The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Half-a-million march in anti-war rally in Italy
Luke Baker, Reuters, November 9, 2002

More than half a million anti-war protesters from across Europe marched through this Italian Renaissance city on Saturday in a loud and colorful demonstration denouncing any possible U.S. attack on Iraq.

Brimming with anti-American feelings and riled by a tough new U.N. resolution to disarm Iraq, young and old activists from as far afield as Russia and Portugal joined forces for the carnival-like rally, singing Communist anthems and 1970s peace songs.

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The unbearable costs of empire
James K. Galbraith, The American Prospect, November 18, 2002

Talk in Washington these days is of Rome and its imperial responsibilities. But George W. Bush is no Julius Caesar. France under Napoleon may be the better precedent. Like Bush, Napoleon came to power in a coup. Like Bush, he fought off a foreign threat, then took advantage to convert the republic into an empire. Like Bush, he built up an army. Like Bush, he could not resist the temptation to use it. But unlike Caesar's, Napoleon's imperial pretensions did not last.

Analogy is cheap but the point remains. Empire is not necessarily destined to endure, least of all in the undisturbed, vapid decadence to which our emperors so evidently aspire. True, in recent times the British Empire lasted for a century (or perhaps two, depending on how you count). The Soviet Union held up for seven decades. Napoleon was finished in just 15 years.

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Florence braced for anti-war protest
BBC News, November 9, 2002

Thousands of protesters are gathering in the Italian city of Florence for what promises to be the biggest demonstration in Europe so far against any war on Iraq.

The march is the climax of the first meeting of the European Social Forum, which has brought together anti-globalisation campaigners from across the continent for five days of debates, conferences and concerts.

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The face of power, the raw, real power of Bush's America
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, November 9, 2002

In the space of a few minutes yesterday, two starkly contrasting faces of power were on view: diplomatic power, clothed in the formulaic rites of the United Nations Security Council, and raw, real power as brandished by President George Bush in the Rose Garden of the White House.

For a moment, surveying the placid scene at the Security Council, or reading the nuanced legalistic language of Resolution 1441, you could believe the vote was the unqualified opinion of 15 like-minded nations, rather than what it really was: a document, amended a little to be sure, but conceived and driven through by the US to permit Washington to take military action against Saddam Hussein should it unilaterally decide to do so.

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Afghan war faltering, military leader says
Myers cites Al Qaeda's ability to adapt

Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, November 8, 2002

The U.S. military is losing momentum in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan because the remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban have proven more successful in adapting to U.S. tactics than the U.S. military has to theirs, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this week.

Gen. Richard B. Myers also said there is a debate taking place within the Pentagon about whether the United States needs to change its priorities in Afghanistan and de-emphasize military operations in favor of more support for reconstruction efforts.

"I think in a sense we've lost a little momentum there, to be frank," Myers said in after-dinner comments Monday night at the Brookings Institution. "They've made lots of adaptations to our tactics, and we've got to continue to think and try to out-think them and to be faster at it."

Myers, the nation's top military officer, suggested it may be time for the military to "flip" its priorities from combat operations aimed at hunting down al Qaeda and Taliban fighters to "the reconstruction piece in Afghanistan," a notable shift in priorities for an a Pentagon that has eschewed nation-building exercises.

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President, commander-in-chief, judge, jury, and executioner
Editorial, The War in Context, November 8, 2002

Transferring the power of judging any person who is under the protection of the laws, from the courts to the President of the United States, is against the article of the Constitution which provides that 'the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in courts, the judges of which shall hold their offices during good behavior.' -- Thomas Jefferson

The war on terrorism, as George Bush and his cohorts like to remind us, is "a different kind of war." It should have come as no surprise then that when asked for an explanation about the killing of six suspected terrorists in Yemen, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's first recourse was to trot out the same old line - this is a different kind of war.

What is different is that through the use of radio-controlled unmanned aircraft, the United States can now eliminate its enemies from the comfort of offices in Virginia. But the elimination of enemies - that's as old as history. Whether it is an enemy of the state being eliminated by state defense forces, or the opponents of a tyrant being tracked down by death squads, those who seek the swiftest "justice" have little time for legal process.

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New champions of the war cause
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, November 6, 2002

The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which is setting up its office on Capitol Hill this week, plans to announce its formal launch next week, according to its president, Randy Scheunemann, a veteran Republican Senate foreign policy staffer who until recently worked as a consultant to Rumsfeld on Iraq policy.

The committee appears to be a spin-off of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a front group consisting mainly of neo-conservative Jews and heavy-hitters from the Christian right, whose public recommendations on fighting the war against terrorism and US backing for Israel in the conflict in the occupied territories have anticipated to a remarkable degree the administration's own policy course.

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Partnering with Pakistan
Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange, November 5, 2002

It's tough for even the best public relations outfits to spin really bad news. Recent examples like the surprisingly good showing of Islamic fundamentalists in current elections, a New York Times story claiming Pakistan sold equipment to North Korea enhancing its nuclear weapons capabilities, and reports that al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are now operating out of Pakistan, are either: a) a PR firm's biggest nightmare, b) a welcome and challenging task, c) financially rewarding, or d) all of the above. Whether there's bad news to spin or good news to promote, you can depend on a well-paid PR firm to step up to the plate.

Dan Pero, a founding partner in the newly established Sterling International Consulting Corporation, which recently inked a month-by-month media relations contract with Pakistan, told me he was "excited about the possibilities" and "anxious to tell" Pakistan's story." As Pero sees it, the story is about how a "key ally of the U.S. in the war against terrorism" is moving closer toward democracy.

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Project for the New American Century's Present Danger serves as blueprint for Bush Doctrine
Tom Barry, Foreign Policy in Focus, October 31, 2002

"Warlike intervention by civilized powers would contribute directly to the peace of the world."

This type of bellicose formulation of U.S. foreign policy could have easily come from any member of Bush's foreign policy team. One thinks first of the hawks like Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney, or Richard Perle. But it could just as easily have been a statement by the president himself or by the moderate conservatives like Colin Powell or Richard Armitrage when referring to U.S. plans to wage war on Iraq.

This "war for peace" doctrine, however, came from the U.S. president whom neoconservatives honor as America's model of an "internationalist" president: Teddy Roosevelt--the hero who led the famous charge up "San Juan Hill" in Cuba and championed the Spanish-American War of 1898, which made the U.S. an imperial power with territorial possessions around the world. Here was a man who was unapologetic about power and its uses. "All the great masterful races have been fighting races," boasted Roosevelt, "And no triumph of peace is quite so great as the triumphs of war."

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This is moral clarity?
Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post, November 5, 2002

Thank goodness for moral clarity. President Bush's black-and-white picture of the war on terror has apparently made sense of Russia's complicated struggle with the Chechens. The White House offered its wholehearted support to President Vladimir Putin in the aftermath of the Moscow theater siege, despite accounts of a heavy-handed Russian operation that had little regard for the lives of the hostages or the terrorists. (The latter were shot dead despite being unconscious.) But that's all understandable. Russia is, after all, fighting terrorism.

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Drones of death
Bush takes the law into his own hands

Lead Editorial, The Guardian, November 6, 2002

Zap! Pow! The bad guys are dead. And they never knew what hit them. Living his presidency like Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, George Bush etched another notch in his gun butt this week, blowing away six "terrorists" in Yemen's desert. Their car was incinerated by a Hellfire missile, fired by a CIA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone. Dealing out death via remote-controlled flying robots could be the spooks' salvation after the September 11 and Afghan intelligence flops. It makes the agency look useful. It is quick and bodybag-free. It is new wave hi-tech, a 21st century equivalent of James Bond's Aston Martin. And the hit had full authority, right from the top, judging by Mr Bush's comments. The president is keen on hunting down America's foes, on the ugly old premise that the only good Injun is a dead Injun. For redskin, read al-Qaida. It is part, he says, of his anti-terrorist war-without-end. All the world's a battlefield for Mr Bush. The United States of America, 001: licensed to kill.

Zap! Ping! Even as the bullets ricochet, it should be said there are some problems with this approach to international peacekeeping. For a start, it is illegal.

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The secret war
Frustrated by intelligence failures, the Defense Department is dramatically expanding its 'black world' of covert operations

William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2002

In what may well be the largest expansion of covert action by the armed forces since the Vietnam era, the Bush administration has turned to what the Pentagon calls the "black world" to press the war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised. Spy planes and ships are being assigned new missions in anti-terror and monitoring the "axis of evil."

The increasingly dominant role of the military, Pentagon officials say, reflects frustration at the highest levels of government with the performance of the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and much of the burgeoning homeland security apparatus. It also reflects the desire of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to gain greater overall control of the war on terror.

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The purpose of the war
James Carroll, Boston Globe, November 5, 2002

Confusion still reigns over America's war aim, and this week's home-stretch debate at the UN Security Council shows it. Does the Bush administration want ''regime change'' or disarmament? Despite President Bush's callow equation last month that disarmament is regime change, the two purposes are not only different; they can work against each other. Such confusion is typical of the careless Bush mind, but in this circumstance it is dangerous. Perhaps there is something to learn from another time when public and private perceptions of America's war purpose became confused at the crucial moment - with tragic results.

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How the world sees Americans
Suzy Hansen, Salon, November 6, 2002

There's a wonderful moment in Mark Hertsgaard's new book, "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World," when foreigners' complex feelings about the United States --- why they hate us, why they love us and why it usually isn't either/or -- come into startling focus. A 32-year-old Capetown bus driver happily informs Hertsgaard that every township in South Africa has two street gangs named the Young Americans and the Ugly Americans. The difference? "The Young Americans dress like Americans," the driver, named Malcolm, explained. "The Ugly Americans shoot like Americans."

Of course, those are street gangs. Still, the scene gets to the heart of Hertsgaard's argument: The rest of the world maintains multifaceted and sophisticated perceptions of the world's lone superpower. They readily distinguish between the official face of the American government (who they tend to disagree with and fear) and American people, pop culture and values (which they tend to adore and emulate). Obviously, those who despise the United States make appearances in "The Eagle's Shadow," such as a trio of Egyptian ex-terrorists who will hardly speak to Hertsgaard. Unless it's to sing the praises of Kirk Douglas, that is.

It's the world's superpower, Hertsgaard stresses, that has a childlike understanding of everyone else.

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US braces for retaliation after Yemen assassination
Greg Miller, Sydney Morning Herald, November 7, 2002

The CIA's assassination in Yemen of alleged al-Qaeda operatives has triggered outrage in some quarters and forced United States officials into the difficult position of defending a tactic it has criticised Israel for using.

For years, a debate raged within the CIA: should the US hunt down and kill its terrorist foes or would Israeli-style "targeted killings" only invite retribution and feed an endless cycle of violence?

The debate ended on Sunday when the CIA incinerated an alleged al-Qaeda leader, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, and five other alleged operatives with a laser-guided Hellfire missile, fired from an unmanned drone aircraft.

Even those who applauded the strike said it was sure to inflame militant Muslims, including those belonging to the al-Qaeda network, and expose US diplomats and other overseas officials to possible retaliation. On Tuesday the US said it was closing its embassy in Yemen to the public indefinitely amid fears it might become a target for an attack to retaliate for the killings.

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Should we go to war just because we can?
Andrew Cockburn, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2002

Faced with Saddam Hussein, the former teenage hit man from Tikrit, our government appears to feel the need to talk as tough as any Tikriti. Ari Fleischer, speaking from the White House briefing room, calls for "one bullet" to take care of the Iraqi leader; George Bush talks blithely of "taking him out"; and Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, recently, according to Ha'aretz, assured a visiting Israeli lawmaker: "We'll be rid of the bastard soon enough, and in his place we'll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you."

Such violent sentiments are not necessarily a reaction to Hussein's well-documented cruelty. We can, after all, be understanding about such foibles among our friends. The gassing of the Kurds was greeted with barely more than a bleat of protest from Washington, as was his earlier use of chemical weapons in the war with Iran, but we were allies then. It took Hussein's apparent bid for control of the world oil market by invading Kuwait to turn him into "Hitler," capable, as was faithfully reported in the propaganda buildup to the last Gulf War, of tossing Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators. That myth, dreamed up by the PR firm Hill and Knowlton, was exposed soon after it had served its purpose. Others, such as the notion that Hussein is both ready and able to unleash some super-weapon on the United States, have proved more enduring.

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The cost of war
Bill Moyers, Now (PBS), October 18, 2002

Our Secretary of Defense has a plaque on his desk that says, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." I don't think so.

To launch an armada against Hussein's own hostages, a people who have not fired a shot at us in anger, seems a crude and poor alternative to shrewd, disciplined diplomacy.

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The great divide: Reservoirs of hate
David Grossman, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2002

Israel is worse off than at any time in the last 35 years. Its security, economy and national mood are in decline. Yet Sharon, its failure of a prime minister, remains an overwhelmingly popular man in the country, even after the collapse last week of his coalition government. There's a simple explanation. He has succeeded -- with no little help from Palestinian terrorism -- in getting the Israeli people to restrict their view of their complex conflict with the Palestinians to a single question. Israelis now think solely about their personal security. It's certainly an issue of decisive importance, especially in the current state of affairs. Yet Sharon's political cunning is such that he has succeeded in reducing it to a single dimension, so that the only answer to the great and complicated question, "How does Israel make itself secure?" is: "By force."

That is the field of Sharon's expertise. Force, more force and only force. The result is that any time some small spark of a chance appears, every time there is a decline in violence, Sharon rushes to carry out another "targeted liquidation" of another Palestinian commander, and the fire flares again. Any time that Palestinian representatives declare their willingness to renew negotiations and halt violence, the response from Sharon's office is dismissal and derision.

Sharon has loyal allies -- the extremists among the Palestinians, who are also quick to incite the street and send more and more suicide bombers to Israel's cities each time there seems to be a respite. Each side is thus playing on the fears and despair of the other, each chasing the other around the familiar vicious circle: The more violence increases, the less chance there is of persuading people on either side that there is any chance of an accommodation, and that makes the violence spiral up to an even higher level.

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Back door to Bush
Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, November 4, 2002

Which foreign leader has had the maximum Oval Office access to George W. Bush? Yes, Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin have had plenty of face time, but when it comes to crossing the White House threshold, the undisputed champion is Ariel Sharon. In 17 months, Israel's prime minister has made the trip to Washington no fewer than seven times. [...]

"As far as I can remember -- I can look back for many years now -- I think we have never had such relations with any president of the United States as we have with you," he told Bush before the assembled media. "We never had such a cooperation in everything as we have had with the current administration."

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Attack Iran the day Iraq war ends, demands Israel
Stephen Farrell, Robert Thomson and Danielle Haas, The Times, November 5, 2002

Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called on the international community to target Iran as soon as the imminent conflict with Iraq is complete.

In an interview with The Times , Mr Sharon insisted that Tehran one of the "axis of evil" powers identified by President Bush should be put under pressure "the day after" action against Baghdad ends because of its role as a "centre of world terror". He also issued his clearest warning yet that Israel would strike back if attacked by Iraqi chemical or biological weapons, no matter how much Washington sought to keep its controversial Middle Eastern ally out of any war in Iraq.

See also Interview with Sharon

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Turkey's voters have delivered the 'wrong' result
Robert Fisk, The Independent, November 5, 2002

After the Taliban's chums enter the Pakistan parliament, the Islamists are back in Turkey. Who said that fundamentalism is dead? No, the victory of Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is not a specifically anti-American vote corruption and economic collapse produced its 350 seats in the 540-seat Turkish parliament. But opposition to corruption and economic collapse lay behind the Pakistani vote, too. Indeed, it is the foundation for almost every Islamist opposition vote in the Middle East, the desire to destroy the cancer which infects almost every pro-American regime in the region.

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Moving in for the kill
The Allies' war machine is pushing inexorably towards Iraq

Peter Beaumont and Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer, November 3, 2002

According to defence sources and independent analysts, all the evidence points to US forces being readied for war by mid-December at the latest.

'There are a lot of very active preparations for war under way,' said one defence official. 'Everything is being moved rapidly into place so that the US and its allies can strike almost immediately should Bush decide that time has run out for the UN and its inspectors.'

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Allies find no links between Iraq, Al Qaeda
Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 2002

As the Bush administration prepares for a possible military attack on Iraq that it describes as the next logical step in its war on terror, some of its strongest front-line allies in that war dispute Washington's allegations that the Baghdad regime has significant ties to Al Qaeda.

In recent interviews, top investigative magistrates, prosecutors, police and intelligence officials who have been fighting Al Qaeda in Europe said they are concerned about attempts by President Bush and his aides to link Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden's terror network.

"We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda," said Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the French judge who is the dean of the region's investigators after two decades fighting Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorists. "And we are working on 50 cases involving Al Qaeda or radical Islamic cells. I think if there were such links, we would have found them. But we have found no serious connections whatsoever."

Even in Britain, a loyal U.S. partner in the campaign against Iraq, it's hard to find anyone in the government making the case that Al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime are close allies. In fact, European counter-terrorist veterans who are working with American counterparts worry that an attack on Iraq, especially a unilateral U.S. invasion, would worsen the threat of radical Islamic terrorism worldwide and impede their work.

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Israel quietly helping U.S. prepare for war with Iraq
John Diamond, USA Today, November 4, 2002

Israel is secretly playing a key role in U.S. preparations for possible war with Iraq, helping train soldiers and Marines for urban warfare, conducting clandestine surveillance missions in the western Iraqi desert and allowing the United States to place combat supplies in Israel, according to U.S. Defense and intelligence officials.

The activities are designed to help shorten any U.S.-led war with Iraq and reduce the risk that Israel would be attacked during such a conflict. Israel's involvement is highly sensitive. The perception that the United States is working with the Jewish state to wage war against a Muslim country could undercut the already shaky support for an invasion among friendly Arab states.

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15,000 protest attack on Iraq
Michele Kurtz, Globe Staff and Benjamin Gedan, Boston Globe, November 4, 2002

An estimated 15,000 protesters converged on Boston Common yesterday for a three-hour rally to demonstrate against a possible US war with Iraq. The turnout, estimated by police, rivaled any Boston peace rally since the Gulf War, organizers said.

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Group drums up Iraq war support
Seeks to reverse decline in support for attacking Iraq

Peter Slevin, Washington Post, November 4, 2002

The administration is determined to avoid a repeat of August when they ceded the stage to opponents of military action in Iraq and found themselves racing to announce their case against Hussein. Cheney delivered a public indictment of Hussein at the end of August, while Bush presented a bill of particulars to the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly two weeks later.

"There's going to be a huge need in the post-election vacuum to make sure that what happened in August doesn't happen in November and December," said Randy Scheunemann, executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He said Capitol Hill offices have been "getting a lot of calls against and not many for." The White House declined to release its call records.

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John Pilger interview
David Barsamian, The Progressive, November, 2002

Q: In your new book, you talk about the group around Bush that is essentially forming war policy, people like Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. You single out Richard Perle, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense in Reagan's Pentagon. You highlighted his comment "This is total war."

Pilger: I interviewed Perle when he was buzzing around the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, and I was struck by how truly fanatical this man was. He was then voicing the views of total war. All of Bush's extremism comes from the Reagan years. That's why people like Perle, Wolfowitz, and other refugees from that period have found favor again. I singled out Perle in the book because I thought he rather eloquently described the policies of the Bush regime. September 11 has given these people, this clique, an opportunity from heaven. They never really believed they would have the legitimacy to do what they are doing. They don't, of course, have legitimacy because most of the world is opposed to what they are doing. But they believe it has given them if not a legitimacy then a constituency in the United States.

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Israel committed war crimes in West Bank, rights group says
John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, November 4, 2002

There is "clear evidence" that Israeli soldiers and their commanders committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians -- including unlawful killings and torture -- during a three-month campaign last spring in two Palestinian cities in the West Bank, the human rights group Amnesty International charges in a report to be released Monday.

In a study of Israeli army operations in the cities of Jenin and Nablus from April to June, the human rights group cites the killing of Palestinian women and children, the "wanton" destruction of houses, the torture of Palestinian prisoners and the use of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers as "human shields" during military operations. The group says in the report these constitute violations of the Geneva Conventions.

See also Israeli Defence Force war crimes must be investigated by Amnesty International.

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No road from Munich to Iraq
Gerhard L. Weinberg, Washington Post, November 3, 2002

For those intent on waging war against Iraq, the word "Munich" is shorthand for "appeasement." It has been brandished against those -- be they European governments, leading congressional Democrats, or cautious Republicans and State Department officials -- who are not fervently committed to a U.S.-led battle to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Yet those who talk of Munich -- site of France and Britain's attempt at pacifying Nazi Germany before World War II -- in the context of today do little justice either to the dilemma of those who negotiated with Adolf Hitler then or to those who must weigh the need for military action today. Rather than adding depth to our debate, this historical analogy has been deployed in a shallow way to intimidate political foes as much as the enemies who mean us actual harm.

What is the real meaning of Munich, and what does it have to do with current questions of war and peace?

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The making of an activist
Lisa Pollak, Baltimore Sun, November 2, 2002

Last weekend's anti-war rally in Washington is being called the largest since the Vietnam era, and the familiar faces were well-represented: Quakers and Greens, socialists and anarchists. There were boa-wearing roller skaters, an Uncle Sam on stilts, dreadlocked college students playing bongos.

But Laura Brodie - mother, English professor, wife of VMI's band director - was there, too, and so were plenty of people who looked just like her. She didn't join the chants of "Drop Bush, Not Bombs!" but her cries of "No War!" were as loud as anyone's. Maybe louder. Hers is the voice of the newly awakened activist, resolute and hopeful. She believes in the process, in her ability to make a difference. While others may grow cynical in the face of defeat, she finds inspiration in the smallest victories, in the increasing number of like-minded voices stepping up to be heard.

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Distant voices tell of life for Britons caged in Camp Delta
Letters to families reveal hunger strikes and suicides in US jail for terror suspects

Paul Harris and Burhan Wazir, The Observer, November 3, 2002

Nearly all the prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan by American soldiers and spies. But there is a growing belief that many of the 620 inmates are not terrorists. Some were pressganged into fighting for the Taliban; others were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At night arc lights shine on the complex. But, despite the 24-hour light, the prison is hidden from the outside world. It lies on an American naval base and the only viewing point is 100 metres away. Held within are men from 38 nations. Some are in their seventies, one is only 15. Each man spends 30 minutes a week showering and exercising; the rest of the time he is alone in a cell measuring 8ft by 6ft 8in.

A prisoner raising his voice is sent to 'the cooler': a metal box just big enough to move in. An isolation wing houses 80 prisoners. In the main wings, prisoners move cell every few weeks to prevent them forming relationships with other inmates. Any trips to the camp's clinic involve the prisoner being shackled to a trolley and wheeled out of his cell. He is then chained to the hospital bed. Prisoners are exercised, shackled at the ankles, waist and hands. Guards hold each man's arms as he walks.

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