The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
The voice of America
Only his people can stop Bush now - and many are speaking out against war in Iraq

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, October 12, 2002

Who can stop Bush on Iraq? Not the UN security council, it seems, where US diplomatic kneecapping and punishment beatings proceed apace. Not an intimidated US Congress where, with honourable exceptions, the call to arms trumpets irresistibly over November's hustings. And not any number of international lawyers, vainly brandishing the UN charter and pre-emptively disregarded by high counsel to the White House hyperpower. In Whitehall, worried marchers scare pigeons but not the Pentagon. As the drum beats and the rhetoric rises, respected analysts opine that nothing now can prevent the war. Bush will have his way because, whatever bishops and imams vicariously preach, no power on earth can stop him.

This is not entirely true; in truth, not true at all. Americans can stop America's next war as they have stopped similar planned or actual idiocies in the past. That the Bush clique pays scant heed to Arab and Muslim concerns, has no time for "euro-wimps" and other appeasers is brutally clear. But domestic public opinion is a different story - and that story is changing. Slowly, inconsistently but palpably, ordinary Americans are making their voices heard. This is no anti-war movement to compare with Vietnam. Their motivations are often practical, even mundane. But a strange phenomenon is now apparent in which Karl Rove, Bush's top electoral strategist and poll-watcher, may yet emerge as a more potent force than the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis and all the other full-spectrum dominators combined.

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Israel, Iraq, and the United States
Edward Said, Al-Ahram, October 10, 2002

The whole theme of the war against terrorism has permitted Israel and its supporters to commit war crimes against the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, 3.4 million of them who have become (as the going phrase has it) non-combatant collateral damage. Terje-Roed Larsen, who is the UN's special administrator for the occupied territories, has just issued a report charging Israel with inducing a humanitarian catastrophe: unemployment has reached 65 per cent, 50 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and the economy, to say nothing of people's lives, has been shattered. In comparison with this, Israeli suffering and insecurity is considerably less: there aren't Palestinian tanks occupying any part of Israel, or even challenging Israeli settlements. During the past two weeks Israel has killed 75 Palestinians, many of them children, it has demolished houses, deported people, razed valuable agricultural land, kept everyone indoors under 80-hour curfews at a stretch, not permitted civilians through roadblocks or allowed ambulances and medical aid through, and as usual cut off water and electricity. Schools and universities simply cannot function. While these are daily occurrences which, like the occupation itself and the dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, have been in effect for at least 35 years, they are mentioned in the US media only occasionally, as endnotes for long articles about Israeli government debates, or the disastrous suicide bombings that have occurred. The tiny phrase "suspected of terrorism" is both the justification and the epitaph for whomever Sharon chooses to have killed. The US doesn't object except in the mildest terms, eg, it says, this is not helpful but this does little to deter the next brace of killings.

We are now closer to the heart of the matter. Because of Israeli interests in this country, US Middle East policy is therefore Israelo-centric. A post-9/11 chilling conjuncture has occurred in which the Christian Right, the Israeli lobby, and the Bush's administration's semi-religious belligerency is theoretically rationalised by neo-conservative hawks whose view of the Middle East is committed to the destruction of Israel's enemies, which is sometimes given the euphemistic label of re-drawing the map by bringing regime change and "democracy" to the Arab countries who most threaten Israel.

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Storming the streets of Baghdad
Stan Crock and John Carey, with Paul Magnusson, Geoffrey Smith, and Otis Port, Business Week, October 21, 2002

Pentagon strategists are hoping that the campaign will follow the script of the 1991 gulf war: a pulverizing bombardment followed by a lightning ground attack and capitulation. But this may not turn out to be the antiseptic, largely casualty-free affair the U.S. has grown accustomed to.

True, the U.S. will deploy a devastating arsenal of high-tech wizardry, from missiles that strike within feet of their intended targets to bombs capable of burrowing deep into bunkers before exploding at the right subterranean level. But while U.S. military planners think in terms of Star Wars, Saddam wants a battle more like Somalia, where the U.S. would be forced into difficult and bloody urban combat. "The U.S. is gambling that precision weapons and rapid land maneuvers will cause the spontaneous combustion of Saddam's regime," says John E. Pike, director of, a defense think tank. "Saddam is gambling that won't work."

The reason: If the battle does end up in Baghdad, much of America's dazzling high-tech weaponry will be less effective in the gritty, house-by-house fight likely to ensue. In fact, some new technologies for close-in combat, like migraine-producing sound blasters, are not ready for prime time. And current high-tech gear may not work well in the urban environment.

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"The bottom line is I don't trust this president and his advisors"
Rep. Pete Stark, Salon, October 11, 2002

"Make no mistake, we are voting on a resolution that grants total authority to the president, who wants to invade a sovereign nation without any specific act of provocation. This would authorize the United States to act as the aggressor for the first time in our history. It sets a precedent for our nation -- or any nation -- to exercise brute force anywhere in the world without regard to international law or international consensus.

"Congress must not walk in lockstep behind a president who has been so callous to proceed without reservation, as if war was of no real consequence."

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The spoils of war
James Ridgeway, Village Voice, October 9, 2002

As they prepare to make war on Iraq, cowboy-in-chief George Bush and his cohorts have pulled out all the stops. They're trying to convince us that this act of pure aggression is a "preemptive" move that will allow Americans to sleep more peacefully in their beds, while the Iraqi masses cheer the conquerors who have starved them for a decade and then bombed them to smithereens.

And that's just for starters. In the imaginations of Bush and his advisers, this Wild West approach to the Middle East stands to knock out Syria's despot, rein in the Saudi royal family, inspire the neighboring Iranians to their own pro-American putsch, banish the Palestinians to Jordan, and clear the way for Israeli settlers.

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Ex-commander opposes Iraq invasion
Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, October 11, 2002

The former U.S. military commander for the Middle East came out against a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq yesterday, saying that he believes the policy of containing President Saddam Hussein has been working.

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'Saddam will use everything within his reach'
Samir Zedan, MSNBC, October 10, 2002

Iraq's former head of military intelligence assesses the chances of a military coup in Baghdad - and warns that, if cornered, the dictator will use his weapons of mass destruction.

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Concerns rise about Iraq's options for retaliation
Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 2002

If his country is attacked, will Iraq's Saddam Hussein retaliate against the United States in some horrific way?

That question has grown more urgent of late, as the drumbeat of war gets louder and as a CIA report, declassified this week, concluded that a cornered President Hussein would more than likely unsheath his arsenal – which includes chemical and biological weapons – perhaps even in attacks on US soil.

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Hussein may dodge US hunt
From Osama bin Laden to Pancho Villa, the US has always struggled to neutralize high-profile foes

Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 2002

If played out on the silver screen, an American manhunt for Saddam Hussein would have a predictable end: John Rambo would penetrate Baghdad, track the Iraqi leader to his deeply buried bunker, and carry out the White House policy of "regime change" with a single bullet – and then make a safe getaway.

But while the tidy world of the movies may appear to shape some US options for Iraq, former American military officers and analysts warn that going after Mr. Hussein to "cut off the head" of the Iraqi regime may prove to be Mission Impossible.

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Bush's Iraq plan is a policy of fear, not strength
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, Newsday, October 11, 2002

I have no love for Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, and I would support any action that the international community, the United Nations and our friends in the Muslim world agreed was in the best security interests of the world. But I do question why the Bush administration would choose now to bring this issue to a vote.

On the floor of the House of Representatives this week, I voted and spoke against House Joint Res. 114, which would give the president unilateral authority to use force against the Iraqi regime.This debate and vote comes at a time when many Americans, particularly many New Yorkers, are still in pain from the trauma of the attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

At a time when the economy is faltering and many other domestic issues are being left unattended, this Congress is being forced to consider the authorization of the use of force, perhaps unilaterally, against a regime we've known about for years.

This regime has always been undemocratic and brutal against its own people. Yet our government once ignored those facts, because it once felt it was in our own best interests to support that regime with the very same capabilities we now say threaten America.

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U.S. has a plan to occupy Iraq, officials report
David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, October 11, 2002

The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said today.

The plan also calls for war-crime trials of Iraqi leaders and a transition to an elected civilian government that could take months or years.

In the initial phase, Iraq would be governed by an American military commander — perhaps Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of United States forces in the Persian Gulf, or one of his subordinates — who would assume the role that Gen. Douglas MacArthur served in Japan after its surrender in 1945.

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Get serious
Michael Kinsley, Slate, October 10, 2002

According to the Bush administration, the threat posed by Iraq is serious enough to risk the lives of American soldiers, to end the lives of what would undoubtedly be thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, and to risk a chemical or biological attack on the American homeland, but not serious enough to interrupt prime-time television. None of the big three broadcast networks carried Bush's case-for-war speech Monday night because, they say, the White House didn't ask. Pre-empting Saddam Hussein is one thing, apparently, but pre-empting Drew Carey is another.

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Ashcroft fails to produce arresting developments
The US attorney general has not made one significant breakthrough in America's domestic 'war on terror'

Julian Borger, The Guardian, October 10, 2002

After the arrest of four alleged followers of al-Qaida and the Taliban last week, John Ashcroft declared it "a defining day" in the fight against terrorism.

It may well turn out the attorney general was right, but not in the sense he intended.

The arrests, in Portland, Oregon and in Detroit, defined Ashcroft's performance so far at the justice department in that they were low-level, seemingly timed to create the impression of progress in the struggle with terrorism, and extravagantly hyped to emphasise the threat of the "enemy within".

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UK spies reject al-Qaida link
Intelligence MI5 and MI6 dismiss Iraq terror 'evidence'

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, October 10, 2002

British intelligence agencies are dismissing claims by the Bush administration that there are links between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The claims are being used by President Bush to press his case against Saddam Hussein, amid growing unease among Americans of the prospect of a US military invasion of Iraq, especially without British participation.

The allegations have already sparked off a dispute in the US over the way information and speculation by the CIA is being used by the Bush administration for its own ends.

Both MI5 and MI6 have been deeply concerned about unsubstantiated claims made by senior members of the Bush administration, notably Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, about the threat posed by al-Qaida. They say the claims could be counter-productive since they are plainly misleading.

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Stop ethnic cleansing in the Mideast before it starts
Helena Cobban, Christian Science Monitor, October 10, 2002

"No deportations of Palestinians!" "Get back to the negotiating table!" Should these things even need saying to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he visits Washington Oct. 16? One would think not. But given President Bush's long record of negligence in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, they probably need restating to Mr. Sharon very loudly – and by the president – right now.

Most of the attention regarding how Israel might behave in the event of an American war against Iraq has thus far focused on whether Sharon's government would launch a military response against Iraq if Iraq should start aiming at Israel during the war. But there's another possibility, even more feared by members of the peace camps in Israel and Palestine. That's the prospect that – with or without receiving a prior hit from Iraq – Sharon might use the cover of a "big war" in the region to undertake new and serious escalations in his campaign against the Palestinians.

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Israel mints ultranationalist hero
Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, October 10, 2002

The high school students listening to principal Arik Wurzburger's lecture may not have realized it, but they were participating in the creation of a new Israeli hero.

Rehavam Zeevi, assassinated a year ago by Palestinian militants, was regarded almost to the end of his life as an extremist for his anti-Arab views. But now, with a push from the government, and amid the charged emotions generated by war and terrorism, he is taking on new life after death. His call for "transfer," a euphemism for a mass expulsion of Palestinians, is now embraced by an estimated 20 to 30 percent of Israelis.

A battle over Mr. Zeevi's legacy came to a head this week when some, but not all, schools offered lessons about his "heritage" in keeping with a government recommendation.

Pitting a small but vocal left-wing opposition against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's national unity coalition, the debate over Zeevi's legacy offers a window into a larger contest over Israel's identity.

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Congress must resist the rush to war
Senator Robert C. Byrd, New York Times, October 10, 2002

A sudden appetite for war with Iraq seems to have consumed the Bush administration and Congress. The debate that began in the Senate last week is centered not on the fundamental and monumental questions of whether and why the United States should go to war with Iraq, but rather on the mechanics of how best to wordsmith the president's use-of-force resolution in order to give him virtually unchecked authority to commit the nation's military to an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.

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Bush studied '67 pre-emptive strike
Summer reading includes account of the Six Day War

Howard Fineman, Newsweek, October 9, 2002

A president's reading list is always news, especially if the president is George W. Bush - not known as a fan of big-think books. Which is why, as I listened to him make his case the other night for a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein, I suddenly recalled something that Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, had told me. Last summer, on his Texas ranch, Card said, Bush read Michael B. Oren's "Six Days of War," an account of Israel's stunningly successful (at least militarily) pre-emptive attack in 1967 against neighboring Arab states that had been poised to destroy it.

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Belafonte lashes 'house slave' Powell for serving Bush
Agence France-Presse, October 10, 2002

The singer and activist Harry Belafonte has accused the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, of selling out his race by joining the Bush Administration.

The attack came during a radio interview in San Diego on Tuesday when Mr Belafonte ripped into Mr Powell for belonging to President George Bush's administration.

The veteran singer and leading political and anti-apartheid activist compared Mr Powell to a slave on an old southern cotton plantation who had become beholden to his "master".

Mr Belafonte, who like Mr Powell is of Jamaican descent, said: "There's an old saying. In the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation and there were those slaves that lived in the house.

"You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master ... exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him," he said.

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The silence of the bombs
Gar Smith, The-Edge, October 9, 2002

George W. Bush repeatedly insists that Iraq poses a direct military threat to the U.S. This claim seems rather strange in light of the fact that it is the U.S. that has been bombing Iraq -- not just threatening -- nonstop for nearly four years.

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Scramble to carve up Iraqi oil reserves lies behind US diplomacy
Ed Vulliamy, Paul Webster, and Nick Paton, The Observer, October 6, 2002

Oil is emerging as the key factor in US attempts to secure the support of Russia and France for military action against Iraq, according to an Observer investigation.

The Bush administration, intimately entwined with the global oil industry, is keen to pounce on Iraq's massive untapped reserves, the second biggest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. But France and Russia, who hold a power of veto on the UN Security Council, have billion-dollar contracts with Baghdad, which they fear will disappear in 'an oil grab by Washington', if America installs a successor to Saddam.

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Rift over plan to impose rule on Iraq
James Dao and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, October 10, 2002

The Bush administration is considering plans to create a provisional government for Iraq that could provide a base for opposition to President Saddam Hussein and form the core of a new government if Mr. Hussein is ousted, senior administration officials said.

But the proposal, which is being pushed by several Iraqi exile groups has received mixed reaction inside the administration. It has strong support among Pentagon officials, who want to incorporate it into invasion plans. But the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have been cool to the idea.

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War plans and pitfalls
Michael T Klare, The Nation, October 21, 2002

After months of internal wrangling over tactics and strategy, it now appears that the White House has settled on the basic design for the US invasion of Iraq. President Bush was given a detailed plan for the assault on September 10, and it appears that key combat units have been moved to the Middle East or are being readied for deployment to the region. Although most of the world is still focused on the diplomatic whirlwind at the United Nations, American military personnel are behaving as if a war with Iraq is imminent. And while it is impossible to predict the exact day and hour when hostilities will commence, it is unlikely that "D-Day" will occur much later than the second or third week of February 2003.

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This marks the death of deterrence
Bush's new doctrine kills the principle of state sovereignty

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, October 9, 2002

Whatever the outcome of the intense diplomatic manoeuvres at the UN, whatever cover the UN might give to an American attack on Iraq, they cannot hide a fundamental truth. It has profound implications for future relations between states. Henry Kissinger, archpriest of realpolitik, has called it "revolutionary". Tony Blair appears to have embraced it, though we cannot be sure.

A new doctrine of war has been laid down by the Bush administration that casts aside all the traditional tenets of international law as well as the UN and Nato charters. It abandons the concept of deterrence, considered the bedrock of stability throughout the cold war and cited by successive British governments as justification for their nuclear arsenal.

Ever since September 11 last year, it has been reflected in speeches, notably by Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. It was spelt out most clearly by Bush himself in June. The US, he said, would no longer rely on "deterrence" and "containment"; it had to be "ready for pre-emptive action".

He added: "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilising arms races of other eras pointless." This new doctrine was enshrined in the Bush administration's National Security Strategy document published last month.

See also The National Security Strategy of the United States of America

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C.I.A. letter to Senate on Baghdad's intentions
New York Times, October 9, 2002

CIA Director George Tenet: "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or C.B.W. [chemical and biological weapons] against the United States.

Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions. Such terrorism might involve conventional means, as with Iraq's unsuccessful attempt at a terrorist offensive in 1991, or C.B.W..

Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a W.M.D. attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

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Interview with Lewis Lapham
Stefffen Silvis, Willamette Weekly, October 2, 2002

The whole approach to the forthcoming invasion of downtown Baghdad seems to take place outside the context of history. You listen to Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, and it's as if they were unaware of the last 100 years, forget the 2000 preceding ones. It's a very ahistorical approach, and that to me is always dangerous. It's frightening. It's as if these people don't know what they're doing. If they do know, they are running against the current of our own history as well as against the grain of the American people. I've found within the last few days talking to audiences that there are a lot of people who object to what's happening, more than the polls and media care to recognize. Certainly, I've seen it at Harper's. There's been a great deal of mail since Sept. 11 from readers who appreciate our magazine's questioning of events. In fact, the magazine's newsstand rate has risen from 30,000 to 40,000 this year.

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The case against preemption
Peter Mark, Asia Times, October 9, 2002

The Bush administration threatens a preemptive attack on Iraq. It is important to ask what affect such an attack might have on the relationship of the United States to the rest of the international community. Almost without exception, America's closest allies have voiced opposition to a military attack against Iraq.

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Bush's October 7 speech on Iraq

The Institute for Public Accuracy provides line-by-line expert analysis of Bush's speech.

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Vets group wants Rumsfeld out over alleged shipment to Iraq
Lawrence Morahan, CNSNews, October 08, 2002

The American Gulf War Veterans Association (AGWVA) is calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his reported denial that he knew anything about U.S. shipments of chemical and biological agents to Iraq in the 1980s.

If the defense secretary is unaware or in denial of the sale of biological materials to a country the United States is preparing to attack, then he represents a danger to the lives of service members, said Joyce Riley vonKleist, a spokeswoman for AGWVA.

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Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, October 7, 2002

The vision laid out in the Bush document [The National Security Strategy of the United States of America] is a vision of what used to be called, when we believed it to be the Soviet ambition, world domination. It's a vision of a world in which it is American policy to prevent the emergence of any rival power, whatever it stands for—a world policed and controlled by American military might. This goes much further than the notion of America as the policeman of the world. It's the notion of America as both the policeman and the legislator of the world, and it's where the Bush vision goes seriously, even chillingly, wrong. A police force had better be embedded in and guided by a structure of law and consent. There's a name for the kind of regime in which the cops rule, answering only to themselves. It's called a police state.

The Bush doctrine's answer to this objection is essentially this: Hey, we're the good guys. People—especially people who share our values, like the citizens of democratic Europe, but everybody else, too—should embrace American hegemony, because surely they know that we would use our great power only for good things, like advancing democracy, keeping powerful weapons out of the hands of terrorists, and facilitating peaceful commerce. And so we have done, most of the time; and so no doubt we would do, most of the time. But what a naïve view of power and human nature! What ever became of the conservative suspicion of untrammelled power, the conservative insight that good intentions are not, are never, enough? Where is the conservative belief in limited government, in checks and balances? Burke spins in his grave. Madison and Hamilton torque it up, too. Are we now to assume that Americans are exempt from fallen human nature? That we stand outside history? It's as if the Bush authors' brains had been softened by an overdose of anti-"moral equivalency" vaccine. Conservatives used to fault liberals (often unfairly, but never mind) for thinking that there was no such thing as evil, that the Soviets (and the criminals, and the terrorists) were just put upon and misunderstood. Conservatives spend a lot of time congratulating themselves on their "moral clarity." The Soviet Union was an evil empire; Osama is evil; the axis of evil is evil. Nothing more need be said, nothing more need be understood. And if the other side is absolutely evil then we must be absolutely good, so it's fine for us to be absolutely powerful. We should be neither surprised nor indignant if our friends in Europe and elsewhere don't see things in quite the same way.

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Some administration officials expressing misgivings on Iraq
Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight-Ridder Tribune News, October 8, 2002

While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq, a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war.

These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses -- including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network -- have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.

They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary.

"Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Robert Byrd chastises White House, Democrats
John Nichols, The Nation, October 7, 2002

Typically, [Senator] Byrd was strongest when he asked today's politicians to square their actions against the historical imperatives and insights that he, above all other members of Congress, recognizes and understands. In a speech that began with reference to the Roman historian Titus Livius and closed with a detailed recreation of the Senate debate that preceded the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Byrd summoned the words of an Illinois congressman who in the 1840s chastised a proponent of expanded presidential warmaking powers:

"Representative Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to William H. Herndon, stated: 'Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - - and you allow him to make war at pleasure... The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.'"

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White House 'exaggerating Iraqi threat'
Julian Borger, The Guardian, October 9, 2002

President Bush's case against Saddam Hussein, outlined in a televised address to the nation on Monday night, relied on a slanted and sometimes entirely false reading of the available US intelligence, government officials and analysts claimed yesterday.

Officials in the CIA, FBI and energy department are being put under intense pressure to produce reports which back the administration's line, the Guardian has learned. In response, some are complying, some are resisting and some are choosing to remain silent.

"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA," said Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-intelligence.

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Bush's leaps of illogic don't answer people's questions about war
Robert Jensen, Counterpunch, October 8, 2002

George Bush got one thing right in his speech Monday night -- that "many Americans have raised legitimate questions" about his mad rush to war with Iraq.

But he continues to misunderstand what the American people and the rest of the world want in this debate over war -- credible evidence, not speculation and lies; defensible claims, not leaps of illogic; and a response to the growing skepticism about his administration's motivations.

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Tanker attack fits bin Laden's economic war
Robert Fisk, The Independent, October 8, 2002

To look at those images of the French oil tanker Limburg, scorched and holed off Yemen, you had to remember the very last sermon Osama bin Laden gave before he disappeared in Afghanistan last December.

The American economy, he said, would be destroyed. "Oil tankers," a Palestinian friend told me later. "If he goes for the oil tankers, the Americans will have to escort every tanker round the Gulf with a warship. Think what that would do to the price of oil."

Yesterday – as the world mulled over the Limburg captain's report of a small explosives-laden boat ramming itself against the side of his 300,000 ton double-hulled supertanker – the price of a barrel of oil duly broke the $30 envelope.

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An Iraqi man of letters
Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, October 8, 2002

I started my quest for the nuanced Saddam in the northern city of Tikrit, where he grew up. Saddam has elevated fellow Tikritis — especially relatives — to top positions in the army and government. That's one reason to be skeptical that an American invasion will trigger a coup: Many of the people in a position to mount one are Tikritis or even family members (internal security is controlled by Qusay), and when Saddam is finished, so are they.

Saddam rules like a Tikriti sheik, and even within his clan the rivalries are ferocious. The Ibrahim branch of his family battles the Al-Majid branch, and disputes among his wives (he is believed to have three) have resulted in murders.

While the government bans journalists from Tikrit, I happened to drive to another city farther along the same road and thus had the chance to go through Tikrit twice. I couldn't stop long, and got only glimpses.

Still, they were illuminating: Tanks guard the approaches to the city, and its defense seems to be a priority. Indeed, Saddam might make his last stand in Tikrit, because people here are less likely to betray him than in Baghdad.

The thing to know about Tikrit is that Saddam will never be its most famous son. It's also the birthplace of Saladin, the sultan who in 1187 defeated the Crusaders. Saladin is renowned not just as a warrior but also as a man of culture, and Saddam's yearning to become a second Saladin may explain both his literary and military grandiosity.

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Illusions of Iraqi democracy
Fawaz A. Gerges, Washington Post, October 8, 2002

In its effort to garner domestic and international support for a military campaign to disarm Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein's regime, the Bush administration has promised to bring democracy into the country and strategically transform the whole region. President Bush and his senior aides note that liberating Baghdad would usher in a peaceful, democratic dawn in Iraq that would spill over into other authoritarian Arab states. It is a tall and ambitious order for the Middle East. But as America moves closer to war with Iraq, the policy debates have focused on procedural issues, not on the internal conditions in Iraq that will determine the likelihood of a peaceful, democratic state after Hussein's departure.

Iraq's fragmented society and blood-soaked political history should make anyone wary of predicting the swift creation of a viable democracy there. The U.S. establishment does not seem to appreciate how deeply entrenched are sectarian, tribal and ethnic loyalties and how complex would be the job of reconnecting Iraqi communities, estranged from one another by decades of divisive official policies.

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Truth on Iraq seeps through
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2002

In a speech intended to frighten the American people into supporting a war, the president Monday again trotted out his grim depiction of Saddam Hussein as a terrifying boogeyman haunting the world. However, a CIA report released late last week and designed to bolster Bush's case for preemptive invasion instead provided clear evidence that Iraq poses less of a threat to the world than at any other time in the past decade.

In its report, the CIA concludes that years of U.N. inspections combined with U.S. and British bombing of selected targets have left Iraq far weaker militarily than in the 1980s, when it was supported in its war against Iran by the United States.

The CIA report also concedes that the agency has no evidence that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons, although it lamely attempts to put the worst spin on that embarrassing fact: "Although Saddam probably does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them."

Of course, that is a statement about intent, not capability, and one that can be made about dozens of the world's nations, many of them run by dictators as brutal as Hussein.

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Total surrender? More like total hypocrisy
Kenneth Davidson, The Age, October 7, 2002

So now we know. Last week the New York Times and the Guardian newspapers carried well-timed and well-informed leaks of the American draft of the proposed United Nations Security Council Resolution ostensibly governing the operations of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq.

What these leaks show is the US is demanding what amounts to an "occupation agreement", which is usually imposed after unconditional surrender.

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Inspection as invasion
George Monbiot, The Guardian, October 8, 2002

There is little that those of us who oppose the coming war with Iraq can now do to prevent it. George Bush has staked his credibility on the project; he has mid-term elections to consider, oil supplies to secure and a flagging war on terror to revive. Our voices are as little heeded in the White House as the singing of the birds.

Our role is now, perhaps, confined to the modest but necessary task of demonstrating the withdrawal of our consent, while seeking to undermine the moral confidence which could turn the attack on Iraq into a war against all those states perceived to offend US strategic interests. No task is more urgent than to expose the two astonishing lies contained in George Bush's radio address on Saturday, namely that "the United States does not desire military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war" and "we hope that Iraq complies with the world's demands". Mr Bush appears to have done everything in his power to prevent Iraq from complying with the world's demands, while ensuring that military conflict becomes inevitable.

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A peace movement emerges
Sarah Ferguson, Village Voice, October 7, 2002

In the first major sign of popular opposition to a unilateral war with Iraq, an estimated 20,000 people filled the East Meadow of Central Park on Sunday to pledge their resistance to President George Bush's military plans.

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Evangelical figures oppose religious leaders' broad antiwar sentiment
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, October 5, 2002

Christian leaders and ethicists who represent a broad swath of the nation's Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and African-American churches are speaking out against war with Iraq, a chorus of opposition that prompted five conservative evangelicals yesterday to announce their support for the president.

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Public says Bush needs to pay heed to weak economy
Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder, New York Times, October 7, 2002

A majority of Americans say that the nation's economy is in its worst shape in nearly a decade and that President Bush and Congressional leaders are spending too much time talking about Iraq while neglecting problems at home, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

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The power paradox
Christopher Layne, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2002

Conventional wisdom holds that Sept. 11 "changed everything," particularly with regard to foreign policy. But long before the Al Qaeda attacks, the key foreign policy debate centered on the issue of U.S. hegemony, our geopolitical dominance by virtue of overwhelming military and economic capabilities. Since Sept. 11, hegemony has become an even more crucial issue.

By removing the only counterweight to U.S. power from the geostrategic equation, the Soviet Union's collapse vaulted the United States into the seemingly enviable position of global preeminence. Since the Cold War's end, three successive administrations--Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II--have explicitly embraced the strategic objective of maintaining this hegemony. But it's a dangerous business.

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Afghanistan imperiled
Ahmed Rashid, The Nation, October 14, 2002

There are mounting fears in Afghanistan that President George W. Bush's war against Iraq will seriously compromise further attempts by the US-led Western alliance to stabilize Afghanistan--even as the US Defense Department appears to be finally acknowledging its failures in helping to rebuild the country.

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This woman lost everthing in a US air raid. A year on, she is still living amid the rubble
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, October 7, 2002

Few people paid a higher price when America's military machine launched its war in Afghanistan a year ago today than Orfa. She was away visiting relatives when the American fighter jet dropped out of the clear midday sky and dived towards her village in the hills outside Kabul. When she returned home a few days later it was left to her neighbours to explain the inexplicable.

They told her that the aircraft, almost certainly an F-16, had mistakenly fired a precision Mk 82 500lb bomb directly at her small mud and stone house, killing her husband, carpet weaver Gul Ahmad, his second wife, five of their daughters and one son. Two children from the house next door also died.

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A pair of mass destruction wild cards
How Hussein and Sharon react to Iraq war will determine the devastation

Geoffrey Aronson, Los Angeles Times, October 4, 2002

As the Bush administration commences a second round of hostilities, a central concern is, once again, the possibility that Iraq will use nonconventional weapons to attack Israel, which would then feel compelled to enter the battle against Baghdad with its own sophisticated array of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

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Nation's memory of 9/11 colors the debate on Iraq
Blaine Harden and Peter Kilborn, New York Times, October 6, 2002

In scores of interviews along Interstate 80, in cities and small towns, on farms and a college campus, last year's attacks framed the debate about a war in Iraq, with many people insisting that America should never again be caught unaware.

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