The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
We are sleepwalking into a reckless war of aggression
Seumas Milne, The Guardian, September 27, 2002

The world is now undergoing a crash course of political education in the new realities of global power. In case anyone was still in any doubt about what they might mean, the Bush doctrine (set out last Friday in the US National Security Strategy) laid bare the ground rules of the new imperium. The US will in future brook no rival in power or military prowess, will spread still further its network of garrison bases in every continent, and will use its armed might to promote a "single sustainable model for national success" (its own), through unilateral pre-emptive attacks if necessary.

In the following week, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused the German chancellor of "poisoning" relations by daring to win an election with a declaration of foreign policy independence. Even the Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy felt moved to accuse the US of "imperialism". But it has been Al Gore, winner of the largest number of votes in the last US presidential election, who blurted out the unvarnished truth: that the overweening recklessness of the US government has fostered fear across the world, not at what "terrorists are going to do, but at what we are going to do".

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Ashcroft’s Baghdad connection
Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, September 26, 2002

When the White House released its Sept. 12 “white paper” detailing Saddam Hussein’s “support for international terrorism,” it caused more than a little discomfort in some quarters of Washington.

The 27-page document - entitled “A Decade of Deception and Defiance” - made no mention of any Iraqi ties to Osama bin Laden. But it did highlight Saddam’s backing of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), an obscure Iranian dissident group that has gathered surprising support among members of Congress in past years. One of those supporters, the documents show, is a top commander in President Bush’s war on terrorism: Attorney General John Ashcroft, who became involved with the MKO while a Republican senator from Missouri.

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Iraq's threat to U.S. exaggerated
Michael O'Hanlon, Chicago Sun-Times, September 26, 2002

The claims of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq might join with terrorists to strike the United States at any time are far-fetched. Very little about the historical record or current intelligence lends credence to that view. It cannot be fully dismissed as a possibility, but it appears to be a remote one at worst.

There is a serious argument for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, but it is not as conclusive as Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney argue. And it has more to do with how an Iraqi nuclear weapon might change Mr. Hussein's behavior in the region than with terrorism.

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Following Iraq's bioweapons trail
Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times, September 26, 2002

Sen. Robert Byrd, a master at hectoring executive branch witnesses, asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a provocative question last week: Did the United States help Saddam Hussein produce weapons of biological warfare? Rumsfeld brushed off the Senate's 84-year-old president pro tem like a Pentagon reporter. But a paper trail indicates Rumsfeld should have answered yes.

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The dishonesty of this so-called dossier
Robert Fisk, The Independent, September 25, 2002

Tony Blair's "dossier" on Iraq is a shocking document. Reading it can only fill a decent human being with shame and outrage. Its pages are final proof – if the contents are true – that a massive crime against humanity has been committed in Iraq. For if the details of Saddam's building of weapons of mass destruction are correct – and I will come to the "ifs" and "buts" and "coulds" later – it means that our massive, obstructive, brutal policy of UN sanctions has totally failed. In other words, half a million Iraqi children were killed by us – for nothing.

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Magazine editor provokes ire of neoconservatives
Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle, September 24, 2002

Lewis Lapham, the longtime editor of Harper's Magazine, laughs at the news. "Great," he jokes after hearing that a neoconservative group called Americans for Victory Over Terrorism has labeled him an "internal threat" to the United States.

Lapham was placed on the same list as Jimmy Carter, Rep. Maxine Waters, novelist John Edgar Wideman and others whom the group -- headed by former Secretary of Education William Bennett -- chastise for not supporting President Bush's war on terrorism. Americans for Victory Over Terrorism says Lapham and the others have a "blame America first" agenda.

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The day the empire struck back
James Laxer, Toronto Globe and Mail, September 24, 2002

Make note of Sept. 20, 2002. Historians will surely mark it as a seminal moment in our new century. On that date, an old debate ended and a new one began.

For the past decade, analysts have been debating the question of whether the United States would follow the course of former powerful states such as Britain and Rome and proclaim itself an empire. In George W. Bush's National Security Strategy, submitted to the U.S. Congress on Sept. 20, the White House espouses a doctrine that is explicitly imperialist.

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Doing nothing
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, September 24, 2002

In his speech to the United Nations earlier this month, President George Bush emphasised the need for action rather than words.

"We created the United Nations security council, so that, unlike the League of Nations, our deliberations would be more than talk, our resolutions would be more than wishes," he said.

"All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment," he continued. "Are security council resolutions to be honoured and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? [...] Right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime."

The same could be said of various other countries, but most notably Israel. Throughout its history, the security council has never once taken enforcement action over Israel's flouting of UN resolutions or its violations of international law.

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Even if an Iraqi missile falls in the desert
Reuven Pedatzur, Ha'aretz, September 25, 2002

Testimony to the mood now prevalent in Israeli society, with massive encouragement from the political and military establishment, can be found in one of the questions pollster Mina Tzemah put to respondents in the survey the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth published last weekend.

"Under what circumstances should Israel respond with nuclear weapons?" was the question asked of those included in a representative sampling of Israeli society. The replies to the question are much less important than the question itself. According to Tzemah, it's clear to everyone that Israel has nuclear weapons and the only question remaining is when it should use them.

Beyond the lack of proportion between the Iraqi threat and the need for a nuclear response to it that is implicit in the question, it is worth asking why it is that the stronger Israel becomes militarily, the less confidence the public and its leaders have in its deterrence capability. This has reached the point where they need to threaten Judgement Day weapons to confront abstract threats that are very unlikely to be carried out.

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Sharon's real purpose is to create foreigners
Henry Siegman, International Herald Tribune, September 25, 2002

Palestinian suicide bombings that target Israeli civilians are a moral obscenity. But the sensibility of those in Israel who seek to exploit this Palestinian obscenity to extend and deepen Israel's hold on the territories, a situation that in the end can only lead to the expulsion of most Palestinians and the permanent subjugation of those who remain, is also obscene.

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Bush doctrine makes waves overseas
Anthony York, Salon, September 24, 2002

Last week, the Bush administration published a 33-page document outlining an official shift in U.S. foreign policy and military strategy. In the post-Cold War era, the United States would act as a global policeman, willing to take preemptive action against hostile states and terrorist groups that the United States deems a threat to global stability or American interests.

This new policy of "distinctly American internationalism" is the culmination of changes in American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, accelerated by the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And, the document makes clear, the Bush administration will tolerate no rivals to the U.S.'s position as the world's only superpower. "The president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago," the document states.

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Bush to Arab world: Drop dead
Ian Williams, Salon, September 24, 2002

In the old days scientists used to look for the "missing link," the fossils that bridged the gap between stupid monkeys and clever men. There is a similar missing link between the U.S. government and a coherent foreign policy. The Bush administration has totally sidelined the Middle East conflict, the one between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world. For a variety of reasons -- the ascendancy of neoconservative hawks in the White House and the State Department; President Bush's own embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hard-line positions; Bush's simple, black-and-white view of the world, in which the "war on terrorism" trumps everything else; the complete absence of any pressure from Congress; and domestic political considerations -- the Bush administration has apparently decided that it doesn't need to reach out to the Arab world by pushing for Mideast peace before a possible invasion of Iraq.

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The day after the attack
William O. Beeman, Pacific News Service, September 25, 2002

As President Bush steps up his push for an invasion of Iraq and U.S. Marines practice city assaults in downtown Dayton, Ohio, experts closer to the heart of the matter say that America doesn't know what it's getting itself into.

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3 retired generals warn of peril in attacking Iraq without backing of U.N.
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, September 24, 2002

Three retired four-star American generals said today that attacking Iraq without a United Nations resolution supporting military action could limit aid from allies, energize recruiting for Al Qaeda and undermine America's long-term diplomatic and economic interests.

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How hawks captured the White House
Frances FitzGerald, The Guardian, September 24, 2002

The Bush administration has broken with the internationalist premises that have been accepted by every other administration since the second world war - with the exception of Reagan's first. The lack of debate over foreign policy since September 11 has obscured the rift, but to recall Bush senior's approach to foreign policy is to see just how radical the change is - and to raise the question of how it came about only eight years later.

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Prosecute Sharon for war crimes, Israeli women say
Robert Fisk, The Independent, September 24, 2002

In an astonishing letter to the Palestinian survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila camps massacres, nine Israeli women's peace groups have told Palestinians in Beirut that they support their efforts to indict the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, for "war crimes'' committed against them almost exactly 20 years ago.

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The war on Iraq is a runaway train
Don Hazen, AlterNet, September 23, 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen: We are screwed.

The government of the United States, behaving much like a runaway train, is screaming down the tracks toward a strike on Iraq that will take out Saddam and install a more favorable regime, complete with all the mind-boggling and unknown ramifications that act will provoke.

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Congress should remember lessons of Tonkin
Jules Witcover, Baltimore Sun, September 23, 2002

If the late Democratic Sens. Ernest Gruening of Alaska and Wayne Morse of Oregon could somehow read President Bush's proposed war resolution against Iraq, they'd undoubtedly spin in their graves.

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Waging war on Iraq is not justified
Aharon Levran, Ha'aretz, September 23, 2002

What are we fighting for? That is a crucial question when going off to a war - and certainly before initiating one. The Bush administration has no solid grounds for waging war on Saddam Hussein and the arguments about the variety of risks Saddam poses are exaggerated.

The interpretation of the threat Saddam poses, and the way it is being presented are deficient, because the U.S. administration is attributing the same megalomaniac ideas and ambitions to the Iraqi leader as he had before the Gulf War.

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Gore gives warning on Iraq
War would hurt effort against terror

Dan Balz, Washington Post, September 24, 2002

Former vice president Al Gore sharply challenged President Bush on Iraq yesterday, warning that the administration's apparent determination to launch military action to dislodge Saddam Hussein will "severely damage" the overall war on terrorism and "weaken" U.S. leadership in the world.

In one of the most forceful critiques to date by any leading Democrat, Gore challenged the administration's new doctrine of preemption, gave voice to critics who question the political timing of the administration's push for quick action in Congress and the United Nations. Gore also said Bush has set his sights on getting rid of Hussein because the hunt for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda terrorists has bogged down.

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Hawks won't stop with Baghdad
Rosemary Hollis, The Observer, September 22, 2002

Despite Iraq's sudden invitation to renew UN weapons inspections, American hardliners will keep up the pressure for war. Regime change might be achieved under cover of disarming Baghdad. But without a serious debate on the objectives of force, there will be no opportunity to consider what could go wrong or how to handle the competing interests.

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U.S. Senators warn of possible 'Arab-Israeli' war
Lori Santos, Reuters, September 22, 2002

Prominent members of the U.S. Congress warned on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq could draw in Israel and lead to a wider Middle East war.

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Defying the curfew to demonstrate over the attack on Muqata
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, September 23, 2002

Suddenly, at about 11 P.M. on Saturday night, people started calling one another to ask with disbelief if it was true there was demonstrating in the streets. "Is it true what Al Jazeera is reporting - that dozens of young people are demonstrating in support of the besieged Yasser Arafat? Could the tear gas suddenly filling the room and burning the eyes with suffocating tears, and the gunshots drawing closer, all be aimed at dispersing such demonstrations?"

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Just asking ....
Eric Alterman, The Nation, October 7, 2002

Shortly after September 11, Dan Rather--or "El Diablo" as he is known to conservatives--appeared on Letterman and announced, "George Bush is the President, he makes the decisions, and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where." About a year later, Rather came to understand how misguided a sentiment this is for a journalist and took it back: "We haven't lived up to our responsibility," he admitted. "We haven't been patriotic enough to ask the tough questions."

The costs of the media acquiescence to the atmosphere of superpatriotism are all around us. We're fighting one war in Afghanistan and may be about to enter another in Iraq. And yet because of the Bush Administration's penchant for obsessive secrecy coupled with the media's misplaced deference, we're not much more knowledgeable about our path than thirty-eight years ago, when Lyndon Johnson sent US troops into combat in Vietnam by retaliating for an imaginary attack.

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Lawmakers hear pleas against war
Helen Dewar. Washington Post, September 23, 2002

Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.) had just begun to greet participants in the Governor's Day beach walk here Friday when he ran into Viola Babiarz -- and into the midst of the often-anguished debate among his constituents over the prospects of war with Iraq.

"I wish you could stop it. I hate to see another war," said the Wilmington visitor, 78, who wore a "Castle for Congress" button. "I think we have to do something. We have to stand up to him [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein]. But we need the support of other countries. I feel badly other countries aren't supporting us, but maybe they will."

It was a familiar story to Castle, whose own views -- along with those of many of his other constituents -- mirror those of Babiarz, who wants to see Hussein deposed but is reluctant to see the United States take unilateral military action to make it happen.

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Ironic if Bush himself causes jihad
Salman Rushde, Sidney Morning Herald, September 10, 2002

In the heat of the dispute over Iraq strategy, South Asia has now become a sideshow. And it is in Iraq that George Bush may be about to make his biggest mistake and to unleash a generation-long plague of anti-Americanism that may make the present epidemic look like a time of rude good health.

Inevitably, the reasons lie in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like it or not, much of the world thinks of Israel as the 51st state, America's client and surrogate, and Bush's obvious rapport with Ariel Sharon does nothing to change the world's mind.

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Marching off to peace
Ken Loach, The Observer, September 22, 2002

There's a discussion going on about the planned war against Iraq, a thoughtful, concerned and informed discussion ranging far beyond the confines of official political debate. We have glimpsed only a small fraction of it on television and in the press.

Amid the welter of speculation about Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction', what about the likely impact of this war on the people of Iraq? In 1991, at least 100,000 Iraqis were killed. Many more were mutilated, their families destroyed. US and British servicemen and women suffered Gulf War syndrome.

Now we are being asked to approve a much wider war. The invasion and occupation planned by the Pentagon will require not only more extensive bombing than in 1991, but, ultimately, the conquest of Baghdad, a city of nearly four million people.

How many casualties are acceptable this time? We hear little about the consequences for the people on the wrong end of our missiles, cluster bombs, tanks and munitions; unspeakable terror for the ordinary people of Iraq.

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The murder of Arafat
Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, September 23, 2002

While I am writing this, Yasser Arafat is still alive. But his life is hanging on a thread.

When we visited him the last time in his bombed-out Mukata'ah compound in Ramallah, I warned him that Sharon is determined to kill him.

Everybody acquainted with Sharon knows that he never lets go. When he does not achieve his aim the first time, he tries again, and again, and again, and again. Never, ever, does he give up.

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FBI agent urged search for hijacker
Dan Eggen and Dana Priest, Washington Post, September 21, 2002

Two weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, a desperate FBI agent begged his superiors to launch an aggressive hunt for one of the men who would participate in the suicide hijackings, warning that "someday someone will die" because his request was denied, according to testimony before a congressional panel yesterday.

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