The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Inspectors' mission faces long odds
Ed Vulliamy and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, November 17, 2002

In their rooms at the Flamingo Hotel in Cyprus the first team of UN weapons inspectors are making preparations for their flight to Baghdad tomorrow.

As they receive their final briefings and pack their bags they will know two things.

First, that they will be embarking on the most important mission ever undertaken by UN weapons inspectors, a mission which will determine whether the world faces a devastating war against Iraq or an imperfect and difficult peace.

Second, they will be aware that there are many senior officials in the US administration desperate for them to fail so they can start their war to depose Saddam Hussein.

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Bin Laden is alive. There can be no doubt about it. But the questions remain: where on earth is he, and why has he resurfaced now?
Robert Fisk, The Independent, November 14, 2002

The Middle East is entering a new and ever more tragic phase of its history, torn apart by the war between Israelis and Palestinians and facing the incendiary effects of a possible Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Bin Laden must have realised the need to address once more the Arab world – and his audiotape, despite the direct threats to Britain and other Western countries, is primarily directed towards his most important audience, Arab Muslims. His silence at this moment in Middle East history would have been inexcusable in Bin Laden's eyes.

And just to counter the predictable counter-claims that his tape could be old, he energetically listed the blows struck at Western powers since his presumed "death". The bombings of French submarine technicians in Karachi, the synagogue in Tunisia, Bali, the Chechen theatre siege in Moscow, even the killing of the US diplomat in Jordan. Yes, he is saying, I know about all these things. He is saying he approves. He is telling us he is still here. Arabs may deplore this violence, but few will not feel some pull of emotions. Amid Israel's brutality towards Palestinians and America's threats towards Iraq, at least one Arab is prepared to hit back. That is his message to Arabs.

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Iraqi army is tougher than US believes
Toby Dodge, The Guardian, November 16, 2002

With just two days to go before the UN weapons inspectors arrive in Baghdad, George Bush's administration is still beating the war drum. On Thursday night, Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, confidently predicted that, should a war erupt, the Iraqi army would soon surrender in the face of overwhelming US force. He noted that in the first Gulf war, when allied forces pushed Iraq out of Kuwait, ground combat had lasted only 100 hours.

"I can't say if the use of force would last five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that," he said. "It won't be a world war three."

You have always got to hope for minimum loss of life in any war, but Mr Rumsfeld's prognosis about the speed of an Iraqi army collapse is ideologically driven and strategically ill-informed.

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Iraq: The economic consequences of war
William D. Nordhaus, New York Review of Books, December 5, 2002

The United States is marching, two steps forward and one step backward, toward war with Iraq. The Bush administration has articulated its reasons for war, but has produced no official estimates of the costs. Although cost estimates are often ignored when war is debated, most people recognize that the costs in dollars, and especially in blood, are acceptable only as long as they are low. If the estimates of American casualties mount to the thousands, if the costs to the economy are major tax increases or a deep recession, or if the United States becomes a pariah in the world because of callous attacks on civilian populations, then decision-makers in the White House and the Congress might not post so expeditiously to battle.

In views of the salience of cost, it is surprising that there have been no systematic public analyses of the economics of a military conflict in Iraq. This essay attempts to fill the gap.

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Where first strikes are far from the last resort
Aluf Benn, Washington Post, November 10, 2002

This week, a senior Israeli delegation will travel to Washington for a periodic "strategic dialogue." The "day after Iraq" scenarios will top the agenda. For the Israelis, it will be another moment of sweet vindication, because the "day before" is not a matter of dispute between Washington and Jerusalem. The Bush administration has embraced Israel's broader strategic approach of preemption. The administration has shown a willingness to hunt down terrorists, attack nascent programs to develop weapons of mass destruction in other countries, and even invade nations to change their governments and deny safe havens to terrorists and other enemies, much as Israel has done for over 50 years.

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Afghanistan adrift politically, economically
Tom Squitieri, USA Today, November 14, 2002

U.S. and other Western officials like to point to Jamila Mujahed as a symbol of how successful the liberation of Afghanistan has been.

Within hours of the Taliban's leaving Kabul a year ago this week, Mujahed was one of the first Afghans to go on national radio and television — without the head-to-toe covering that the fundamentalist Islamic regime had required women to wear in public — to declare, "The Taliban are gone."

In February, she launched Afghanistan's first magazine for women. Foreign groups, applauding her efforts, have promised to provide support for her projects. Even so, Mujahed says the reality of her life is far different from the widely disseminated image. "I am in greater danger now than I was a year ago," says Mujahed, 39.

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Match game
America prepares to light the Iraqi fuse, Middle Eastern powder keg prepares to explode

Geov Parrish, WorkingForChange, November 15, 2002

A year ago this week, the Taliban abandoned Kabul, and the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance army entered Kabul. The Alliance, an ally of convenience for the combat-averse Americans, was a ragtag collection of warlords and former (and current) mass murderers whose entry into Kabul the Americans and British wished to avoid; they sensed, correctly, that giving Northern Alliance-affiliated warlords access to power in the first days of a post- Taliban occupation would make it nearly impossible to dislodge such people from power later. And thus it has been.

The U.S. media has largely ignored the Afghan anniversary, preferring to focus on the "drama" of Iraq's reluctant acceptance of a U.N. Security Council resolution whose provisions it had already said it would accept, and American officials' insistence that inspections won't work so why don't we just invade and get it over with. But the rest of the world has very much been paying attention; and what has happened in Afghanistan over the last year, and what is happening there and elsewhere in the region this week, underscore the treacheries awaiting any U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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The guns of Opa-Locka: How US dealers arm the world
Jake Bergman and Julia Reynolds, The Nation, November 14, 2002

Law enforcement officials describe the United States as a one-stop shop for the guns sought by terrorists, mercenaries and international criminals of all stripes. And September 11 has not changed that in any significant way. In fact, Attorney General John Ashcroft has refused to permit the use of gun purchase records to track crimes, a practice that the FBI had previously used and that conceivably could help to identify terrorists. Nor did Ashcroft propose closing gun loopholes as part of the USA Patriot Act. The result of the lax US system, says McBride, is "an ongoing cycle" in which weapons bought here end up fueling violence abroad, and in which America is regarded as the firearms "shopping center for the world."

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We have played straight into Bin Laden's hands
Adrian Hamilton, The Independent, November 15, 2002

We don't know how strong al-Qa'ida is, or indeed, how it is really run now. We don't even know for certain that Bin Laden, should he be alive (which we should probably assume he is), is in charge or capable of running a worldwide terror network.

What we do know is that Bin Laden would very much like to create an air of general fear in the West and that he would like to wrap up every local Muslim dissatisfaction in a general conflict between Islam and the West. He would also want America and Britain to invade Iraq and Israel to continue ever more violent "incursions" into Palestinian territory in order to prove his point.

He doesn't have to try too hard, the way we're behaving. It is astonishing that, having cornered Saddam Hussein and forced him to give in to a ferocious UN resolution, both Washington and London are saying that they don't believe him and that the war plans are still on, for all the world giving the impression that the object is forced regime change whatever he does. How do we think this goes down in a Muslim world that is already convinced that President Bush is pursuing a plan that has nothing to do with peace and everything to do with oil?

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Europe versus America
Edward Said, Al-Ahram, November 14, 2002

If you sit in Washington and have some connection to the country's power elites, the rest of the world is spread out before you like a map, inviting intervention anywhere and at any time. The tone in Europe is not only more moderate and thoughtful: it is also less abstract, more human, more complex and subtle.

Certainly Europe generally and Britain in particular have a much larger and more demographically significant Muslim population, whose views are part of the debate about war in the Middle East and against terrorism. So discussion of the upcoming war against Iraq tends to reflect their opinions and their reservations a great deal more than in America, where Muslims and Arabs are already considered to be on the "other side", whatever that may mean. And being on the other side means no less than supporting Saddam Hussein and being "un-American". Both of these ideas are abhorrent to Arab and Muslim-Americans, but the idea that to be an Arab or Muslim means blind support of Saddam and Al-Qa'eda persists nonetheless. (Incidentally, I know no other country where the adjective "un" is used with the nationality as a way of designating the common enemy. No one says unSpanish or unChinese: these are uniquely American confections that claim to prove that we all "love" our country. How can one actually "love" something so abstract and imponderable as a country anyway?).

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Go ahead Saddam, make Bush's day ...
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, November 14, 2002

It is entirely possible that [UN weapons inspector, Hans] Blix will report back to the council after 60 days, as mandated, and say that he has reached no firm conclusions and needs more time to pursue his inquiries. If the P5 [UN Security Council permanent five members] accept that assessment, bang goes the Pentagon's war schedule. Suddenly, there will be a rather large number of heavily-armed Americans sitting in and around the Gulf with not a lot to do except sunbathe.

Naturally, the Pentagon and perhaps the White House will be disinclined to accept such an outcome. It is also possible, though hopefully this will not happen, that US hardliners will use those parts of 1441 that do not relate entirely to inspections, to find other grounds for claiming a "material breach".

Such a trigger can be found in 1441s operational paragraph eight that states: "Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or of any member state taking action to uphold any council resolution". The ruling applies principally to the safety of the inspectors. It could also quite properly be read as prohibiting any Iraqi anti-aircraft or missile battery action, defensive or otherwise, against US or British aircraft currently patrolling the no-fly zones and mandated to do so by previous UN resolutions.

Incidents involving the two sides in the zones have been taking place on a regular basis in recent weeks. Now, if the Iraqis so much as illuminate an allied plane with their radar, this could be claimed by the US hawks as a cause for starting a war that may otherwise be slipping from their grasp.

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Have no doubt: terrorist leader is very much alive and more dangerous than ever
Abdel Bari Atwan, The Guardian, November 14, 2002

The recorded voice message from Osama bin Laden which was broadcast by al-Jazeera TV satellite channel confirms two highly important facts. The first is that he was not killed in the US bombing of the Tora Bora caves in Afghanistan. The second is that the American-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere has not achieved the aspired success of eliminating al-Qaida and bringing to justice its leaders such as Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

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Ashcroft's Law West -- and East -- of the Pecos
He is arbitrarily deciding who can be tried where

Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2002

If there is one legal principle that seems to guide Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, it is this: Possession is nine-tenths of the law.

In holding citizens and noncitizens, Ashcroft has claimed unilateral authority to dictate how and where they will be tried and, most important, executed.

In the last few weeks, he has taken this control to a new level, defying states and judges who do not conform to his demands for speedy justice.

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Is U.S. ready for Islamic democracy in Mideast?
Ian Urbina, Houston Chronicle, November 13, 2002

Those in favor of an Iraq invasion argue that a regime change will be the first step in bringing democracy to the Middle East. But unnoticed in all the recent national focus on Iraq, recent elections in Morocco, Bahrain, Turkey and Pakistan indicate that democracy, albeit in small increments, has already begun arriving in that region and parts of Islamic South Asia.

The question is whether we are prepared for what those elections may bring.

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You are a suspect
William Safire, New York Times, November 14, 2002

If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:

Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.

This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks.

Remember Poindexter? Brilliant man, first in his class at the Naval Academy, later earned a doctorate in physics, rose to national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan. He had this brilliant idea of secretly selling missiles to Iran to pay ransom for hostages, and with the illicit proceeds to illegally support contras in Nicaragua.

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Sounds of slumber from Washington
Akiva Eldar, Ha'aretz, November 11, 2002

There is one essential difference between Washington 1992 and Washington 2002, and this difference will have a decisive influence on the elections in Israel and on the fate of the country in the years to come.

Ten years ago, then U.S. president George Bush Snr. forced the Shamir government to decide which it deemed more important - the expansion of its settler citizens or the welfare of its weaker ones; close ties with the White House or with the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District.

The cry that this was an intervention in Israel's internal affairs was of no help to the Likud leaders. The plethora of rabbis and party bureaucrats who flocked to Capitol Hill were also unable to budge the president from his position that Israel can no longer eat the territory cake and keep its relations with (and aid from) the United States whole.

This sharp message helped tens of thousands of voters to drift into Rabin's arms. A harsh grating of this kind on the Jerusalem-Washington axis was enough to return the Labor Party to power.

Today, not only is the United States not even bothering to voice discontent with the outposts, the Bush administration is speaking to the settlement government about an increase in financial aid. No one in Washington kicked up much of a fuss on hearing Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement concerning the freezing of the "road map." In fact, the father of the map, Secretary of State Colin Powell himself, was quick to bestow his wishes for success on Israel's new foreign minister.

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A call to arms by an enemy of war against Iraq
Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, November 13, 2002

Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine and former U.N. arms inspector, peppered his Veterans Day talk at the University of Maryland with the kinds of questions and challenges that are known to fire up an audience.

"The average age of a lance corporal is 20," Ritter said. "The average age of a college student is 20." Calling the students in the audience "just kids," he asked who among them could wake up the next morning, look in the mirror and honestly say that "what's going on in Iraq is worthy of my life."

At the same time, did the students really know enough about Iraq to sit back silently while others go off to die for them? And did they really understand that war is not the Nintendo game that we see on television, that it is, in fact, about "terminating life" and nothing more?

Hundreds of people had filled a ballroom inside the Stamp Student Union to hear Ritter, a military man turned anti-war advocate who has been denounced by hawks as unpatriotic for his views. He was invited to speak by a campus organization, and his appearance drew a wide range of students from dozens of countries.

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'The Quiet American' should have a voice
Brett Dakin, International Herald Tribune, November 13, 2002

So you're a big movie producer and I'm a struggling screenwriter. Here's my pitch: The U.S. government sends a young, fresh-faced American to a far-off land in the midst of political turmoil. His mission: Make sure the good guys win. He can't speak the language, hasn't studied the culture. In fact, he hasn't really asked the people what they want. But he knows that America is right. So he gives money and weapons to the good guys and tries to help them remake the country in America's image. Before long, the U.S. military is deeply involved. American soldiers are dying, and Americans begin to question why the young man was ever sent there in the first place.

This is perfect, you say. With the United States mired in Afghanistan and about to go to war with Iraq, this story touches on everything Americans are worried about today. Why hasn't someone made this movie already?

In fact, someone has. The Australian director Phillip Noyce's film adaptation of Graham Greene's 1955 novel, "The Quiet American," is set in Saigon during the early years of America's involvement in Vietnam. Starring Brendan Fraser as a young American intelligence officer, the film critically examines the U.S. role in Vietnam's civil war. Ultimately, the title character is implicated in acts of terrorism that result in the deaths of innocent Vietnamese; under the guise of a U.S. medical aid program, he imports the plastics used to make the bombs. "The Quiet American" has been finished for more than a year, and it was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival. Critics at home and abroad have raved.

But Americans still can't see it.

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Tricked and bamboozled into war
The west's warlords will get their invasion, in spite of global opinion

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, November 13, 2002

Casualty lists are usually compiled after the battle. But since the coming war in Iraq has been so heavily trailed, it is possible to identify its victims in advance - or pre-emptively, to use one of George Bush's favourite words.

The casualties of Desert Storm II, physical and figurative, will include Iraqi civilians and combatants on both sides; the people of Israel and of sidelined Palestine; Kurdish hopes of self-rule; Iran's pro-western civil reform movement; the entire region's security, living standards and environment if chemical or biological weapons are used; the Arab and Muslim world's already strained relationship with "Christendom"; state sovereignty as defined in international law; and democracy.

Of these, the more lasting damage may be to democracy for it is in that cause, and under that supposedly liberating banner, that this war of "disarmament" will ultimately be fought. Yet it is dysfunctional democracy of the bowdlerised variety currently practised in the US, Britain, the UN and elsewhere that has brought the world to the brink.

The war's protagonists will claim a mandate that in truth they have not secured by either vote or argument. They will say their policy, debated and discussed, has moral and constitutional force. In fact they have manipulated the democratic machinery and simply rejected opposing views.

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War games
Ed Halter, Village Voice, November 13, 2002

The military isn't just about high-tech warfare anymore. It's also investing millions of dollars in high-tech entertainment. One national theater chain recently showcased a big-budget military promotional film, beamed in via satellite, to boost national morale. Now, the army is courting new recruits through state-of-the-art war-based video games. Post-bust, it looks like new media is quickly finding its place in the New World Order. Get ready for the next generation of wartime propaganda.
For about a month beginning in mid September, attendees of Regal Cinemas chains in Los Angeles, Denver, Knoxville, and New York (local venues included the UAs at Union Square and 64th and Second) were treated to a bit of unabashedly patriotic agitprop, courtesy of the U.S. military. Sporting the blockbuster title Enduring Freedom: The Opening Chapter, the five-minute short is the first military-produced promotional film to hit commercial theaters since World War II.

Cut with TV-commercial rhythm and set to a symphonic score that veers from ominous to schmaltzy, this mini-movie flies through a ratta-tat-tat barrage of images from the world-spanning war on terror. Jointly financed by the marines and the navy with a $1.2 million budget, Enduring Freedom follows the actions of anti-terrorist squads stationed in the Indian Ocean and Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as soldiers on domestic bases. Thanks to director Klaus Obermeyer Jr. and the rebelliously named, Santa Monica-based production company American Rogue Films, Enduring Freedom rocks guy-friendly extreme-pop attitude. But there's a soft side too: Images of teary-eyed, flag-waving military moms evoke vintage early-'90s support-our-troops yellow-ribbonism. The only overtly violent footage is an opening clip of a jet ramming into a WTC tower—home video blown up to create a mocking low-resolution echo of Hollywood blockbusters—shamelessly used to renew fear and thereby justify everything else seen in the film.

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UN inspection team 'cannot prevent war'
Ewen MacAskill and Edward Pilkington, The Guardian, November 13, 2002

A key foreign affairs adviser to the Bush administration expressed serious doubts last night about the ability of the United Nations inspection team to hunt down Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and thus avert an war.

Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser and a close associate of the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, said in an interview with the Guardian that the inspectors had only a slim chance of competing against Saddam Hussein. He criticised the chief arms inspector, Hans Blix, saying he was an unsuitable candidate for such a crucial task, and warned that the inspection team would be outnumbered and outwitted.

With less than one week to go before Unmovic (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission) reaches Baghdad, the sharp criticisms of such an influential voice on Iraq reveal the depth of scepticism within Washington about the ability of the UN to avoid war.

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Pre-emption: Should USA punch first?
Alan J. Kuperman, USA Today, November 12, 2002

Imagine: National security officials tell the president that our adversary possesses rudimentary weapons of mass destruction and is fast developing more sophisticated ones. The enemy already has used military force to occupy neighboring countries. Moreover, he has ruthlessly killed millions of his own people to wipe out domestic opposition.

Hawkish advisers say the only way to stop him from becoming an even greater threat is to attack now -- preventively.

I hate to ruin the suspense, but the outcome is already known. The case does not involve Saddam Hussein or George W. Bush. Rather, the adversary was the Soviet Union of the late 1940s. The dictator was Josef Stalin, who occupied Eastern Europe, perpetrated massive purges and ethnic cleansing and was on the verge of adding nuclear weapons. The president contemplating a first strike was Harry Truman.

Fortunately, by rejecting that option, Truman averted World War III. Instead, the USA pursued containment and deterrence policies that protected us until the Soviet's flawed government imploded.

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A half million in Florence
Where was the US press?

Maria Tomchick, November 12, 2002

The atmosphere was "like a carnival," an Associated Press reporter wrote, "with food stands, exhibits, and street theater along with the discussion of free trade and war."

Over half a million people turned out in the streets of Florence, Italy to protest globalization and the impending war between the U.S. and Iraq. The massive, peaceful street demonstration on November 9th was an unexpected climax to the four-day European Social Forum, sister to the World Social Forum held earlier this year in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Press from all over Europe and the world gathered to cover the event ... but the U.S. press fumbled the ball.

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Iraq invasion will trigger 'human catastrophe,' report warns
George Edmonson, Toronto Sun, November 12, 2002

A report to be released today predicts that an invasion of Iraq could lead to a "human catastrophe" with casualties as high as 250,000 within the first three months.

"Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq" was prepared largely by Medact, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The U.S. affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, also was involved. Most of the estimated casualties would be Iraqi civilians caught in the bombing, said Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman in Massachusetts for the International Physicians organization. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for what the committee called its "considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.''

The study also looks at the impact of an invasion on the public health system and necessities such as agriculture, water and energy, he said.

"We're saying that there'll be a very large short-term impact and an even more profound longer-term impact," Schaeffer said. "The report uses the word `human catastrophe' even if it does not escalate to the level of poison gas, civil war or nuclear weapons.''

The estimates of casualties, he said, range from a low of 50,000 up to 250,000.

See also Collateral Damage: the health and environmental costs of war on Iraq

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Officials question FBI terror readiness
Dana Priest and Dan Eggen, Washington Post, November 12, 2002

With intelligence agencies predicting that Iraq and sympathetic Islamic extremists will attempt to launch terrorist attacks against the United States in the event of war, many government officials are growing concerned that the FBI is dangerously unprepared to detect or thwart strikes on U.S. soil.

Fourteen months after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, the FBI does not have a detailed understanding of domestic terrorist networks that could fund, prepare and launch revenge attacks, said administration and congressional officials and outside experts.

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Everybody loves Arik
Yoel Marcus, Ha'aretz, November 12, 2002

During Sharon's 20 months in office, the country has skidded downhill in every possible sphere: The economy is six-feet under. More Israelis have been killed in Mr. Security's day than under any other prime minister. The man has never come up with a peace initiative. We've been turned into untouchables in the eyes of just about the whole world.

And despite it all, everybody still loves Arik.

According to all the polls and all the data, and that includes gut feelings, Sharon will clobber Bibi and Labor combined, and climb back into the prime minister's seat. We could add another line to an old refrain: Those who didn't want Sharon as prime minister once will get him as prime minister twice.

Most of the public doesn't seem to connect the bungles and the terrible plight of this country with Sharon. It's as if he has nothing to do with any of it, as if none of the screw-ups were his fault. The terror, the intifada, the lack of a partner for dialogue - all of it simply fell on him out of the blue.

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The intrigue behind the drone strike
Philip Smucker, Christian Science Monitor, November 12, 2002

The attack fits Washington's new vision of preemptive strikes on terrorists, but it infuriated Yemeni officials.

They are angry over the way the US ambassador handled both the intelligence-gathering phase of the operation and after the fact, when senior US officials, including Assistant Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, violated a secrecy agreement by taking credit for the Hellfire strike.

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Pentagon plans a computer system that would peek at personal data of Americans
John Markoff, New York Times, November 9, 2002

The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe — including the United States.

As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter [who received criminal indictments in 1988 in the Iran-Contra scandal], has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.

Historically, military and intelligence agencies have not been permitted to spy on Americans without extraordinary legal authorization. But Admiral Poindexter, the former national security adviser in the Reagan administration, has argued that the government needs broad new powers to process, store and mine billions of minute details of electronic life in the United States.

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The war on academic freedom
Kristine McNeil, The Nation, November 11, 2002

The year since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act has brought an ever-growing enemies list from our nation's thought police. First there was Senator Joseph Lieberman and Lynne Cheney's American Council of Trustees and Alumni report unveiled last November--"Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It." The forty-three-page document purports to advocate the preservation of academic freedom and dissent while being all about suppressing both when the views expressed conflict with blind support for US foreign policy.

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Star Wars spending spree
Billions for Missile Defense, peanuts for anti-terrorism

Fred Kaplan, Slate, November 7, 2002

With all the concern about dirty bombs, bioterrorism, and suicide bombers smashing airplanes into power plants, the public has pretty much forgotten about the Pentagon's ballistic-missile-defense program. (Wasn't that some nutty dream of Ronald Reagan's?) So, it may come as a shock to learn that President Bush will spend $7.4 billion on R&D for missile defenses next year. That's twice the sum that Reagan spent on "star wars" in his final year of office—and for a system that remains sketchily defined and technologically dubious, against an unlikely threat that lies years, if not decades, off. Meanwhile, to defend against "weapons of mass destruction" that we all fear might blow up on American streets next week, the administration is spending—well, not quite zip, but far, far less than would be needed for a minimally serious effort, on technology that exists right now.

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No thank you, Mr. Bush
Sinan Antoon, Foreign Policy in Focus, November 11, 2002

If one learns anything from living under a totalitarian system it is how to decipher the news and sift through official propaganda. Iraqis like myself have been doing that for almost three decades. Most of us listen to Arabic-language foreign radio stations like the BBC and Voice Of America, and follow the international news on a daily basis. So the painful experiences of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, two devastating wars, and over a decade of the harshest sanctions in human history have showed us, time and again, the gap between words and deeds among those who proclaim to be our champions and potential liberators.

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Sovereignty takes a contract hit
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, November 12, 2002

Almost lost in President George W Bush's twin triumphs in last week's Congressional elections and at the United Nations Security Council were two events that offer a glimpse into the new world imperial order being built by the administration.

While senior officials have long insisted that they want to rejuvenate a global system of strong nation states that exercise full sovereignty over their borders as the preferred alternative to "global government", the two incidents help illustrate how far Washington will go in interfering with that sovereignty to further its own interests.

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After Iraq, Bush will attack his real target
Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun, November 10, 2002

President George Bush wrapped himself in the American flag and won a major victory last week as U.S. voters gave control of both houses of Congress to the Republican party. In mid-term elections, the party in power almost always fares badly, but this year an electorate, gripped by fear of terrorism, and whipped into war fever by high-voltage propaganda, voted Republican. Thank you Osama and Saddam.

One poignant photo said it all: Georgia's defeated Democratic senator, Max Cleland, sitting in a wheelchair, missing both legs and an arm lost in combat in Vietnam. This highly decorated hero was defeated by a Vietnam war draft-dodger who had the audacity to accuse Cleland of being "unpatriotic" after the senator courageously voted against giving Bush unlimited war-related powers. I do not recall a more shameful moment in American politics.

Bush's victory is clearly a mandate to proceed with his crusade against Iraq. Preparations for war are in an advanced stage. The U.S. has been quietly moving heavy armour and mechanized units from Europe to the Mideast. Three division equivalents and a Marine heavy brigade are now in theatre. An armada of U.S. warplanes is assembling around Iraq, which is bombed almost daily. U.S. special forces are operating in northern Iraq, and, along with Israeli scout units, in Iraq's western desert near the important H2 airbase. The war could begin as early as mid-December if there is no coup against Saddam Hussein.

But for all the propaganda about wicked Saddam, Iraq is not the main objective for the small but powerful coterie of Pentagon hardliners driving the Bush administration's national security policy. Nor is it for their intellectual and emotional peers in Israel's right-wing Likud party. The real target of the coming war is Iran, which Israel views as its principal and most dangerous enemy. Iraq merely serves as a pretext to whip America into a war frenzy and to justify insertion of large numbers of U.S. troops into Mesopotamia.

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Building a war: As some argue, supply lines fill up
William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2002

In all the to-and-fro of debate over whether the United States should or will wage war against Iraq, almost no one was paying attention to Maj. Gen. Kenneth Privratsky. Outside the tight little world of the Military Traffic Management Command, almost no one had even heard of him. Yet Privratsky's former assignment may tell us more about the true intent and direction of the Bush administration than all the diplomatic pronouncements, political maneuvers and United Nations debates put together.

Privratsky was busy shipping thousands of tons of military equipment and supplies to the network of new U.S. bases that have sprung up like dragon's teeth across Central Asia and the Middle East. Among the resources he was using was the Russian railway system.

"I never imagined that I would be involved in shipping cargo through Russia," the former Traffic Command chief says, seeming a little awed to have found himself running Army supply trains through the heartland of his former Cold War enemy.

An army marches on its stomach, Napoleon famously observed. There is no more voracious military stomach than the U.S. armed forces. And since the war on terrorism began with Americans fighting in Afghanistan, the Defense Department has moved with notable agility to extend its globe-girdling capacity to march. It is this massive buildup of military capabilities -- and the way it ropes in reluctant partners, sometimes publicly and sometimes privately -- that shows where senior officials in the Bush administration are headed.

Some analysts have suggested that U.N. weapons inspections may reduce the likelihood of war. That is not how senior White House and Pentagon officials see it. None believes Saddam Hussein will permit effective inspections, but they see the U.N. effort as a win-win situation: The inspections process will improve the political climate for eventual action and buy time for the Pentagon to get ready. The war that Bush and his team think is necessary and inevitable will thus come with the approval of both Congress and the U.N. Meanwhile, one of the main practical obstacles to war with Iraq will have been dealt with: The enormous infrastructure needed to supply and sustain today's armed forces against Iraq is being constructed on the foundations of the system created for the war in Afghanistan.

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U.N. Security Council split on meaning of Iraq vote
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, November 8, 2002

Despite unanimously supporting a U.S. resolution on arms inspections in Iraq, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council still appeared split Friday on the possible outcomes of the move.

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At Navy school in Monterey, voices of skepticism about Iraq war
Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 2002

When former Secretary of the Navy James Webb gave a speech last Thursday at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey slamming the Bush administration's threatened war with Iraq, an outsider might have expected the officers assembled there to give him a frosty reception.

In fact, the opposite occurred. The respectful, admiring welcome he received gave an unusual, somewhat counterintuitive glimpse into the often- closed world of the U.S. military. Among the Naval Postgraduate School's students and faculty, at least, it seems that independent, critical thinking is alive and well.

Granted, Webb is no outsider. A much-decorated former Marines officer, he became assistant defense secretary and secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration -- quitting the latter job in 1988 to protest budget cutbacks in the Navy's fleet expansion program.

In recent months, Webb has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, calling it, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, a distraction from the fight against al Qaeda.

See also Do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years?

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Florence engulfed by world's biggest protest against Iraq war
Peter Popham, The Independent, November 10, 2002

The biggest demonstration in the world so far against war in Iraq engulfed Florence yesterday, at least doubling the city's population of 350,000 and turning the city's inner ring-road into a mighty river of protest. The organisers claimed that more than 400,000 people took part.

Rumours of violence planted by Italy's right-wing parties over recent months persuaded most city businesses to close for the day and many Florentines to leave the city. But the enormous march was resoundingly good humoured. Some participants carried signs reading "We love you Florence"; citizens responded by hanging white banners of peace out of their windows and throwing confetti on to the marchers.

"This is the first all-Europe demonstration against the war on Iraq," Vittorio Agnoletto, the Italian organiser, told The Independent on Sunday. "But it won't be the last: tomorrow we are meeting to plan future protests. We are Italy's real opposition – more than 300 different Italian organisations are taking part. And I am sure there will be no violence. Look, we are laughing. We cannot change the world with our anger, only by building consensus."

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