The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     

Probe of hill leaks on 9/11 is intensified
FBI seeks records from 17 senators

Dana Priest, Washington Post, August 24, 2002

The FBI has intensified its probe of a classified intelligence leak, asking 17 senators to turn over phone records, appointment calendars and schedules that would reveal their possible contact with reporters.

In an Aug. 7 memo passed to the senators through the Senate general counsel's office, the FBI asked all members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to collect and turn over records from June 18 and 19, 2002. Those dates are the day of and the day after a classified hearing in which the director of the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, spoke to lawmakers about two highly sensitive messages that hinted at an impending action that the agency intercepted on the eve of Sept. 11 but did not translate until Sept. 12.

The request suggests that the FBI is now focusing on the handful of senior senators who are members of a Senate-House panel investigating Sept. 11 and attend most classified meetings and read all the most sensitive intelligence agency communications. A similar request did not go to House intelligence committee members.

The request also represents a much more intrusive probe of lawmakers' activities, and comes at a time when some legal experts and members of Congress are already disgruntled that an executive branch agency, such as the FBI -- headed by a political appointee -- is probing the actions of legislators whose job it is to oversee FBI and intelligence agencies.

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Secret court may limit government power
Anne Gearan, Associated Press, August 23, 2002

The Bush administration's latest courtroom setback in the post-Sept. 11 hunt for terrorists came from an unlikely source: a secretive panel of federal judges that until now had always given the government what it wanted.

The rebuff by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court may test the limits of the government's power to spy on terror suspects in the United States, and prompted a strongly worded appeal from the government.

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The FBI abuses trust
Editorial, Washington Post, August 24, 2002

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has argued that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can be trusted to wield broad new powers - both those additional powers voted into law last year and powers still under consideration. Officials have in many instances brushed aside suggestions that accountability and openness should accompany these new authorities. And their "trust us" mantra has largely carried the day as Congress has approved intrusive new powers for the executive branch. So it is no wonder that the Justice Department did not hasten to produce to Senators Patrick Leahy, Charles Grassley and Arlen Specter a copy of an extraordinary May 17 opinion by the seven judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The work of this super-secret tribunal, which considers government applications for search warrants and wiretaps in intelligence matters, almost never sees the light of day - in fact, this is the first opinion the full court has published since its creation in 1978. But in this instance, the judges themselves, responding to a request by the senators, took action to make sure that the senators and the public saw their unprecedented, unclassified opinion. The opinion, which the three senators released Thursday, paints a disquieting portrait of the FBI's trustworthiness, or lack thereof, in some of the most sensitive matters it handles.

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Ashcroft -- above the law?
Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2002

The chair of a congressional committee should not be forced to issue a subpoena to get the U.S. attorney general to respond to basic questions about the administration of justice in this country.

And Americans who worry about civil liberties should not have to file a lawsuit to determine whether their government is scanning library records or monitoring the e-mail of people who are not suspected of any crime.

But the Justice Department appears unwilling to subject itself to even the most rudimentary levels of accountability over the way it has handled the vast new powers it acquired under the so-called Patriot Act last year.

Extraordinary arrogance calls for extraordinary steps.

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Losing our best allies in the war on terror
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, New York Times, August 20, 2002

An Asian human rights activist proudly introduced herself to my class as a threat to national security: her commitment to democratic values put her so at odds with two Southeast Asian governments that she had to travel clandestinely. Yet, as our seminar on democratic culture came to an end earlier this month in Cracow, Poland, she, of all people, declared: "I have doubted a simple assertion for years, but I am now convinced that American democracy requires the repression of democracy in the rest of the world."

Worse still, she was expressing the consensus of the students. These young people, moved by values of human rights and democracy, have become convinced that the existence of these rights in America is predicated on their repression elsewhere.

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Public support slips for ousting Saddam
Richard Benedetto, USA Today, August 22, 2002

A thin majority of Americans still support sending ground troops to Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, but the size of that majority has dwindled to pre-Sept. 11 levels, a Gallup Poll finds. Support for sending troops to Iraq has fallen from a high of 74% in November, when allied forces had al-Qaeda terrorists on the run, to 53% now, when the war on terror has shown little recent progress and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is still at large.

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The war within Washington
Jim Lobe, AlterNet, August 22, 2002

The Republicans have gone to war, only this time it's against themselves.

This war is over going to war, specifically against Iraq. The hawks are led by Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the neo-conservative Likudniks who surround them. Also arrayed on their side are a host of cheerleaders in the media, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard and Fox News channel, and political pundits like Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol.

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Ashcroft assailed on policy review
Dan Eggen, Washington Post, August 21, 2002

Lawmakers on the House and Senate judiciary committees are complaining that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft is blocking attempts to review Justice Department counterterrorism policies, setting the stage for another round of clashes between the Bush administration and Congress.

In one of the latest skirmishes, the Democratic chairman and two leading Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee say Justice officials have refused to turn over a legal opinion issued by the court that oversees secret intelligence warrants, even though the document is unclassified. In another case, Justice has refused requests from the House Judiciary Committee to turn over certain details about anti-terror tactics contained in the USA Patriot Act. Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant told the committee in a letter that some classified information would be provided to the House intelligence committee instead.

The stance has so angered the House Judiciary committee's chairman, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), that he has threatened to issue a subpoena for Ashcroft if answers are not provided by Labor Day.

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Dissing the dissenters
David Ignatius, Washington Post, August 23, 2002

Have "prudence" and "foresight" become dirty words in conservative foreign policy circles? You begin to wonder, watching the debate taking place on the right about what policies the United States should adopt toward Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

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Bush as general
Editorial, Financial Times, August 22, 2002

"If I could ask President Bush to read one book, this would be it," writes arch-hawk Bill Kristol in the blurb to the book that, hey presto, George W. Bush is reading on vacation between bouts of bass-fishing on his Texas ranch.

The book, by neo-conservative military analyst Eliot A. Cohen, is called Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime. Given that war with Iraq is ostensibly likely, if not imminent; that Mr Bush is ex-officio the Supreme Commander; and that Mr Cohen is all for going after Saddam Hussein, what does this book say?

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To read the Koran
Editorial, Washington Post, August 22, 2002

The public firestorm over the University of North Carolina's decision to ask that incoming students read a book about the Koran is a peculiar display of enthusiasm for ignorance. The university made an altogether rational judgment, in light of the circumstances in which this country finds itself, that students might benefit by reading and discussing a book titled "Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations" by a professor at Haverford College named Michael Sells. In response, a group of conservative Christians sued, contending that such an assignment by a state university violates the First Amendment. North Carolina legislators, meanwhile, have threatened to cut state funding for the program. And some prominent people have denounced the book as a supposed whitewash of Islam -- or even objected to the notion that students might study the Koran at all. In a particular display of demagogic illiteracy, popular talk show host Bill O'Reilly last month compared studying the Koran today to reading "Mein Kampf" during World War II.

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November surprise?
James Ridgeway, Village Voice, August 21, 2002

The word among wags in Washington is that George W. Bush will invade Iraq right after the fall congressional elections, giving himself time to get the war out of the way before his own presidential campaign swings into gear. An attack before November would be difficult because the desert would be too hot for troops to maneuver with all their biochemical gear, or so the argument goes.

See also Foreign Policy in Focus report

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U.S. accused of rigging war game
Defeat of 'Iraq' ensured

Jan Cienski, National Post, August 21, 2002

The quality of U.S. preparation for a possible attack on Iraq is being called into question by a retired Marine Corps general who says recent military games -- the largest ever held by the Pentagon -- were rigged to ensure the forces posing as the Iraqis would lose. The games were "almost entirely scripted to ensure a [U.S. military] 'win'" said General Paul Van Riper, commander of the opposing "Red" forces, who quit in disgust halfway through the exercise.

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Ex-diplomat warns Blair over attack on Iraq
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, August 22, 2002

Britain's top diplomat at the time of the 1991 Gulf war warned yesterday that a military attack on Iraq could have devastating consequences. Lord Wright of Richmond, former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, joined the growing number of voices warning the government of the dangers of backing an American assault on Baghdad.

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Some lives are cheaper than others
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, August 18, 2002

Which is preferable - "pressure cooker" or "neighbor procedure"? Is it better to detonate a building with the occupants inside - a practice known in the Israel Defense Forces as "pressure cooker" - or to send one of the local neighbors to defend the soldiers bodily, the "neighbor procedure" in IDF argot. [...]

An innocent neighbor is ordered to go to his death, a bulldozer topples a building on a live wanted person - however cruel and however senior he may have been in his organization - without anyone knowing who else was in the house, and officers and politicians justify the operation without blinking an eye. If we have any desire to know how deep our insensitivity now runs and how morally obtuse we have become, this can make for an excellent case study: the nifty names the IDF has chosen - "pressure cooker" and "neighbor procedure" - can no longer mitigate the serious implications of both actions, which not even the most just war against terrorism can justify.

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The coming war over Iraq: prelude, course, aftermath
Paul Rogers, Open Democracy, August 14, 2002

While there are indications of substantial differences between some of the senior US military and the civilian security establishment in the Bush administration, it is clear that it is the latter who are now dominant in the argument over how to handle the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The bottom line was expressed with admirable clarity by John Bolton of the State Department ten days ago when he emphasised that it was not sufficient for United Nations (UN) inspectors to be allowed back into Iraq – US policy was to terminate the regime itself.

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The men from JINSA and CSP
Jason Vest, The Nation, September 2, 2002

Almost thirty years ago, a prominent group of neoconservative hawks found an effective vehicle for advocating their views via the Committee on the Present Danger, a group that fervently believed the United States was a hair away from being militarily surpassed by the Soviet Union, and whose raison d'être was strident advocacy of bigger military budgets, near-fanatical opposition to any form of arms control and zealous championing of a Likudnik Israel. Considered a marginal group in its nascent days during the Carter Administration, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 CPD went from the margins to the center of power.

Just as the right-wing defense intellectuals made CPD a cornerstone of a shadow defense establishment during the Carter Administration, so, too, did the right during the Clinton years, in part through two organizations: the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP). And just as was the case two decades ago, dozens of their members have ascended to powerful government posts, where their advocacy in support of the same agenda continues, abetted by the out-of-government adjuncts from which they came. Industrious and persistent, they've managed to weave a number of issues--support for national missile defense, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey and American unilateralism in general--into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core.

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Seeking the truth in Afghan graves
Leonard S. Rubenstein, Washington Post, August 21, 2002

For months, evidence has accumulated that many of the Taliban fighters who surrendered after the fall of Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz last November were killed by Northern Alliance forces under the control of Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum. Eyewitnesses report that the prisoners died of asphyxiation after being transported in sealed containers to the Shebergan prison. The number of dead is not known, but the current issue of Newsweek, citing the accounts of survivors and drivers of the container trucks, estimates hundreds or even thousands of deaths.

The clues to finding the truth lie in mass graves near the prison. A comprehensive forensic investigation could reveal the number of dead, who they are and how they died -- and lead to a determination of who was responsible. In January, two investigators from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) discovered a mass grave site, and in February PHR's forensic scientists found fresh remains. In early March, we shared the information about our discoveries with the State and Defense departments, as well as with the United Nations and the Afghan government. We urgently sought American military protection of the sites from the high risk of tampering, and we asked for an immediate and thorough investigation of the graves.

Only the United States is in a position to ensure the security essential to allowing an investigation to go forward. On moral grounds, too, an especially compelling reason exists for U.S. action: The perpetrator of the alleged war crime is its own military ally.

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We, the people, can stop a war
Medea Benjamin, AlterNet, August 20, 2002

As someone trying to build a third party in the United States, I often complain about the lack of democracy in this country: the way money has corrupted politics, the exclusion of third party candidates from debates, a corporate-run media that usually ignores third party challengers, two major parties so alike that half the eligible voters don't even bother to vote. Add to that our daily exposés of corporate scoundrels with hands in the public till, or political scoundrels with hands in the corporate till, and it's hard not to be cynical about the state of our democracy.

But right now I don't want to complain. Right now I am desperately eager to be proven wrong about how this country works. Right now I want to believe that the people do indeed have a voice in the critical issues of our times, a voice that can influence the policy-makers. I want us, the people, to leave aside our partisan differences. I want us, the people, to free our representatives in Washington from the saber-rattling that envelops them and endangers us. I want us, the people, to stop a war with Iraq.

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Biological warfare in Iraq
Ramzi Kysia, Common Dreams, August 21, 2002

At first glance, Saddam Pediatric Hospital is a dark, grim place: the walls need painting, less than a third of the lights work, and the hallways are overflowing with parents seeking medical treatment for their children. According to UNICEF reports, at least 500,000 Iraqi children have died over the last 11 years as a result of Gulf War bombings and sanctions.

Dr. Thomas Nagy, a Holocaust survivor and professor at George Washington University in Washington D.C., claims that hospitals like Saddam Pediatric are on the frontlines of a modern-day Holocaust. After analyzing recently declassified U.S. military documents that describe plans to destroy Iraq’s civilian water supply during the Gulf War, Dr. Nagy now believes he has the evidence to make his charges stick. In a controversial paper presented to the Association of Genocide Scholars in the United States last summer, Dr. Nagy argued that the purposeful destruction of Iraq’s water treatment facilities amounted to “a plan for achieving extermination without the need of constructing extermination camps.”

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What the New York Times left out
William Blum, Yellow Times, August 21, 2002

According to a Senate Committee Report of 1994: From 1985, if not earlier, through 1989, a veritable witch's brew of biological materials were exported to Iraq by private American suppliers pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

See the complete Senate committee report

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Poppies bloom in Afghan fields, again
Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, August 21, 2002

By most accounts, the antidrug policies of Afghanistan's new government appear to be in a shambles. This week, a spokesman for the United Nations in Kabul admitted that the government's ban on opium had failed so far.

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Palestine's partisans
Paul Foot, The Guardian, August 21, 2002

The unquenchable defiance of the Palestinian people inspired the furious speech from the dock last week by the handcuffed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti. In a single sentence, repeated with great passion, he summed up the one absolutely undeniable truth about Palestine: that there can be "no peace with occupation". In other words, whatever the vacillations of Zionist intellectuals in the west, whatever the reactions to the suicide bombings, the plain fact remains that there is no hope for peace in the region as long as Israel maintains its illegal and brutal occupation of other people's territory.

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Don't trust Bush or Blair on Iraq
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, August 21, 2002

Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the past is repeatedly cited by the US and British governments as justification for his removal from power now. But just what was their response to his use of poison gas against Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s? Far from condemning his actions, they stepped up their support for Baghdad.

One of the most damning revelations to come out of the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq affair was the British government's secret decision to supply Saddam with even more weapons-related equipment after he shelled the Kurdish town of Halabja in March 1988 with gas bombs, killing an estimated 5,000 civilians and maiming thousands more. Saddam said he had punished the Kurds for "collaboration" after the town had been successfully attacked by Iran. The weapons were produced with German-supplied chemicals.

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Simplistic hunt for evil in a complex world
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2002

Doomed by the incoherence of a foreign policy defined largely by biblical notions of the struggle between good and evil, the Bush administration thrashes about in its hunt for the devil. Sadly, all that has produced are shopworn enemies that were once our surrogates in battles we would rather forget.

That is the case with Saddam Hussein, whose war against Iran in the 1980s was decisively aided by a U.S. eager to protect pro-Western Arab oil sheikdoms from the contamination of Iran's virulently anti-American Islamic revolution. Hussein's use of chemical weapons, now cited with horror in the Bush administration's daily demonization of Hussein, occurred early in that war and was well known to U.S. officials, who at least implicitly condoned his war crimes.

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US pushes PR for war with Iraq
Eli J. Lake, UPI, August 20, 2002

The United States, faced with a survey by diplomats showing widespread foreign skepticism about their motives, is planning a public relations offensive to build international support among foreign opinion leaders for a war against Iraq.

The Iraq Public Diplomacy Group, a U.S. interagency task force, will be launching a widespread public relations campaign this fall, targeting newspaper editors and foreign policy think tank analysts in Western Europe and the Middle East.

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Detainees equal dollars
Alisa Solomon, Village Voice, August 14, 2002

The INS is desperate for more beds for its ever expanding detainee population. And the state of Nebraska, collecting $65 per detainee per day from the INS, rakes in more than $1 million a year over and above the cost of running the place.

County jailers have long known that housing INS detainees pumps easy income into the coffers. Nearly 900 facilities around the country provide beds for the INS, and in interviews over the years, several county sheriffs and wardens have described such detainees as a "cash crop."

Passaic County Jail in New Jersey learned the lucrative lesson after 9-11, as INS transfers boosted its detainee population from 40 to 386 by December 18. The INS paid $77 per day per detainee, compared to New Jersey reimbursements of $62 for state prisoners; some $3 million in INS payments poured into Passaic last year.

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US thinktanks give lessons in foreign policy
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, August 19, 2002

A little-known fact about Richard Perle, the leading advocate of hardline policies at the Pentagon, is that he once wrote a political thriller. The book, appropriately called Hard Line, is set in the days of the cold war with the Soviet Union. Its hero is a male senior official at the Pentagon, working late into the night and battling almost single-handedly to rescue the US from liberal wimps at the state department who want to sign away America's nuclear deterrent in a disarmament deal with the Russians.

Ten years on Mr Perle finds himself cast in the real-life role of his fictional hero - except that the Russians are no longer a threat, so he has to make do with the Iraqis, the Saudis and terrorism in general.

In real life too, Mr Perle is not fighting his battle single-handed. Around him there is a cosy and cleverly-constructed network of Middle East "experts" who share his neo-conservative outlook and who pop up as talking heads on US television, in newspapers, books, testimonies to congressional committees, and at lunchtime gatherings in Washington.

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The wrong war
Grenville Byford, Foreign Affairs, July-August, 2002

Wars have typically been fought against proper nouns (Germany, say) for the good reason that proper nouns can surrender and promise not to do it again. Wars against common nouns (poverty, crime, drugs) have been less successful. Such opponents never give up. The war on terrorism, unfortunately, falls into the second category. Victory is possible only if the United States confines itself to fighting individual terrorists rather than the tactic of terrorism itself. Yet defining who is a terrorist is more complicated than it might seem -- and even if it were not, choosing one's enemies on the basis of their tactics alone has little to recommend it.

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Inside the secret war council
Mark Thompson, Time, August 26, 2002

Meeting last month in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's private conference room, a group called the Defense Policy Board heard an outside expert, armed only with a computerized PowerPoint briefing, denounce the Saudis for being "active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader." Such claims have been on the rise since Sept. 11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Relatives of those killed in the attacks filed suit last week seeking $1 trillion from, among others, three Saudi princes who allegedly gave money to groups supporting the terrorists. But the Pentagon briefer's solution to the Saudi problem was provocative in the extreme: Washington should declare the Saudis the enemy, he said, and threaten to take over the oil wells if the kingdom doesn't do more to combat Islamic terrorism. "I thought the briefing was ridiculous," a board member said, "a waste of time, and the quicker he left the better." When the briefing leaked to the press, it sent diplomatic tremors ricocheting to Riyadh.

This is the kind of outside-the-Pentagon-box thinking that routinely takes place inside the Defense Policy Board, the Secretary's private think tank in a building where helmets often trump thinking caps. Chaired by Richard Perle — a Reagan Pentagon official whose hard-line views won him the title "Prince of Darkness"--the board gives its 31 unpaid members something every Washington player wants: unrivaled access without accountability. Perle uses his post as a springboard for his unilateralist, attack-Iraq views to try to whip the Bush Administration into action. But despite its name, the board does not make policy. As the Saudi episode shows, it can do something far scarier: give a false impression of it.

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CNN chief claims US media 'censored' war
Julie Tomlin, Press Gazette, August 15, 2002

US news organisations “censored” their coverage of the US campaign in Afghanistan in order to be in step with public opinion in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, a CNN senior executive has claimed.

Coverage of the war in Afghanistan was shaped by the level of public support that existed for US action, Rena Golden, the executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International claimed.

Speaking at Newsworld Asia, a conference for news executives in Singapore, Golden said: “Anyone who claims the US media didn’t censor itself is kidding you. It wasn’t a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticise anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people.

“And this isn’t just a CNN issue -every journalist who was in any way involved in 9/11 is partly responsible.” Senior figures from Afghanistan and Pakistan criticised Western news organisations which flooded the region with journalists, who were unfamiliar with its politics and history.

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Chicken hawks
Matthew Engel, The Guardian, August 20, 2002

[A]s the Bush administration paints itself into an ever-tighter corner with its Iraq rhetoric, it is instructive to note the astonishing extent to which those so anxious to stage the next war managed to be absent from the last one. [...]

Consider Washington's two most prominent superhawks: Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy) and his adviser Richard Perle. Who's Who in America is curiously vague about their precise whereabouts in the late 1960s, though it is fairly clear where they were not. As the shrewd and sceptical Republican senator Chuck Hagel said last week: "Maybe Mr Perle would like to be in the first wave of those who go into Baghdad."

The two Democrat leaders in Congress, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, served; their Republican counterparts, Trent Lott and Dick Armey, did not. Tom DeLay, the most powerful hawk in the House of Representatives, missed Vietnam too: he was working as a pest exterminator. Reportedly, he once complained that he would have served; but, he said, all the places were taken up by ethnic minorities.

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Iraq: In all but name, the war's on
Marc Erikson, Asia Times, August 17, 2002

At the beginning of this year, when US President George W Bush started talking ever more in earnest about taking out Saddam Hussein and signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple the Iraqi president, including authority to use lethal force to capture him, the US and putative ally Britain had approximately 50,000 troops deployed in the region around Iraq.

By now, this number has grown to over 100,000, not counting soldiers of and on naval units in the vicinity. It's been a build-up without much fanfare, accelerating since March and accelerating further since June. And these troops are not just sitting on their hands or twiddling their thumbs while waiting for orders to act out some type of D-Day drama. Several thousand are already in Iraq. They are gradually closing in and rattling Saddam's cage. In effect, the war has begun.

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Iraq hawks have Bush's ear
Stephen J. Hedges, Chicago Tribune, August 18, 2002

A once-obscure Pentagon board is playing an influential role in pushing the Bush administration toward an invasion of Iraq, generating support for military action as members seek to transform a controversial idea into a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy.

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Iraq war to carry a high tab
Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, August 19, 2002

Within weeks of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, oil nearly doubled in price to $40 a barrel – a spike that eventually settled down but was a factor, some economists hold, in the US slipping into recession.

Now as the US debates the merits of a war to bring down Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, officials and economists are beginning to ponder the impact of another conflict on the US and world economies.

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Officers say U.S. aided Iraq in war despite use of gas
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, August 18, 2002

A covert American program during the Reagan administration provided Iraq with critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war, according to senior military officers with direct knowledge of the program.

Those officers, most of whom agreed to speak on the condition that they not be identified, spoke in response to a reporter's questions about the nature of gas warfare on both sides of the conflict between Iran and Iraq from 1981 to 1988. Iraq's use of gas in that conflict is repeatedly cited by President Bush and, this week, by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, as justification for "regime change" in Iraq.

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Oily diplomacy
Editorial, New York Times, August 19, 2002

The Bush administration, promiscuously invoking the war against terrorism, is using its influence inappropriately to assist an American oil company that has been sued for misconduct overseas. The intervention reinforces the impression that the administration is too cozy with the oil industry.

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The death convoy of Afghanistan
Babak Dehghanpisheh, John Barry and Roy Gutman, Newsweek, August 26, 2002

Mass graves are not always easy to spot, though trained investigators know the signs. “You look for disturbance of the earth, differences in the vegetation, areas that have been machined over,” says Haglund, a forensic anthropologist and pioneer in the field of “human-rights archeology.” At Dasht-e Leili, a 15-minute drive from the Northern Alliance prison at Sheber-ghan, scavenging animals had brought the evidence to the surface. Some of the gnawed bones were old and bleached, but some were from bodies so recently buried the bones still carried tissue. The area of bulldozer activity—roughly an acre—suggested burials on a large scale. A stray surgical glove also caught Haglund’s eye. Such gloves are often used by people handling corpses, and could be evidence, Haglund thought, of “a modicum of planning.”

Haglund was in Dasht-e Leili on more than a hunch. In January, two investigators from the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights had argued their way into the nearby Sheberghan prison. What they saw shocked them. More than 3,000 Taliban prisoners—who had surrendered to the victorious Northern Alliance forces at the fall of Konduz in late November—were crammed, sick and starving, into a facility with room for only 800. The Northern Alliance commander of the prison acknowledged the charnel-house conditions, but pleaded that he had no money. He begged the PHR to send food and supplies, and to ask the United Nations to dig a well so the prisoners could drink unpolluted water.

But stories of a deeper horror came from the prisoners themselves. However awful their conditions, they were the lucky ones. They were alive. Many hundreds of their comrades, they said, had been killed on the journey to Sheberghan from Konduz by being stuffed into sealed cargo containers and left to asphyxiate. Local aid workers and Afghan officials quietly confirmed that they had heard the same stories. They confirmed, too, persistent reports about the disposal of many of the dead in mass graves at Dasht-e Leili.

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Under a veil of deceit
Gary Younge, The Guardian, August 19, 2002

Feriba is a woman - an Afghan woman at that. In November, when the US and Britain were bombing Afghanistan to oblivion, there was a great deal of high-minded talk about the need to defend her rights. Peering through a burka for the cameras, Cherie Booth, the prime minister's wife, railed against the Taliban for their vicious treatment of women. "For women to make a contribution they need opportunities, self-esteem and esteem in the eyes of their society," she argued.

In a carefully coordinated offensive, the first lady Laura Bush took over her husband's weekly radio address to back the use of B-52s and smart bombs to defend women's honour. "The fight against terrorism is also the fight for the rights and dignities of women," she said. "Women have been denied access to doctors when they are sick ... the plight of women and children in Afghanistan [is] a matter of deliberate human cruelty," where "small displays of joy are outlawed" and "children are not allowed to fly kites".

It's strange then that there would have been so little support for Feriba from the British and American governments. For she once had self-esteem and was keen to make a contribution. Having fled the Taliban and arrived here, via Germany, she dreamed of becoming a doctor or nurse. But as she wept in the back of a police car on Wednesday morning, her sense of self-worth had all but evaporated.

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This land is your land
Jacqueline Rose, The Observer, August 18, 2002

My first visit to Israel in 1980 was hardly typical for a young Jewish woman. On the plane, I found myself sitting next to Dima Habash, 16-year-old niece of George Habash, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. 'Are you Jewish?' she asked, and when I said I was, without a moment's pause she continued: 'You think Israel belongs to you.'

'No,' I replied, surprised by my own urgency, 'I think it belongs to you.'

I am not an Israeli and I have never understood why, solely as a Jew, I should lay claim, over the Palestinians, to the land. I have never understood why the historic, biblical claim of the Jewish people, even when seared by the horror of the Holocaust, should usurp the rights of the Arabs who had lived there for hundreds of years. I was going as a stranger to see a sister, who was on an extended visit to the country. 'Come to Ramallah,' Dima insisted, 'so you can see the camps for yourself.'

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Life after death
Dirk Wittenborn, The Observer, August 18, 2002

On 11 September, novelist Dirk Wittenborn's wife went into labour as their city was convulsed with terror. He recalls how his private world and history were thrown together in the best and worst of all days.

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