The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
President Bush will have to shock the American people into war
Fergal Keane, The Independent, September 7, 2002

There was an assumption that in the climate of moral outrage that followed 11 September, Mr Bush's long-standing desire to get rid of Saddam would have wide support. Also what appeared to be a relatively uncomplicated victory in Afghanistan emboldened the hawks in the White House. The current crisis in "liberated" Afghanistan should tell Mr Bush that the line between confidence and hubris can be perilously close.

I expect that when Mr Bush does present his evidence it will lay out much that we already know. We will be given details of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons capacity. There will be evidence, too, of his attempt to re-launch a nuclear weapons programme, and finally – but critically in terms of public opinion – there will be a dossier on Saddam's links to al-Qa'ida. What none of us can tell until we see the information is whether the intelligence is speculative or solid. Even if the intelligence is less than overwhelming in relation to al-Qa'ida, Mr Bush may win grudging backing for his war. But grudging backing is as bad as no backing if the war starts go wrong.

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The Taliban minister, the US envoy and the warning of September 11 that was ignored
Kate Clark, The Independent, September 7, 2002

Weeks before the terrorist attacks on 11 September, the United States and the United Nations ignored warnings from a secret Taliban emissary that Osama bin Laden was planning a huge attack on American soil.

The warnings were delivered by an aide of Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban Foreign Minister at the time, who was known to be deeply unhappy with the foreign militants in Afghan-istan, including Arabs.

Mr Muttawakil, now in American custody, believed the Taliban's protection of Mr bin Laden and the other al-Qa'ida militants would lead to nothing less than the destruction of Afghanistan by the US military. He told his aide: "The guests are going to destroy the guesthouse."

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Israeli economy buckling from cost of war
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, September 7, 2002

A senior Israeli commander, Major-General Uzi Dayan, completed his tour of duty yesterday with a warning that the ailing Israeli economy will be unable to support the military campaign against the Palestinians for much longer.

Gen Dayan, who resigned yesterday morning as head of the country's national security council, estimated that the conflict was costing Israel about $3bn (£1.9bn) annually.

In a final report on Israel's relationship with the Palestinians, he urged Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, to decide between a secure border, re-occupation or the creation of a Palestinian state.

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An American justice
Free-spoken judge challenges the White House over 'combatant' rights

Richard Leiby, Washington Post, September 6, 2002

Federal judge Robert G. Doumar has one word for the Bush administration's argument that an American citizen, captured in Afghanistan and confined in a Navy brig here, doesn't have the right to see a lawyer:


Okay, maybe one more word:


His dulcet drawl accented by irritation, Doumar lobbed those adjectives from the bench while presiding over the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, 21, a Saudi Arabian and accidental American. Hamdi was born in Baton Rouge when his father, a Saudi oil executive, worked there. He left as a toddler, and as a Saudi university student he answered the call to jihad by allegedly carrying a Kalashnikov rifle with the Taliban last fall.

The Pentagon, deeming Hamdi an "enemy combatant," wants to keep him locked up indefinitely with no charges and no right to due process. The Justice Department says Hamdi has been lawfully detained in the war against terrorism. Refusing to become what he called "little more than a rubber stamp" for the executive branch, Doumar says the whole procedure smacks of the Star Chamber, a secret court convened by English kings.

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In war, some facts less factual
Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2002

When George H. W. Bush ordered American forces to the Persian Gulf – to reverse Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait – part of the administration case was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia. Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid–September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.

But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.

See also When contemplating war, beware of babies in incubators

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100 jets join attack on Iraq
Michael Smith, The Telegraph, September 6, 2002

About 100 American and British aircraft took part in an attack on Iraq's major western air defence installation yesterday in the biggest single operation over the country for four years.

The raid appeared to be a prelude to the type of special forces operations that would have to begin weeks before a possible American-led war. It was launched two days before a war summit between President George W Bush and Tony Blair in America.

The Prime Minister promised that Britain would be alongside the Americans "when the shooting starts".

The raid seemed designed to destroy air defences to allow easy access for special forces helicopters to fly into Iraq via Jordan or Saudi Arabia to hunt down Scud missiles before a possible war within the next few months.

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Richard Perle: The armchair general
Eric Boehlert, Salon, September 5, 2002

News that congressional leaders huddled with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday to discuss a possible war with Iraq may convince even skeptics that the administration's talk of removing Saddam Hussein is serious. Although recent polls show that Americans are roughly split in their support for military action, Wednesday's news certainly cheered at least one Beltway insider: Richard Perle, the man who's done perhaps more than anyone to lay the intellectual and political groundwork for a preemptive strike against Iraq.

Perle is arguably the Beltway's most influential foreign-policy hawk, an outside-insider who's used his bully pulpit as chairman of the quasi-official Defense Policy Board to argue on behalf of neo-conservatives that a full-scale, preemptive strike against Iraq must be the next move in America's post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism.

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Wake-up call
Julian Borger, The Guardian, September 6, 2002

At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.

What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.

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The troubling new face of America
Jimmy Carter, Washington Post, September 5, 2002

Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process -- largely without definitive debates (except, at times, within the administration). Some new approaches have understandably evolved from quick and well-advised reactions by President Bush to the tragedy of Sept. 11, but others seem to be developing from a core group of conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism.

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Dissent is not disloyalty
Roman Bronfman, The Guardian, September 5, 2002

The past week has witnessed two remarkable independent, yet related, events. One, in Britain, has been the controversy surrounding Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's interview in this paper. The second, in Israel, has been the controversial address to a closed forum of the country's leading rabbis by the new chief of staff of the Israel Defence Force, Moshe Ya'alon. The latter saw Israel's top soldier describe the Palestinian threat as a "cancer". Those rabbis present apparently saw little wrong with the chief of staff's disturbing metaphor and its potentially dire implications, which underscores the salience, timeliness and bravery of Rabbi Sacks's comments.

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Plans for Iraq attack began on 9/11
David Martin, CBS News, September 5, 2002

CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.

That's according to notes taken by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on Sept. 11 – notes that show exactly where the road toward war with Iraq began.

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Unfriendly fire
Barry Wain, Far Eastern Economic Review, September 12, 2002

A year after hijackers crashed aircraft into buildings in New York and Washington and provoked the world's lone superpower to retaliate, the search for culprits and co-conspirators in Southeast Asia has yielded meagre results. Only a few allies of prime suspect Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization have been detected, and the U.S. is stirring a hornets' nest with its heavy-handed intrusion into regional affairs.

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Perils of preemptive war
William Galston, The American Prospect, September 23, 2002

The Bush administration and its supporters argue that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would shift the political balance in our favor throughout the Middle East (including among the Palestinians). Henry Kissinger is not alone in arguing that the road to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict leads through Baghdad, not the other way around. More broadly, say the optimists, governments in the region would see that opposing the United States carries serious risk, and that there is more to be gained from cooperating with us. Rather than rising up in injured pride, the Arab "street" would respect our resolve and move toward moderation, as would Arab leaders.

Perhaps so. But it does not take much imagination to conjure a darker picture, and the performance of our intelligence services in the region does not inspire confidence in the factual basis of the optimists' views. If a wave of public anger helped Islamic radicals unseat Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf, for example, we would have exchanged a dangerous regime seeking nuclear weapons for an even more dangerous regime that possesses them.

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The winner of the war on terrorism is ... U.S. industry
Brendan Koerne, Mother Jones, September, 2002

Technology companies have been the most aggressive in marketing their wares as vital to the War on Terrorism. Software titans like Oracle and Sun, anxious to find new customers for their database programs and web servers, are pushing for the creation of a national identity-card system. Old-line defence contractors like Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, stung by the decline in demand for big weapons systems after the end of the cold war, are recasting themselves as security providers, hiring "homeland security directors" and pitching their technologies to shield nuclear plants or refit the coast guard's patrol boats.

Small start-ups peddling silver bullets - from fake-document detectors to anthrax- handling robots to dubious "brain finger-printers"- may have the most to gain. A year ago, for example, fledgling InVision, a California-based maker of explosives-detection systems, was forced to lay off 6% of its workforce. But the company hit the jackpot in March when the newly-created transportation security administration placed a $170m order for its detectors. A few weeks later, InVision raised more than $90m by selling a raft of shares for $36.50 a pop; on 10 September, the stock had traded for just $3.10.

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God, tell Sharon
Sam Bahour, Ha'aretz, September 5, 2002

Over the past months, Israel has been systematically destroying the Palestinian economic infrastructure and, with it, any hopes for a future reconciliation between the two peoples. There are those who will argue that the curfew is a far less brutal action than other means regularly employed by the Israeli army. I would like, therefore, to tell my Israeli neighbors a little about life under curfew.

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The "maybe war" faction
Marc Cooper, LA Weekly, September 3, 2002 I strolled the crowded streets around the dazzling Golden Mosque in the ancient Kadhimiya quarter of the city and looked upon the black-robed Shiah women with tattooed lips and the old wizened men puffing on hookahs under green fluorescent lights in the corner tea shops, I couldn't think of one single justification for waging war against this nation or its people.

And now, as Bush the Second noisily threatens to finish the job that Poppy pooped out on, I find even less justification, if that's possible. At least during the first Gulf War you could delude yourself into thinking we were rescuing occupied Kuwait and restoring rule to its syphilitic sheiks.

But this time around, what?

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Hypocrisy now!
Molly Ivins, Working For Change, September 3, 2002

Excuse me: I don't want to be tacky or anything, but hasn't it occurred to anyone in Washington that sending Vice President Dick Cheney out to champion an invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is a "murderous dictator" is somewhere between bad taste and flaming hypocrisy?

When Dick Cheney was CEO of the oilfield supply firm Halliburton, the company did $23.8 million in business with Saddam Hussein, the evildoer "prepared to share his weapons of mass destruction with terrorists."

So if Saddam is "the world's worst leader," how come Cheney sold him the equipment to get his dilapidated oil fields up and running so he to could afford to build weapons of mass destruction?

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Power and terror
Paul Kennedy, Financial Times, September 2, 2002

Here is a dreadful irony, for Americans in particular. For the more that the Pentagon's spending on R&D makes the country's forces superior to anyone else's armies and navies, the more America's enemies will turn to unconventional methods to hurt her.

The establishment of an Office of Homeland Security is itself a testimony to this new and uncomfortable fact. Anthrax in the mail, deadly spores in the air or water supplies, bombs on the subway, have all become serious possibilities just at the same time that US military power abroad is greater than anything in the history of nation states. Here is a gap in security that the Pentagon planners may find impossible to bridge.

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Former head of MI5:
US can't win terror battle

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, September 4, 2002

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, today delivers a damning critique of America's response to the September 11 assault on the US and says she was not surprised by the al-Qaida terrorist attack.

She makes it clear that, in her view, US intelligence agencies failed to investigate the al-Qaida network properly, and says President Bush's war on terrorism will never be won.

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Escape from Tora Bora
Strategic blunders allowed thousands of fighters to flee on foot over the mountains

The Guardian, September 4, 2002

Osama bin Laden and most of his top-ranking Arab associates were able to escape from Afghanistan last year because of a series of avoidable strategic blunders by US military commanders, well-placed sources in Kabul have told the Guardian. Of the 3,000-4,000 "foreign militants" trapped in Afghanistan last November after the collapse of the Taliban, most got away.

Several high-profile military operations to capture them - most notably last December in the Tora Bora mountains - failed because Britain and the US sent in too few troops of their own. Instead, the US commander in Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, relied too heavily on local anti-Taliban warlords who were more interested in making money than in hunting enemies of the US.

American intelligence officials have privately described this strategy as the "gravest error of the war".

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Sharon orders attack readiness by November 1
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, September 4, 2002

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, yesterday ordered all preparations being made by the military and emergency services for an Iraqi counterstrike in response to a US attack to be completed by November 1.

Mr Sharon called a special meeting of the defence minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and the heads of the military and security services to check the state of preparations.

Disclosure of such a specific date and the meeting is unusual because the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, had decided to minimise discussion of the Iraqi threat, to avoid creating panic and to distance Israel from any US decision to attack.

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What really changed
Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, September 4, 2002

Even the approach of the anniversary inspires dread. On Wall Street yesterday both the markets and the dollar fell: jittery traders apparently fear that the arrival of September 11, 2002 will be marked by a repeat performance of September 11, 2001.

That's understandable. Those traders live in New York, where a glance skyward still brings back lurid memories. But what about everyone else, all those who don't live a cab ride from Ground Zero? Last September 12 we read, and told ourselves, that the world had changed forever, that nothing would ever be the same again. Were we right?

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Playing skittles with Saddam
The gameplan among Washington's hawks has long been to reshape the Middle East along US-Israeli lines

Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, September 3, 2002

The "skittles theory" of the Middle East - that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes - has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the "war against terrorism".

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli thinktank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled "A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm", it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy "based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ..."

Among other things, it suggested that the recently-signed Oslo accords might be dispensed with - "Israel has no obligations under the Oslo agreements if the PLO does not fulfil its obligations" - and that "alternatives to [Yasser] Arafat's base of power" could be cultivated. "Jordan has ideas on this," it added.

It also urged Israel to abandon any thought of trading land for peace with the Arabs, which it described as "cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat".

"Our claim to the land - to which we have clung for hope for 2,000 years - is legitimate and noble," it continued. "Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, 'peace for peace', is a solid basis for the future."

The paper set out a plan by which Israel would "shape its strategic environment", beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and "roll back" Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by "weaning" the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. "Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them", the paper concluded.

To succeed, the paper stressed, Israel would have to win broad American support for these new policies - and it advised Mr Netanyahu to formulate them "in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war which apply well to Israel".

At first glance, there's not much to distinguish the 1996 "Clean Break" paper from the outpourings of other right-wing and ultra-Zionist thinktanks ... except for the names of its authors.

The leader of the "prominent opinion makers" who wrote it was Richard Perle - now chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon.

See also A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

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Keeping faith with Islam in a new world
Mona Eltahawy, New York Times, September 3, 2002

I am dreading the anniversary of Sept. 11. I am an Egyptian-born Muslim who recently became a permanent resident of the United States, and I brace myself for a renewal of blame.

Muslims across the United States have condemned those attacks and have visited schools, churches and synagogues to explain how different is the faith they hold dear from the hate-filled zealotry that took control of those planes. Countless Muslim commentators, on television and radio and in newspapers and magazines, have distanced themselves from the evil perpetrated on Sept. 11. But if Muslims are continually called upon to apologize, a defensiveness will set in that will distract from the questions we need to ask to move beyond Sept. 11 and reclaim the stage from the maniacs who want to take over the mosques.

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Dick Cheney's nightmare of peace
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2002

In the dreams of Dick Cheney, to which I am not privy, I imagine there are boldly contrasting scenes of victory and despair.

In one fantasy, he leads a victorious U.S. Army to a hero's welcome through the crowded streets of Baghdad, cheered wildly for having been the most outspoken proponent of war against Saddam Hussein.

In his nightmares, meanwhile, he is led off in handcuffs, accused of crimes committed while CEO of Halliburton, securing that company's place in the ever-growing pantheon of post-boom corporate fraudsters.

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'A link between Saddam and bin Laden? No way'
Brendan O'Neill, Spiked Online, August 28, 2002

'The idea that al-Qaeda is getting political or military support from Iraq is ludicrous. I can see no way.'

Alex Standish, editor of the UK journal Jane's Intelligence Digest - required reading for war-watchers and war-makers everywhere - thinks US intelligence officials are making 'a big mistake' on Iraq.

'They are trying to convince us of something that is highly unlikely', he says. 'If they really believe that Saddam is feeding and sustaining bin Laden's men, then they can't possibly understand the fundamental difference between Iraq and al-Qaeda.'

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Suspicious blasts bring fear of a revived Afghan conflict
John F. Burns, New York Times, September 2, 2002

Measured against the estimated 1.5 million casualties Afghanistan has suffered in 23 years of conflict, three explosions today in the Kabul area had a limited impact: A blast outside the old Soviet Embassy killed one Afghan and injured three, while two land mines near the American air base at Bagram killed four Afghans, and wounded 18.

But the day's toll, with a rising incidence of explosions, bombings and other attacks in recent weeks, and reports that one troublesome warlord may be reassembling his troops, heightened apprehensions that Afghanistan may be entering a new phase of conflict.

Some senior Afghan officials warn that the 16,000 mainly Western troops here — including 7,800 American soldiers and a 4,800-member international security force in Kabul — could confront an open-ended challenge that would destabilize this country for years.

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It's not our fight say British public
David Seymour And Oonagh Blackman, The Mirror, September 3, 2002

A massive 71 per cent of Britons are against the nation joining a war on Iraq without UN approval, a Mirror poll reveals today.

The figure is almost 20 per cent higher than a week ago - when 52 per cent said Britain should NOT support US policy on Iraq - showing how swiftly the public is turning against involvement.

More than half the people in this country also believe President Bush to be the third biggest threat to world peace after Osama bin Laden and Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein.

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Bush wrong to use pretext as excuse to invade Iraq
James Bamford, USA Today, August 29, 2002

Vice President Cheney's speech this week showed that the administration has no new evidence to support its claim that Iraq poses an immediate threat to the United States. Instead, Cheney used standard, vague terms: "no doubt" Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction or will acquire nuclear weapons "fairly soon." The administration also points to the possible presence of fleeing al-Qaeda members in northern Iraq, perhaps of senior rank. But it has difficulty tying them directly to Saddam because the area is largely under the control of Kurdish opposition leader Jallal Tallabani, who has worked with the Bush administration against Saddam.

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Send inspectors first
Scott Ritter, Baltimore Sun, September 1, 2002

The justification for war hinges on the issue of Iraq's WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. If Iraq possesses such weapons, more than a decade after the United Nations banned them, then clearly a case can be made that Saddam Hussein is a pariah leader at the head of a rogue state that threatens international peace and security and must be dealt with decisively, including the use of military force to remove him from power.

But until such time as this case can be made with substantive facts, the focus should be on ascertaining what, if any, WMD Iraq possesses today. Unfortunately, the White House seems intent on pursuing "regime removal" at the expense of a viable alternative to resolving the decade-long problem of Iraq's WMD programs.

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COMMENT -- Israel has been frequently criticized for its policy of using the Israeli Defense Force to engage in political assassinations. To continue calling these "targeted killings" when 3 times out of 5, the people killed are not even targets, reveals what an obscene parody of "justice" is being applied in the name of security.

30 of 49 Palestinians killed in August were civilians
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, September 1, 2002

Between August 1 and last night, 49 Palestinians were killed by Israel Defense Forces fire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; around 180 were injured, with at least 65 of them sustaining wounds from live fire (including shrapnel from shells and missiles). Thirty of those killed were unarmed civilians. Another two Palestinians, both in their 70s, died of injuries sustained in July.

Among those killed during the month were seven children aged 15 and younger (including two girls under the age of 10), and two women from the Gaza Strip - one aged 50, the other 86.

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Secrecy is our enemy
Bob Herbert, New York Times, September 2, 2002

You want an American hero? A real hero?

I nominate Judge Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Keith wrote an opinion, handed down last Monday by a three-judge panel in Cincinnati, that clarified and reaffirmed some crucially important democratic principles that have been in danger of being discarded since the terrorist attacks last Sept. 11.

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The US needs regime change, and shifting demographics may deliver it
Martin Kettle, The Guardian, September 2, 2002

There has always been a much more intelligent, thoughtful side to the American response to September 11 than the one revealed by its political leaders. But the combination of an inarticulate president with a rightwing agenda, a traumatised public mood, and a misplaced predisposition on the part of many Europeans to oversimplify America have combined to obscure it for the audience on this side of the ocean.

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Confronting anti-American grievances
Zbigniew Brzezinski, New York Times, September 1, 2002

Nearly a year after the start of America's war on terrorism, that war faces the real risk of being hijacked by foreign governments with repressive agendas. Instead of leading a democratic coalition, the United States faces the risk of dangerous isolation. The Bush administration's definition of the challenge that America confronts has been cast largely in semireligious terms. The public has been told repeatedly that terrorism is "evil," which it undoubtedly is, and that "evildoers" are responsible for it, which doubtless they are. But beyond these justifiable condemnations, there is a historical void. It is as if terrorism is suspended in outer space as an abstract phenomenon, with ruthless terrorists acting under some Satanic inspiration unrelated to any specific motivation.

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Iraq without Saddam
Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, September 1, 2002

As I think about President Bush's plans to take out Saddam Hussein and rebuild Iraq into a democracy, one question gnaws at me: Is Iraq the way it is today because Saddam Hussein is the way he is? Or is Saddam Hussein the way he is because Iraq is the way it is?

I mean, is Iraq a totalitarian dictatorship under a cruel, iron-fisted man because the country is actually an Arab Yugoslavia — a highly tribalized, artificial state, drawn up by the British, consisting of Shiites in the south, Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the center — whose historical ethnic rivalries can be managed only by a Saddam-like figure?

Or, has Iraq, by now, congealed into a real nation? And once the cruel fist of Saddam is replaced by a more enlightened leadership, Iraq's talented, educated people will slowly produce a federal democracy.

The answer is critical, because any U.S. invasion of Iraq will leave the U.S. responsible for nation-building there. Invade Iraq and we own Iraq. And once we own it, we will have to rebuild it, and since that is a huge task, we need to understand what kind of raw material we'll be working with.

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How terrorists hatched a simple plan to use planes as bombs
Terry McDermott, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2002

A decade ago, a cadre of freelance terrorists planned an improbable day of horror in which they would blow up a dozen U.S. airliners, killing, if the men were lucky and good, several thousand people.

This plan was foiled and most of the men caught, but one key figure escaped, and the idea went with him. He was something of a ghost, eluding investigators for years, just beyond vision and reach, forever a step ahead. He fled to Afghanistan, where he became a key Al Qaeda agent.

He brought with him the idea of using airplanes as weapons. The leaders of Al Qaeda liked the idea and made it their own.

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Can the US go it alone against Saddam?
Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 31, 2002

The desperate need for basic logisitical support in the Gulf appears to have been behind the invitation to the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, to come to stay at President Bush's Texas ranch this week. The administration hoped that even if it could not use Saudi bases, it could at least count on permission to fly over Saudi territory to reach Iraq. It appears that permission was not forthcoming, causing near panic among military planners.

"For them, the big strategic question is basing rights. That's the biggest difficulty the US faces. That's the one issue that causes the hawks to stop and think," Mr Davis said.

According to Mr Lieven [an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace], administration hawks are seriously suggesting using bases in the Gulf without consulting their host countries. But such a violation of sovereignity would be likely to arouse a powerful backlash among America's closest allies and sour relations in the region for years.

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A Puritan on the warpath
Tristram Hunt, The Observer, September 1, 2002

Across the centuries the Puritan spirit, which helped foster an incredible economic dynamism, a self-righteous moral certainty and, in seventeenth century Salem (as later in the hands of Joseph McCarthy), a frightening propensity to crush free-thinking, has remained quietly resilient in American political discourse. Now in the character of George Bush, and most spectacularly in the form of Attorney General John Ashcroft, it has come to dominate America's public image.

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