
Pakistani troops guided with U.S. satellite intercepts and local intelligence last week poured through the remote tribal region of South Waziristan, 100 miles south of this dusty village.
Pakistani rapid reaction forces have also secretly targeted North Waziristan, which is directly across the border from Satiwan, according to two Pakistani intelligence officials who spoke to The Associated Press last week on condition of anonymity.
But tightening control along the 2,000-mile frontier is maddeningly difficult. The border cuts through some of the world's most forbidding mountains, and is pocked with caves and secret smuggling routes. [complete article]
Pakistan denies U.S. Bin Laden deal
BBC News, March 1, 2004
The Pakistani Government has strongly denied allegations that it has struck a deal which would allow US troops to hunt for Osama Bin Laden on its soil.
The weekly New Yorker magazine alleged that in return the US would support Islamabad's decision to pardon the top nuclear scientist AQ Khan.
Dr Khan last month confessed on television to leaking nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Iran.
Islamabad said the New Yorker's claims were "absolutely absurd" and "untrue". [complete article]
Pakistan warns on Israeli arms sale to India
By Edward Luce, Financial Times, March 1, 2004
Pakistan said Monday that Israel's approval on Sunday of a $1.1bn sale of sophisticated military technology to India could destabilise the region and undermine the fledgling peace process between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Islamabad warned that the deal, in which India would acquire three Phalcon early-warning aircrafts from Israel and Russia, could fuel the arms race between the two countries. The technology, which could be used both defensively and offensively, would also encourage Pakistan to seek a similar system, it hinted.
"The sales of sophisticated weapons to India will accentuate strategic and conventional imbalance in South Asia," said Masood Khan, the Pakistan government spokesman. "Such transactions also undermine the spirit of peace and stability being pushed by Pakistan, India and the international community." [complete article]
If it could happen to Churchill...
By Andrew Sullivan, Time Magazine, March 8, 2004
Wartime leaders have always faced the worst fear: defeat in battle. But in democracies at least, war leaders also confront another danger: success. The qualities that make for great statesmanship in wartime -- determination, a single focus on victory, a black-and-white conviction of who is friend or foe -- can often seem crude or overbearing when peace comes around. The most dramatic example of this in Western history is Winston Churchill. It is no exaggeration to say that without him, Britain may well have been destroyed by Hitler. He was the difference between victory and defeat. But almost the minute that victory was declared, the voters turned on their hero. He lost the postwar election. Even more striking, he lost it in one of the biggest landslides in Britain's parliamentary history. He wasn't just defeated. He was buried. [complete article]
Comment -- As I have previously suggested, the widespread suspicion that George Bush's reelection campaign hinges on catching Osama bin Laden presupposes that this would boost Bush's popularity and guarantee him a second term. It could work, but it's far from certain. Timing is all important. The boost in the polls that Bush got from catching Saddam lasted less than a month, but if OBL gets captured or killed in October, even Bush's most loyal supporters are likely to feel manipulated. Reeling him in in spring or summer risks the Churchill effect - too many Americans concluding that they have no more need for a war president. Commentators such as Dick Morris argue that it's in Bush's best interests for him to promote an abiding fear of terrorism. Constant fear doesn't make people confident in the capacities of their leader, but it does make them less willing to risk change. (Think, Sharon.) But whether this might have been Bush's safest strategy it now appears that he has an irrepressible desire to trumpet victory. The hunt for bin Laden is not only intensifying, but its successful conclusion is, we are told, certain before year's end. Though such expression of confidence will make some people believe that bin Laden has already been located or even captured, the unfolding US operation in Pakistan (described today by Seymour Hersh) carries with it risks far greater than the potential reward -- a clear indication that the prize is not already in hand.
Iraqis still undecided on interim gov't
By Jim Krane, Associated Press (via AJC), March 1, 2004
Iraqi leaders must still decide on the form of a new government to take power June 30 despite approval of an interim constitution at the end of a protracted and sometimes stormy debate, officials said Monday.
Members of the Iraqi Governing Council agreed to the interim constitution before dawn Monday--two days after the deadline. It establishes a bill of rights and cements compromises on the structure of a future presidency and the role of Islam.
The document calls for elections by Jan. 31, 2005 to create a legislature, with a goal of having women in at least a quarter of the seats. But it does not say what kind of government will run the country from June 30, when the U.S.-led coalition hands over power, until Jan. 31. [complete article]
Fog of war envelops Blair
By Dan McDougall, The Scotsman, March 1, 2004
It was the shocking manner in which Ahmad Jabbar Kareem died that brought the Iraqi teenager to the world's attention last year. Allegedly forced into a filthy Basra canal by British troops clamping down on looting in the area, he was then ordered to swim to the other side or face a bullet.
Ahmad couldn't swim, but took his chances in the water anyway - and drowned as he tried to make the crossing.
His case is one of a growing number of suspicious deaths in British custody that the Ministry of Defence has admitted it is currently investigating.
The British military is coming under intense scrutiny over allegations of torture and mistreatment of civilian prisoners in Basra, with Amnesty International demanding an independent inquiry. Yesterday, it emerged the MoD now faces direct legal action over the deaths of 13 Iraqi citizens. [complete article]
'Bullet magnets' prepare for Iraqi frontline
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, March 1, 2004
The lead vehicle in the convoy has disappeared over the hill. The road ahead is flanked by two suspicious-looking car wrecks. In the back of the pick-up truck, the troops are getting twitchy.
All six soldiers jump out of the truck and sprawl in the dirt, triggers at the ready. Minutes later, they clamber back in. Nobody thinks to look behind until a smoke grenade explodes three yards away. The buzzer sounds. "A grenade. We're dead, dude," says Private Tyler Franzen.
They were wiped out within the first five minutes of their drill on convoy movement, and the implications register quickly. Days from now, Pte Franzen and the 319th Signals Battallion could be in Iraq. "This makes me more scared," he says. "I am preparing for the worst."
Their trainer calls troops like these "bullet magnets" - army reservists or National Guard soldiers, weekend warriors with minimal combat training pressed into service. [complete article]
See also National Guard readies for Iraq (LA Times)
Anointed Iraq group now probed
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 28, 2004
The Iraqi National Congress, long championed by officials at the White House, Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, is facing a growing number of investigations into the inaccurate - and possibly bogus - intelligence it provided on Iraq. The investigations are also looking into whether some INC members may have tried to cash in on the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Democrats in the House have asked the Defense Intelligence Agency to turn over raw intelligence supplied by the Iraqi exile group. They plan to review it for its accuracy and reliability, according to officials in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill.
The move follows a recent decision by the Senate intelligence committee to expand its probe of prewar intelligence on Hussein to include the Iraqi National Congress and other groups that played important roles in President Bush's decision to invade Iraq last March. [complete article]
Paris and Washington find common ground in Caribbean
By John Lichfield, The Independent, March 1, 2004
One year after Washington and Paris quarrelled spectacularly over Iraq, US and French military and civilian peace-keeping forces will soon be patrolling beside one another on the streets and roads of Haiti.
The central role played by the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, in the negotiations that led to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's relatively bloodless departure yesterday is the most visible sign so far of a thaw in Franco-American relations.
M. de Villepin -- with America's unspoken blessing -- became the first foreign leader to urge Mr Aristide to stand down last Wednesday. His statement, which followed almost daily consultation with the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, helped to get Washington off a sharp diplomatic hook. [complete article]
See also Congressmember Maxine Waters' statement that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's "anxious for me to get the message out so people will understand. He is in the Central Republic of Africa at a place called the Palace of the Renaissance, and he's not sure if that's a house or a hotel or what it is and he is surrounded by military. It's like in jail, he said. He said that he was kidnapped; he said that he was forced to leave Haiti."
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 1, 2004
According to past and present military and intelligence officials, however, Washington's support for the pardon of [the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer] Khan was predicated on what Musharraf has agreed to do next: look the other way as the U.S. hunts for Osama bin Laden in a tribal area of northwest Pakistan dominated by the forbidding Hindu Kush mountain range, where he is believed to be operating. American commanders have been eager for permission to conduct major sweeps in the Hindu Kush for some time, and Musharraf has repeatedly refused them. Now, with Musharraf's agreement, the Administration has authorized a major spring offensive that will involve the movement of thousands of American troops.
Musharraf has proffered other help as well. A former senior intelligence official said to me, "Musharraf told us, 'We've got guys inside. The people who provide fresh fruits and vegetables and herd the goats'" for bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers. "It's a quid pro quo: we're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan."
The spring offensive could diminish the tempo of American operations in Iraq. "It's going to be a full-court press," one Pentagon planner said. Some of the most highly skilled Special Forces units, such as Task Force 121, will be shifted from Iraq to Pakistan. Special Forces personnel around the world have been briefed on their new assignments, one military adviser told me, and in some cases have been given "warning orders" -- the stage before being sent into combat.
A large-scale American military presence in Pakistan could also create an uproar in the country and weaken Musharraf's already tenuous hold on power. The operation represents a tremendous gamble for him personally (he narrowly survived two assassination attempts in December) and, by extension, for the Bush Administration -- if he fell, his successor might be far less friendly to the United States. [complete article]
Iraqi council agrees on terms of interim constitution
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, March 1, 2004
Iraqi political leaders agreed early Monday on the terms of an interim constitution that strikes a compromise on the contentious issues of Kurdish autonomy and Islam's role in government. [...]
In an unprecedented step toward gender equality in the Arab world, the document sets aside 25 percent of the seats in the provisional legislature for women, council aides said. [...]
The final draft calls for Islam to be the official religion but to be only "a source" of legislation, Istrabadi said. In an apparent effort to placate conservative Shiites while providing protections against religious domination, the document states that during the transition, legislation cannot be enacted that infringes upon the "universally agreed upon tenets of Islam," but also that legislation cannot contradict any of the rights stipulated in the bill of rights, Istrabadi said. [...]
The Kurds won the right to retain their pesh merga militia as a national guard force in an autonomous swath of northern Iraq administered by a Kurdish regional government. Arabs as well as U.S. officials had wanted the militia to be integrated into the country's new army or other security services.
The document also endorsed the principle of a federal system of government with the right for extensive self-rule in Kurdish-administered areas. [...]
The document does not specify what type of transitional government Iraq will have when the civil occupation ends on June 30. That will be detailed in an addendum. [complete article]
Doubts on case for conflict may bring flood of claims
By Clare Dyer, Nicholas Watt and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, March 1, 2004
Doubts about the legality of the war could lead to a flood of compensation claims against the [British] government from servicemen injured in Iraq, according to a leading international lawyer.
Such a claim would require the courts to decide whether the war was lawful and force disclosure of the attorney general's full advice, said Jeremy Carver, head of public international law at the City law firm Clifford Chance.
Battlefield immunity, which protects the government from claims for soldiers' injuries or death during military operations, might not be effective in the case of an unlawful war.
Mr Carver, who represents governments and has helped them draft alternative UN resolutions, said he had initially formed no view on the war's legality.
"I didn't know then whether there was any sufficient basis on which to say the war was lawful," he said.
"From everything we have learned since then, it has become obvious there was no valid basis for the war and therefore the war was illegal." [complete article]
In an insular state of mind
By Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times, February 29, 2004
Pick up the phone, and the American-sounding operator may be in India or the Philippines. Here in California, we buy three times as many foreign cars as domestic ones. The all-American clothing of the Gap, Levi Strauss and Nike is produced mostly in Asia, and about 75% of the toys our children play with are made overseas. Americans live, these days, in an era of globalization.
Money and goods, though, flow more rapidly into the United States than ideas and culture. As the country exports both Hollywood movies and occupying armies, it seems to be gradually closing its ears to foreign voices.
"What it takes out of our culture is understanding and humility and tolerance and perspective on the world," Mark Gill, president of Warner Independent Pictures, of the growing difficulty of selling foreign films. "What we're missing is not only the full range of emotion but also of storytelling."
Distributors say that foreign-language films have a harder time each year getting space on American screens. A recent study showed that European films produced only 1.6% of the 2002 U.S. box office take at a time when American films were garnering almost 90% of audiences in parts of Europe.
Of the literary books published in the U.S., fewer than 3% are translations -- a proportion no better than in the Arab world. [...]
Some point to a xenophobia sparked by 9/11, but for the most part these are long-standing trends with various causes -- from fears of terrorism to risk-averse corporate consolidation, from shifts in U.S. intellectual culture to what some call a growing public insularity.
It's impossible to know the movies, books and performances we aren't getting as a result: Are we missing the next "One Hundred Years of Solitude" or "Jules and Jim," the next Baryshnikov?
But besides all the art we aren't seeing or hearing, the most important loss may be in what this lack of foreign culture does to U.S. society as a whole.
"It's a self-satisfaction, the assumption that we don't need them, that they don't have anything to tell us," says Los Angeles-based Michael Henry Heim, who has translated Milan Kundera and Gunther Grass. "It's the old 9/11 problem: We don't understand how we're perceived by other people -- but that's one of the ways in which we are." [complete article]
Beware 'sound science.' It's doublespeak for trouble
By Chris Mooney, Washington Post, February 29, 2004
When George W. Bush and members of his administration talk about environmental policy, the phrase "sound science" rarely goes unuttered. On issues ranging from climate change to the storage of nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, our president has assured us that he's backing up his decisions with careful attention to the best available research.
It's not just Bush: Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives, led by Reps. Chris Cannon of Utah and Jim Gibbons of Nevada, have announced the formation of a "Sound Science Caucus" to ramp up the role of "empirical" and "peer reviewed" data in laws such as the Endangered Species Act. And last August the Office of Management and Budget unveiled a proposal to amplify the role of "peer review" in the evaluation of scientific research conducted by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It all sounds noble enough, but the phrases "sound science" and "peer review" don't necessarily mean what you might think. Instead, they're part of a lexicon used to put a pro-science veneer on policies that most of the scientific community itself tends to be up in arms about. [complete article]
Bush ejects two from bioethics council
By Rick Weiss, Washington Post, February 28, 2004
President Bush yesterday dismissed two members of his handpicked Council on Bioethics -- a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human embryo cells.
In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."
The turnover immediately renewed a recent string of accusations by scientists and others that Bush is increasingly allowing politics to trump science as he seeks advice on ethically contentious issues. [complete article]
British army chiefs feared Iraq war illegal just days before start
By Martin Bright, Antony Barnett and Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer, February 29, 2004
Britain's Army chiefs refused to go to war in Iraq amid fears over its legality just days before the British and American bombing campaign was launched, The Observer can today reveal.
The explosive new details about military doubts over the legality of the invasion are detailed in unpublished legal documents in the case of Katharine Gun, the intelligence officer dramatically freed last week after Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, dropped charges against her of breaking the Official Secrets Act.
The disclosure came as it also emerged that Goldsmith was forced hastily to redraft his legal advice to Tony Blair to give an 'unequivocal' assurance to the armed forces that the conflict would not be illegal.
Refusing to commit troops already stationed in Kuwait, senior military leaders were adamant that war could not begin until they were satisfied that neither they nor their men could be tried. Some 10 days later, Britain and America began the campaign. [complete article]
British special forces join fresh bid to snare bin Laden
By Jason Burke, The Observer, February 29, 2004
American and British forces have launched a dramatic new effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.
SAS detachments will join thousands of US troops - including a 'super-secret' special forces unit transferred from Iraq - and contingents of Afghan soldiers in a huge sweep of mountainous border areas where the terrorists are believed to be hiding.
The push will be the biggest such operation for 18 months. Attempts to find the fugitives last year were hindered by a lack of special forces soldiers - most of whom had been deployed in Iraq - and the failure of Pakistan to cut off escape routes by closing its border with Afghanistan. Harsh winter conditions in recent months have made movement in the high ground where bin Laden is thought to be hiding impossible.
Thousands of Pakistani troops and paramilitaries are preparing to move into positions along the 1,520-mile frontier to act as an 'anvil' against which the US-led 'hammer' can strike. Reports from an Iranian news agency yesterday that bin Laden has been captured proved false but Washington is confident the Saudi-born militant will be killed or captured within a year. [complete article]
Gaffes and gullibility: NY Times gets it wrong
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, February 28, 2004
If Walter Lippman, perhaps the most influential US press critic and foreign-policy columnist of the 20th century, were alive today, chances are he would shake his head knowingly and mutter something like, "The more things change, the more they remain the same."
After all, it was in 1920 that he and a colleague, Charles Merz, wrote in their analysis of New York Times coverage of the Bolshevik Revolution between 1917 and 1920 that the newspaper's reporting on Russia during that period was "nothing short of a disaster".
In an article in The New Republic magazine, they wrote that the Times had reported the imminent or actual end of the Soviet regime "not once or twice, but 91 times in the two years from November, 1917 to November 1919".
"They [Times journalists] were performing the supreme duty in a democracy of supplying the information on which public opinion feeds, and they were derelict in that duty," added Lippman and Merz.
Eighty-four years later, the same question is being asked about the performance of the mass media - especially the Times - on reporting about Iraq, particularly the prewar and even postwar assumptions that the country possessed vast stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons and had reconstituted its nuclear-arms program. [complete article]
The U.S. is brewing up a disaster for the Kurds
By Brendan O'Leary, Los Angeles Times, February 29, 2004
The Bush administration wants to impose an extremely centralized interim constitution on Iraq. That's a recipe for disaster.
The plan of L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. civilian administrator, will not fly, except perhaps in Arab Iraq. The reason is that Iraq is not one nation but at least two. Some Arabs on the U.S.-appointed Governing Council are making a deal with the Coalition Provisional Authority. Nothing surprising about that, but the deal would be at the expense of the Kurds and of Iraq's other nation, the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan. It would sacrifice secular principles, women's rights and meaningful federalism, so Americans should pay close attention to what is being done in their name.
The proposed Iraqi transitional administrative law is the "Pachachi" draft. Quotation marks are needed because its authors -- a nephew of Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite Muslim, and an advisor to Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni and a member of the Governing Council -- mostly transcribed, word for word, passages from Bremer's papers.
The draft is no home-grown interim constitution that can subsequently be blamed on the natives. It was composed via the White House -- and betrays the promises made by President Bush to the Kurdish leaders who organized the sole indigenous military support for the liberation of Iraq. [complete article]
When in Iraq, do as the Grand Ayatollah does
By Henri J. Barkey, Los Angeles Times, February 29, 2004
The United States is enmeshed in a friendly yet urgent debate with a Shiite cleric over the future of Iraq, and last week the Bush administration scored an important point. But if a stable Iraq is our goal, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had better win the argument. He insists on direct elections, as opposed to Washington's caucuses, to determine the next Iraqi government.
There are four reasons why Sistani is right. [complete article]
Making bombers in Iraq
By Patrick J. Mcdonnell and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, February 29, 2004
Namir Awaad was a suicide bomber made in Iraq.
There is no evidence that he belonged to Al Qaeda or trained in a terrorist camp. He spent 23 apparently uneventful years on the planet until the chilly morning of Dec. 9.
That's when the slender, bearded loner strode up to a Bradley fighting vehicle guarding a U.S. Army base here and detonated a backpack bomb, blowing himself apart and injuring a soldier.
Because a quirk of physics left his face intact, Awaad became one of the few suicide bombers in Iraq to be definitively identified. The case helped expose a home-grown network suspected in a string of suicide bombings that have killed more than 25 people in this volatile zone northeast of Baghdad. Authorities have detained several Iraqis suspected of being accomplices and believe that three car bombers were Iraqis.
The developments here -- and signs elsewhere of Iraqis plotting or training for suicide attacks -- throw into question the widely held view that Iraq's suicide bombers are exclusively foreign jihadis. U.S. and Iraqi officials repeatedly have said that Iraqis are unlikely to engage in such missions because they do not have a history of violent religious extremism. [complete article]
War for souls in Iraq
By Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange, February 27, 2004
Last March, in anticipation of a quick U.S. victory, several U.S. Christian evangelical organizations set their sights on delivering band-aids and Bibles to Iraq. Now, more than eleven months later, concerned that the window of opportunity will soon be slammed shut, evangelical groups are hustling about the country. Ironically, while these U.S.-based Christian missionaries are struggling to convert Muslims, the country's Christian community -- numbering less than one million out of a population of 23-25 million and made up of mostly Assyrian Catholics -- is under attack. [complete article]
Iraqi women score legal victory
Agence France Presse (via Aljazeera), February 29, 2004
Iraqi women have won a victory after they convinced lawmakers to reject an attempt to turn the clock back on their rights by scrapping an established family law.
The decision made on Friday amid a crunch meeting of Iraq's US appointed interim Governing Council, which was battling on Saturday to draft a temporary constitution by a midnight deadline, prompted several Islamic councillors to storm out in protest.
The women also want at least a 40% stake in the country's evolving political power, which will be enshrined in the transitional law under discussion, said Jamil al-Jawahiri, a spokesman for Iraqi al-Amal Association, one of the groups leading the campaign for greater women's rights in Iraq.
But several women questioned on the street in Baghdad were sceptical that the political wrangling would have any real impact on their conservative lives. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Reagan approved plan to sabotage Soviets
By David E. Hoffman, Washington Post, February 27, 2004
In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official.
Iraqi women's window of opportunity for political gains is closing
By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, February 27, 2004
Emboldened by the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women are pushing for political freedoms many of them have never enjoyed. But as they do, a rising tide of religious zeal threatens even the small victories they have won. [...] Women, secular and religious, from all ethnic groups, now run for office and demand a fair share of representation in a country where they make up 60 percent of the population. Yet new religious activism in Iraq has aggravated traditional attitudes about women's roles in society. The 18-member committee drafting the new constitution does not include any women, according to members of the Iraqi Governing Council. The council recently passed a nonbinding resolution calling for Shariah, or Islamic law, to govern family issues, which Iraq's justice minister said would damage the rights of Iraqi women.
The best-armed nation in the Middle East continues to portray itself as a victim, Sharon's declared intent to evacuate settlers from Gaza is followed by a new land grab -- in Gaza! -- and as construction of the "security fence" continues apace, Condoleezza Rice predicts an imminent historical shift in the region no less momentous than the fall of the Berlin Wall.
U.S. pitches Sharon plan to Europe, Arabs
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, February 27, 2004
Land grab in Gaza casts doubt on pullout
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, February 27, 2004
Down and out in The Hague
By Yoel Marcus, Haaretz, February 27, 2004
A legacy of lies
By Seth Ackerman, Mother Jones, February 20, 2004
It was a devastating blow to the White House. David Kay, the man hand-picked by the Bush administration to lead the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, confirmed to a Senate committee in late January that the intelligence supporting Washington's case for war against Saddam Hussein was baseless. "It turns out we were all wrong… and that is most disturbing," Kay declared. But who exactly got it wrong? Intelligence agencies obviously exaggerated Iraq's WMD potential, and it's well known that they were egged on by their political masters in the Bush administration. But that's not the whole story. In fact, Bush's manipulation of Iraq intelligence was built on a foundation established during the late 1990's, when Bill Clinton was in the White House.
The junk science of George W. Bush
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr., The Nation, March 8, 2004
As Jesuit schoolboys studying world history we learned that Copernicus and Galileo self-censored for many decades their proofs that the earth revolved around the sun and that a less restrained heliocentrist, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive in 1600 for the crime of sound science. With the encouragement of our professor, Father Joyce, we marveled at the capacity of human leaders to corrupt noble institutions. Lust for power had caused the Catholic hierarchy to subvert the church's most central purpose--the search for existential truths. Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration--aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals--are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition.
Insurgent and soldier: Two views on Iraq fight
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, February 25, 2004
When a conventional army is forced to fight an antiguerrilla warfare campaign, it can be "messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife." So said T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, the British Army officer who led the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. For Maj. John Nagl, never was a truer word spoken. He even adapted the quote as the subtitle for his doctoral thesis, "Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam," published two years ago. The 37-year-old guerrilla warfare specialist serves with the 82nd Airborne Division in this former Iraqi Air Force base in the Sunni triangle. Since deploying to Iraq in September last year, Major Nagl has grappled with the challenges posed by the cells of insurgents operating in his area. "It's a constant struggle of one-upmanship," he says. "We adapt, they adapt. It's a constant competition to gain the upper hand." That view is shared by "Ahmad," a member of a local resistance cell. In separate interviews, the two of them paint a picture of a classic guerrilla war in which semi-autonomous groups of lightly armed fighters fired up with religious and nationalist zeal compete against the world's most advanced military machine in a constantly evolving struggle.
Bush 'wanted war in 2002'
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, February 24, 2004
US President George W. Bush set the US on the path to war in Iraq with a formal order signed in February 2002, more than a year before the invasion, according to a book published on Monday. The revelation casts doubt on the public insistence by US and British officials throughout 2002 that no decision had been taken to go to war, pending negotiations at the UN. Rumsfeld's War is by Rowan Scarborough, the Pentagon correspondent for the conservative Washington Times newspaper, which is known for its contacts in the defense department's civilian leadership.
Iraq: Shiites unbound
By Christopher Dickey and Rod Nordland, Newsweek, March 1, 2004
[A] mix of fatalism and resolve is typical of Iraqi Shiites, who never deserved the fanatical label imposed on them by Saddam. But collectively, this underclass unleashed and empowered by the U.S. occupation is also the single most revolutionary new force in the region. Guided by their ayatollahs, they can show enormous discipline, whether marching in protest, fighting in the streets -- or voting. If they remain grateful to the United States and friendly to its interests, they will be potent allies. If not, the whole adventure in Iraq could come to a disastrous end.
Tomorrow the world
By Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books, March 11, 2004
The invasion of Iraq and the planting of an American army in the heart of the Middle East have encouraged one of the war's intellectual architects, Richard Perle, to think that the United States may be pulling up its socks at last. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein, following the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, is the fruit, in Perle's view, of a bracing new clear-eyed toughness in dealing with the enemies of democracy. But the job is far from over and Perle, in the new book he has written with David Frum, worries that "many in the American political and media elite are losing their nerve for the fight." The enemies are many, friends are few, and summertime soldiers on the left, as Perle sees it, want to call a truce in the war on terror in "the hope that...somehow the threat will disappear on its own."
Ghosts of 1973 still haunt Israel as its spies face Iraq probe, too
By Ed Blanche, Daily Star, February 21, 2004
Improve the CIA? Better to abolish it
By Chalmers Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, 2004
Iraq war product of neocon philosophy of intelligence
By Tom Barry, Right Web, February 12, 2004
The dangers to security and the demands for strategic intelligence in the 21st century
By Richard L. Russell, Policy Review, February-March, 2004
Soldier for the truth
Exposing Bush's talking-points war
By Marc Cooper, LA Weekly, February 20, 2004
Pentagon preparations for war in space
By Noah Shachtman, Wired News, February 20, 2004
An Air Force report is giving what analysts call the most detailed picture since the end of the Cold War of the Pentagon's efforts to turn outer space into a battlefield. For years, the American military has spoken in hints and whispers, if at all, about its plans to develop weapons in space. But the U.S. Air Force Transformation Flight Plan (PDF) changes all that. Released in November, the report makes U.S. dominance of the heavens a top Pentagon priority in the new century. And it runs through dozens of research programs designed to ensure that America can never be challenged in orbit -- from anti-satellite lasers to weapons that "would provide the capability to strike ground targets anywhere in the world from space." Space has become an increasingly important part of U.S. military efforts. Satellites are used more and more to talk to troops, keep tabs on foes and guide smart bombs. There's also long been recognition that satellites may need some sort of protection against attack. But the Air Force report goes far beyond these defensive capabilities, calling for weapons that can cripple other countries' orbiters. That prospect worries some analysts that the U.S. may spark a worldwide arms race in orbit.
In the shadow of Sharon's wall
By Marouf Zahran, The Guardian, February 23, 2004
My town and its people are slowly suffocating. The government of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is building a grotesque wall. He is building it on land that belongs to Palestinians: land occupied by Israel and held in violation of international law. He is building it, like a tightening noose, around my town, Qalqilya.
Now the Pentagon tells Bush: Climate change will destroy us
By Mark Townsend and Paul Harris, The Observer, February 22, 2004
A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
Read the complete report An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security
The ultimate betrayal
By Howard Zinn, The Progressive, April 2004
George Bush was eager to send young men and women half a world away into the heart of another nation. And even though they had fearsome weapons, they were still vulnerable to guerrilla attacks that have left so many of them blinded and crippled. Is this not the ultimate betrayal of our young by our government? Their families very often understand this before their sons and daughters do, and remonstrate with them before they go off. Ruth Aitken did so with her son, an Army captain, telling him it was a war for oil, while he insisted he was protecting the country from terrorists. He was killed on April 4, in a battle around Baghdad airport. "He was doing his job," his mother said. "But it makes me mad that this whole war was sold to the American public and to the soldiers as something it wasn't."
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