The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Unilateral power -- by any other name
Norman Solomon, FAIR, November 21, 2002

Ever since the U.N. Security Council adopted its resolution about Iraq on Nov. 8, American politicians and journalists have been hailing the unanimous vote as a huge victory for international cooperation instead of unilateral action.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was close to ecstatic. "For a brief, shining moment last Friday," he wrote, "the world didn't seem like such a crazy place." The United Nations had proven its worth -- by proving its value to Washington. Among the benefits: "The Bush team discovered that the best way to legitimize its overwhelming might -- in a war of choice -- was not by simply imposing it, but by channeling it through the U.N."

But if the United Nations, serving as a conduit of American power, is now worthwhile because it offers the best way for the United States to "legitimize its overwhelming might," how different is that from unilateralism?

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After war, humanitarian disaster?
Paul Rogers, Open Democracy, November 21, 2002

Even as the weapons inspection process unfolds, the timetable for US war with Iraq by January is on course. Three recent reports predict that military conflict could entail devastating humanitarian consequences. Are the proponents of war listening?

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Wrong fight against terrorism
William Pfaff, Boston Globe, November 21, 2002

NATO was supposed to have been recast this week to meet the threat of terrorism, but no one has yet offered a clear explanation of what NATO can do to prevent new attacks on Western targets by highly motivated individuals or bands of Islamic militants, determined to punish Westerners for what history has done to the Muslim world.

I do not say ''history'' to imply fatalism. The situation of the Islamic states today has much to do with the world wars and Cold War, Zionism, imperialism, and American and British oil politics.

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Israel's choice
Neve Gordon, The Nation, December 9, 2002

Returning to Israel after an extended absence can be a disturbing experience. On the way back from the airport to my Jerusalem apartment, I noticed new posters tacked onto utility poles and bridges along the highway. They read: Transfer= Peace and Security. The meaning was unambiguous: Israel must expel the 3 million Palestinians living in the occupied territories--and perhaps even its own Palestinian citizens--in order to achieve peace and security.

While racist slogans have become pervasive in Israel, it was this particular message - the notion of expulsion as a political solution - that unhinged me. One does not need to be a Holocaust survivor to recognize the phrase's lethal implications. The slogan, however, does not merely underscore the moral bankruptcy of certain elements in Israeli society; it also helps uncover some of the inherent contradictions underlying Israel's policies in the occupied territories.

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Bush-Putin meeting
Leaders may skirt Chechnya issues

David Filipov, Boston Globe, November 22, 2002

Advocates of a peace process in Chechnya say that the United States is too focused on its war on terrorism and too unwilling to alienate Putin to put pressure on the Kremlin. They also say the West is ignoring Putin's harsh domestic policies aimed at curbing dissent at home, and his inability or unwillingness to rein in the military in Chechnya.

"We see a silent deal between the United States and its president and Russia and its president: 'You support us in the antiterrorist operation and sanctions against Iraq, and we'll close our eyes to what's going on in Chechnya,'" said Ivan Rybkin, former head of Russia's Security Council, who has unsuccessfully tried to restart talks with Chechen rebels.

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Security act to pervade daily lives
Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2002

When you board a plane in the next year, your pilot may be armed. Make a call from a pay phone at the ballpark, and it may be tapped. Pay for a sandwich with a credit card, and the transaction may wind up in an electronic file with your tax returns, travel history, and speeding tickets.

These are some of the ways that the biggest reorganization of the federal government in half a century could trickle down into the minutiae of the daily life of Americans.

The Homeland Security Act that President Bush is poised to sign is sweeping in scope and will have big consequences, intended and unintended, on everything from civil liberties of Americans to due process for immigrants.

Some have little to do with homeland security, but emerged out of the intensive, last-minute bargaining that shaped this effort to refocus the nation's resources to defeat terrorism. As votes on the historic bill wrapped up this week, most lawmakers were still rifling through its 484 pages to find out what's there.

"The statute is elephantine," says Allen Weinstein, president of the Center for Democracy in Washington. "It means we're probably going to have to deal with a law of unintended consequences."

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Businesses gun for Homeland funds
Sharon Theimer, Associated Press, November 21, 2002

The ink is barely dry on the new Homeland Security Department legislation, but corporate lobbyists are already chasing the pot of gold it offers.

One German-based contractor has started a political action committee and recruited budget experts to help its pitch for U.S. anti-terror money. Microsoft has hired a former Coast Guard commander to oversee its homeland bidding.

And several firms are creating special units to help companies compete for billions in new national security spending.

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A useful - often forgotten - analogy to Iraq
Neta C. Crawford, Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2002

The Bush administration likes to use analogies to describe the threats the US faces and to explain the new US strategy of preemption. They raise Pearl Harbor and the Cuban missile crisis frequently to emphasize the dangers of waiting and the wisdom of taking confrontation to adversaries before they move first.
But the administration's favorite analogy may be the equation of Saddam Hussein and Hitler. Iraq, like Nazi Germany, is supposed to be a dangerous rogue nation, bent on acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has repressed its own people, and is certainly far from democratic.

But there are other analogies. Indeed, we have seen the kind of threat that Iraq is said to pose before. Yet, preemption was not the international reaction.

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Kabul orphanage still has needs
Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, November 15, 2002

When the Taliban collapsed last year, reports of the grim conditions at the orphanage brought help from international and local aid agencies. But a year later, most of the aid workers are gone and the children remain -- their numbers rising.

"For a while everyone was coming and wanting to give, bringing clothes and blankets," said Mohammed Yunus, a gray-bearded man in charge of the dormitories. "But not anymore."

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A war that can't be won
The west isn't just losing the fight against terrorism - it is fuelling it across the globe

Seumas Milne, The Guardian, November 21, 2002

This time last year, supporters of George Bush's war on terror were in euphoric mood. As one Taliban stronghold after another fell to the US-backed Northern Alliance, they hailed the advance as a decisive blow to the authors of the September 11 atrocities. The critics and doom-mongers had been confounded, cheerleaders crowed. Kites were flying again, music was playing and women were throwing off their burkas with joyful abandon.

As the US president demanded Osama bin Laden "dead or alive", government officials on both sides of the Atlantic whispered that they were less than 48 hours from laying hands on the al-Qaida leader. By destroying the terrorist network's Afghan bases and its Taliban sponsors, supporters of the war argued, the Americans and their friends had ripped the heart out of the beast. Washington would now begin to address Muslim and Arab grievances by fast-tracking the establishment of a Palestinian state. Downing Street even published a rollcall of shame of journalists they claimed had been proved wrong by a hundred days of triumph. And in parliament, Jack Straw ridiculed Labour MPs for suggesting that the US and Britain might still be fighting in Afghanistan 12 months down the line.

One year on, the crowing has long since faded away; reality has sunk in. After six months of multiplying Islamist attacks on US, Australian and European targets, civilian and military - in Tunisia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Russia, Jordan, Yemen, the US and Indonesia - western politicians are having to face the fact that they are losing their war on terror. In Britain, the prime minister has taken to warning of the "painful price" that the country will have to pay to defeat those who are "inimical to all we stand for", while leaks about the risk of chemical or biological attacks have become ever more lurid. After a year of US military operations in Afghanistan and around the world, the CIA director George Tenet had to concede that the threat from al-Qaida and associated jihadist groups was as serious as before September 11. "They've reconstituted, they are coming after us," he said.

In other words, the global US onslaught had been a complete failure - at least as far as dealing with non-state terrorism was concerned.

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Neither consent nor dissent
Bush's uncontested war

Benjamin R. Barber, The American Prospect, November 4, 2002

As President Bush rushes headlong into war with Iraq, there are endless reasons for concern; but the one that is most disturbing has been least remarked on. The president can be faulted for waiting so long to consult Congress, the United Nations, America's allies and the Middle Eastern nations likely to be affected (Jordan, Turkey, Iran). And he certainly can be faulted for rashness, impetuosity, arrogance and an impressive indifference to the rule of law -- even if, in the end, he is compelled to play by the UN rules that, ironically, he himself invoked. But accountability is a two-way street, and Americans should be equally concerned with their -- make that our -- dramatic failure to register in politically relevant terms the unease (if polls are to be believed) that we putatively feel about an Iraq invasion.

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Dare call it an empire
Alexander Cockburn, WorkingForChange, November 20, 2002

"Who can doubt that the United States is an imperial power?" Thus writes James Chace in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books. "Empire is back," comes the echo from Professor Alan Wolfe. Suddenly, the word "empire" is everywhere, scattered through the opinion columns like rose petals before a conquering hero.

Of course the United States has been an imperial power for many, many decades, but when Teddy Roosevelt used to blare out the summons to imperial duty like a Roman matron admonishing youth, there was a certain embarrassment at his bluff speech. Congressmen bridled at the thought of ladling out too much gravy to the Army and Navy. Woodrow Wilson substituted more palatable Presbyterian pieties about burdens and duties. Then, FDR founded an even more appealing rhetoric with which to cloak imperial expansion: fighting other empires, a mission that conveniently brought an ever-burgeoning but unacknowledged empire in its wake, some of the most valuable oil-yielding portions ruthlessly excised from the British imperial cadaver after World War II.

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Making enemies or protecting Americans
Doug Bandow, Cato Institute, November 18, 2002

As crises erupt around the globe, al-Qaeda obviously is alive and deadly, if not well. Yet President George W. Bush remains fixated on Baghdad; Saddam is "a dangerous man," he declared in his weekly radio address. True, but irrelevant. The administration must decide whether to protect Americans by focusing on the fight against terrorism or risk Americans' lives by setting the globe further aflame with an unnecessary war against Iraq.

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What if Bush were as eager to control guns as WMD?
Jonathan D. Tepperman and Avi S. Gesser, Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2002

By maintaining the country's awe-inspiring strength, Bush's logic runs, Washington can discourage anyone from competing with it. Predominant power will make America the new global sheriff, with an effective monopoly on military might.

Of course, whether it is actually possible to monopolize force internationally and dissuade military competition remains to be seen.

In any event, the Bush doctrine would make much more sense were it applied in the one place Washington has refused to consider it: at home.

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After Saddam
John W Dower, The Guardian, November 20, 2002

In their immediate response to the shock of September 11, journalists and pundits across America evoked, almost as one, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years earlier. Stories dwelled on similarities (and differences) between the holy war fanaticism of the Islamic terrorists and that of the Japanese - and, of course, on the dismal failure of American intelligence to anticipate either attack.

Now, with the Bush administration promoting the virtue of pre-emptive strikes, Japan has emerged as possibly offering a very different sort of historical precedent. Does America's successful occupation of Japan after the second world war provide a model for a constructive American role in a post- Saddam Hussein Iraq?

The short answer is no.

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U.S. watch list has 'taken on life of its own,' FBI says
Kelli Arena, CNN, November 20, 2002

FBI officials said Tuesday they have "lost control" of an agency-created watch list of people wanted for questioning after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Additionally, agency officials acknowledged that the list, which has gone through several manifestations, has "taken on a life of its own" and has shown up on several Web sites and contains names of people who have been cleared of any possible connection to last year's attacks.

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Nuclear study, given go-ahead, rouses fears about a new 'bunker buster' weapon
James Dao, New York Times, November 17, 2002

Buried in the $393 billion defense authorization bill that Congress approved this week was an obscure item that has raised concerns that the administration is gradually moving toward creating new kinds of nuclear weapons.

The item authorizes the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the nation's nuclear stockpile, to spend $15 million to study modifying nuclear weapons so they can be used to destroy underground factories or laboratories.

The United States produced a "bunker buster" weapon in 1997 by repackaging a hydrogen bomb into a hardened case. But Pentagon planners contend that such a weapon would not be effective against the deeply buried and fortified installations that some countries, including Iraq and North Korea, are thought to use for producing and storing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Advocates of the study contend that the administration is not yet proposing to create a new weapon and is simply looking at solutions to an increasingly significant problem.

But critics argue that the study is a first step toward producing weapons that would require a resumption of nuclear testing, which the United States suspended in 1992.

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Iraqis 'staggered' by exhaustive list of demands from UN inspectors
Kim Sengupta, The Independent, November 20, 2002

The dinner between one of Saddam Hussein's closest aides and Hans Blix was meant to smooth the thorny path for the renewed United Nations weapons inspections.

But the Iraqis were bemused to find sponge mattresses and slippers on the menu. Factories producing such items were just two of the examples of the array of sites the UN chief weapons inspector said his team intended to search in its efforts to discover whether Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Such is the scale of information the UN is demanding, Iraqi officials told Mr Blix's team they may have difficulties meeting the 8 December deadline by which they must submit a detailed report.

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McCarthyism watch
The Progressive, November 15, 2002

Richard Abdoo is the CEO of Wisconsin Energy Corp., based in Milwaukee. Earlier this fall, Abdoo sent a $250 check to the peace group Not in Our Name (

As a result, his name was listed as one of the 30,000 endorsers of the group's "Statement of Conscience Against War and Repression." And he was identified as "Chairman of the Board, president and CEO, Wisconsin Energy Corp." Abdoo said the donation was strictly a personal one.

Early in the workweek of November 11-15, rightwing talk radio hosts in Milwaukee got wind of Abdoo's endorsement and pilloried him for it.

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As arms inspectors arrive, row erupts over US smears
Helena Smith and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, November 19, 2002

The United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, yesterday accused hawks in Washington, who are bent on going to war with Iraq, of conducting a smear campaign against him.

The extent of the tension between Mr Blix and elements of the US administration burst into the open on the day that he led UN weapons inspectors back to Baghdad for the first time in four years to renew their search for chemical, biological and nuclear-related weapons.

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CND legal threat over Iraq war
BBC News, November 19, 2002

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is threatening legal action against the UK government over the threat of war with Iraq.

CND is demanding a written guarantee the UK will not invade Iraq without explicit United Nations backing.

It claims a UN resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to disarm or face "serious consequences" can not be used to justify an invasion.

The campaign has obtained a legal opinion from a top QC from human rights firm Matrix Chambers, of which Cherie Blair [Tony Blair's wife] is a member, backing its stance.

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Power to spy on citizens expanded
Shannon McCaffrey, San Jose Mercury News, November 19, 2002

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the Justice Department has broad powers to use wiretaps and other means to combat terrorism -- a decision that will greatly expand the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans.

A special three-judge panel overturned a decision by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in May that certain surveillance provisions in the USA Patriot Act infringed on citizens' privacy.

Monday's decision means the government will face fewer hurdles when it seeks to listen to telephone conversations and read the e-mail of people who are suspected of espionage or terrorism. Intelligence agents and criminal prosecutors also will be able to share information more freely.

The special appeals court, which consisted of three federal appellate judges named by William Rehnquist, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, ruled Monday that the expanded powers sought in the Patriot Act are "constitutional because the surveillances it authorizes are reasonable."

Attorney General John Ashcroft called the decision "a victory for liberty, safety and the security of the American people." He said it "revolutionizes our ability to investigate terrorists and prosecute terrorist acts."

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Israeli dove tipped to lead Labour in election
Ross Dunn, The Age, November 20, 2002

A former army commander with dovish views, Amram Mitzna is today expected to emerge as the candidate of the left-leaning Labour Party for prime minister in Israel's next elections.

Opinion polls indicated that Mr Mitzna, 57, would win yesterday's ballot by a huge margin, ousting current leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defence minister.

Mr Mitzna has come from relative obscurity to a place in the national scene. He is Mayor of Haifa, the Israeli city with the largest Arab population and a district with a reputation for tolerance. His message is that peace with the Palestinians is possible and worth pursuing.

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The perfect system
Matthew Engel, The Guardian, November 19, 2002

The elite American press prides itself on its old-fashioned inaccessibility: grey type, don't-read-me layout, and, on a bad day, totally impenetrable prose. Perhaps the Washington Post has already revealed that Osama bin Laden is working in an attorney's office in downtown DC, but none of us have managed to get to page A27 to read the story.

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Thousands mourn executed Pakistani
BBC News, November 19, 2002

Huge crowds in the Pakistani city of Quetta have been attending the funeral of Aimal Khan Kansi, who was executed in the United States on Friday.
Kansi, who is from Quetta, was executed for the murder of two US secret service officials outside the CIA headquarters near Washington in 1993.

Many in the crowd chanted anti-American slogans and proclaimed Kansi a martyr.

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New world disorder
Brian Awehali, LiP Magazine, November 18, 2002

What's wrong with this picture? The world's lone superpower, fearful of being attacked by one of many real or perceived enemies, sets out to solve the problem by increasing weapon sales and military aid to the world, but not just to existing allies. Indeed, in the wake of Sept. 11, the race is on to arm governments formerly considered unstable or otherwise "off-limits" due to gross human rights violations, on grounds that these nations are assisting in the sweeping "war against terrorism."

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Back in business
Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau, Newsweek, November 25, 2002

Al Qaeda is once again training terrorists inside Afghanistan. The camps are much smaller and more transient now, but there are said to be at least a dozen, and their new graduates, mostly from inside the country, are believed to number in the hundreds. Their goal, as unlikely as it may seem, is to turn Afghanistan back into a global base for Osama bin Ladenís followers.

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U.S. fears prosecution of President in World Court
Reuters, November 15, 2002

A senior U.S. official said a principal motive for U.S. opposition to the newly created International Criminal Court was fear that the court might prosecute the president or other civilian or military leaders.

"Our concern goes beyond the possibility that the prosecutor will target for indictment the isolated U.S. soldier. ... Our principal concern is for our country's top civilian and military leaders, those responsible for our defense and foreign policy," Under Secretary of State John Bolton said in a speech released on Friday.

"A fair reading of the treaty (setting up the court) leaves one unable to answer with confidence whether the United States would now be accused of war crimes for legitimate but controversial uses of force to protect world peace," Bolton told the Federalist Society in Washington on Thursday.

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Who needs the U.N. Security Council?
James Traub, New York Times, November 17, 2002

The campaign against Al Qaeda represented one of those rare moments when the Security Council swings quickly behind American aims. The U.N. itself felt implicated in the terrorist attack: its headquarters was evacuated both that day and the next, and there was brief talk of holding a Security Council meeting in a local coffee shop. But the moment of solidarity couldn't last. For the Security Council, Afghanistan was a momentary departure from a tradition of conflict resolution; for the Bush Administration, it was the first battle in a global war.

It is not only the United States but also the United Nations that has become a different place after 9/11. Only yesterday, it seems, the great issue was getting an increasingly disengaged United States to pay its back dues and pay attention; now the problem is keeping an aroused America from sallying off on what virtually every other member of the Security Council considers a reckless crusade.

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U.S. turns its back on Afghans, again
Despite lofty talk, aid is nowhere to be seen outside Kabul

Andrew Lawler, Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2002

The governor of Ghazni, an Afghan province south of Kabul, is just the kind of leader Washington should like. He's young, educated and progressive. Haji Hassadullah Khalid studied political science before the Taliban shut down Kabul University, speaks passable English and dreams of studying in the United States.

He is a striking contrast to the warlords, such as Abdul Rashid Dostum, recently implicated in the deaths of Taliban prisoners, or Ismail Khan, who pays little heed to Kabul's diktats.

But Khalid gets no help from the U.S. One year after coming to power, he says his people still must walk an average of three miles just to get drinking water. He has no tax money to pay teachers. And there is little support from the central government in Kabul.

"This job is very difficult," he said, taking a break from the endless stream of supplicants who come to his reception room.

What about support from the United States? He shakes his head, sighs and lights up another cigarette. "We've talked to USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development], but we haven't received any help yet."

The Bush administration pledged this month to try to do more to rebuild Afghanistan, but help so far has been too little and too late.

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Losing Control?
The U.S. concedes it has lost momentum in Afghanistan, while its enemies grow bolder

Tim McGirk and Michale Ware, Times, November 11, 2002

If the U.S. has won the war in Afghanistan, maybe somebody should tell the enemy it's time to surrender. The bad guys are still out there, undetectable in the rocky, umber hills of eastern Afghanistan ó until they strike, which they do with growing frequency, accuracy and brazenness. These days American forward bases are coming under rocket or mortar fire three times a week on average. Apache pilots sometimes see angry red arcing lines of tracer bullets rising toward their choppers from unseen gunners hidden in Afghanistan's saw-blade ridges. Roads frequented by special forces are often mined with remote-controlled explosives, a new tactic al-Qaeda fighters picked up from their Chechen comrades fighting the Russians. With phantom enemy fighters stepping up attacks and U.S. forces making little headway against them, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, felt compelled to acknowledge last week, "We've lost a little momentum there, to be frank."

Is Afghanistan slipping out of America's control?

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War without death
The Pentagon promotes a vision of combat as bloodless and antiseptic

Patrick J. Sloyan, San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2002

Leon Daniel, like others who reported from Vietnam during the 1960s, knew about war and death. So he was puzzled by the lack of corpses at the tip of the Neutral Zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq on Feb. 25, 1991.

Clearly there had been plenty of killing. The 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) had smashed through the defensive front line of Saddam Hussein's army the day before, Feb. 24, the opening of the Desert Storm ground war to retake Kuwait. Daniel, representing United Press International, was part of a press pool held back from witnessing the assault on 8,000 Iraqi defenders.

"They wouldn't let us see anything," said Daniel, who had seen about everything as a combat correspondent.

The artillery barrage alone was enough to cause a slaughter. The attack began with a 30-minute bombardment by howitzers and multiple-launch rockets scattering thousands of tiny bomblets, followed by a wave of 8,400 American soldiers riding in 3,000 battle tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Humvees, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles.

It wasn't until late in the afternoon of Feb. 25 that the press pool was permitted to see where the attack occurred. There were groups of Iraqi prisoners. About 2,000 had surrendered. But there were no bodies, no stench of feces, no blood stains, no bits of human beings.

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American voices of dissent
Soheir Morsy, Al-Ahram, November 14, 2002

Inspired by the anti-globalisation slogan -- Another World is Possible -- activists of different political persuasions around the world have demonstrated their resolve to dismantle what South African President Thabo Mbeki described as the "global system of apartheid". Over the past year international solidarity with Palestinian resistance to US-subsidised Zionist settler colonialism and apartheid, as well as opposition to Washington's protracted war on Iraq, have become integral to the growing movement against corporate-led globalisation. The internationalisation of the Palestinian cause has developed to the point that a recent comment in Ha'aretz raised the question: "Who would have believed that... [Israel]... would be denounced by the world, that its products would be boycotted, its generals accused of crimes against humanity and its citizens advised not to speak Hebrew when traveling abroad?"

In the US the Bush administration's relentless campaign of intimidation has proved effective in silencing many, though others have not been deterred from speaking their conscience. Even in these times when US foreign policy has been purposefully reduced to an expression of Orwellian logic ("you are either with us or against us") many honourable Americans have resisted the pitiful "patriotic" daze inflicted on the country by the Republican administration's campaign of fear, misinformation, and McCarthyean blacklisting of intellectuals.

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