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

What price Oslo?
Edward Said, Al-Ahram Weekly, March 14, 2002

As an index of how deranged Sharon has become, I might quote here what he said to Ha'aretz on 5 March: "The PA is behind the terror, it's all terror. Arafat is behind the terror. Our pressure is aimed at ending the terror. Don't expect Arafat to act against the terror. We have to cause them heavy casualties and then they'll know they can't keep using terror and win political achievements."
Besides symptomatically revealing the workings of an obsessed mind bent on destruction and sheer, unadulterated hatred, Sharon's words indicate the failures of reason and criticism loosed on the world since last September. Yes, there was a terrorist outrage, but there's more to the world than terror. There is politics, and struggle, and history, and injustice, and resistance and yes, state terror as well. With scarcely a peep from the American professorate or intelligentsia, we have all succumbed to the promiscuous misuse of language and sense, by which everything we don't like has become terror and what we do is pure and simple good -- fighting terror, no matter how much wealth, and lives, and destruction is involved. Swept away are all the Enlightenment precepts by which we attempt to educate our students and our-fellow citizens, replaced by a disproportionate orgy of vindictiveness and self-righteous wrath of the kind that only the wealthy and the powerful, it would seem, have the right to use and act upon.
[The complete article]

Saddam Hussein: He wants war. And he thinks he's ready for it
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, March 17, 2002

Saddam Hussein believes that war is coming. He has always had an apocalyptic vision of himself as the Arab hero fighting the foreign enemy to the last bullet. It is one of the few points in which he is in agreement with the Iraqi opposition. They believe he will fight to the end. "Even if the US or their allies ever take Baghdad he will shoot it out from the last bunker," said a veteran opponent of the regime, who has devoted his life to trying to overthrow the Iraqi dictator.
[The complete article]

Can free speech undermine freedom?
David Corn, Tom Paine.com, March 15, 2002

Fifty-eight years ago, when this country was engaged in World War II, a battle for freedom and security, when American troops were sacrificing their lives for the folks back home, the Republicans had no problem running a candidate against the commander-in-chief, Franklin Roosevelt, nor did the GOP nominee, Thomas Dewey, shrink from criticizing FDR.
[The complete article]

Sharon’s lessons in terror
Neve Gordon, In These Times, March 15, 2002

It was on March 4, the day Israeli security forces killed 17 Palestinians—five of them children—that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called upon security forces to “increase the number of Palestinian casualties” in order to “teach them a lesson.” One of the adult fatalities was a 55-year-old woman from Jenin; another was Dr. Sliman Khalil, who was slain while evacuating the injured from a nearby refugee camp. “We must first strike the Palestinians a heavy blow before we can begin negotiating peace,” Sharon said.
[The complete article]

Fragmented al Qaeda may be more deadly than ever
Paolo Pontoniere, Pacific News Service, March 12, 2002

The story of Carlos the Jackal, a terrorist who wreaked daily havoc in Europe in the 1970s, forewarns that the breakup of al Qaeda might spawn a headless, fragmented terror group more deadly than before.
[The complete article]

USA : Post 11 September detainees deprived of their basic rights
Amnesty International, March 14, 2002

Six months on from the 11 September attacks, a significant number of people detained in the USA in their aftermath continue to be deprived of some basic rights under international law, and many appear to have been detained arbitrarily, Amnesty International said today.
[The complete article]

There is an echo of imperial Rome in Bush's war capital
America's choices are hardly being debated

Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, March 15, 2002

The wartime capital that is Washington today is a strange place. There are workmen busy restoring the Pentagon to the state it was in before September 11, and a few extra guards here and there. The city, with its well kept public places, its slow traffic along rather inert streets, and its stately morning streams of coffee-bearing commuters, shows no other outward sign of being at the centre of a world conflict. Yet, as if that was what the Dubya of his middle initial now stands for, the word "war" itself is rarely off the president's lips, or those of his ministers and advisers.
[The complete article]


Iraq: the myth and the reality

Julian Borger, Richard Norton-Taylor, Ewen MacAskill and Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, March 15, 2002

As the drumbeat grows louder for a possible attack on Baghdad, we ask arms inspectors and military and foreign affairs experts: is Saddam as dangerous as the US makes out, and what would be the consequences of war?
[The complete article]


Slain MD had army's okay to collect medicines
Red Cross, rights groups protest killing of 5 Palestinian medical workers in last week

Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, March 10, 2002

The International Committee of the Red Cross has expressed outrage at the killings by Israeli forces of Palestinian medical staff in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a press conference in the West Bank town of El-Bireh on Friday night, the head of the Red Cross delegation to Israel and the Palestinian areas, Rene Kosirnik, said that in his 26 years with the Red Cross, this has been his "darkest week ever" with regard to attacks on medical staff by military forces.
[The complete article]

Israeli raids have damaged 1,620 refugee homes
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, March 12, 2002

The Israel Defense Forces' raids on Palestinian refugee camps over the past ten days damaged a total of 1,620 residences and 14 public institutions (mostly schools), according to preliminary investigations conducted by representatives of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
[The complete article]

Voice for Israel's enemy
Amira Hass is the only Jewish journalist living under Palestinian rule

Marjorie Miller, Los Angeles Times, March 15 2002

Hass says her beat is the "Israeli occupation." She chronicles Israel's recent military thrusts into Ramallah and West Bank refugee camps. She records the lives of ordinary Palestinians as they struggle with checkpoints and the army's demolition of houses and farms. She illustrates the day-to-day impact of Israel's economic chokehold on Palestinian territories. In short, she provides an unrelenting account of Palestinians as the victims of Israeli domination. In doing so, Hass is celebrated by some Israelis as a national conscience and condemned by others as an ideologue or even a traitor.
[The complete article]


Company man

Tim Shorrock, The Nation, March 14, 2002

Last November Frank Carlucci, chairman of the Carlyle Group, spoke to a conference on national security sponsored by the Pentagon and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank where he sits on the board of directors. His topic, "Employing the Instruments of National Power in a Complex Environment," was a perfect metaphor for Carlucci's career, which has taken him from the CIA to the highest ranks of the defense and national security establishment and, finally, to the top of one of the world's largest private equity funds. Typically, Carlucci was introduced to his panel not as one of the country's wealthiest executives but as National Security Adviser and Defense Secretary during the Reagan Administration. Carlucci began by praising the Bush Administration's conduct of the war. He didn't mention that Carlyle's biggest defense company, United Defense Industries, decided in the wake of September 11 to go public, a deal that would raise the value of Carlucci's stake in that company to $1.2 million by mid-March.
[The complete article]

Crony capitalism goes global
Tim Shorrock, The Nation, March 14, 2002

William Conway, managing director and co-founder of the Carlyle Group, was talking recently about the media coverage of his bank and the cast of ex-Presidents and former officials, including George H.W. Bush, James Baker III and Frank Carlucci, on its payroll. "One of the words that has recently cropped up as an adjective around us--and I love this adjective--is the 'secretive' Carlyle Group," he said in an interview in his offices overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington. "What's the secret? I don't think we have many secrets. The reality is, we're a group of businessmen who have made an enormous amount of money for our investors by making good investments over the past fifteen years."
[The complete article]

The strange career of Frank Carlucci
Francis Schor, Counterpunch, February 1, 2002

In the past few months there has been a rash of media reports on the Carlyle Group, a private equity investment group with billions of dollars of assets in the defense industry and a roster of directors and consultants which includes not only well-known Reagan and Bush appointees but also international figures like John Major, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, and Fidel Ramos, the former President of the Philippines. The Chairman of the Carlyle Group, Frank Carlucci, was not only a former Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, but a Deputy Director of the CIA during the Carter Administration. In fact, Carlucci's career in Washington provides some insight into the intersection between foreign and domestic policy in the Cold War years.
[The complete article]

Judge's ruling challenges terrorism roadblocks
Says vague warnings can't be used to stop

Ralph Ranalli, Boston Globe, March 14, 2002

In one of the first decisions of its kind in the country, a judge has thrown out all evidence against a suspected drunk driver stopped by State Police near a reservoir a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, ruling that stops based on nonspecific government warnings of terrorist acts violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
[The complete article]


Taliban and Qaeda death toll in mountain battle is a mystery
Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, New York Times, March 14, 2002

The Pentagon now acknowledges that it badly underestimated the size of Al Qaeda forces entering the battle. After initially putting the count at 150 to 200 fighters, American intelligence officials now believe as many as 1,000 were holed up in the battle zone.
[The complete article]

Ex-spy chief: Al Qaida has U.S. prisoners
Anwar Iqbal, UPI (via Insight), March 13, 2002

A former Pakistani spy master with links to the Taliban claims that al Qaida has captured American prisoners in eastern Afghanistan, forcing U.S. troops to end the siege of their stronghold and withdraw. U.S. officials have denied the claim.
[The complete article]

US hawks unleash public opinion war
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, March 14, 2002

A group of influential neo-conservative figures has launched a new campaign to sustain support for President George W Bush's war on terrorism and to "take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing".
[The complete article]

COMMENT - If you have doubts about the goals of the so-called "war on terrorism", Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, want set you straight. Check out their web site!

Are the occupied protecting the occupier?
Amira Hass, Counterpunch, March 13, 2002

For the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli government it is important to speak about fighting, and to give the impression that both sides are equals, thus burying the fact that most of the Palestinian dead are civilians or members of the security forces, who, even if they were armed, stayed out of the fighting. And it is especially important for the army and government to bury the fact that the IDF in the territories is an occupying power. Only thanks to its far superior strength is Israel able to continue controling the lives of three million Palestinians, guaranteeing the existence of the settlements on the Palestinians' land.
[The complete article]

If Bush is having 'visions', America must need Arab support for another war
Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 14, 2002

When President George Bush wanted Arab support for the US bombing of Afghanistan in September, he suddenly announced he had a "vision" of a Palestinian state. Then it disappeared off his radar screen. Yet now it's back in a watered-down, US-framed UN resolution that affirms "a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side..." Could it be that Mr Bush has another war in mind for the region, that perhaps Vice-President Dick Cheney, now touring the Arab world and Israel, wants Arab support for an attack on Iraq?
[The complete article]

America is not a hamburger
President Bush's attempts to rebrand the United States are doomed

Naomi Klein, The Guardian, March 14, 2002

Charlotte Beers, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, views the US tattered international image as little more than a communications problem. Somehow America still hasn't managed, in Beers' words, to "get out there and tell our story". In fact, the problem is just the opposite: America's marketing of itself has been too effective. Schoolchildren can recite its claims to democracy, liberty and equal opportunity as readily as they can associate McDonald's with family fun and Nike with athletic prowess. And they expect the US to live up to its claims.
[The complete article]

A return to interventionism
Tom Barry, Asia Times, March 14, 2002

Remember when the US government suffered from the "Vietnam syndrome"? It hit hard back in the 1970s. That was when the US Congress, led by liberal Democrats, began taking a closer look at the prevailing US counterinsurgency and national-security state policies - the type of US foreign-policy mindset that drove the United States to support dictators, puppets, and repressive security apparatuses around the world.
[The complete article]

Realities intrude on Bush's war plans
Julian Borger, The Guardian, March 13, 2002

Two middle-aged Americans are flying off to the Middle East this week to try to fix some old problems gnawing away at United States foreign policy. One of them, Anthony Zinni, is an old soldier with peace proposals in his baggage. The other, Dick Cheney, is a civilian carrying plans for war. The Bush administration would have you believe that their parallel journeys have nothing to do with each other, but they are in fact closely entwined.
[The complete article]

Wedded to another war
Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, March 13, 2002

Winning public approval for a new assault on Iraq is not Bush's headache. It is international backing that is more tricky. Hence the backdrop of 179 national flags at Monday's White House address, hence the mention of the 16 partners who helped take on the Taliban, hence the speech's final line, "May God bless our coalition." Hence, too, the vice-president's current 11-nation tour. This sudden shift to multilateralism has come late; six weeks ago the administration was in full "axis of evil" mode, ready to take on the world alone.
[The complete article]

Seven minutes to midnight - the Doomsday Clock moves forward
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Chicago, February 27, 2002: Today, the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the minute hand of the “Doomsday Clock,” the symbol of nuclear danger, from nine to seven minutes to midnight, the same setting at which the clock debuted 55 years ago. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, this is the third time the hand has moved forward.
[The complete article]

Arabs don't want war on Iraq. They want America to change its policy
Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 13, 2002

Mr Cheney's mission appears in the Middle East to be more a symptom of Washington's myopia than any long-term US strategy. "They already have one war on their hands out here," one Lebanese commentator said. "Why do the Americans need another?"
[The complete article]

The fallout of desperation
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, March 12 2002

When in doubt, nuke 'em. The news that the Pentagon had secret contingency plans to fight terrorism with nuclear weapons has the marks not of considered military doctrine but rather of an infantile tantrum born of the Bush administration's frustration in making good on its overblown promise to end the terrorist scourge. There is desperation in the air; the giant that is America feels humbled by the Lilliputian terrorists who have not been brought fully to account.
[The complete article]

America as nuclear rogue
Editorial, New York Times (via Common Dreams), March 12, 2002

If another country were planning to develop a new nuclear weapon and contemplating pre-emptive strikes against a list of non-nuclear powers, Washington would rightly label that nation a dangerous rogue state. Yet such is the course recommended to President Bush by a new Pentagon planning paper that became public last weekend. Mr. Bush needs to send that document back to its authors and ask for a new version less menacing to the security of future American generations.
[The complete article]

America as Sparta
James Carroll, Boston Globe, March 12, 2002

When did Athens become Sparta? When did America redefine itself so profoundly around war? Events of this winter had already prompted the question, but then over the weekend The Los Angeles Times published the stunning news of the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review. Reversing a longtime trend away from nuclear dependence, our government is projecting a US military strategy based on usable nukes, with unprecedented potential for first use against nonnuclear states, for development of new nuclear weapons, and even for a resumption of nuclear testing. This is a move from Mutual Assured Destruction, as The New York Times put it, to Unilateral Assured Destruction - our enemy's. Washington has invited Dr. Strangelove back.
[The complete article]

A premature declaration of victory
Six months on, the case against the war is continuing to gain ground

Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, March 12, 2002

It has taken six months, but the first dissent has appeared in America's mood of bipartisan chauvinism.
[The complete article]

The anthrax culprit
Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, March 11, 2002

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a slight woman with short graying hair and deeply concerned hazel eyes, who works out of a small office at the State University of New York at Purchase, thinks she knows who was responsible for the anthrax attacks last October. Rosenberg is, to use the technical term, not chopped liver: she is a veteran molecular biologist and one of the world's leading experts on biological weapons. In 1998, she was one of a group of seven scientists who were invited to the White House to brief President Clinton on the subject. Yet her theory sounds like the plot of a conspiracy thriller, which is not usually true of experts' theories, especially on matters this grave.
[The complete article]

Analysis of the anthrax attacks
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Federation of American Scientists

Is the FBI Dragging Its Feet?

National Review's editor suggests nuking Mecca
Jerremy Lott, The American Prospect, March 11, 2002

Recently on National Review's new Web log, "The Corner," editor Rich Lowry addressed the question of what sort of retaliatory measures should be taken in the case of a nuclear detonation -- probably of a "dirty bomb" -- on U.S. soil. Judging from the e-mail he's received, there's "lots of sentiment for nuking Mecca." Nor, in Lowry's eyes, was such an idea nuts. He allowed that "Mecca seems extreme, of course" -- of course -- "but then again few people would die and it would send a signal."
[The complete article]

Itchy fingers on the trigger
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, March 12, 2002

US military planners and nuclear scientists developed new types of tactical nuclear bombs during the Clinton administration. In particular they designed the low-yield B61-11 bomb designed to penetrate underground bunkers, which have been deployed in Europe since 1997. Advocates of the use of such small nuclear weapons claim their environmental impact would be limited. Yet the Washington-based Project of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) says that an attack on Saddam Hussein's presidential bunker in Baghdad with a B61-11 bomb "could cause upwards of 20,000 deaths".
[The complete article]

US sends suspects to face torture
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, March 12, 2002

The US has been secretly sending prisoners suspected of al-Qaida connections to countries where torture during interrogation is legal, according to US diplomatic and intelligence sources. Prisoners moved to such countries as Egypt and Jordan can be subjected to torture and threats to their families to extract information sought by the US in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
[The complete article]

Nuclear arms for deterrence or fighting?
Michael R Gordon, New York Times, March 11, 2002

The Pentagon's new blueprint on nuclear forces has raised the question whether the Bush administration is lowering the threshold for using nuclear arms. [...] But the classified Pentagon review has ignited a new and vitally important nuclear debate. Unlike much of the arms-control discussions in recent years, this dispute is not over the number of weapons the United States needs; it is over the more fundamental issue of the circumstances in which they might be used.
[The complete article - registration required]

FOOD FOR HAWKS: An occasional series on current thinking inside the Wolfowitz cabal

COMMENT - The following article is based on a talk by Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph of London, delivered to the Defense Policy Board. The DPB is chaired by The Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle, and its members include former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, George Shultz, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker, Thomas Foley, former CIA Director, James Woolsey, former National Security Adviser, Richard Allen, former Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, former Vice President, Dan Quayle, and former Defense and Energy Secretary, James R. Schlesinger.
Given his highly influential audience, it's particularly noteworthy to witness the ease with which three themes - European criticism of US foreign policy, anti-Americanism, and the enemies of America - are linked together in Moore's closing remarks. He likens the influence of America's European critics to the influence of the madrassas in Pakistan, where the first seeds of hatred were sown that resulted in the September 11 attacks.

Continental Drift: How to combat Europe's toothless anti-Americanism
Charles Moore, Wall Street Journal March 10, 2002

Ever since President Bush's "axis of evil" speech, Europeans have been fuming over what they see as U.S. war-mongering.
[The complete article]

PERLES OF WISDOM - The broader goals of the "war on terrorism" were neatly summed up by Richard Perle himself, in his New York Times op/ed last December, "The U.S. Must Strike at Saddam Hussein." Perle's number one reason for advocating on attack on Iraq is because "Saddam Hussein hates the United States." In Perle's mind (and the minds of those who seek his counsel) will it be possible to destroy America's enemies without also silencing its critics?

Educating Mr Cheney
Home truths from abroad

Leader, The Guardian, March 11, 2002

Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, does not get out much. This is not so much a function of his recurring heart problems, more a precaution arising from the September 11 attacks. In fact, since the Bush administration launched its "war against terrorism", Mr Cheney has eschewed foreign travel and kept well away from the limelight, staying either at his Washington residence or at various undisclosed and much-derided "secure locations". As George Bush quipped at the annual Gridiron white-tie dinner at the weekend, "a year ago Dick was running the country ... today, he lives out of a little suitcase".
[The complete article]

America's long shadow
Six months after September 11, it is no longer Islamist terror we are afraid of but the US nuclear hitlist

Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, March 11, 2002

It is six months to the day that Mohammed Atta stepped on to the Boston-LA flight that destroyed the World Trade Centre. The anniversary provides a deceptively neat sense of the conclusion of chapter one of America's response - the grief, the memorials, the celebration of heroism, the coalition building, the rooting out of the Taliban - and the beginning of chapter two. But be warned: if there were themes in chapter one you didn't much like, the latter will be very much worse, already characterised by determined vengefulness and unbridled opportunism: "Hey, had an enemy pre-September 11? Now's your chance to nuke them."
[The complete article]

The spiral of war
Paul Rogers, Open Democracy, March 7, 2002

The desperate violence between Israel and Palestine is intensifying. Resurgent Taliban fighters have taken a heavy toll of US forces in Afghanistan. Strains in US bipartisanship offer a sliver of light, but where is politics amidst the expanding military drive?
[The complete article]

Roots of terror: suicide, martyrdom, self-redemption and Islam
Navid Kermani, Open Democracy, February 21, 2002

After 11 September 2001 I was frequently asked, as many scholars of Islamic studies probably were, why certain people are prepared to hijack an aeroplane and plunge themselves and all the other passengers to certain death. I do not have an answer. What I have done instead is to tell three stories – about the cult of martyrdom in Shi’ite Islam, about modern fantasies of salvation through self-sacrifice, and about power politics in the Middle East – which together assemble the elements of a fourth : the unfinished story of the modern world.
[The complete article]

Civil liberties take back seat to safety
Henry Weinstein, Daren Briscoe and Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2002

Omar Mohamed spent six months in the United States, a time that seemed divided between two countries. For the first three months, the 19-year-old Egyptian explored the America of his dreams: the Empire State Building, the casinos of Atlantic City, N.J., even the "dollar menu" at McDonald's. "It was beautiful," Mohamed said in accented but proper English. The next three months he spent behind bars at the Hudson County Jail in Kearny, N.J. By the time he was deported Dec. 14, he had come to a new understanding of the United States. "It's beautiful," he said, "for Americans only."
[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.