The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Palestinians lose their lifelines
West Bank villagers cut off from jobs, doctors, shops

Molly Moore, Washington Post, August 6, 2002

Ajul, a sun-scorched Palestinian village of 1,200 souls that is accessible by a single rocky dirt track, has lost its lifeline. Six weeks ago, when the Israeli military clamped a curfew on Ramallah, people here were severed from their livelihoods, their doctors and medical clinics, their shopping opportunities and just about any major services a rural community needs to survive.

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Under fire, Justice shrinks TIPS program
Dan Eggen, Washington Post, August 10, 2002

Justice Department officials have decided to scale back the controversial Operation TIPS program before it even begins, saying yesterday that they no longer plan to ask thousands of mail carriers, utility workers and others with access to private homes to report suspected terrorist activity. The decision comes as the latest setback in the federal government's halting efforts to enlist citizens as the eyes and ears of the war on terrorism. Many of the initiatives have produced mixed results or are barely off the ground nearly a year after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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Israel to kick out peacenik
Deborah Blachor and Corky Siemaszko, New York Daily News, August 8, 2002

A controversial Jewish peace activist from Brooklyn is about to be booted out of Israel. Adam Shapiro, branded a turncoat by fellow Jews for opposing the occupation of Palestinian territories, was arrested during a demonstration Wednesday. He's now sitting in a jail packed with common criminals and likely to be sent back to the U.S. on Sunday. Shapiro's wife, Huwaida Arraf, said she has been barred from seeing her husband and that soldiers roughed him up. She said Shapiro has asthma and needs his medicine. "I'm worried about him," said Arraf, a Palestinian-American. "The Israelis psychologically mess with peace activists by putting them in cells and telling the criminals they are terrorists."

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Punishment by detail
Edward Said, Al-Ahram, August 8, 2002

Reading the news from Palestine and seeing the frightful images of death and destruction on television, it has been my experience to be utterly amazed and aghast at what I have deduced from those details about Israeli government policy, more particularly about what has been going on in the mind of Ariel Sharon. And when, after the recent Gaza bombing by one of his F-16s in which nine children were massacred, he was quoted as congratulating the pilot and boasting of a great Israeli success, I was able to form a much clearer idea than before of what a pathologically deranged mind is capable of, not only in terms of what it plans and orders but, worse, how it manages to persuade other minds to think in the same delusional and criminal way. Getting inside the official Israeli mind is a worthwhile, if lurid, experience.

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Explosives that US knew would kill innocents continue to take their toll
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 10, 2002

Statistics, for Mr Matin, bear no emotions. His office covers seven provinces around Kabul in which 1.1 million unexploded bombs and mines have already been cleared. In these de-mining operations, about 100 Afghans have died. More than 500 have been injured, many of whom return to the minefields to work once their wounds are healed.

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A vote for war
George Will, Washington Post, August 9, 2002

War of the sort being contemplated is not the sort of plunge into uncertainty that a prudent president wants to embark upon alone, even if the Constitution permitted that, which it does not.

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Iraq is defiant as G.O.P. leader opposes attack
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, August 9, 2002

The House majority leader, Representative Dick Armey, warned today that an unprovoked attack against Iraq would violate international law and undermine world support for President Bush's goal of ousting Saddam Hussein. The remarks by Mr. Armey, a Texas Republican who is retiring this year, are the most prominent sign of Congressional unease that the administration is moving rapidly toward a war against Iraq and were especially striking coming from a leading conservative and a staunch Bush ally.

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It's amateur hour for administration hawks
William Pfaff, Seattle Times, August 9, 2002

George W. Bush is talking himself into a position where he will have to go to war, even though there is no convincing argument that war would be good for the United States, or even good for the president. The military are certainly not convinced that war is a good idea. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have made that clear through a series of leaks to the press. They are wary of a war whose objectives — beyond Saddam Hussein's overthrow — remain murky, and for whose aftermath no serious policy exists.

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Hard to make case against Iraq
Anthony B. Robinson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 9, 2002

We have heard the cryptic slogan-like accusations. "This is a man who has poisoned his own people." "He is secretly developing weapons of mass destruction." "He has violated U.N. mandates." But these are more slogans than a convincing or substantive case for a war that would not only put American lives at risk but that would further jeopardize the already sorely tested and traumatized people of Iraq.

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Israeli 'restraint' still means terror for the Palestinians
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 9, 2002

After the recent UN report on Jenin and other West Bank cities the Israeli government's defenders have made great play of the word "massacre". They leapt on the fact that the report did not use the word and cited a total of 22 dead civilians rather than 500, as some Palestinian leaders had claimed. The notion of massacre is relative. In Kosovo and Chechnya the deaths of two dozen innocent people in a single military operation were often described as massacres. But the key criticism of Israel in the UN report on Jenin was not a matter of semantics nor the issue of how many civilians died. It was Israel's comprehensive violation of the laws of war.

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Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a big hand for Gul Agha - the UN's warlord of the year
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 9, 2002

Gul Afgha knows how to handle the United Nations. He smiles, he praises, he loves the UN, and he is immensely grateful for the advice of Under Secretary General and Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, the diminutive Ugandan Olara Utunnu. Every time Mr Utunnu talks about democracy and peace and the need for children to receive proper schooling, the governor of Kandahar beams with delight. In one corner of his office, the chief of police sits, a massive, high-peaked Soviet-style cap on his head, a tsarist leather strap across his military blouse. In the other, the thin, rather weedy-looking director of education reclines nervously on a sofa, his hands fidgeting constantly with his tie.

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Iraq war could engulf region, Britain warns US
Kim Sengupta, The Independent, August 9, 2002

Britain has strongly advised the United States against attacking Iraq, warning that it risked intensifying the conflicts in Afghanistan, Israel and Kashmir, senior defence and diplomatic sources say.

In a sign of deepening discord between the two allies, British ministers and officials in Whitehall believe that a new war would "contaminate" the other crises."These are issues the Americans appear not to have considered," said one official.

They also have grave reservations about President George Bush's demand for a "regime change" in Baghdad because, London believes, no alternative regime has been identified for such a change to take place. Britain may be lumbered with leading a massive stabilisation force for "up to five years" in an anarchic post-war Iraq, with the prospect of the country being partitioned.

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Families of the disappeared demand answers
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 8, 2002

They came for Hussain Abdul Qadir on 25 May. According to his wife, there were three American agents from the FBI and 25 men from the local Pakistani CID. The Palestinian family had lived in the Pakistani city of Peshawar for years and had even applied for naturalisation.

But this was not a friendly visit to their home in Hayatabad Street. "They broke our main gate and came into the house without any respect," Mrs Abdul Qadir was to report later to the director of human rights at Pakistan's Ministry of Law and Justice in Islamabad.

"They blindfolded my husband and tied his hands behind his back. They searched everything in the house – they took our computer, mobile phone and even our land-line phone. They took video and audio cassettes. They took all our important documents – our passports and other certificates – and they took our money too," she said.

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U.S. fears grow over turmoil in Afghanistan
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, August 8, 2002

Less than two months after the Bush administration helped engineer the election of an interim government in Afghanistan, U.S. policymakers are growing increasingly concerned that the country is entering a more dangerous period and are unsure what steps to take next to prevent a spiral of factional violence.

Yesterday, armed gunmen stormed an Afghan army post on the outskirts of Kabul, setting off a three-hour gun battle that left 16 people dead. It was the bloodiest incident in the capital since the Taliban was ousted last fall. An Afghan government official described the assailants as members of the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Administration officials publicly express confidence that U.S. policy is on the right track. Over the next 18 months, they say, the United States must help the new government establish itself by building a new national army, and it must ensure that international aid begins to flow into the country. But privately, officials acknowledge that the task is daunting, given the continuing security problems throughout the country and the weakness of the central government.

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Its own worst enemy
A review of Joseph Nye's The Paradox of American Power, The New York Review of Books, August 15, 2002

Americans—just 5 percent of the world's population—generate 30 percent of the World's Gross Product, consume nearly 30 percent of global oil production, and are responsible for almost as high a share of the world's output of greenhouse gases. Our world is divided in many ways: rich/poor; North/South; Western/non-Western. But more and more, the division that counts is the one separating America from everyone else.

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Why we should invade Iraq - right now!

Not sure why we're going to war against Iraq? Mark Fiore has some answers.

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COMMENT -- Free from the constraints of diplomacy, Donald Rumsfeld acted as unofficial spokesman for the Sharon administration (GWB does report to Sharon doesn't he?) when he dismissed the notion of "occupied territories." Israel won the war, so Israel gets to build as many settlements as it wants - this is the Rumsfeld logic. Does this explain why the Rumsfeld-Cheney-Wolfowitz cabal argue that war against Iraq will hasten a solution to the Middle East conflict? The US wins the war against Iraq; the US can then define the power structure for the whole Middle East; peace then reigns (just like the peace in Israel).

Rumsfeld view veers from Mideast policy
Barbara Slavin, USA Today, August 7, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared to break with long-standing U.S. policy toward the Middle East on Tuesday, repeatedly referring to Israel's control of the West Bank and Gaza as a ''so-called'' occupation.

Rumsfeld, in a meeting with Pentagon employees, also defended Israel's policy of building Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas. More than 200,000 Jews live in those settlements.

''Focusing on settlements at the present time misses the point,'' Rumsfeld said. ''Settlements in various parts of the so-called occupied area . . . (were) the result of a war, which they (the Israelis) won.''

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Kissinger, Quayle, Gingrich and Perle on a lie detector?
David Corn, The Nation, August 7, 2002

Will the Pentagon wire up Henry Kissinger, Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich--that is, submit them to lie detector tests? And do the same with all other members of the Defense Policy Board? It seems that someone connected with this advisory panel--a neocon-tilting group of prominent ex-government officials chaired by former Reagan Pentagon official Richard Perle--leaked word to The Washington Post of a private briefing. In that session, RAND analyst Laurent Murawiec maintained that Saudi Arabia, due to its support of Islamic terrorists, ought to be considered an adversary of the United States and that Washington should demand that Riyadh cease funding Islamic fundamentalist outlets. If the Saudis do not comply, he argued, its oil fields and overseas financial assets should be "targeted."

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Unlimited presidential powers
Editorial, New York Times, August 8, 2002

The Justice Department all but told a federal judge this week to take his legitimate concerns about civil liberties and stuff them in the garbage pail. The Bush administration seems to believe, on no good legal authority, that if it calls citizens combatants in the war on terrorism, it can imprison them indefinitely and deprive them of lawyers. It took this misguided position to a ludicrous extreme on Tuesday, insisting that the federal courts could not review its determinations.

This defiance of the courts repudiates two centuries of constitutional law and undermines the very freedoms that President Bush says he is defending in the struggle against terrorism. The courts must firmly reject the White House's assertion of unchecked powers.

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Jews in UK renounce right to live in Israel
Steven Morris, The Guardian, August 8, 2002

A group of prominent Jews seek today to renounce their right to Israeli residence and citizenship in protest at Israel's "barbaric" policies towards the Palestinians. In a letter to the Guardian, the group, which includes writers, academics and artists, say they regard the legal entitlement as "morally wrong" when those who "should have the most right to a genuine return ... are excluded."

The complete letter:

We are Jews, born and raised outside Israel, who, under Israel's "law of return", have a legal right to Israeli residence and citizenship. We wish to renounce this unsought "right" because:
1) We regard it as morally wrong that this legal entitlement should be bestowed on us while the very people who should have most right to a genuine "return", having been forced or terrorised into fleeing, are excluded.

2) Israel's policies towards the Palestinians are barbaric - we do not wish to identify ourselves in any way with what Israel is doing.

3) We disagree with the notion that Zionist emigration to Israel is any kind of "solution" for diaspora Jews, anti-semitism or racism - no matter to what extent Jews have been or are victims of racism, they have no right to make anyone else victims.

4) We wish to express our solidarity with all those who are working for a time when Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip can be lived in by people without any restrictions based on so-called racial, cultural, or ethnic origins.

We look forward to the day when all the peoples of the area are enabled to live in peace with each other on this basis of non-discrimination and mutual respect. Perhaps some of us would even wish to live there, but only if the rights of the Palestinians are respected. To those who consider Israel a "safe haven" for Jews in the face of anti-semitism, we say that there can be no safety in taking on the role of occupier and oppressor. We hope that the people of Israel and their leaders will come to realise this soon.

Michael RosenIan Saville
Prof Irene Bruegel
Michael Kustow
Mike Marqusee
Prof Steven Rose
Leon Rosselson
and 38 others

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Counting the dead
Marc Herold, The Guardian, August 8, 2002

In the eight months since I published my original study, I have updated and corrected my database, and incorporated the civilian deaths resulting from British and US special forces attacks. My most recent figures show that between 3,125 and 3,620 Afghan civilians were killed between October 7 and July 31.

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Secret detentions violate American values
Editorial, The Seattle Times, August 7, 2002

The Bush administration should follow, not appeal, a federal judge's order to identify hundreds of people arrested and held in secret after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Federal Judge Gladys Kessler pushed back hard last week against government assertions that unprecedented secrecy was in the best interest of protecting the nation.

Her opinion went to the character of a free society, noting "the first priority of the judicial branch must be to ensure that our government always operates within the statutory and constitutional constraints which distinguish a democracy from a dictatorship."

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I would have done the same
My son was killed by a Palestinian fighter. But Israel's occupation is to blame for his death

Yitzhak Frankenthal, The Guardian, August 7, 2002

My beloved son Arik, my own flesh and blood, was murdered by Palestinians. My tall, blue-eyed, golden-haired son who was always smiling with the innocence of a child and the understanding of an adult. My son. If to hit his killers, innocent Palestinian children and other civilians would have to be killed, I would ask the security forces to wait for another opportunity.

My beloved son Arik was murdered by a Palestinian. Should the security forces have information of this murderer's whereabouts, and should it turn out that he was surrounded by innocent children and other Palestinian civilians, then - even if the security forces knew that the killer was planning another murderous attack and they now had the choice of curbing a terror attack that would kill innocent Israeli civilians, but at the cost of hitting innocent Palestinians, I would tell the security forces not to seek revenge.

I would rather have the finger that pushes the trigger or the button that drops the bomb tremble before it kills my son's murderer, than for innocent civilians to be killed. I would say to the security forces: do not kill the killer. Rather, bring him before an Israeli court. You are not the judiciary. Your only motivation should not be vengeance, but the prevention of any injury to innocent civilians.

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Facts are the best cure for this outbreak of war fever
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, August 7, 2002

It may come as a surprise to George Bush but the war over Iraq has already begun - in Britain. Among the warrior class that favours bashing Saddam, new cases of what might be termed second Gulf war syndrome are reported every day. Symptoms include hot flushes of rage, irrational and confused thinking, unsightly rashes of adjectives and the pathological impugning of the motives of those opposed to war. These outbreaks of belligerence are naturally alarming to normal, healthy people - including, as polls indicate, a majority of the British public. Yet this early diagnosis of second Gulf war syndrome means that preventive measures can now have a good chance of success - before irreversible mistakes on Iraq are made.

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COMMENT -- Iraq may or may not be in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons but is believed to be willing to use them if it is attacked by Iraq. Even if an Iraqi missile attack involves a conventional warhead, the mere fear of biological attack may be enough to trigger a swift nuclear response from Israel. In this event, the United States will be an accomplice in nuclear warfare.

Conflict could soon be nuclear
Roland Watson, The Times, August 7, 2002

The US Congress has been warned that President Bush’s proposed attack on Iraq could escalate into a nuclear conflict. An assessment of Iraq’s capabilities says that the US is unlikely to knock out many, if any, of President Saddam Hussein’s mobile missile-launchers in a first wave of airstrikes. It raises the possibility of Baghdad hitting an Israeli city with a missile carrying biological agents, saying that Saddam is likely to use chemical and biological weapons.

Israel’s likely reaction would be nuclear ground bursts against every Iraqi city not already occupied by US-led coalition forces. Senators were told that, unlike the 1991 Gulf War, when Washington urged Israel not to retaliate against Iraqi missile strikes, Israeli leaders have decided that their credibility would be hurt if they failed to react this time.

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Bush policies may push Iran to ally with Iraq
Dilip Hiro, Newday, August 6, 2002

It came as no surprise that President George W. Bush has abandoned hope of working with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's reformist government. After all, he had famously and controversially labeled Iran part of the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech; and Khatami, who was elected in 1997 and reelected last year, has yet to trounce his conservative adversaries.

But Khatami's angry response revealed the possibility that, with its bellicose and intolerant words, the Bush administration may well achieve what 20 years of diplomacy has failed to bring about: an alliance between the beleaguered Tehran and Baghdad. Such an alliance would portend further instability in a region that contains two-thirds of the world's proved oil reserves - and frustrate the United States' aim to be the unchallenged foreign power in the region.

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For the forgotten Afghans, the UN offers a fresh hell
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 7, 2002

In Afghanistan, it is possible to go from hell to hell. The first circle of hell is the Waiting Area, the faeces-encrusted dustbowl in which 60,000 Afghans rot along their frontier with Pakistan at Chaman – a bone-dry, sand-blasted place of patched bedouin tents, skinny camels, infested blankets and skin disease. There are laughing children with terrible facial sores, old women of 30, white-bearded, dark-turbaned men who from huts of dry twigs look with suspicion and astonishment at Westerners.

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The logic of empire
George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 6, 2002

There is something almost comical about the prospect of George Bush waging war on another nation because that nation has defied international law. Since Bush came to office, the United States government has torn up more international treaties and disregarded more UN conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years.

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Briefing depicted Saudis as enemies
Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, August 6, 2002

A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States.

"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," stated the explosive briefing. It was presented on July 10 to the Defense Policy Board, a group of prominent intellectuals and former senior officials that advises the Pentagon on defense policy.

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Help from the Hill
Jason Vest, The American Prospect, August 26, 2002

As a rule, both the joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Intelligence Agency's leadership prefer that Congress stay out of their affairs. Indeed, an ideal Congress for many denizens of this realm would be one that simply holds open the cash spigots while Langley and the Pentagon set their own agendas. That makes it particularly alarming to see that as the Bush administration lays its plans for Iraq, career military and intelligence officers are increasingly -- and desperately -- looking to Congress to help stave off what they fear will be a disaster.

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Palestinian malnutrition found
Charles A. Radin, Boston Globe, August 6, 2002

Malnutrition and anemia have reached critical levels among Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and are growing worse in the West Bank because of interruption of food supplies during the Palestinian uprising, according to a study commissioned by the US Agency for International Development and released here yesterday.

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High Court allows demolitions of terrorist homes without warning
Dan Izenberg, Jerusalem Post, August 6, 2002

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday upheld the practice of demolishing homes of Palestinian terror suspects without warning. The court rejected a petition by 35 Palestinian relatives of terror suspects whose homes are slated for demolition by the Israeli military. Petitioners asked for 48 hours notice to give them time to go to court to stop demolitions. The military said soldiers would be put at risk if warning was given. The petitioners were represented by Andre Rosenthal, a lawyer for the Moked organization. By the time Rosenthal submitted his petitions, the army had already demolished three of the homes mentioned in his petitions.

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Without Lugar, Bush can't have a Gulf War
David M. Shribman, Boston Globe, August 6, 2002

President Bush can go to war with Iraq without Britain's Tony Blair. He can go to war without Jordan's King Abdullah. He can even go to war without Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. But he can't go to war without Indiana's Dick Lugar.

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Six Americans fast in Baghdad in anti-U.S. protest
Huda Majeed Saleh, Reuters, August 6, 2002

Six Americans staged a fast outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday to protest against U.S. threats to attack Iraq. The activists, members of the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness, said their campaign was aimed at encouraging the United Nations and people around the world to break ranks with the United States.

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Post-9/11 security hinders access at capitols
Kathy Kiely, USA Today, August 4, 2002

"Capitol buildings are symbols of government, and the people who inhabit them are symbols, too," says Tony Beard, chief sergeant-at-arms for the California state Senate.

But if the capitols symbolize something, so does the security that's being erected around them. It represents "a move away from a symbol of free and open government to one that needs to protect itself," says Charles Goodsell, author of The American Statehouse: Interpreting Democracy's Temple. "It's going to have a big subconscious effect on how we see ourselves."

Welcome to Fortress USA.

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Senate didn't hear from Iraq experts
Sean Gonsalves, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 6, 2002

Last week's Senate hearings on whether the United States should go to war in Iraq could hardly be given much credibility by any serious student of U.S.-Iraq policy, given the conspicuous absences of Iraq experts who offer indispensable insight.

For starters, even though he notified Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden of his willingness to testify, Hans Von Sponeck was not invited to the discussion table. Who is Von Sponeck? Only a former United Nations assistant secretary general with impeccable credentials and the former head of the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq -- the organization that sanctions supporters claim is adequate to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi civilian population.

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Weighing a just war, or settling an old score?
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2002

What the heck, let's bomb Baghdad. Sure, it's one of the more historically important cities in the world, and many of its more than 3 million inhabitants will probably end up as "collateral damage," but if George the Younger is determined to avenge his father and keep his standings in the polls, that's the price to be paid.

George the Elder, it will be recalled, was a bit squeamish about leveling Iraq's capital, but his son, who has emerged as a big believer in "regime change," will stop at nothing in his drive to win foreign victories that distract from his startling domestic failures. If nothing else, a nightly CNN fireworks display will take our minds off pervasive corporate corruption and the Incredible Shrinking Stock Market.

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Secrecy vs. the Republic
Editorial, Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2002

A federal judge in Washington had no hesitation last week in ordering the Justice Department to reveal the names of almost 1,200 people it jailed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Secret arrests are 'a concept odious to a democratic society,' and profoundly antithetical to the bedrock values that characterize a free and open one such as ours," said U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, quoting an earlier ruling in her own decision. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft should let the matter rest there. He's likely to appeal, however, just as he has in related challenges since the detentions.

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Iraq chose Saddam for good reason. The West needs a history lesson
Phillip Knightley, The Independent, August 4, 2002

Before Tony Blair joins the new crusaders trying to impose a "regime change", a Western "settlement" on Iraq, he should at least look at the historical facts that explain the rise of nationalist leaders such as Saddam Hussein. And while he is at it, since he is good at empathy, he might try looking at Britain through Iraqi eyes. Seen from Baghdad, the British have bombed and invaded their country, lied to them, manipulated their borders, imposed on them leaders they did not want, kidnapped ones they did, fixed their elections, used collective terror tactics on their civilians, promised them freedom and then planned to turn their country into a province of India populated by immigrant Punjabi farmers. Small wonder that the author Said Aburish said to me recently: "If you think Saddam Hussein is a hard man to deal with, just wait for the next generation of Iraqi leaders."

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Palestinians face disaster, warns US government group
Justin Huggler, The Independent, August 6, 2002

A report by a US government agency warned of a "humanitarian disaster" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday as the Israeli government announced stricter controls on Palestinians following the deaths of 13 Israelis in militant attacks in 24 hours.

One fifth of Palestinian children under five are suffering from malnutrition, according to the report released yesterday by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and the charity Care International.

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The return to Afghanistan: Collateral damage
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 6, 2002

The first anniversary is approaching of the attacks of 11 September and the subsequent 'war on terror'. To mark the date, The Independent today launches a major new series of special reports by our Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk. In his first dispatch from Afghanistan, he relates the untold story of Hajibirgit, a tiny village in the south-west of the country, where a raid by US Special Forces left a tribal elder and a three-year-old girl dead . . .

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Who declares a war?
Jack Rakove, New York Times, August 5, 2002

Last week's Senate hearings on military action against Iraq mark a welcome step toward maintaining constitutional government in a time of national emergency. But this process will be incomplete if Congress shirks the two fundamental questions it must ultimately face: Can the Bush administration unilaterally decide when to go to war against Iraq without seeking the assent of Congress? And can a Congress in which each party narrowly controls one house effectively discharge its constitutional duties?

Since 1973, most discussions about the powers of the executive and Congress on the question of military interventions have been framed by the War Powers Act. That law was designed to prevent presidents from exploiting or creating situations in which Congress would be able only to accede to military actions that had already been taken without its approval. The remedy was to require American forces to withdraw within 60 days, extendable to 90 days, if Congress did not quickly vote its approval.

But the debate now unfolding raises a more profound constitutional dilemma than the one Congress addressed in 1973. An invasion of Iraq would amount to war in its fullest scope, in the extent of the preparations required and especially in its object, which involves crushing a regime and its army and liberating a nation. It will not be a humanitarian intervention on the model of Somalia or Kosovo, or a military lark like Grenada or Panama, but an offensive that will reveal far more about the new world order of the 21st century than did our last war against Iraq a decade ago. Perhaps most important, it will not take place suddenly, without advance notice, under conditions that preclude prior Congressional consultation.

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Arms trump words in Mideast
Cameron W. Barr, Christian Science Monitor, August 5, 2002

As the violence intensifies once again – with Israeli tanks rumbling through Palestinian cities and Palestinians killing themselves in order to kill Israelis – even the experts are confounded over where the conflict is heading. "I don't know. I really don't know," says Anat Kurtz, an Israeli specialist on low-intensity conflict at Tel Aviv University. "I'm afraid the situation will go on for quite a while until there is some change in the Israeli mind-set or the Palestinian mind-set or the global mind-set." There is little sign of any of that.

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Fundamentally unsound
Michelle Goldberg, Salon, August 2, 2002

Political attitudes and actions that make no practical or moral sense to secularists become comprehensible when viewed through Christian pop culture's eschatological looking glass. At a time when America is flagrantly flouting international law, spurning the U.N. and tacitly supporting the land grabs of Israeli maximalists, surely it's significant that the most popular fiction in the country creates a gripping narrative that pits American Christians against a conspiracy of Satan-worshipping, abortion-promoting, gun-controlling globalists -- all of it revolving around the sovereignty of Israel.

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Israel, there and here
Katha Pollitt, The Nation, August 19, 2002

Refugee camp invasions. Suicide bombers. House demolitions. Suicide bombers. Arrests of children, curfews, roadblocks, collective punishments, dropping one-ton bombs on densely populated streets. Suicide bombers.

Only two years ago, a Syrian-American friend laid out for me a vision for the Middle East. Both Israelis and Palestinians, she said, were modern, entrepreneurial people who valued education and technology. She foresaw a kind of Middle Eastern co-prosperity sphere that would gradually draw the two closer as their economies meshed and bygones became bygones. That would have been a happy ending, but what are its chances now?

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Bush's shame
Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, August 5, 2002

Watching the pathetic, mealy-mouthed response of President Bush and his State Department to Egypt's decision to sentence the leading Egyptian democracy advocate to seven years in prison leaves one wondering whether the whole Bush foreign policy team isn't just a big bunch of phonies. Shame on all of them.

See also 'Determined to fight on' in Al-Ahram Weekly.

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Double warning against Iraq war
Roland Watson and Melissa Kite, The Times, August 5, 2002

America's National Security Adviser during the Gulf War warned President Bush yesterday that invading Iraq would cause an “explosion” in the Middle East and consign the United States to defeat in its War on Terror. Brent Scowcroft, who remains close to the Bush family, urged the President to concentrate on trying to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians while separately pursuing terrorist threats to the United States. But he said that by going to war with Iraq without linking President Saddam Hussein and September 11, Washington was risking a conflagration in the Middle East that would also engulf its efforts to defeat global terror groups.

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They had a plan
Michael Elliot, Time, August 4, 2002

Sometimes history is made by the force of arms on battlefields, sometimes by the fall of an exhausted empire. But often when historians set about figuring why a nation took one course rather than another, they are most interested in who said what to whom at a meeting far from the public eye whose true significance may have been missed even by those who took part in it.

One such meeting took place in the White House situation room during the first week of January 2001. The session was part of a program designed by Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, who wanted the transition between the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations to run as smoothly as possible. With some bitterness, Berger remembered how little he and his colleagues had been helped by the first Bush Administration in 1992-93. Eager to avoid a repeat of that experience, he had set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley.

Berger attended only one of the briefings—the session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. "I'm coming to this briefing," he says he told Rice, "to underscore how important I think this subject is." Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject."

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Bush ready to declare war
Peter Beaumont, Gaby Hinsliff and Paul Beaver, The Observer, August 4, 2002

President George W. Bush will announce within weeks that he intends to depose Iraq's ruler, Saddam Hussein, by force, setting the stage for a war in the Gulf this winter. Amid signs of active preparations for a war within six months, senior officials on both sides of the Atlantic have said that war against Iraq is now inevitable.

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Amid the clouds of deception, US speeds along road to war
Peter Beaumont, The Observer, August 4, 2002

This is the summer of the phoney war against Iraq; expect much smoke but very little fire. But come the autumn, expect it to get real.

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Aggressive new tactics proposed for terror war
Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, August 3, 2002

The chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command proposed a series of aggressive new covert actions against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in a closed-door meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday, part of a new Pentagon initiative to reenergize the 10-month-old counteroffensive against terrorism. [...] Under the proposal, U.S. Navy SEALs would regularly board and search suspicious vessels on the high seas around the world even when permission is not granted.

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Fear and anxiety permeate Arab enclave near Detroit
Robert E. Pierre, Washington Post, August 4, 2002

To the outside world, the Arab Americans in this community are adjusting well to the heightened scrutiny they receive from law enforcement, cooperating with interviews and proudly displaying their American flags.

But inside, said Don Unis, a U.S. citizen of Lebanese descent, people are upset, anxious and increasingly angry at what they perceive as a war -- domestically and abroad -- on Arabs and Muslims.

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This war would not be a just war
Richard Harries, The Observer, August 4, 2002

The threat of military action against Iraq is now beginning to dominate Western politics. So what light does the long history of Christian thinking on the morality of warfare shed on this?

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