The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Missionaries and marines: Bush, Blair and democratisation
Anatol Lieven, Open Democracy, September 18, 2002

The real ‘line’ of the Bush administration on Iraq is ‘regime change’. A compliant not democratic Iraq is its objective, the aim being to secure a compliant Middle East. Now, in its rhetoric, the administration is calling for democracy in Iraq, and Bush academics are calling for, and explaining the US strategy in terms of, a desire to bring democracy to the entire Arab world. This is a stroke of malign brilliance. It is unbelievable to those who study what is actually happening. Nonetheless, it may prove highly influential in the US because of the way in which rigid, ideological paradigms dominate the public discussion here.

In origin, the commitment to Arab democracy is no more than a cynical cross between war propaganda (stressing the undemocratic, therefore barbarous nature of the Arab enemy) and a giant diversionary tactic intended to distract attention from Israel’s crimes and US complicity in them. However, it also has the capacity to co-opt and silence what might otherwise have been a good part of liberal opposition to the war in the US.

For in the US, a belief in the universal applicability of democratic institutions, and America’s right and duty to promote or even impose them, is so widely and unquestioningly held that it is part of what Richard Hofstader and others have called ‘the American Creed’, the core beliefs which define the American nation. So deep and universal is this creed that it is extremely difficult for liberal Americans to stand up against an argument presented in these terms – even when the argument is intended to justify a war of aggression and the flagrant violation of international law. The propaganda of ‘democratisation’ therefore is a way of enlisting the sickly pieties of the Clinton era in the service of the ruthless geopolitical ambitions of Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle, and of allying genuine sentiments of liberal universalism with vicious ethno-religious hatreds.

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Nothing and no one will stop this drift towards war
Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, October 4, 2002

An Iraq war looms because a group of American conservatives, now very influential inside and outside this administration, came to the conclusion years ago that Saddam had challenged the US and got away with it, and that his victory could not be allowed to stand.

Not allowed to stand because he might once again disturb a region of political and economic importance to the US, and because he might threaten Israel, a cause as dear to the hearts of most of this group as the security of America itself, or understood as indistinguishable from it.

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United Nations Security Council resolutions currently being violated by countries other than Iraq
Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, October 2, 2002

In its effort to justify its planned invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has emphasized the importance of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions. However, in addition to the dozen or so resolutions currently being violated by Iraq, a conservative estimate reveals that there are an additional 91 Security Council resolutions about countries other than Iraq that are also currently being violated. This raises serious questions regarding the Bush administration's insistence that it is motivated by a duty to preserve the credibility of the United Nations, particularly since the vast majority of the governments violating UN Security Council resolutions are close allies of the United States.
[Note: 30 Security Council resolutions are being violated by Israel alone.]

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Nato used the same old trick when it made Milosevic an offer he could only refuse
Robert Fisk, The Independent, October 4, 2002

It's the same old trap. Nato used exactly the same trick to ensure that it could have a war with Slobodan Milosevic. Now the Americans are demanding the same of Saddam Hussein – buried well down in their list of demands, of course. Tell your enemy that you're going to need his roads and airspace – with your troops on the highways – and you destroy his sovereignty. That's what Nato demanded of Serbia in 1999. That's what the new UN resolution touted by Messrs Bush and Blair demands of Saddam Hussein. It's a declaration of war.

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Rush to war ignores U.S. constitution
Senator Robert C. Byrd, United States Senate, October 3, 2002

The great Roman historian, Titus Livius, said, " All things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry; haste is blind and improvident."

"Blind and improvident," Mr. President. "Blind and improvident." Congress would be wise to heed those words today, for as sure as the sun rises in the east, we are embarking on a course of action with regard to Iraq that, in its haste, is both blind and improvident. We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert conflict.

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Fighting terrorism with democracy
Richard Rorty, The Nation, October 21, 2002

A year after 9/11, the United States is still not facing up to the hardest questions that that disaster posed. Nobody has yet explained how the government might hope to take effective precautions against, for example, the arrival of nuclear or biochemical devices in shipboard freight containers. One suspects that the officials of our government are well aware that no precautions are likely to eliminate, or even substantially lessen, the chances of further terrorist attacks. But these officials are not about to tell the public that their government can think of little more to do than to tighten security at airports.

Still, governments must pretend to their citizens that they are doing something to provide the protection that the taxpayers think their taxes should buy. The use of military force in Afghanistan gratified the public's need to have the government take action in response to 9/11, but it was not enough, nor was setting up a new bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security. So for the past eleven months we have had a steady series of cryptic utterances from President Bush and his Cabinet officers, and of calculated leaks to the press, suggesting that an invasion of Iraq is in the works. Yet the Bush Administration has never even tried to argue that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein will do much to lessen the probability of terrorist strikes.

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The stones of Baghdad
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 4, 2002

From their perch in Washington, President Bush and his advisers seem to have convinced themselves that an invasion will proceed easily because many Iraqis will dance in the streets to welcome American troops. That looks like a potentially catastrophic misreading of Iraq.

Consider Dahlia Abdulrahim and Intidhar Abdulrahim, two young women I met at an English-language used-book shop in Baghdad. Dahlia reads romance novels, while Intidhar favors Thomas Hardy. So will they be cheering the American troops rolling through Baghdad?

"I will throw stones at them," Dahlia said.

"Maybe I will throw knives," Intidhar said brightly.

Those two women are broadly representative of Iraqis I spoke to. If American military strategy assumes popular support from Iraqis facilitating an invasion and occupation, the White House is making an error that could haunt us for years.

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COMMENT -- The advocates of war against Iraq are fond of pointing out that democracies don't wage war against one another. Bring democracy to the Middle East and peace will reign - so the argument goes. But a review of the history of the state of Israel, as Israeli historian Benny Morris shows in the following article, does not describe the march of democracy, but rather the unrelenting drive to secure the ethnic purity that a Jewish state requires. If Sharon (along with his representatives in the Bush administration) truly believe that Arabs and Jews can never peaceably inhabit the same land, what in the long run does this say about the strength of democracy in the "melting pot" of America?

A new exodus for the Middle East?
Benny Morris, The Guardian, October 3, 2002

Once again, "transfer" is in the air - the idea of helping resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict by transferring or expelling some or all of the Arabs from Palestine. During recent weeks Israeli newspapers published an interview with Shmuel Eliahu, the chief rabbi of Safad and the son of Israel's former chief Sephardi rabbi, Mordechai Eliahu, in which he called for the transfer, to "Jordan, the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union, or Canada," of Arabs who are unwilling to accept Israel as a Jewish state; and a large advertisement, by Gush Shalom (the Peace Bloc), a coalition of ultra-left groups, warning that prime minister Ariel Sharon is pressing the US to attack Iraq and intends to exploit the chaos that will follow "to carry out his old plan to expel the Palestinians from the whole country ("Transfer")."

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US hardline on Iraq leaves full-scale invasion a 'hair-trigger' away
Julian Borger, Ewen MacAskill and Ian Black, The Guardian, October 3, 2002

Washington last night revealed its intention to use UN weapons inspections as a possible first step towards a military occupation of Iraq by sending in troops, sealing off "exclusion zones" and creating secure corridors throughout the country.

In a leaked proposal for a UN resolution drafted by the US with help from British officials, the Bush administration is seeking to transform the inspections process into a coercive operation. The resolution would place a full-scale invasion of Iraq on a hair trigger, authorising UN member states "to use all necessary means to restore international peace and security" if Iraq does so much as make an omission in the weapons inventories it presents to the security council.

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Vatican says preventive strike raises ethical, legal questions; majority of Italians oppose war on Iraq
Associated Press, October 2, 2002

The Vatican renewed its opposition to war in Iraq on Wednesday, saying military action would only make matters worse and that a pre-emptive strike raised serious ethical and legal problems.
"It's unilateralism, pure and simple," the Vatican's U.N. observer, Archbishop Renato Martino, said in comments published in the Italian newsweekly Famiglia Christiana.

The principle of a "first strike" as well as its possible use in Iraq "provoke profound reservations be it from the ethical or legal point of view," he said.

He recalled the Vatican's opposition to the 1991 Gulf War, saying: "Everyone knows the way it turned out. War doesn't resolve problems. Besides being bloody, it's useless," he said.

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Butler accuses US of nuclear hypocrisy
Gerard Noonan, Sydney Morning Herald, October 3, 2002

The former chief weapons inspector in Iraq Richard Butler has lashed out at United States "double standards", saying even educated Americans were deaf to arguments about the hypocrisy of their stance on nuclear weapons.

Mr Butler, an Australian, told a seminar at the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies that Americans did not appreciate they could not claim a right to possess nuclear weapons but deny it to other nations.

"My attempts to have Americans enter into discussions about double standards have been an abject failure - even with highly educated and engaged people," Mr Butler said. "I sometimes felt I was speaking to them in Martian, so deep is their inability to understand."

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Doubts set in on Afghan mission
Rupert Wingfield Hayes, BBC News, September 28, 2002

I was hailed by two young soldiers lounging in one of those huge American Humvee jeeps. Clearly these two were not part of the guided tour.

"Excuse me sir," they asked. "But do we really have to say this baloney?"

The actual word they used was a little more colourful.

"What baloney?" I asked. They handed me a small laminated card. On it were instructions on how to deal with journalists. Every soldier had been given one. These were not just general ground rules. It actually listed suggested answers:

"How do you feel about what you're doing in Afghanistan"?

Answer: "We're united in our purpose and committed to achieving our goals."

"How long do you think that will take?" Answer: "We will stay here as long as it takes to get the job done - sir!"

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Power shift to president may stick
Linda Feldmann and Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor, October 3, 2002

Since the beginning of the Republic, American presidents have vied with the other branches of government for power. And in times of war and national emergency, presidents have exercised heightened levels of authority – in some cases openly sidestepping the Constitution to do what they felt was necessary.
In the larger battle for power, America's 43rd president, George W. Bush, seems no different.

What is different, say experts on presidential power, is that the open-ended nature of Mr. Bush's "war on terrorism" is fast creating new realities of executive power, with no firm expiration date. Some question whether the exigencies of preventing future terror attacks are fundamentally and permanently tipping the constitutional balance of power to the president's advantage.

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Manufacturing anti-Semites
Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, October 2, 2002

The Sharon government is a giant laboratory for the growing of the anti-Semitism virus. It exports it to the whole world. Anti-Semitic organizations, which for many years vegetated on the margins of society, rejected and despised, are suddenly growing and flowering. Anti-Semitism, which has hidden itself in shame since World War II, is now riding on a great wave of opposition to Sharon's policy of oppression.

Sharon's propaganda agents are pouring oil on the flames. Accusing all critics of his policy of being anti-Semites, they brand large communities with this mark. Many good people, who feel no hatred at all towards the Jews, but who detest the persecution of the Palestinians, are now called anti-Semites. Thus the sting is taken out of this word, giving it something approaching respectability.

The practical upshot: not only does Israel not protect the Jews from anti-Semitism, but quite on the contrary - Israel manufactures and exports the anti-Semitism that threatens Jews around the world.

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In Israel's interests?
Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect, October 21, 2002

No one doubts that Israel will face serious risks the moment that President George W. Bush orders an American offensive against Iraq. Memories remain fresh of Iraqi Scuds falling on Tel Aviv and Haifa during the 1991 Gulf War. American foreign-policy experts suggest that this time around, facing his end, Saddam Hussein might use any capability he has to strike Israel with chemical or biological weapons.

Nonetheless, conventional wisdom in the United States, Israel and elsewhere is that Bush's plans for "regime change" in Iraq serve Israeli interests at least as much as U.S. ones. That assumption has boosted support for President Bush's Iraq policy among American Jews and among pro-Israel American politicians. Even Israel's once-dovish Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has lobbied for war, his vision of a peaceful "New Middle East" apparently stashed in his archives alongside his youth movement diaries. The long-term danger to Israel of Hussein with nuclear arms, says the standard reasoning, far outweighs any risks posed by war.

The debate on Bush's war plans, however, is not about whether Iraq should have the bomb. At best, it's about a particular policy for preventing that development. The policy includes war, the way the Bush administration has prepared for war, its fuzzy plans for what to do after the war and the doctrine it posits to justify war. From where I sit -- in Jerusalem, on the slopes of a hill that looks out over the occupied West Bank and the mountains of Jordan in the haze beyond -- each piece of that policy deserves questioning. In the end, the Bush policy may well create greater dangers for Israel than those it claims to eliminate.

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The push for war
Anatol Lieven, London Review of Books, October 3, 2002

The most surprising thing about the push for war is that it is so profoundly reckless. If I had to put money on it, I'd say that the odds on quick success in destroying the Iraqi regime may be as high as 5/1 or more, given US military superiority, the vile nature of Saddam Hussein's rule, the unreliability of Baghdad's missiles, and the deep divisions in the Arab world. But at first sight, the longer-term gains for the US look pretty limited, whereas the consequences of failure would be catastrophic. A general Middle Eastern conflagration and the collapse of more pro-Western Arab states would lose us the war against terrorism, doom untold thousands of Western civilians to death in coming decades, and plunge the world economy into depression.

These risks are not only to American (and British) lives and interests, but to the political future of the Administration. If the war goes badly wrong, it will be more generally excoriated than any within living memory, and its members will be finished politically - finished for good. If no other fear moved these people, you'd have thought this one would.

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What war looks like
Howard Zinn, The Progressive, October, 2002

In all the solemn statements by self-important politicians and newspaper columnists about a coming war against Iraq, and even in the troubled comments by some who are opposed to the war, there is something missing. The talk is about strategy and tactics, geopolitics and personalities. It is about air war and ground war, weapons of mass destruction, arms inspections, alliances, oil, and "regime change."

What is missing is what an American war on Iraq will do to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of ordinary human beings who are not concerned with geopolitics and military strategy, and who just want their children to live, to grow up. They are not concerned with "national security" but with personal security, with food and shelter and medical care and peace.

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Senators threaten to rein in Bush
President faces dissent from his own party on Iraq

Julian Borger, The Guardian, October 2, 2002

The White House was last night trying to fight off a Senate effort to place limits on George Bush's authority to launch a military assault on Iraq after leading Republicans sided with the Democrats over the president's war powers.

Mr Bush accused the Senate of attempting to tie his hands over Iraq after a prominent Republican senator, Richard Lugar, backed a resolution that would give the administration the right to act militarily only to enforce the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's regime. The resolution would also require the administration to assemble an international coalition before considering an attack.

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U.S. faulted over its efforts to unite Iraqi dissidents
Judith Miller, New York Times, October 2, 2002

While endorsing "regime change" and democracy in Iraq, the Bush administration is stumbling in its efforts to forge a cohesive opposition to Saddam Hussein. According to Iraqi opposition leaders and experts on Iraq, its approach remains plagued by differences over who should lead the dissidents and who would rule the country most effectively if Mr. Hussein were overthrown.

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Lawmakers seek Iraq bill compromise
Jim Abrams, Associated Press, October 1, 2002

"This debate should not be driven by how much it will cost U.S. taxpayers," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. But he said it was important to keep in mind that three months of combat with a heavy ground force and a five-year occupation by a large U.S. force could cost more than $272 billion.

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Unlike in '90, fear of U.S. defines U.N. Iraq debate
Diplomats say respect for American resolve has given way to qualms about bullying

Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2002

Respect for the United States remains, but diplomats here say the admiration that once accompanied it has been replaced by something else: fear. These diplomats say the U.S. has dropped persuasion as its main tactic and replaced it with intimidation.

In 1990, "there was great excitement that the most powerful country was gathering together the world community to meet this challenge," recalled David Malone, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations who now heads an independent New York think tank focused on U.N. activities. "That excitement and support have been replaced by apprehension and fear.

"The Security Council is operating under great pressure to accommodate the United States, but the trouble is, this administration is seen as the ugly American," Malone said. "They don't make their case. They just bully when they can."

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A case not closed
Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, November 1, 1993

The confrontation between the United States and Iraq has revived interest in a decade-old charge—that Saddam Hussein ordered the assassination of President George H. W. Bush. This alleged plot has been cited in recent days by the current President Bush as one of the U.S.'s grievances against Hussein. In this article, from 1993, Seymour M. Hersh investigates the assassination story.

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Congress overwhelmed with anti-war calls from "The Silenced Majority"
Democracy Now, October 1, 2002

Republican and Democratic Senate offices report “overwhelming” opposition from their constituents to war with Iraq. This comes as Congress prepares to pass a war resolution granting President Bush sweeping powers to invade Iraq.

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Wake up and smell the Occupation
Sam Bahour, Counterpunch, October 1, 2002

As Israel jumps from one self-made crisis to the next, the State of Israel itself is in an alarming condition.

The peace and security that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised during his year 2001 election campaign have vanished in the dust of Israeli tanks rampaging Palestinian cities. Israel's economy is declining at a record pace. The right-wing Sharon government has sparked a national debate in Israel that questions the legal right to citizenship for over 1.1 million of its Palestinian citizens. Israeli families across the social strata are sending their children to study abroad and emigrating at a pace that was not thought possible only a few years ago. Over 400 Israeli conscripts, soldiers, or reservists are refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian areas and some are now imprisoned in Israeli jails as consciousness objectors. The moral fabric of Israeli society is tearing apart at the seams as the Israeli military proudly reverts to a policy of assassination, imprisonment, demolition of homes, deportation, and collective punishment.

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The peace movement lives
Geov Parrish, Working For Change, October 2, 2002

As soon as next week, Congress may vote on a resolution authorizing use of the American military to invade Iraq. That's the timeline President Bush wants, because questions about the wisdom of such an invasion -- relegated to the fringes of discourse among political elites for the better part of a year -- have suddenly gained the upper hand. The White House is desperate to forestall an anti-war movement that has seemingly materialized from thin air.

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The sun can't set on this empire too soon
The U.S. has no right to indulge in imperialism

Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2002

It sure smells like imperialism. That's the word historians use when powerful nations grab control of desired resources, be it the gold of the New World or the oil of the Middle East.

Imperialist greed is what "regime change" in Iraq and "anticipatory self-defense" are all about, and all of the rest of the Bush administration's talk about security and democracy is a bunch of malarkey.

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Bush's war drive:
Fear, distraction & self-adulation

Neve Gordon, Counterpunch, September 30, 2002

One better think twice before supporting Bush's initiative to launch an attack on Iraq if only because war, as Martin Luther King pointed out, is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrows.

A good way to grasp the logic underlying Bush's plan is by examining the intricate mechanisms his Administration is using to shape public opinion, the most conspicuous of which are distraction, fear, and self-adulation.

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Who am I to question the Commander-in-Chief?
Charles Sheehan-Miles, AlterNet, September 30, 2002

Last week a group of Gulf War veterans formed a team to raise questions about our impending invasion of Iraq. Together, we agreed on some basic principles, none of which was "anti-war." Rather, our goal is to ensure before we commit our forces to war, we consider all the key issues.

Those issues are simple: whether or not the invasion will destabilize the region; full medical care for returning soldiers (which never happened in 1991); the Bush administration should release any information justifying an attack; Congress is the body that should approve any war and ensure adequate oversight; we should meet our international obligations, including working through the UN Security Council, and a full accounting must be made for those who are missing-in-action.

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Counting casualties
How many people would die in an Iraqi war?

Michael O'Hanlon, Slate, September 25, 2002

A central question about the war in Iraq is the likely cost in terms of casualties. Many Americans who would support an invasion on the assumption of 250 dead might feel very differently if our losses numbered 10 times as many. Unfortunately, such predictions have proven notoriously inaccurate in the past. On the eve of Operation Desert Storm, several military experts forecast U.S. losses in the range of several thousand, and the Pentagon expected even higher numbers killed. Actual American losses were just under 400 (of whom about 150 were killed by direct enemy action, the others being lost in accidents or friendly-fire episodes).

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Perles of wisdom for the Feithful
Akiva Eldar, Ha'aretz, October 1, 2002

It's true that restoring a monarchy in Iraq does not exactly fit the Bush administration's vision of a democratic Middle East. But there are signs that it fits some old dreams of a few of the key strategists around the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triangle running America's Iraq policy. A few weeks ago, Richard Perle invited the Pentagon chiefs to a meeting with researchers from a Washington think tank with particularly close relations with the Defense Department.

According to information that reached a former top official in the Israeli security services, the researchers showed two slides to the Pentagon officials. The first was a depiction of the three goals in the war on terror and the democratization of the Middle East: Iraq - a tactical goal, Saudi Arabia - a strategic goal, and Egypt - the great prize.

The triangle in the next slide was no less interesting: Palestine is Israel, Jordan is Palestine, and Iraq is the Hashemite Kingdom.

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The president's real goal in Iraq
Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 29, 2002

This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were.

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‘I yelled at them to stop’
Colin Soloway, Newsweek, October 7, 2002

One afternoon in August, a U.S. Special Forces A team knocked at the door of a half-ruined mud compound in the Shahikot Valley. The servicemen were taking part in Operation Mountain Sweep, a weeklong hunt for Qaeda and Taliban fugitives in eastern Afghanistan.

The man of the house, an elderly farmer, let the Americans in as soon as his female relatives had gone to a back room, out of the gaze of strange men. Asked if there were any weapons in the house, the farmer proudly showed them his only firearm, a hunting rifle nearly a century old. When the team had finished searching, carefully letting the women stay out of sight, the farmer served tea. The Americans thanked him and walked toward the next house.

They didn’t get far before the team’s captain looked back. Six paratroopers from the 82d Airborne, also part of Mountain Sweep, were lined up outside the farmer’s house, preparing to force their way in. “I yelled at them to stop,” says the captain, “but they went ahead and kicked in the door.” The farmer panicked and tried to run, and one of the paratroopers slammed him to the ground. The captain raced back to the house. Inside, he says, other helmeted soldiers from the 82d were attempting to frisk the women. By the time the captain could order the soldiers to leave, the family was in a state of shock. “The women were screaming bloody murder,” recalled the captain, asking to be identified simply as Mike. “The guy was in tears. He had been completely dishonored.”

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New U.S. doctrine worries Europeans
Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, September 30, 2002

Here in the capital of the new Europe, officials are expressing emotions ranging from concern to alarm to anger as they contemplate the growing gap between themselves and the Bush administration.

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Support for Iraq action drops
Associated Press, September 27, 2002

A look at how different political groups feel about military action to end President Saddam Hussein ( news - web sites)'s rule in Iraq, and what happens to that support if the United States attacks without allied backing.

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Ours not to reason why
Michael Kinsley, Slate, September 26, 2002

The official U.S. government message on how citizens should decide about going to war is, "Don't worry your pretty little heads about it." Last week the White House issued a sort of Official Souvenir Guide to the Bush administration's national security policy, and it is full of rhetoric about democracy.

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The peace movement lives
Geov Parrish, AlterNet, September 27, 2002

In the coming week, Congress may vote on a resolution authorizing use of the American military to invade Iraq. That's the timeline President Bush wants because questions about the wisdom of such an invasion -- relegated to the fringes of discourse among political elites for the better part of a year -- have suddenly gained the upper hand. The White House is desperate to forestall an anti-war movement that has seemingly materialized from thin air.

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