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 The War in Context
   alternative perspectives on the "war on terrorism"

The man who would testify against Sharon is blown up. Was this another targeted killing?
Robert Fisk, The Independent, 25 January 2002

Who on earth would want to murder the key witness for the prosecution in a war crimes indictment against the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon? Why would anyone want to car-bomb the former Lebanese Phalangist militia leader and government minister Elie Hobeika in Beirut – less than two days after he agreed to give evidence against Mr Sharon in a Belgian court, which may try the Israeli leader for the murder of up to 1,700 Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in September, 1982?
[The complete story]

Misery of 'slaughterhouse' tent city
Alex Spillius, Telegraph, January 26, 2002

The war against the Taliban may have been won, but for Unicef the struggle against deprivation has barely begun.
[The complete story]

Saudi Arabia, US: When the relationship sours
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, January 26, 2002

Judging by the media coverage, much of the United States and the international political establishment was taken aback to learn that Saudi Arabia is considering asking Washington to withdraw its military presence from the kingdom. But to experts on the US-Saudi alliance, which dates back to World War II, the story came as little surprise.
[The complete story]

The others
Howard Zinn, The Nation, February 11, 2002

What if all those Americans who declare their support for Bush's "war on terrorism" could see, instead of those elusive symbols--Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda--the real human beings who have died under our bombs?
[The complete article]

US silence and power of weaponry conceal scale of civilian toll
Craig Nelson, Sydney Morning Herald, January 26, 2002

Many factors combine to make an accurate count of the innocent victims of US bombing in Afghanistan almost impossible.
[The complete article]

Bound and gagged
Charles Glass, The Nation, January 24, 2002

I thought the Eighth Amendment to our Constitution prohibited "cruel and unusual punishments." I'm looking at the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments that Americans regard as sacred, and read the words, "nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Full stop. It does not say that only American passport holders, legal residents of the United States and members of the Senate who take contributions from corporations that violate the law are exempt from government torments. It makes clear that no category of human being is excluded from America's obligation to refrain from cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment means suspects, it means enemies, it means criminals, it means prisoners of war, it means--and the term is as new to me and you as it undoubtedly is to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld--"illegal" combatants.
[The complete article]

'Vietnam syndrome' is alive and thriving
Mark Weisbrot, Common Dreams, January 25, 2002

Politicians and journalists have interpreted widespread support for the military actions in Afghanistan as a significant shift in Americans' attitudes toward war. In the weeks following the massacre of September 11, Vice President Dick Cheney described the crowd's reaction to a speech he made in New York: "There wasn't a dove in the room," he said with a smile.
[The complete article]

Key witness blown up in Beirut
Israel denies link to murder of Lebanese warlord who promised to give evidence against Ariel Sharon at Brussels war crimes trial

Brian Whitaker and Ian Black, The Guardian, January 25, 2002

A potential key witness in the Belgian war crimes case against the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was blown up outside his house in Beirut yesterday, together with three bodyguards.
[The complete article]

Iraq - the phantom threat
Scott Ritter, Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2002

The lack of documentation of an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection in this intelligence trove [coming out of Afghanistan] should lead to the questioning of the original source of such speculation, as well as the motivations of those who continue to peddle the "Iraqi connection" theory. Foremost among them are opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress and his American sponsors, in particular Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and former Undersecretary of State Richard Perle.
[The complete article]

US penal culture baffles its allies
America's absolutist approach to retribution underlies the conditions both at Guantanamo Bay and in its 'supermaximum' prisons

Julian Borger, The Guardian, January 23, 2002

It is hard to imagine how disoriented the new inmates of Camp X-Ray must feel as they sit staring from their Guantanamo Bay cages. They signed on to fight a holy war in the dry mountains of Afghanistan, but have ended up in a sweaty corner of a tropical island on the other side of the world, being fed bagels and cream cheese a few strips of razor wire away from one of the world's last outposts of communism.
[The complete article]

Briton [Omar Sheikh] linked to al-Qaida 'behind Calcutta killings'
Peter Popham, The Independent, 24 January, 2002

The drive-by shooting that killed five policemen and left 20 people wounded outside the American Centre in Calcutta on Tuesday has been linked by a senior Indian government minister to a Briton thought to have supplied crucial finance to Mohamed Atta, the pilot of one of the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre on 11 September.
[The complete story]

The story of Omar Sheikh, as told in his own words and reported in the Indian Express last October

It's a 35-page note handwritten in English, gathering dust for over five years in New Delhi's Patiala House courts. Now it could play a key role in the September 11 investigation. The author of this note is Omar Sheikh, a British national of Pakistani origin who studied at the London School of Economics and was one of the three militants released by the Indian Government in the Kandahar hijack drama in 1999. The FBI is exploring leads that Sheikh could have been involved in the transfer of $100,000 to Mohammad Atta, one of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks in the US. Sheikh’s note, describes, in almost diary-like detail, how he went about his ‘‘kidnapping mission’’ in India at the behest of his superiors in Pakistan. His mission: to kidnap a group of foreigners in India and then demand, as ransom, the release of several Kashmir militants, the most high-profile being Maulana Masood Azhar. The mission failed, Sheikh was arrested but five years later he got what he had come for. With Azhar, he was on a plane to Kandahar, delivered to the Taliban by India's External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh.
[The complete story]

Global aid for Kabul, Iranian arms for Herat
The warlord Ismail Khan has found an eager ally in the fight to keep his regional fiefdom

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, January 24, 2002

The officer, a veteran of the Afghan army, heard a loud noise - "hummm, like that" - then a big explosion followed by a number of small ones. The official explanation of the blast that killed at least 18 of his men was a mishandled rocket. But that is not what he and his fellow officers believe. "The officers at the military base told me afterwards it was a cruise missile," he said. Two missiles, in fact, fired with considerable precision at a shipment of Iranian guns, anti-personnel mines and other munitions nestling in the military headquarters of Qul-i-Urdo. It was a sign of Washington's displeasure with the legendary warlord Ismail Khan who, with Iran's backing, styles himself the emir of western Afghanistan.
[The complete story]

A fog descends on Kashmir
The situation in Kashmir remains obscured by lies, confusion and bad weather, as seen when two Dutch nationals were shot dead by the Indian army

Luke Harding, The Guardian, January 22, 2002

The tiny bedroom where they spent their last hours does not exactly look like a terrorist hideout. From their window, the two Dutch tourists had a serene view of Dal Lake, Kashmir's most famous tourist attraction. They slipped out of the side of their scruffy houseboat last Sunday morning and headed in the freezing gloom into town. It was 7.15am. What happened next is still not entirely clear. But within minutes of setting off Indian soldiers had shot Bakiowli Ahmad and Hassnowi Khaliq dead. The Indian army claims that the two Dutch nationals - who were Muslims of Moroccan origin - had tried to attack an army post with knives. "The duo attacked our boys deliberately and without any provocation whatsoever," GS Gill, a senior Indian army official, insisted last week. Two of his officers were badly injured, he said. But few people in Srinagar, the troubled summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, accept the army's version of events. They have good reason not to. Since the insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir began in 1989, Indian security forces have shot dead plenty of other people like the two hapless tourists in what are euphemistically described as "encounters".
[The complete story]

One year on, Bush's US going it alone
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, January 22, 2002

One year after George W Bush was sworn in as president of the United States, prospects for a more peaceful, democratic and equitable world order about which his predecessor, Bill Clinton, used to wax eloquent, appear to have receded.
[The complete article]

Afghan Victims of US Bombings Demand Compensation
Agence France-Presse, January 22, 2002

Victims of the September 11 terrorist strikes in the United States handed over compensation claims to US officials here on behalf of Afghan civilians who lost family or homes in Washington's retaliatory bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
[The complete article]

The war against terror is making villains of us all
Camp X-Ray isn't the only disgrace. What about Belmarsh?

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, January 22, 2002

The pictures of prisoners at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, facetiously called Camp X-Ray by their guards, and dismissive remarks about their status and their rights uttered by Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, show the complete disregard, not to say contempt, the Bush administration has for international opinion.
[The complete article]

The getaway - questions surround a secret Pakistani airlift
Seymour M Hersh, The New Yorker, January 22, 2002

American intelligence officials and high-ranking military officers said that Pakistanis were indeed flown to safety [from Kunduz in November], in a series of nighttime airlifts that were approved by the Bush Administration. The Americans also said that what was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control, and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus. "Dirt got through the screen," a senior intelligence official told me. Last week, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment.
[The complete article]

Congratulations, America. You have made bin Laden a happy man
'We are turning ourselves into the kind of deceitful, ruthless people whom bin Laden imagines us to be'

Robert Fisk, The Independent, 22 January, 2002

Shackled, hooded, sedated. Taken to a remote corner of the world where they may be executed, where the laws of human rights are suspended. Sounds to me like the Middle East. Shackled, hooded, threatened with death by "courts" that would give no leeway to defence or innocence. In fact, it sounds like Beirut in the 1980s.
[The complete article]

Bound, shaved, deprived of sight and sound - how to lose the moral high ground
Lead Editorial, The Independent, January 21, 2002

The photograghs of the prisoners from Afghanistan, bound, shaven and deprived of sense of sight, sound, touch and even smell, confirm the folly of the United States in its determination to go it alone in dispensing justice to those responsible for the mass murders of last September.
President George Bush asked the world to support him in the war in Afghanistan and in tracking down al-Qa'ida members elsewhere, and succeeded in marshalling an unprecedented coalition behind him. Yet it does not seem to occur to most people in the US that other nations have an interest in the judicial process now that several hundred alleged terrorists have been taken prisoner.
[The complete article]

The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian
By pandering to anti-Arab hysteria, NBC, Fox News, Media General and Clear Channel radio disgraced themselves -- and ruined an innocent professor's life.

Eric Boehlert, Salon, January 19, 2002

It may not provide him much comfort, but tenured University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, recently fired after his appearance on a conservative talk show revived discredited, years-old allegations of ties to anti-Israel terrorists, may be the first computer science professor ever mugged by four of the nation's most influential news organizations.
[The complete article]

How bin Laden network spread its tentacles
Jason Burke, Martin Bright, Anthony Barnett, Nick Paton Walsh and Burhan Wazir, The Observer, January 20, 2002

Since 11 September there have been dozens of arrests throughout the country [Britain]. A handful have been under the Government's new emergency internment legislation. Many have been for alleged immigration offences. The rest are being held under suspicion of breaking existing anti-terrorist laws. So many suspected al-Qaeda terrorists have now been arrested in the UK that Belmarsh, the high-security prison in south-east London, has got a special wing for the 'Binmen' - as they have been dubbed by guards. Their cells are next to those occupied by the Real IRA.
The lesson now appears clear. There are al-Qaeda links from Brighton to Bolton, from Scotland to Slough. The idea that Islamic extremism was limited to a few loud-mouthed polemicists in north and west London has been shown to be nothing more than a comforting fallacy. 'For years the intelligence community has tried to play down the levels of activity and the threat from Islamic extremism in Britain,' one London-based security expert said yesterday. 'But they can't do that any longer.'
In Washington, Paris and capitals across the Middle East and Asia, officials charged with winding up al-Qaeda are pointing to the UK. They say that Britain is more than just a haven for Islamic dissidents and a centre for the dissemination of extremist propaganda. The French and the Americans maintain that the UK has played a key role as a logistics base for al-Qaeda itself and was critical to the 11 September attacks.
[The complete article]


September 11 and the declaration of a "war on terrorism," has forced Americans to look at the World in a new light. No one can afford any longer to define the limits of their concerns by refusing to look beyond this nation's borders. If the freedom that every American cherishes, is not to become a freedom bound within a fortress, then every American will need to understand and respect the needs and concerns of the rest of the World. To this end, The War in Context invites anyone with interest and an open mind to listen to the critical discourse in which the policies and actions of the Bush administration are now being questioned. This debate, which is engaging inquiring minds inside and outside America, will hopefully inform the development of a sustainable new world order - a world order in which America is as much shaped by the World as is the World shaped by America.