The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
The United Nations of America
John O'Farrell, The Guardian, September 14, 2002

American officials are currently lobbying hard at the UN. It's the name they don't like: "United Nations" - there's something not quite right about it.

"We're prepared to compromise..." they say. "You can keep the first word."


"Yeah, but that second bit sounds wrong - what other words are there?"

"United Countries?"


"United Places?

"No, no, there must be another word for nation or country..."


"Hmmm... United States, yes that has a ring to it. So we'll call it the 'United States' with its HQ in the United States... Now this UN flag; we're prepared to compromise - you can keep some of the blue, but it needs a bit of red and white in there as well."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

British troops head for Iraq war
Michael Smith and George Jones, The Telegraph, September 13, 2002

Advance parties will begin deploying to Kuwait within two weeks in preparation for an attack on Iraq which could involve up to 30,000 British troops, defence sources said yesterday.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


In a nine-part series for Slate magazine, Robert Wright, author of The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are, provides his view of a long-term strategy for America's war on terrorism.

Part One: Introduction
After the attacks of Sept. 11, the Bush administration depicted the war on terrorism as something that, like past wars, would have a definite ending. Secretary of State Colin Powell said we would get terrorism "by its branch and root." And President Bush's pledges of clear-cut victory weren't confined to his memorably ambitious vow to "rid the world of evil-doers." Even in less exuberant moments, he said his goal was to "rout out and destroy global terrorism." The war would be complex and multifaceted, and it might not be brief, but "its outcome is certain," Bush said. "This will not be an age of terror."

By the spring of 2002, the message had changed. Gone was the theme of certain triumph, replaced by an official sense of perpetual dread. In May, climaxing a cascade of spooky administration pronouncements, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that anti-American terrorists would "inevitably" obtain weapons of mass destruction and use them.

Some people thought the new pessimism was tactical, a pre-emptive strike against charges that any coming terrorism had gone unforeseen. And maybe it was. But it was also acknowledgment of the truth: Wars on terrorism have very little in common with regular wars. The initial, sheerly military phase—which the Bush administration had handled capably—was just the beginning. Now, a year after 9/11, pretty much everyone realizes that we'd better have a very good, very long-run strategy.

I don't think we do. I think the Bush administration's long-run plan, to the extent that one can be discerned, is at best inadequate and at worst disastrous. So, what's my long-run plan? (Or, as a Slate reader put it via e-mail, after one of my carping columns about Bush policy, "OK, big shot ... What's the solution?") Over the next two weeks, in daily installments, I'll lay out my answer: a long-term strategy for America's war on terrorism.

Part Two
Proposition No.1: Al-Qaida and radical Islam are not the problem.
Proposition No. 2: For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people.
Proposition No. 3: The number of intensely aggrieved groups will almost certainly grow in the coming decades of rapid technological, and hence social, change.
Policy Prescription No. 1: Take your bitter medicine early.

Part Three
Proposition No. 4: The amount of discontent in the world is becoming a highly significant national-security variable.
Policy Prescription No. 2: The substance of policies should be subjected to a new kind of appraisal, one that explicitly accounts for the discontent and hatred the policies arouse.
Policy Prescription No. 3: The ultimate target is memes; killing or arresting people is useful only to the extent that it leads to a net reduction in terrorism memes.
Policy Prescription No. 4: In a war on terrorism, applying force inconspicuously makes sense more often than in regular wars.

Part Four
Policy Prescription No. 5: Support free expression and, ultimately, democratization in authoritarian Arab and other Muslim states.
Proposition No. 5: The current phase in the evolution of information technology is anti-repression.

Part Five
Proposition No. 6: The problem isn't poor people; the problem—or at least part of the problem—is poor nations.
Policy Prescription No. 6: Draw Islamic nations—and for that matter all nations—into the web of global capitalism.
Policy Prescription No. 7: Emphasize trade at least as heavily as aid in fighting the kind of economic deprivation that breeds terrorism.

Part Six
Proposition No. 7: Globalization, though a large part of the solution, is also a large part of the problem.
Proposition No. 8: Globalization has doubly bad short-term side effects, bringing transitional alienation to both developing and developed nations.
Policy Prescription No. 8: To blunt some of globalization's sharper edges, carry political governance beyond the level of the nation-state, to the transnational level.

Part Seven
Proposition No. 9: We are seeing, and will continue to see, the globalization of resentment.
Policy Prescription No. 9: Honor President Bush's pledge—make America a humble nation.
Policy Prescription No. 10: Share the blame.

Part Eight
Proposition No. 10: The lines separating domestic policing and foreign policing, national security and international security, are rapidly blurring.
Policy Prescription No. 11: Develop a serious international inspection system for biological weapons.
Policy Prescription No. 12: Use the World Trade Organization as the fulcrum for ensuring compliance with international weapons-control law.
Policy Prescription No. 13: Imagine how biotechnology would have to be policed in all nations for the United States to feel secure 20 years from now; implement and then continually refine that policing strategy in the United States, while beginning the long, laborious task of getting every other nation on the planet to eventually adopt a comparable system.

Part Nine
A few decades from now, there will need to be a "global civilization" in which both words are literally accurate—a planetwide community of mutually cooperative nations, bound by interdependence and international law, whose citizens are accorded freedom and economic opportunity. This is the goal we're forced toward by some of the creepier aspects of technological evolution: ever-more-compact, ever-more-accessible, ever-more-lethal munitions, and the ever-more-efficient crystallization of interest groups, including hateful ones, via information technology. History seems to be pushing us toward idealism with an awful realism.

This idealism explains the ambitious array of policies I've said we should pursue and the large number of traditional interest groups we'd have to resist in the process. If we follow all the prescriptions in this series, we'll do outrageous things like kill the farm lobby's subsidies, tell the textile lobby to take a hike, and alienate dictators that our oil companies are fond of. (Among the little things I haven't had time to mention is that it would also be nice to conserve energy, thus cutting our reliance on these dictators and leaving us freer to alienate them.) We also have to resist the cheaply patriotic rhetoric of sovereignty fanatics, ranging from quasi-isolationists like Pat Buchanan to economic nationalists like Ralph Nader to unilaterists like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. All these people oppose at least some part of the interlocking system of transnational governance that could help congeal global civilization.

There are lots of ways to lose the war on terrorism. One, as the previous paragraph suggests, is to proceed normally—gratify the standard interest groups and the easy sentiments. Another is to create a "war of civilizations" by adopting the perspective of people who believe we're already in one. According to these people, wherever there are terrorists who are Muslims, there are enemies of America, and they should be treated as such. Thus we must stand by China in its war against Muslim separatists in Xinjiang province, even though their separatist aspirations aren't historically grounded in radical Islam, and even though, in an authoritarian nation like China, it's hard to imagine how people could express separatist aspirations without breaking the law. If we follow this course, the self-fulfilling prophecy will work like this: As we declare war on various Islamic groups that are only marginally concerned with America, these groups will grow more opposed to America and more united in that opposition, until we indeed have something like a "war of civilizations" on our hands. (Two things make this trap especially seductive: Information technology will increasingly empower separatist groups—a subject that is worth pondering if you have time; and many governments, including China and Russia, would love to get America to help fight their separatists and usefully divert some of their separatists' wrath—a point that Zbigniew Brzezinski has acutely made.)

What if we do fail in our war on terrorism? What if, for whatever reason, we don't create an orderly, peaceful, reasonably contented world? What if instead the America-haters only grow in number and intensity? Actually, a fallback strategy would be available, but it's not very attractive; it's "homeland defense" with a vengeance.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Hawks hit by a rhetorical ricochet
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, September 13, 2002

By launching a major campaign over the past two months to extend the war on terrorism as far as the Saudi royal family, neo-conservative ideologues who have emerged as the predominant force around President George W Bush appear now to have overplayed their hand.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Why aren't U.S. journalists reporting from Iraq?
Nina Burleigh, Tom, September 12, 2002

This week we are finally getting to the core excuse from the Bush administration for attacking Iraq right now. Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with CNN’s John King on Sunday, laid it out nice and simple, the way they like it back in Wyoming: "We have to worry about the possible marriage, if you will, of a rogue state like Saddam Hussein's Iraq with a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Observers: Evidence for war lacking
Report against Iraq holds little that's new

Dana Priest and Joby Warrick, Washington Post, September 13, 2002

The White House document released yesterday as evidence that it is time to overthrow Saddam Hussein is a concise summary of his regime's abuses of Iraqis and its past use or possession of chemical and biological agents.

But it contains little new information -- and no bombshells -- showing that Hussein is producing new weapons of mass destruction or has joined with terrorists to threaten the United States or its interests abroad.

Administration officials, seeking to persuade the public, Congress and foreign allies that it is time to go to war, had indicated recently that their strongest case rested on evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and its efforts to develop ballistic missiles to launch them beyond its borders.

But experts on Iraq's weaponry say that on this subject the report, with few exceptions, recycles a mix of dated and largely circumstantial evidence that Hussein may be hiding the ingredients for these weapons and is seeking to develop a nuclear capability and to weaponize chemical and biological agents.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Is America the 'good guy'? Many now say, 'No.'
Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, September 11, 2002

A year ago today, Americans were stunned by a brutal attack that revealed deep resentment against US power. America – from a pinnacle of military, economic, and political might unmatched in history – responded with force. In what it has cast as a battle between good and evil, the US toppled the Taliban and is now threatening 'regime change' in Iraq. But Americans see their global role differently from the way others see it. So the Monitor asked people in 16 countries this question: 'Is America the good guy?'

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The last emperor
One thing was made crystal clear yesterday: there is no other authority than America, no law but US law

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, September 13, 2002

There he stood, this unlikely emperor of the world, telling the UN's 190 nations how it is going to be. The assembled nations may not be quite the toothless Roman senate of imperial times, but at the UN the hyperpower and its commander-in-chief are in control as never before: how could it be otherwise when the US army is the UN's only enforcer? This is, President Bush said, "a difficult and defining moment" for the UN, a challenge that will show whether it has become "irrelevant". He pointed his silver-tongued gun with some delicacy and a certain noblesse oblige, but there was no doubt he was holding it to the UN's head: pass a resolution or be bypassed.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraq first, Iran and China next
Weapons of mass destruction aren't the issue, it's about global control

Dan Plesch, The Guardian, September 13, 2002

President Bush's concern over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is a pretext for a global strategy of pre-emptive attack. He and his advisers intend to establish precedents with Iraq that can be used against other states that stand out against US global control. The US, he says, cannot allow anyone the capacity to attack it, but the country will keep its own power to destroy all-comers.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Al-Qa'ida may be stronger than ever
Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, September 11, 2002

A recent report by Jane's Defense Group suggests that Al-Qaeda may actually be stronger now than it was on Sept. 11, partly because it has been able to build and retain sympathy in much of the Islamic world. "Although it is true that the ousting of the Taleban has certainly ended the training of Al-Qaeda's foot-soldiers in Afghanistan - and this is no small achievement - what has not been stopped is the group's ability to raise funds or operate its international network of sleeper cells and safe houses," said the report. "In fact, in the view of many within the Western intelligence community, Al-Qaeda is probably stronger now than it was before Sept. 11."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Nelson Mandela: The United States of America is a threat to world peace
Newsweek, September 10, 2002

"The United States has made serious mistakes in the conduct of its foreign affairs, which have had unfortunate repercussions long after the decisions were taken. Unqualified support of the Shah of Iran led directly to the Islamic revolution of 1979. Then the United States chose to arm and finance the [Islamic] mujahedin in Afghanistan instead of supporting and encouraging the moderate wing of the government of Afghanistan. That is what led to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the most catastrophic action of the United States was to sabotage the decision that was painstakingly stitched together by the United Nations regarding the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending to the world. That must be condemned in the strongest terms."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.N. chief warns Bush on unilateral Iraq action
Peter Slevin and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, September 12, 2002

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned today that launching a military campaign against Iraq without the support of the United Nations would be a grave mistake and a blow to international law, striking a defiant pose against the Bush administration on the eve of President Bush's address to the U.N. General Assembly.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

CNN's hatchet job on Scott Ritter
Media smear ex-Marine for seeking answers on Iraq

Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star, September 12, 2002

Of course it was just coincidental that, on Sunday, as CNN was discrediting former United Nations weapons' inspector Scott Ritter, it was running promos for the remake of Four Feathers, A.E.W. Mason's tale of the coward who would not go to war.

Ritter, who had that day urged Iraq's National Assembly to let in weapons inspectors or face annihilation, is no chicken hawk. After his 12-year turn as a U.S. Marine intelligence officer, he faced down Saddam Hussein's goons as chief inspector of the United Nations Special Commission to disarm Iraq (UNSCOM). In 1998, he quit in protest over differences between what Washington wanted and what Iraq allowed.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. lacks up-to-date review of Iraqi arms
Eric Schmitt and Alison Mitchell, New York Times, September 11, 2002

Senior intelligence officials acknowledged today that the government had not compiled an updated, cross-agency assessment of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capacities, although the Bush administration is pressing for a quick statement of support for military action against Saddam Hussein.

Intelligence officials, responding to repeated complaints from Senate Democrats, said today that they were working on the authoritative document. The last such thorough assessment on Iraq's clandestine weapons was produced about two years ago, Senate and administration officials said today.

Senior Bush administration officials have given Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons as the main argument that the United States must act now to oust President Hussein, before the Iraqi leader acquires nuclear arms and alters the strategic balance in the Persian Gulf.

But the administration has not yet prepared what is called a national intelligence estimate, the intelligence community's most definitive written judgment on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The document contains the coordinated intelligence assessments from the Pentagon, State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and other government entities and any significant dissenting views.

Some Democrats said they wanted to see such an intelligence estimate before they voted on a Congressional resolution backing military action against Iraq.

"What did we learn from Sept. 11? That we had a failure of coordination of America's intelligence capability," said Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. "Now we're being asked to consider going to war and vote on it within days, and we learn that our intelligence community has not coordinated their efforts to put together this critical document that's essential for us to make this decision."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]



How 9/11 changed our lives
The Nation

Hundreds of readers, aged 16 to 94, replied to our request for letters detailing how September 11 changed (or didn't) "your views of your government, your country, your world, your life." Many responses are personal: A husband and wife separate; family members no longer speak to one another; a woman searches for, and finds, her biological father--all impelled by the fallout of that day. New Yorkers--and others--report sleeping less soundly; a Brooklyn man leaps from bed in the night at the sound of crashing booms, rushes to the window... and finds it's a thunderstorm. A woman recovering from a Caesarean section watches the towers fall from her hospital room and wonders what sort of world her son, born the day before, will grow up in. A reader whose 9/11 birthday has become a deathday vows to light a candle this birthday "in hope for our world that one day 9/11 will become a day that...changed us for the better."

Too much who, not much why
Antonia Zerbisias, The Toronto Star

Since Sept. 11, I have seen the planes slam into the World Trade Center hundreds of times, tracked the flailing victims falling from the upper floors, watched the towers collapse from above, below, Brooklyn and beyond, witnessed the horror over and over again — and still hyperventilate or sob at the sights.

Just when I think I've seen every bit of video there could possibly be — as compiled in, say, HBO's In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11 (airing here Wednesday on Life and the Independent Film Channel) — more footage turns up. For example, CNN has already aired America Remembers, in which its news crews turned their cameras on themselves as they covered the event, while, on Sunday, CBC Newsworld will run 9/11 — Stories From The City which shows New Yorkers shooting the evacuations of their homes and offices as the tragedy unfolded.

All this information. So little enlightenment.

The dead and the guilty
Simon Schama, The Guardian

If the calculated mass murder of 3,000 innocent civilians, from 80 countries, many of them Muslims, just ordinary working people going about their business on a sunny September morning, was not an act of absolute evil, then I have no idea what is. The more serious problem with presidential rhetoric was that the Manichean struggle between good and evil, freedom and terror, was not just the beginning but apparently also the end of any sustained attempt to articulate just what, in this particular life-and-death struggle, was truly at stake.

Some weeks later Bill Clinton, both at Harvard and in the Richard Dimbleby lecture for the BBC, made exactly that effort. For obvious reasons the ex-president, now a New Yorker (in my very own neighbourhood) had been sparing with public commentary. But, struggling between prudence and thinly veiled exasperation, he emerged from silence, risking the wrath of patriotic blowhards, to venture that a refusal to understand the roots of terrorism would be to guarantee its perpetuation.

Lest he be misunderstood, Clinton was also commendably clear on what the battle lines of the already bloody new century would be: the conflict between those who not only claimed a monopoly of wisdom, but the right to impose it on everyone else, against those who claimed neither. Put another way, the fight is between power based on revelation (and thus not open to argument), and power based on persuasion, and thus conditional on argument; militant theocracy against the tolerant Enlightenment.

New wars to fight
Ahmed Rashid, Far Eastern Economic Review

When the United States began its assault on the Taliban and on bin Laden's Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, and began to build strategic alliances with neighbouring regimes, there was hope here that the area's general pattern of autocracy and oppression would at last be addressed.

But America's target was bad guys, not bad government. Apart from paving the way for the establishment of a more credible leadership in Afghanistan, Washington has done little to improve the environment that made Central Asia a breeding ground for militants. Instead, it has likely made the breeding ground even more fertile.

One year after the September 11 attacks, in the aftermath of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, there is growing instability and domestic political crisis in every country in Central and South Asia. The coming 12 months, and the success of the war against terrorism, will be shaped more by the outcome of these crises than by U.S. progress in destroying the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Though not all of these crises are direct results of U.S. action, all of them will depend on some degree of American intervention to resolve.

The selling of 9/11
Heather Havrilesky, Salon

In America, we grieve by buying stuff. Shopping soothes us, reassures us that we're coping, that we're moving on. Less than a month after Sept. 11, the "America: Open for Business" campaign was born, calling upon citizens to seek revenge and healing through retail. One year later, despite our diminished purchasing power, there is more succor for sale, this time through products aimed at reconciling the avalanche of emotions we experienced after last fall's tragedy.

What the President has learned since 9-11
Tom Tomorrow, Salon



Terrorists hijack 4 airliners, destroy World Trade Center, hit Pentagon; hundreds dead
Michael Grunwald, Washington Post, September 12, 2001

Terrorists unleashed an astonishing air assault on America's military and financial power centers yesterday morning, hijacking four commercial jets and then crashing them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside.

Nation shuts down as it lives its 'darkest day'
Joel Achenbach and William Booth, Washington Post, September 12, 2001

America shut down yesterday. Disney World closed. So did the Liberty Bell. So did the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the Transamerica pyramid in San Francisco. So did the world's largest shopping mall, in Minnesota, and all 3,700 Starbucks coffee shops in North America. The pennant races in baseball were suspended -- all games canceled. The only planes left in the sky were military jets.


Although there's no compelling evidence that Iraq played a role in the 9-11 attacks, from day one, those planning a response to the attacks have argued vigorously that such a response should include "regime change" in Iraq. It thus seems timely to complete this circle of reflection by looking back at America's role in creating the demon it now feels compelled to destroy.

Russ W. Baker, Colombia Journalism Review, March/April 1993

ABC News Nightline opened last June 9 with words to make the heart stop. "It is becoming increasingly clear," said a grave Ted Koppel, "that George Bush, operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy."

Is this accurate? Just about every reporter following the story thinks so. Most say that the so-called Iraqgate scandal is far more significant then either Watergate or Iran-contra, both in its scope and its consequences. And all believe that, with investigations continuing, it is bound to get bigger.

Why, then, have some of our top papers provided so little coverage?

Arming Saddam
William Norman Grigg, The New American, March 30, 1998

"I think we have to understand the following thing," declared Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a February 18th "Town Meeting on Iraq" at Ohio State University. Referring to the supposed menace to the "international community" posed by Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons (CBW), Albright insisted, "The United States did not create this problem. Saddam Hussein created the problem."

This is a very effective sound bite. It is also an unambiguous lie. Saddam Hussein is a creation of the foreign policy establishment represented by Albright. "If Saddam Hussein didn’t exist, we would have to invent him," admitted Fareed Zakaria in the September 16, 1996 issue of Newsweek. According to Zakaria, who edits the Council on Foreign Relations’ flagship journal Foreign Affairs, Saddam is "the linchpin of U.S. policy in the Middle East." The end of Saddam "would be the end of the anti-Saddam coalition," elaborated Zakaria, as "nothing destroys an alliance like the disappearance of the enemy." Rational statesmen sometimes create alliances to deal with enemies; the CFR-dominated foreign policy trust creates enemies to justify alliances.

The Saddam in Rumsfeld's closet
Jeremy Scahill, Common Dreams, August 2, 2002

Five years before Saddam Hussein's now infamous 1988 gassing of the Kurds, a key meeting took place in Baghdad that would play a significant role in forging close ties between Saddam Hussein and Washington. It happened at a time when Saddam was first alleged to have used chemical weapons. The meeting in late December 1983 paved the way for an official restoration of relations between Iraq and the US, which had been severed since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

With the Iran-Iraq war escalating, President Ronald Reagan dispatched his Middle East envoy, a former secretary of defense, to Baghdad with a hand-written letter to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a message that Washington was willing at any moment to resume diplomatic relations.

That envoy was Donald Rumsfeld.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Bush is intent on painting allies and enemies in the Middle East as evil
Robert Fisk, The Independent, September 10, 2002

Just as Americans are recovering from the harrowing television re-runs of the 11 September attacks, their President is going to launch the biggest reshaping of the Middle East since the British and French parcelled out the Arab lands after the 1914-18 war. When he addresses the United Nations on Thursday, George Bush will be threatening not only Iraq – which had absolutely nothing to do with the crimes against humanity in New York and Washington – but Syria, Iran and, by extension, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The war on civil liberties
Lead Editorial, New York Times, September 10, 2002

When we are afraid, as we have all been this year, civil liberties can seem abstract. But they are at the core of what separates this country from nearly all others; they are what we are defending when we go to war. To slash away at liberty in order to defend it is not only illogical, it has proved to be a failure. Yet that is what has been happening.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Norman Mailer talks to Dotson Radar
The Times, September 9, 2002

'There's just too much anger, too much ruptured vanity, too much shock, too much identity crisis. And worst of all, too much patriotism. Patriotism in a country that's failing has a logical tendency to turn fascistic'
Part One
Part Two

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Real battles and empty metaphors
Susan Sontag, New York Times, September 10, 2002

This is a phantom war and therefore in need of an anniversary. Such an anniversary serves a number of purposes. It is a day of mourning. It is an affirmation of national solidarity. But of one thing we can be sure. It is not a day of national reflection. Reflection, it has been said, might impair our "moral clarity." It is necessary to be simple, clear, united. Hence, there will be borrowed words, like the Gettysburg Address, from that bygone era when great rhetoric was possible. [...]

Such an anachronistic borrowing of eloquence is in the grand tradition of American anti-intellectualism: the suspicion of thought, of words. Hiding behind the humbug that the attack of last Sept. 11 was too horrible, too devastating, too painful, too tragic for words, that words could not possibly express our grief and indignation, our leaders have a perfect excuse to drape themselves in others' words, now voided of content. To say something might be controversial. It might actually drift into some kind of statement and therefore invite rebuttal. Not saying anything is best.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. not claiming Iraqi link to terror
Dana Priest, Washington Post, September 10, 2002

As it makes its case against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has for now dropped what had been one of the central arguments presented by supporters of a military campaign against Baghdad: Iraq's links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a strong case tying Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence despite having combed its files and redoubled its efforts to collect and analyze information related to Iraq, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the U.S. government.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

How to squander moral capital
Todd Gitlin, Mother Jones, September 9, 2002

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the world expressed its sympathy and solidarity with America. One year later, the Bush administration's illogic and arrogance have pumped new life into anti-Americanism.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The Chicken Hawk factor
Jim Lobe, AlterNet, September 9, 2002

"There's more combat experience on the 7th floor of the State Department than in the entire Office of the Secretary of Defense," quipped the high-ranking State Department official to a room filled with senior military officers last month. The statement "generated riotous applause," according to an eyewitness quoted in the Nelson Report, a private newsletter subscribed to by foreign-policy heavyweights and embassies in Washington.

The incident revealed the growing importance of the "Chicken Hawk" factor in the increasingly rancorous debate over the Bush administration's push toward war on Iraq and beyond. At the moment, the military brass is leading the opposition. It includes both the folks who will have to fight this war and those who have retired from the service. The list of former generals includes Secretary of State and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell and his deputy, U.S. Naval Academy grad and Vietnam veteran Richard Armitage; as well as veterans of the Gulf War, including most famously Bush Sr.'s national security adviser, ret. Gen. Brent Scowcroft; the Gulf War commander, ret. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf; and his logistics chief and later successor at Central Command, ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Bay Area marchers call for peace
Thousands at Oakland, Marin rallies mourn 9/11 victims, condemn attacks

Charles Burress, Jim Doyle, San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 2002

In the countdown to Wednesday's anniversary of Sept. 11, the growing U. S. drumbeat for war was met with protests and vigils in Marin County and Oakland Sunday as people of many creeds and ethnic backgrounds called for peace and tolerance.

Remembering the victims of last year's attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, participants condemned not only the attacks but also U.S. plans for a possible attack on Iraq, secret detentions by the U.S. government and U. S.-led bombings of Afghanistan.

More than 2,000 people chanted peace slogans and joined hands to form a human chain along major boulevards in Marin County to urge American leaders to show restraint in Iraq.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Aviad Kleinberg, Ha'aretz, September 9, 2002

Righteousness, a sort of moral concoction that covers the eyes, tends to view the suffering of others as simply bothersome. The real problem is not the blood of innocents that cries out from the ground, but what our enemies are liable to do with it.

If we had hit a maternity ward in a Palestinian hospital in order to kill a fugitive, declared [Israeli minister] Ephraim Sneh during some television interview, "the political damage would have outweighed the operational value."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

'A greedy bully'
Foreign journalists say regard for the U.S. abroad has dropped

Michel Martin, ABC News, September 8, 2002

While the president was moving to address Congress's concerns about his foreign policy, his secretary of state was getting booed Wednesday at an international conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It may not be unusual for an American to be booed at an environmental conference these days, but it may be noteworthy that many of the countries attending the event are friends of the United States.

"I think a lot of people see a greedy bully," says Vuyo Mvoko, a journalist with SABC television in South Africa, "someone who is prepared to run roughshod over other people's interests."

It was a theme that was repeated over and over again when ABCNEWS consulted journalists around the world about the way the United States is perceived at the moment.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Norman Mailer lashes out at 'self-serving US patriotism'
Andrew McLeod, The Scotsman, September 7, 2002

"Culturally, emotionally America is growing more loutish, arrogant, and vain. I detest this totally promiscuous patriotism. Wave a little flag and become a good person? Ugly.

"If we have a depression or fall into desperate economic times, I don't know what's going to hold the country together...

"There's just too much anger here, too much ruptured vanity, too much shock, too much identity crisis. And worst of all, too much patriotism. Patriotism in a country that's failing has a logical tendency to turn fascistic."

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Impaired intelligence
David Corn, The Nation, September 23, 2002

In July the Washington Post, under the headline "Panel Finds No 'Smoking Gun' in Probe of 9/11 Intelligence Failures," reported that the House and Senate intelligence committees jointly investigating the September 11 attack had "uncovered no single piece of information that, if properly analyzed, could have prevented the disaster, according to members of the panel." With an implied that's-that, the committees then went on to examine broader matters concerning systemic weaknesses within the intelligence agencies. That was good news for the cloak-and-dagger set and the Clinton and Bush administrations. Systemic problems tend to be treated as no one's fault. The committees were signaling that there would be no accountability for mistakes made by the spies before September 11.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Ex-Speaker offers to chair Iraq debate in unofficial session of British parliament
Matthew Tempest, The Guardian, September 9, 2002

A former Speaker of the House of Commons has offered to chair an unofficial recall of parliament to discuss the Iraqi situation - thought to be the first time MPs would have met without the executive's approval since the 1640s.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Drain the swamp and there will be no more mosquitoes
Noam Chomsky, The Guardian, September 9, 2002

September 11 shocked many Americans into an awareness that they had better pay much closer attention to what the US government does in the world and how it is perceived. Many issues have been opened for discussion that were not on the agenda before. That's all to the good.

It is also the merest sanity, if we hope to reduce the likelihood of future atrocities. It may be comforting to pretend that our enemies "hate our freedoms," as President Bush stated, but it is hardly wise to ignore the real world, which conveys different lessons.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The new Afghan jihad is born
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 7, 2002

While there is some truth in reports that al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the radical Muslim group Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) have formed an alliance in Afghanistan, the motivating force and dominant player in the country is the HIA, led by former Afghan premier and famed mujahideen warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Driven by the burning desire to see the last foreign soldier booted out of Afghanistan, Hekmatyar, who made his name as a fighter against Soviet occupation in the 1980s, earlier this week issued a jihad for the expulsion of the unwanted soldiers from Afghan soil. Hekmatyar was the strongest force during the years of Soviet occupation, largely because his HIA was the main benefactor of the seven official mujahideen groups recognized by Pakistan and US intelligence agencies for the channelling of money and arms.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Al-Qaida leaders say nuclear power stations were original targets
Giles Tremlett, The Guardian, September 9, 2002

Two of the world's most sought after fugitives, the alleged al-Qaida leaders Khaled al-Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, have boasted about how they planned the attacks on New York and Washington a year ago this week.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

US pours arms into Gulf region
Dan Plesch, Peter Beaumont and Paul Beaver, The Observer, September 8, 2002

Despite the assurances of President George Bush and Tony Blair that 'no decisions' had been made on how to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, compelling evidence has emerged in the past week that the US has begun a military build-up not seen since the last Gulf war. Among the troops arriving in the region are an estimated 2,500 in Jordan. Although officially en route for an exercise, sources claim their real purpose is to provide anti-missile protection in the Jordanian desert to give Israel advance warning against any Iraqi attack launched in response to a US invasion.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

COMMENT -- The Washington Post ran this story under the headline "Altered Lives, Changing Attitudes." Was it cool detachment or humility that drove the writers and editors to agree on this particular title? Or would the title I chose be regarded as too contentious? The Washington Post may be inclined not to rock the boat, but whose boat is it - that of the government or of the people?

Majority of Americans believe the country is "pretty seriously off on the wrong track"
Richard Morin and Claudia Deane, Washington Post, September 8, 2002

[A survey by the Washington Post] found that many attitudes that changed dramatically in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 have largely changed back.

President Bush's job approval rating, which soared to record heights, has lost much of that increase and continues a steady decline. The public's trust in the federal government doubled to its highest point in nearly four decades, but now is not much higher than it was two years ago.

An overwhelming majority of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction in the days after the attack. Today, a small majority believe it is "pretty seriously off on the wrong track," according to the poll.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Questions for the Commander in Chief
Senator Zell Miller, Washington Post, September 8, 2002

I always like to run things by my focus group back home, and lately the comments from my focus group tell me that the folks out there in Middle America, sitting around their kitchen tables, have questions that need to be answered before we march our soldiers into Iraq.

Now, my focus group is not one of those formal meetings where you pay people to sit around a conference table in an office building. It's a very informal chat with the regulars at Mary Ann's Restaurant, up the street from my home in rural Young Harris, Ga. They are construction workers, retired teachers, farmers, preachers and the waitresses who chime in with their opinions as they pour coffee and bring more biscuits. Several of these folks have previously worn the uniform of this country, some in combat. Not an Ivy Leaguer in the bunch. Not a single one reads the New York Times, The Washington Post or the Weekly Standard. And their television time is devoted mainly these days to the evening news and to watching the Braves, who are close to clinching another division pennant.

I jotted down some of the questions that they want the president to answer in building a case for going to Iraq.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

HOME  |  ABOUT   |  CONTACT   |    Copyright  © 2002-2004 Paul Woodward     XML        Powered by Blogger Pro™
A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world

Researched, edited and sprinkled with occasional commentary by Paul Woodward
Sign up for weekly email updates
A resource for more information about Iraq, the Middle East conflict, Afghanistan, Korea, nuclear proliferation, war, peace, and the foreign policies of the Bush Administration.


Get a DVD!
USS Liberty Survivors: Our Story

::  Search Site
::  Archives
archives prior to April 21, 2002
Not In Our Name
A Statement Of Conscience