The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Nothing happened
Half a dozen bullets fired by an IDF soldier pierced the windshield of a taxi in which Gideon Levy was traveling this week. A personal account.

Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, August 16, 2002

Last Friday it was Ahmed al-Karini, an employee of the Nablus Municipality, who was driving, with the authorization of the army, to repair telephone poles, who was killed by soldiers in his vehicle - a "lapse of coordination." On Saturday it was a farmer, Hosni Damiri, who went out to his field on the outskirts of Tul Karm with the authorization of the army, and again - a "lapse of coordination," as the army describes it, as though the appalling ease with which soldiers open fire is not the real problem, only a "lapse of coordination."

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Afghanistan is on the brink of another disaster
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 14, 2002

The garden was overgrown, the roses scrawny after a day of Kandahar heat, the dust in our eyes, noses, mouth, fingernails. But the message was straightforward. "This is a secret war," the Special Forces man told me. "And this is a dirty war. You don't know what is happening." And of course, we are not supposed to know. In a "war against terror", journalists are supposed to keep silent and rely on the good guys to sort out the bad guys without worrying too much about human rights.

How many human rights did the mass killers of 11 September allow their victims? You are either with us or against us. Whose side are you on? But the man in the garden was worried. He was not an American. He was one of the "coalition allies", as the Americans like to call the patsies who have trotted after them into the Afghan midden. "The Americans don't know what to do here now," he went on. "Their morale in Afghanistan is going downhill – though there's no problem with the generals running things in Tampa. They're still gung-ho. But here the soldiers know things haven't gone right, that things aren't working. Even their interrogations went wrong". Brutally so, it seems.

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Israel urges U.S. to attack Iraq
Jason Keyser, Associated Press, August 16, 2002

Israel is urging U.S. officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Friday.

Israeli intelligence officials have gathered evidence that Iraq is speeding up efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons, said Sharon aide Ranaan Gissin.

"Any postponement of an attack on Iraq at this stage will serve no purpose," Gissin told The Associated Press. "It will only give him (Saddam) more of an opportunity to accelerate his program of weapons of mass destruction."

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Rights trampled in U.S., report says
Paul Knox, Toronto Globe and Mail, August 15, 2002

U.S. authorities deliberately trampled constitutional rights after Sept. 11 in a crackdown that saw immigrants jailed without cause, tried in secret and, in some cases, physically abused, a leading human-rights group has charged.

In a report to be released today, Human Rights Watch accuses President George W. Bush's government of displaying "a stunning disregard for the democratic principles of public transparency and accountability" in its response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

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All the facts about Iraq
Phyllis Bennis, AlterNet, August 15, 2002

Nelson Mandela was right when he said that attacking Iraq would be "a disaster." A U.S. invasion of Iraq would risk the lives of U.S. military personnel and inevitably kill thousands of Iraqi civilians; it is not surprising that many U.S. military officers, including some within the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are publicly opposed to a new war against Iraq.

Such an attack would violate international law and the UN Charter, and isolate us from our friends and allies around the world. An invasion would prevent the future return of UN arms inspectors, and cost billions of dollars urgently needed at home. And at the end of the day, an invasion will not insure stability, let alone democracy, in Iraq or the rest of the volatile Middle East region, and will put American civilians at greater risk of hatred and perhaps terrorist attacks than they are today.

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Firefighters vote to boycott Bush Sept. 11 tribute
Steve Friess, Reuters, August 16, 2002

The International Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously on Wednesday to boycott a national tribute to firefighters who died on Sept. 11, in an angry response to U.S. President George Bush's rejection of a bill that included $340 million to fund fire departments.

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US adviser warns of Armageddon
Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, August 16, 2002

One of the Republican party's most respected foreign policy gurus yesterday appealed for President Bush to halt his plans to invade Iraq, warning of "an Armageddon in the Middle East".

The outspoken remarks from Brent Scowcroft, who advised a string of Republican presidents, including Mr Bush's father, represented an embarrassment for the administration on a day it was attempting to rally British public support for an eventual war.

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Mandela to observe Fatah leader's trial
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 15, 2002

In a major embarrassment to Israel, Nelson Mandela has agreed to observe the trial of a Palestinian leader formally indicted yesterday on charges of murder and terrorism.

A lawyer for Marwan Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian legislative council and secretary general of the Fatah movement in the West Bank, revealed he had been in South Africa last week to invite the former president to the trial.

"He said he was enthusiastic about coming," Khader Shkirat said. He quoted South Africa's most famous political prisoner as saying: "What is happening to Barghouti is exactly the same as what happened to me. The government tried to de-legitimise the African National Congress and its armed struggle by putting me on trial."

See also Terror trial may put Israel in the dock

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US rebuffed on international court exemption
Matthew Engel, The Guardian, August 14, 2002

Switzerland and Yugoslavia yesterday handed the US new diplomatic rebuffs by rejecting its attempts to press them into signing bilateral deals to stop the possibility of Americans appearing before the newly formed International Criminal Court (ICC). Joseph Deiss, the Swiss foreign minister, said the US suggestion would have undermined the court's authority and the principle of universal justice. "I do not believe Switzerland should sign this kind of agreement," Mr Deiss said. "We hope the United States will not impede the work of the court." The Yugoslav president, Vojislav Kostunica, has also turned the US down. "Those who would enjoy immunity from prosecution would not only sleep soundly, but would also be encouraged to keep committing crimes," the state news agency Tanjug reported him as saying. Mr Kostunica's predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic, is already on trial at the Hague before the tribunal specially set up for Yugoslavia which predated the formation of the court, and there is a strong feeling in Belgrade that the US is using double standards.

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Israel has 'capabilities' to react to Iraq strike
Ze'ev Schiff, Ha'aretz, August 16, 2002

If Iraq strikes at Israel with non-conventional weapons, causing massive casualties among the civilian population, Israel could respond with a nuclear retaliation that would eradicate Iraq as a country. This grave assessment, from American intelligence, was presented last week to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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"Pity the man who relies on Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice for counsel"
The Guardian, August 15, 2002

President George Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, today insisted that the west does not have the "luxury of doing nothing" over Saddam Hussein, one of the clearest signs so far from Washington that it is ready to go to war against Iraq.

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Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost
Ellen Hale, USA Today, August 14, 2002

On a packed train out of London recently to this historic college town, a young American woman struck up a conversation with her seatmate, a nattily dressed older British man. They chatted amiably about Oxford until she worked up the courage to ask what was weighing on her mind:

"Why," she blurted out, "does everybody hate us?"

The man paused — but didn't disagree — before proceeding to enumerate the reasons, from U.S. foreign policies to the seeping influence of American popular culture.

In the shock wave that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans found themselves asking why so many people in Muslim countries hate the United States. But the anti-American sentiment has turned into a contagion that is spreading across the globe and infecting even the United States' most important allies.

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Justice Dept. balks at effort to study antiterror powers
Adam Clymer, New York Times, August 15, 2002

The Justice Department has rebuffed House Judiciary Committee efforts to check up on its use of new antiterrorism powers in the latest confrontation between the Bush administration and Congress over information sought by the legislative branch. Instead of answering committee questions, the Justice Department said in a letter that it would send replies to the House Intelligence Committee, which has not sought the information and does not plan to oversee the workings of the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

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US picks Sept. 11 as launch date for controversial security system
Bret Ladine, Boston Globe, August 14, 2002

A new security system that will fingerprint and photograph tens of thousands of foreign visitors upon their entry to the United States will be launched on the anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The program will be implemented by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at undisclosed ports of entry beginning Sept. 11. After a 20-day trial, the system will become operational at all ports of entry on Oct. 1.

Under the program, visitors designated by the Justice Department as a national security concern will be fingerprinted, photographed, and required to register with the INS within 30 days of their entry into the country and every year thereafter. Those subject to the regulations include all citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria, and nonimmigrant visitors determined by the State Department. Anyone refusing to comply will be deported.

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Anti-Baghdad talks shunned by top Kurd
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, August 15, 2002

The most powerful Kurdish chieftain in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, refused the Bush administration's invitation to attend the meeting of Iraqi opposition figures at the White House last week, Kurdish and administration officials said today. The absence of Mr. Barzani, whose father, Mustafa Barzani, led the largest Kurdish rebellion of the last century and died in exile in the United States, was a blow to Bush administration officials who had orchestrated the meeting in part to demonstrate that Iraqi opposition forces were unified behind a new campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.

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Saudi Arabia gives US the cold shoulder
Michael Evans, The Times, August 15, 2002

Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have deteriorated so far that the Saudi Arabians are no longer considered allies, senior diplomatic sources said yesterday. Saudi Arabia, once the indispensable cornerstone of US policy in the Arab world, has refused to co-operate with the war on terrorism or support President Bush’s plans to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. According to the sources, it has handed over no Intelligence of any value about the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, which has roots in Saudi Arabia.

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How Al Qaeda slipped away
Rod Nordland, Sami Yousafzai and Babak Dehghanpisheh, Newsweek, August 19, 2002

At a time when leaders in Washington are agitating to move on to the next war—to remove Saddam Hussein—it’s perhaps surprising that few if any are critiquing the Afghan campaign. Criticism is deemed to be almost unpatriotic. But the Afghan war is not over, and the primary mission is not accomplished.

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In Kabul, Iranian president blasts U.S. shift to 'angry policy'
Pamela Constable, Washington Post, August 14, 2002

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, whose Islamic government has been denounced by the Bush administration as part of an "axis of evil," lashed back during a one-day visit here today, condemning Washington's "angry policy" and warning that "no country should use the fight against terrorism to impose its power on other countries."

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Judge skewers U.S. curbs on detainee
Tom Jackman, Washington Post, August 14, 2002

Line by line, a federal judge today dissected the government's reasoning for holding Yaser Esam Hamdi incommunicado in a Navy brig here and indicated that he didn't think prosecutors provided enough facts for him to decide whether Hamdi should have access to a lawyer.

U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar said he would soon rule on a request by Hamdi's father to allow a federal public defender to visit Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan with Taliban forces in November, taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with other prisoners, then moved here when he told authorities that he was born in the United States. The government has declared Hamdi an "unlawful enemy combatant," entitled to neither constitutional protections nor international prisoner-of-war status.

Doumar sparred repeatedly with the government's lawyer over why Hamdi was an enemy combatant and what exactly that meant, saying the government appeared to be trying to place unprecedented restrictions on a prisoner's rights.

"I tried valiantly to find a case of any kind, in any court, where a lawyer couldn't meet" with a client, Doumar said. "This case sets the most interesting precedent in relation to that which has ever existed in Anglo-American jurisprudence since the days of the Star Chamber," a reference to English kings' secret court from the 1400s to the 1600s.

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Making life difficult for the Palestinian peace camp
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, August 14, 2002

Some 700 Palestinian demonstrators in Bethlehem waited in vain on Saturday evening for activists from Ta'ayush Jewish-Arab Coexistence to arrive for a planned joint demonstration in the middle of the occupied city. When it turned out that the IDF would not allow the two sides to meet, they decided to use mobile phones and loudspeakers to show "there is someone to talk to" on both sides.

There were Palestinians who found it difficult to believe the Israeli authorities would indeed prevent a peace demonstration from taking place. One said that he heard some young people hissing, "if they don't want peace demonstrations, they'll get attacks." Simplistic, but it says something about the working conditions for Palestinian groups and individuals who believe the terror attacks are wrong, both practically and morally, and that perhaps the militarization of the uprising was a mistake from the start.

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Baltimore Sun, August 13, 2002

Trouble is being stirred up again in Afghanistan's Paktia province, and the chief stirrer is America's good friend Padsha Khan Zadran.
Mr. Zadran, a warlord who joined the fight against the Taliban, is now defying the government of Hamid Karzai and promising to fight if any move is made against him.

Here's what is so distressing: Mr. Zadran is a warlord pure and simple, but he's also the recipient of generous American financial backing.

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Camps for citizens: Ashcroft's hellish vision
Attorney general shows himself as a menace to liberty

Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2002

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.

Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

The proposed camp plan should trigger immediate congressional hearings and reconsideration of Ashcroft's fitness for this important office. Whereas Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens, Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our liberties.

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A U.S. attack on Iraq unlawful, warn Mideast experts
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, August 13, 2002

A U.S. military attack on Iraq without U.N. Security Council authorization would be tantamount to aggression, say Middle East experts and American academics. "To date, no branch of the U.S. government has officially explained a basis on which an attack on Iraq would be lawful," John Quiqley, professor of law at Ohio State University, said Monday. He argued that the only basis for one state to use military force unilaterally against another is self-defense against an "armed attack". "The United States is not being attacked by Iraq. And under the U.N. charter, an armed attack must be ongoing and present. Speculation about a future attack is not sufficient for a state to use armed force against another state," Quigley told IPS.

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Humiliation greets visitor at airport
Truong Phuoc Khánh, San Jose Mercury News, August 13, 2002

Every summer for the past 25 years, New Zealand native Maggie Anderson and her American husband have visited their family in Portola Valley. But never before had her visit begun in handcuffs and humiliation. Upon landing at Los Angeles International Airport at 11 a.m on July 24, Anderson -- a former flight attendant who had flown in and out of U.S. airports hundreds of times -- was questioned and arrested by federal immigration agents. She was separated from her husband and escorted to a room where a female agent wearing rubber gloves searched underneath her bra and underwear. Nothing was found. Anderson, 51, was held for 12 hours at the airport before she was taken away in handcuffs to a detention center where she remained for an additional 21 hours until the next flight back to New Zealand. The charge? In 1998 -- three U.S. visits ago -- she overstayed her visa by eight days.

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U.S. Navy retracts denial of arms shipment to Gulf
Stefano Ambrogi, Reuters, August 13, 2002

The U.S. Navy confirmed on Tuesday it was seeking a large ship to carry helicopters and arms from the United States to the Red Sea, a day after denying it had placed such an order.

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Americans begin to suffer grim and bloody backlash
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 14, 2002

The US special forces boys barged into the Kandahar guest house as if they belonged to an army of occupation. One of them wore kitty-litter camouflage fatigues and a bush hat, another was in civilian clothes, paunchy with jeans. The interior of their four-wheel drives glittered with guns.

They wanted to know if a man called Hazrat was staying at the guest house. They didn't say why. They didn't say who Hazrat was. The concierge had never heard the name. The five men left, unsmiling, driving at speed back on to the main road. "Why did they talk to me like that?" the concierge asked me. "Who do they think they are?" It was best not to reply.

"The Afghan people will wait a little longer for all the help they have been promised," the local district officer in Maiwind muttered to me a few hours later. "We believe the Americans want to help us. They promised us help. They have a little longer to prove they mean this. After that ..." He didn't need to say more. Out at Maiwind, in the oven-like grey desert west of Kandahar, the Americans do raids, not aid.

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At the al-Qa'ida cemetery, people kiss the earth above the honoured dead
Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 11, 2002

They are honoured as saints. Beneath the grey mounds of dust and dried mud lie the "martyrs" of al-Qa'ida. Here, among these 150 graves, lie the three men who held out to the end in the Mirweis hospital, shooting at the Americans and their Afghan allies until they died amid sewage and their own excrement. Other earth hides the bodies of the followers of Osama bin Laden who fought at Kandahar airport in the last battle before the fall of the Taliban. They are Arabs and Pakistanis and Chechens and Kazakhs and Kashmiris and all – if you believe the propaganda – are hated and loathed by the native Pashtun population of Kandahar.

Not true. For while the US special forces cruise the streets of this brooding, hot city in their 4x4s, the people of Kandahar visit this bleak graveyard with the reverence of worshippers. They tend the graves in their hundreds. On Fridays, they come in their thousands, travelling hundreds of miles.

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For her, the nightmares come back every day
Tamar Rotem, Ha'aretz, August 13, 2002

The road is long washed clean; the dead have been buried; and routine has returned to the street. But the memories keep rising and washing over her. Looking out toward the bustling Sharon mall junction and the people casually crossing the street, Tamar Sharvit stares through them, seeing more layers of life reflected in their own. Every once in a while, it appears to her that the bleeding lumps of flesh are still lying on the road and that the gathering crowd is still staring at them, mesmerized.

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For hire: the boy human shields in Gaza's most desperate town
Palestinian children tout for risky work at border as Israel's tightening grip creates poverty and hunger

Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 6, 2002

Every day Usama Khalid jumps into a car or taxi queuing at an Israeli checkpoint, travels 300 yards, and gets one shekel for the trip. The 11-year-old Palestinian is an officially sanctioned human shield.

For the Israeli troops who squint out of a watchtower above the road, the boy's presence is taken as proof that a suicide bomber is not at the wheel of the car passing beneath them. Cars with a lone occupant will be immediately fired upon, according to an Israeli warning.

So drivers give boys like Usama the equivalent of 14p [20 cents] for the short journey. A gang of boys presses round the waiting cars and although Usama often works 15 hours a day, he usually earns only about seven to 10 shekels.

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US readies for strike, tries to move heavy arms to Red Sea
Arab News, August 13, 2002

Baghdad yesterday ruled out a return of UN weapons inspectors, saying they had finished their work in Iraq as US Navy sought to charter a large ship to carry military helicopters and ammunition from the United States to two ports in the Red Sea.

The request follows a recent order for a vessel to carry military hardware from Europe to the Middle East, heightening speculation that the US is pre-positioning equipment for a possible strike on Iraq.

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US considers assassination squads
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, August 13, 2002

The US government is considering plans to send elite military units on missions to assassinate al-Qaida leaders in countries around the world, without necessarily informing the governments involved, it was reported yesterday.

The Pentagon is discussing proposals which could see special operations units dispatched to capture or kill terrorists wherever they are be lieved to be hiding, despite a long-standing presidential order forbidding US personnel from carrying out assassinations abroad, the New York Times reported.

See also Rumsfeld weighs new covert acts by military units

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By wading deeper into Afghanistan, the U.S. could step into a big hole
Amir Taheir, Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2002

There is a joke from Kabul: Hamid Karzai, the interim head of state, signs a document and hands it to a man sitting across from him. "Here is the edict for your appointment to a senior position in my government. Now it's your turn to sign a document." The new appointee asks: "What is the document that I should sign?" Karzai replies: "Your last will and testament."

The joke may sound cynical, but it reflects the mood of anxiety in Afghanistan. During the last six months, at least a dozen senior officials have been killed, including a vice president, a Cabinet minister and a provincial governor. The ex-king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, and Defense Minister Mohammed Qassim Fahim have escaped assassination attempts.

In every case, Karzai's entourage, using leaks to the American media, has alleged that the killings were organized by unspecified factions within the governing coalition. Karzai is so distrustful that he replaced his Afghan bodyguards with 72 U.S. Marines in July.

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Propaganda office won't win over the world
Max Castro, Miami Herald, August 13, 2002

In case you missed the news: Your government, specifically the Bush administration, has just created a White House office for global propaganda. They are not calling it that, of course. They are calling it the Office of Global Communications. Its purpose: to explain and promote U.S. policies and actions to the rest of the world. Or, as White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, the new office will put out the word about "what America is all about and why America does what it does.''

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Selective Memri
Brian Whitaker, the Guardian, August 12, 2002

Nobody, so far as I know, disputes the general accuracy of Memri's translations but there are other reasons to be concerned about its output.

The email it circulated last week about Saddam Hussein ordering people's ears to be cut off was an extract from a longer article in the pan-Arab newspaper, al-Hayat, by Adil Awadh who claimed to have first-hand knowledge of it.

It was the sort of tale about Iraqi brutality that newspapers would happily reprint without checking, especially in the current atmosphere of war fever. It may well be true, but it needs to be treated with a little circumspection.

Mr Awadh is not exactly an independent figure. He is, or at least was, a member of the Iraqi National Accord, an exiled Iraqi opposition group backed by the US - and neither al-Hayat nor Memri mentioned this.

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US allies leery of post-attack Iraq
Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, August 12, 2002

When war commenced in Afghanistan last October, President Bush said the United States was committed not just to routing terrorists, but to rebuilding a broken country so no international threat would rule there again.
But today, US military forces – off fighting the war in the mountains against Al Qaeda – are not an active part of the international security force trying to support a shaky interim government in the capital of Kabul. And promised roads to reknit the Afghan fabric aren't being built, regional warlords are gaining strength, and signs of schisms within the new government grow by the day.

These so-called "day-after" issues go a long way in explaining why US allies remain leery of an American attack on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. While there is no love for the tyrant of Baghdad in either European or Arab capitals, there is plenty of fretting that the US will take out Hussein without preparing much for the aftermath – or even sticking around for it.

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Let South Africa be the example
Michael Hill, Baltimore Sun, August 11, 2002

The deadly dance that plays out almost daily between the Israelis and Palestinians is reminiscent of the violence that gripped South Africa a decade ago. But unfortunately, the response of Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat does not bring back memories of Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk.

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US opposition to Iraq attack grows
BBC News, August 12, 2002

An influential US senator has added his voice to growing opposition to a military strike against Iraq.
Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the US military was much more cautious about going to war with Iraq than civilian officials.

He said "containment of Saddam is working".

"It's almost certain that if we did attack Saddam that he then would use the weapons of mass destruction because he'd have nothing to lose in response to that kind of an attack," the Michigan senator said.

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Bush wants Big Bad Saddam
David Corn, AlterNet, August 9, 2002

If George W. Bush bothered to turn on C-SPAN and watch the recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Iraq, he might have learned he has a problem -- not with Senate Democrats, but with Senate Republicans. As various experts testified about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein (actually, the possible threat), the appropriate U.S. response, and what obligations the United States might be stuck with after a military attack on Iraq, at least two key GOPers, Senators Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel, expressed doubts about the rush to war and seemed to be signaling "whoaaa" to the White House. And the two joined with Democrat Joe Biden, the committee chairman, in saying often that the White House had promised them it would not strike Iraq either before the November elections or without consulting Congress. This was a piece of Washington theater, with influential senators publicly laying down a marker -- and trying to box Bush in. Lugar is essentially the ranking Republican on the committee, now that Jesse Helms is sidelined due to health problems; Hagel is a Vietnam combat hero with McCain-ish credibility on military topics.

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West's greed for oil fuels Saddam fever
Anthony Sampson, The Observer, August 11, 2002

Is the projected war against Iraq really turning into an oil war, aimed at safeguarding Western energy supplies as much as toppling a dangerous dictator and source of terrorism? Of course no one can doubt the genuine American hatred of Saddam Hussein, but recent developments in Washington suggest oil may loom larger than democracy or human rights in American calculations.

The alarmist briefing to the Pentagon by the Rand Corporation, leaked last week, talked about Saudi Arabia as 'the kernel of evil' and proposed that Washington should have a showdown with its former ally, if necessary seizing its oilfields which have been crucial to America's energy.

And the more anxious oil companies become about the stability of Saudi Arabia, the more they become interested in gaining access to Iraq, site of the world's second biggest oil reserves, which are denied to them. Vice-President Dick Cheney, who has had his own commercial interests in the Middle East, baldly described his objection to Saddam in California last week: 'He sits on top of 10 per cent of the world's oil reserves. He has enormous wealth being generated by that. And left to his own devices, it's the judgment of many of us that in the not too distant future he will acquire nuclear weapons.'

If Saddam were toppled, the Western oil companies led by Exxon expect to have much readier access to those oil reserves, making them less dependent on Saudi oilfields and the future of the Saudi royal family. The US President and Vice-President, both oilmen, cannot be unaware of those interests.

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Even at its best, war is never predictable
Andrew Greeley, Chicago Sun-Times, August 9, 2002

Some words of warning for Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and all the civilian war hawks in the Defense Department and for the president who wants to clear his father's honor by going to war in Iraq:

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Weak, incompetent or arrogant commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations--all take their seat at the Council Board.

You can put quotes around that paragraph. It was written by Winston Churchill in 1930, reflecting on the experience of the Great Boer War of 1899 to 1902, a war that the English thought would be a cakewalk. A ''change in regime'' was necessary in Natal and the Transvaal. They also believed that their prestige and credibility were at stake. Incalculable wealth in diamonds and gold would belong to the winner. When the war came to an ambiguous end with perhaps 100,000 dead--many in the ''concentration camps'' established by the English for Boer women and children--it seemed much less glorious.

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You can be warriors or wimps; or so say the Americans
Editorial, Economist, August 8, 2002

Last autumn it all seemed very different. Galvanised by outrage at the attacks on the World Trade Centre, Europeans rushed to align themselves with the United States. Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, proclaimed “unlimited solidarity” with America. The editor of France's left-leaning Le Monde wrote a front-page editorial headlined “We are all Americans now.” Tony Blair got a standing ovation in Congress in recognition of Britain's staunch support for the United States.

Almost a year on, the mood has changed. On August 5th Mr Schröder, hitting the campaign trail in Hanover, warned the United States against “playing around with war or military action” in Iraq. On the same day, Le Monde published another front-page piece, this time lamenting the mutual “incomprehension” between Europe and the United States and the “mood of indifference, indeed of mistrust, towards France and Europe, in the entourage surrounding President Bush.”

Mr Blair remains grimly determined to be the Americans' staunch ally. But British voices raised against participation in an attack on Iraq now range from the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, to top retired generals and backbench MPs in Mr Blair's own party. An opinion poll for television's Channel 4 in Britain this week showed 52% of Britons against joining an American-led attack and just 34% in favour.

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Beyond Baghdad:
Expanding target list

Roy Gutman and John Barry, Newsweek, August 19, 2002

While still wrangling over how to overthrow Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration is already looking for other targets. President Bush has called for the ouster of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Now some in the administration—and allies at D.C. think tanks—are eyeing Iran and even Saudi Arabia. As one senior British official put it: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.”

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The Mideast threat that's hard to define
Youssef M. Ibrahim, Washington Post, August 11, 2002

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, perpetrated by people who mostly came from Saudi Arabia, "Wahabism" has entered the vocabulary of American policy makers almost as synonymous with death, destruction and terror. Moreover, Wahabi teachings and influence in Riyadh have colored our image of Saudi Arabia, threatening to move it from the category of a friend helping to stabilize oil prices and the region to one of a foe alien to our values and bent on hurting us.

Less obvious, however, is that the Sept. 11 attacks also have strained ties between the "Wahabis" and Arab governments. The alliance between the House of Saud -- wealthy, cosmopolitan, and increasingly Western in tastes and habits -- and the proponents of an austere form of Islam based on a literal interpretation of the Koran is becoming harder to sustain. An increasing number of newspaper commentators, regional leaders and Saudi officials are daring to speak up against the backwards "Wahabi" vision of society. And Persian Gulf governments are taking a tougher line against extremists once thought to be useful, or at least relatively harmless. Instead of representing growing Wahabi power, the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath in Afghanistan may signal the peak of Wahabi influence, and a turning point in Arab attitudes toward such extremists.

These nuances are important for the United States as it wages its war against terror and tries to decide, to paraphrase the president, who is with us and who is against us. The Bush administration must better distinguish between Islam and the real enemy -- radical extremists within Islam. Otherwise we risk a collision with 1.2 billion Muslims around the word who do not appreciate being demonized -- as Saudi officials felt they were the other day by a report leaked to this newspaper -- just because they disagree with our policies in the Middle East or our plans to invade Iraq.

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Afghanistan: anti-terrorism or nation building?
Paul Rogers, Open Democracy, August 7, 2002

There is an assumption that the war in Afghanistan is over and that all that remains to be done is to conduct ‘mopping up’ operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida. This view has been rudely shattered by reports that there is considerable frustration in US defence circles with progress in Afghanistan and that substantial additional special forces are to be used there, and in other regions where al-Qaida or its associates may be operating.

The forces are likely to include US Navy Seals, US Army Delta Force troops and members of the CIA Special Activities Division. While the emphasis will be on Afghanistan, it is likely that Pakistan and possibly some Central Asian republics will also be involved.

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The other anti-Semitism
Omayma Abdel-Latif, Al-Ahram, August 8, 2002

"May the holy name visit retribution on the Arabs' heads, cause their seeds to be lost and annihilate them, cause them to be vanquished and cause them to be cast from the world. It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must give them missiles, with relish. Annihilate them, the evil ones." Those words were spoken by the leader of Israel's Shas Party, Rabbi Ouvadia Ben Yousef. Such a striking case of overtly racist comments comes to mind in the lead up to a lawsuit charging that an Egyptian newspaper was guilty of "perverse racism" in its coverage of Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

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'It's gone beyond hostility'
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, August 12, 2002

Increasingly, Israelis are resistant to hearing or seeing anything that challenges their version of events, a nationally adopted cant that basically says: "We are the victims, they are terrorists and the whole world is against us."

Palestinians, naturally, see themselves as universal victims as well. The competition for victimhood reached its apogee a few days after September 11, when Palestinians and Israelis held candelight memorials with astoundingly similar placards: "We know how you feel, we are victims of terrorism too."

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This is a recipe for global turmoil and endless war
George Galloway, The Guardian, August 12, 2002

Saddam Hussein raised a dyed black eyebrow when I asked him last week in an underground bunker in Baghdad if he'd seen the picture of the British Foreign Office minister, Mike O'Brien, kissing Colonel Gadafy under the canvas on a Mediterranean beach. As well he might. Here was the ultimate example of preferring jaw-jaw to war-war, in Churchill's famous phrase. In the not too distant past, Gadafy armed and financed terrorists to blow up British cities, while his men shot dead a policewoman in a London street and have been held responsible for the biggest act of mass murder, at Lockerbie, in British criminal history. Yet, rightly in my view, the Foreign Office has concluded that we can't choose who rules Libya and would be better off talking to those who do.

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Jaw-jaw sells more papers than war-war in deepest Poughkeepsie
Peter Preston, The Observer, August 11, 2002

Can you have a free press, in the land of the free, which freely settles for ideological stultification? You can indeed. Come with me to America this summer for the great non-debate about invading Iraq. There may be furious arguments raging in Fleet Street, even Max Hastings and Melanie Phillips locking horns across the Daily Mail atrium; yet here, in the Springsteen-revived USA, such controversies barely seem to exist.

On the one hand, there's a war coming, with George W Bush beating his drum. On the other hand, there's only shrugging, snoring silence. And, fascinatingly, the boredom is structural. It is rooted not only in the tidal emotions which followed 11 September, but in a pattern of news provision which shrinks from this controversy. The press hasn't had its freedoms ripped away. Rather, for the moment at least, it has given up the ghost.

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