The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
No threat from Iraq
Saul Landau, Open Democracy, November 29, 2002

US policy towards Iraq is a replay of the deceits that launched and sustained its long conflicts with the Soviet Union and Vietnam. The detail of its past support for the Saddam regime reveals the Bush administration’s chilling hypocrisy. The coming war is not justified and must be opposed.

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The war movement and the peace movement
Tod Gitlin, Open Democracy, November 27, 2002

It’s the burden and sometimes also the glory of a serious life that in good conscience you don’t want to win the hard arguments too easily. Political decency consists not just in taking the right position, but in being willing to face contrary positions: face them at their strong points, not win arguments cheaply – but face the bad music; face the suffering that goes on if you do the right thing, also face the suffering that goes on if you don’t do the right thing. And make a judgment, which might well be in fear and trembling, about which is the better way. The smiley-face actions are damned rare. War in Iraq is not one of them. Neither is the absence of war in Iraq. I don’t see how to have a nice day, one way or the other – certainly not for Iraqis.

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Ending the silence
Mike Woodsworth and Raůl Sŕnchez, Open Democracy, November 27, 2002

The US debate on war with Iraq is spreading. The key issues - interests of Iraq's people, justice and morality of war, US power and UN role - were discussed at a major New York University event on 22 November. Two observers summarise and critique the panelists' views.

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Sleeping with the enemy
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, November 28, 2002

Why, in its ruthless pursuit of the September 11 murderers and their supporters - a chase that has encompassed most of the Middle East and south and south-east Asia - is the Bush administration so loath to confront the Saudis?

Why, if there is persuasive evidence of Saudi complicity in those and subsequent attacks, has stern action (such as sanctions or trade embargoes) not been taken, or at least formal, public diplomatic protests made?

Why indeed is the current focus of US military and diplomatic efforts on Baghdad, not Riyadh? Why, in other words, does Bush, not known for being a man who bites his lip when it comes to terrorism, look at the Saudis and turn the other cheek?

Well, the answer could be that all these anti-Saudi allegations are foul and unjustified calumnies for which there is not a shred of evidence. But if you believe that, you can stop reading right here (and maybe seek professional help).

Or it could be that, sad to say, the Bush administration is operating a double standard. It could be that the US government is only too aware of the Saudi terror connection, but is not prosecuting it vigorously on behalf of the September 11 victims and the American people because it has other priorities.

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For Israelis - and Jews everywhere - fear is now international
Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, November 29, 2002

For more than two years Israelis have lived with the daily possibility of violent and random death within their own borders. Every parent worries that the bus carrying their child could blow to pieces; a trip to the mall could be a deathtrap; a pizzeria could be a minefield. That constant fear has seeped into the marrow of the society. Nothing is normal.

But Israelis always had one way to escape the fear. A holiday outside the country could be the valve that releases the pressure. Home may not have been safe, but abroad could be.

Now Israelis have lost even that comfort. Now they will believe that nowhere is safe. They will be hunted down wherever they are, targeted for the crime of being Israeli. That is the message of yesterday's attack: Israelis cannot live at home, they cannot live in the world.

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Misinformation about Iraq
Edward Said, Al-Ahram, November 28, 2002

The flurry of reports, leaks, and misinformation about the looming US war against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq continues unabated. It is impossible to know, however, how much of this is a brilliantly managed campaign of psychological war against Iraq, how much the public floundering of a government uncertain about its next step. In any event, I find it as possible to believe that there will be a war as that there will not. Certainly the sheer belligerency of the verbal assaults on the average citizen are unprecedented in their ferocity, with the result that very little is totally certain about what is actually taking place. No one can independently confirm the various troop and navy movements reported on a daily basis, and given the lurching opacity of his thinking, George W Bush's real intentions are difficult to read. But that the whole world is concerned -- indeed, deeply anxious -- about the catastrophic chaos that will ensue after another Afghanistan-like air campaign against the people of Iraq, of that there is little doubt.

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Elusive Bin Laden still has the global reach to strike terror at will
Robert Fisk, The Independent, November 29, 2002

Two months ago, Israel's senior military intelligence officers were privately expressing concern that al-Qa'ida would strike Israel next. They talked about high buildings in Tel Aviv, nuclear missile sites in the Negev desert – they talked about this softly, of course, because the world is not supposed to discuss Israel's nuclear capability – but they feared, rightly, that Bin Laden would try to put Israel in the same frame as the United States.

And he has. For whatever al-Qa'ida did yesterday, it set Israel up alongside America. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has claimed, since 11 September, that Israel stands beside President George Bush in his "war on terror". The conflict has – thanks to Washington's one-sided, hopelessly biased Middle East policy – given the impression that Mr Sharon and Mr Bush espouse the same goals.

Now the world has to acknowledge that Mr Sharon – regarded as a war criminal by millions of Arabs for his "personal responsibility" for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinian civilians – has a reason to fight al-Qa'ida.

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Consequences of war
Arabs' anti-American sentiment rising as U.S.-Iraq war looms

V.K. Malhotra, ABC News, November 27, 2002

Anti-American sentiment has been on the rise within the Arab world in recent months. The tough rhetoric of the Bush administration, combined with the threat of an invasion of Iraq, and the ongoing violence between the Israelis and Palestinians is turning public opinion in the Arab world even farther against the United States.

Sporadic acts of violence in recent weeks against Americans in the region have raised the level of concern for the United States. In the past month alone, there have been several attacks on American soldiers in Kuwait, the murder of an American diplomat in Jordan, and just last week, the killing of an American missionary in Lebanon.

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Here. Now. Do something.
William Rivers Pitt,, November 28, 2002

There's an old man who lives down the street from my house. I made a point to introduce myself to him roundabout last September, after he put a No War sign up in his front yard. About a week before Bush showed up here for a GOP fundraiser, he put up a second sign describing the date, time and location of Bush's arrival. Under this information was a single word: Protest! His hand was twisted with arthritis when I shook it, but he still used it to drive those signs into the ground.

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No sum could fund president's ambition
Steve Chapman, Baltimore Sun, November 26, 2002

If the Bush administration gets its way, defense spending next year will be $394 billion, or about $100 billion higher than in Bill Clinton's final year. The United States has the most powerful military on Earth. We now spend six times more on defense than the next 15 countries combined. And you know what? It's not enough.

Despite the swelling budget, there is still a big gap between our resources and the administration's ambitions. The president's new strategy proclaims that we're not only going to meet any military challenge that may arise, but we may attack any country we see as a developing threat. If we're serious about that, even an unlimited budget won't suffice.

The administration gives us a glimpse of what to expect. The president's budget calls for piling spending increases upon spending increases, boosting national defense outlays to $442 billion by 2007 - up by nearly 50 percent from 2000.

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Most Americans support war as a last resort
Richard Benedetto, USA Today, November 25, 2002

Most Americans support going to war against Iraq if it is found to have weapons of mass destruction, but first they want to give the United Nations every chance to disarm the country peacefully, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.

The poll shows that most people believe Iraq has chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, often lumped together as "weapons of mass destruction," and would use them against the United States. Solid majorities believe that a U.S. attack on Iraq is justified if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein tries to block U.N. arms inspectors, who will begin work Wednesday.

Overall, 58% favor using U.S. ground troops to remove Saddam from power, a percentage that has held fairly steady since mid-October.

The survey finds complex attitudes on what would justify invasion. Two out of three, 64%, say the United States should first get U.N. authorization to launch an attack if Iraq defies a U.N. resolution calling for full inspections. The Bush administration says it could act without additional U.N. approval.

But 63% in the poll favor letting Saddam off the hook if weapons are found and he agrees to destroy them.

If U.N. inspectors find no evidence of weapons of mass destruction or facilities where they could be produced, 52% oppose sending troops.

"If there is any step short of war that can be taken to disarm Iraq, most Americans will take it," says Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, a think tank.

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The Latest Kissinger Outrage
Why is a proven liar and wanted man in charge of the 9/11 investigation?

Christopher Hitchens, Slate, November 27, 2002

The Bush administration has been saying in public for several months that it does not desire an independent inquiry into the gross "failures of intelligence" that left U.S. society defenseless 14 months ago. By announcing that Henry Kissinger will be chairing the inquiry that it did not want, the president has now made the same point in a different way. But the cynicism of the decision and the gross insult to democracy and to the families of the victims that it represents has to be analyzed to be believed.

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Kissinger's 9/11 truth-seeker for Bush
David Corn, The Nation, November 27, 2002

Asking Henry Kissinger to investigate government malfeasance or nonfeasance is akin to asking Slobodan Milosevic to investigate war crimes. Pretty damn akin, since Kissinger has been accused, with cause, of engaging in war crimes of his own. Moreover, he has been a poster-child for the worst excesses of secret government and secret warfare. Yet George W. Bush has named him to head a supposedly independent commission to investigate the nightmarish attacks of September 11, 2001, a commission intended to tell the public what went wrong on and before that day. This is a sick, black-is-white, war-is-peace joke--a cruel insult to the memory of those killed on 9/11 and a screw-you affront to any American who believes the public deserves a full accounting of government actions or lack thereof. It's as if Bush instructed his advisers to come up with the name of the person who literally would be the absolute worst choice for the post and, once they had, said, "sign him up."

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US abandons shadowplay in Iraq
Julian Borger, The Guardian, November 27, 2002

After ten months of secrecy and denial, US military preparations for the looming conflict with Iraq have abruptly been turned into well-catered press events over the last few days. Clearly, the message has changed.

American journalists have been invited into the vast tented camps run by US forces in Kuwait's western desert, concentrated along the Iraqi border. All together, some 12,000 troops have taken over an entire quarter of Kuwaiti territory, which is now off-limits to civilians.

US television crews have been asked aboard the warships cruising in the Persian Gulf, where a fearsome armada including four or five aircraft carriers will have gathered by the end of December. Journalists have even been permitted to fly in planes patrolling the skies of northern and southern Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana last week, a group of more than a dozen foreign journalists - including a crew from the Arabic language television station, al-Jazeera - were allowed to visit the Fort Polk urban training centre to watch the 101st Airborne, the 'Screaming Eagles', practice house to house combat.

Someone somewhere in the Pentagon has decided we should be allowed to see everything.

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The invisible death of Iain Hook
Ira Chernus, CommonDreams, November 25, 2002

You probably heard about the latest tragic suicide bombing in Israel. You probably did not hear about the equally tragic death of Iain Hook. Unlike the Israeli deaths, Hook’s murder last Friday was not big news here in the U.S.

It certainly was big news for Hook’s employer, the United Nations. Hook, a senior manager for the U.N. Relief Works Agency in Jenin, was the first U.N. official to be killed in two years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Amazingly, the U.S. media gave his death little notice. The journalistic double standard is alive and well, it seems.

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Keep Big Brother's hands off the Internet
Senator John Ashcroft, USIA Electronic Journal, October, 1997

There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?

The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state's interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens' Bill of Rights.

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Embracing Big Brother
William Raspberry, Washington Post, November 25, 2002

I can't tell you how often I've heard some version of: If you don't have anything to hide, you shouldn't care that the government is watching your mail, monitoring your phone calls, clawing through your financial records or reading your e-mail. That nonchalance is especially commonplace as America continues to do battle against international terrorism. The response, in effect, is that terrorism is such a threat that it's worth giving up all we hold dear in order to oppose it.

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Death toll in two years in Mideast
Associated Press, November 25, 2002

Here is a breakdown of 2,612 deaths in more than two years of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The Associated Press reviewed each incident and recalculated the toll as of Monday, based on information compiled in interviews with relatives, witnesses, doctors and visits to hospital morgues.

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A would-be Iraqi leader, caught by his past
Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, November 25, 2002

In a simple two-bedroom apartment set in an anonymous block of flats in a small town in Denmark, the general waits.

Once he was the most senior officer of Saddam Hussein's army, with a row of ribbons across his chest, a million Iraqi soldiers under his command, and the respect and admiration of a nation. Then he fell out with the Iraqi leader and fled abroad -- lured, he said, by promises from the CIA of support to lead the grand revolt that would topple the dictator and restore Iraq to greatness. He would be Iraq's Charles de Gaulle.

Nizar Khazraji, 64, says he is ready to play the role that his entire life has prepared him for, that the time is ripe now that Washington and the world are applying new pressure on the faltering government. But he is going nowhere. For the general has a past, and a pursuer.

He faces allegations that he played a role in the Anfal, the brutal campaign against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq in which Hussein's forces slaughtered more than 100,000 civilians, razed hundreds of villages and sprayed poison gas.

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U.S. is wooing a Shiite exile to rattle Iraq
Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, November 25, 2002

An Iranian-backed ayatollah may seem an unlikely ally for the Bush administration. But consider Ayatollah Muhammad Bakir al-Hakim.

The ayatollah is an Iraqi Shiite who has been living in Tehran for more than two decades. He is backed by the Iranian government, the one that President Bush has derided as part of an "axis of evil." His father once gave sanctuary to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the fiery anti-American cleric who later rose to power in Iran's 1979 revolution.

Still, the United States and the Shiite cleric are in the process of forging a political alliance of convenience.

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Wishful thinking on Afghanistan
Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, November 25, 2002

Major General Akin Zorlu, commander of the international peacekeepers in Afghanistan, is not a swashbuckling, charge-right-at-'em sort. He speaks steadily, fingering a pen with elegant gold trimmings; his spectacles give him a studious appearance. If you ask him about U.S. policy, he's politely diplomatic. But if you listen between the lines of his pronouncements, you get a different message.

The message is that Pentagon and NATO strategy is hopelessly wishful. At the Prague summit last Thursday, NATO's leaders declared that "responsibility for providing security and law and order throughout Afghanistan resides with the Afghans themselves."

Which Afghans, precisely, are supposed to play this role?

Perhaps NATO's leaders were alluding to Afghan police forces. Here's Zorlu's description of that option. "If you visit any police station you see that they have 50 police officers or soldiers but only two very primitive guns and two bicycles. No radio assets, no vehicles, nothing.

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Prophetic students
Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 2002

Who would have imagined how swiftly the American government could threaten our precious civil liberties and basic rights in the name of fighting terrorism?

Looking back, I now realize that my former students saw it coming.

The year was 1999. Bill Clinton was president, the stock market was soaring,

and the 175 students in my history course at UC Davis had no reason to fear the kind of secret detainment or government surveillance the Bush administration has already employed and that Congress has just sanctioned.

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See you in court, Tony
We should help the Iraqi people overthrow Saddam, but not by flouting international law

George Monbiot, The Guardian, November 26, 2002

Parliament might have been denied its debate and the cabinet might have been silenced, but there are other means of holding the government to account. If, by 4pm today, his lawyers have failed to agree that he will not attack Iraq without a new UN resolution, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will take the prime minister to court. For the first time in history, the British government may be forced to defend the legality of its war plans in front of a judge.

The case, hatched by the comedian Mark Thomas, looks straightforward. The UK and the US are preparing to invade, whether or not they receive permission from the UN. Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, has stated that the UK will "reserve our right to take military action, if that is required, within the existing body of UN security council resolutions". But no UN resolution grants such a right.

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Grappling with the politics of fear
Don Hazen, AlterNet, November 25, 2002

There's an ongoing debate among media experts, peace advocates and funders about what media messages and symbols could galvanize popular opinion against the seemingly imminent Bush Administration invasion of Iraq.

A number of ads from peace advocates have recently appeared in the New York Times and in other newspapers, with more in the pipeline. Each of the ads makes a somewhat different argument for why Americans should be resisting the will of the Bush administration to take over Iraq and try Saddam for war crimes.

Yet, it is increasingly apparent that the climate of fear promoted by the Bush Administration in the wake of a series of national traumas is having wide effect. It seems clear that the politics of fear and safety has been underestimated by progressives and pundits. This political message likely had more impact on the Democratic losses and Republican gains in the recent elections than the widespread sense that the Democrats had no message.

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Iraq's nuclear non-capability
Imad Khadduri, YellowTimes, November 21, 2002

As the war storm against Iraq swirls and gathers momentum, seeded by the efforts of the American and British governments, serious doubts arise as to the credibility of their intelligence sources, particularly the issue of Iraq's nuclear capability. It has been often noted that reliable intelligence on this matter is not immediately forthcoming. Moreover, such intelligence as has been presented is spurious and often contradictory. Perhaps it is not too late to rectify this misinformation campaign.

I worked with the Iraqi nuclear program from 1968 until my departure from Iraq in late 1998. Having been closely involved in most of the major nuclear activities of that program, from the Russian research reactor in the late sixties to the French research reactors in the late seventies, the Russian nuclear power program in the early eighties, the nuclear weapons program during the eighties and finally the confrontations with U.N. inspection teams in the nineties, it behooves me to admit that I find present allegations about Iraq's nuclear capability, as continuously advanced by the Americans and the British, to be ridiculous.

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Can mercenaries protect Hamid Karzai?
Out of service

Jonathan D. Tepperman, New Republic, November 18, 2002

One warm day in Kandahar early this fall, a uniformed Afghan soldier stepped in front of the car carrying President Hamid Karzai--and opened fire. Karzai ducked, narrowly escaping the hail of bullets, and was instantly surrounded by heavily muscled, fair-skinned men who returned fire. Although the assailant was never conclusively identified, Karzai's rumpled plain-clothes guards quickly were. They turned out to be American Special Forces troops, part of the small garrison that has shadowed the Afghan president at his request since late July, and they have already thwarted several assassination attempts.

Unfortunately, the next time someone tries to kill Karzai--and there will be a next time--the faces around him will be different. Washington is about to replace Karzai's crack Pentagon bodyguards with hired guns; specifically, the employees of DynCorp, Inc., a Virginia-based "private military corporation" (PMC).

While PMCs like DynCorp may be popular in Republican Washington, which is now enthusiastically outsourcing many of America's military duties to the private sector, using them in Afghanistan could be a dangerous mistake. Private contractors seldom prove cheaper or more effective than uniformed soldiers. Worse, they are virtually impossible to control and have committed a litany of abuses in America's name. Using these unproven freelancers to guard Karzai thus will send precisely the wrong message to Washington's friends and enemies around the world and will increase the risks of a foreign policy disaster in Afghanistan.

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The military's new war of words
William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2002

It was California's own Hiram Johnson who said, in a speech on the Senate floor in 1917, that "the first casualty, when war comes, is truth."

What would he make of the Bush administration?

In a policy shift that reaches across all the armed services, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his senior aides are revising missions and creating new agencies to make "information warfare" a central element of any U.S. war. Some hope it will eventually rank with bombs and artillery shells as an instrument of destruction.

What is disturbing about Rumsfeld's vision of information warfare is that it has a way of folding together two kinds of wartime activity involving communications that have traditionally been separated by a firewall of principle.

The first is purely military. It includes attacks on the radar, communications and other "information systems" an enemy depends on to guide its war-making capabilities. This category also includes traditional psychological warfare, such as dropping leaflets or broadcasting propaganda to enemy troops.

The second is not directly military. It is the dissemination of public information that the American people need in order to understand what is happening in a war, and to decide what they think about it. This information is supposed to be true.

Increasingly, the administration's new policy -- along with the steps senior commanders are taking to implement it -- blurs or even erases the boundaries between factual information and news, on the one hand, and public relations, propaganda and psychological warfare, on the other. And, while the policy ostensibly targets foreign enemies, its most likely victim will be the American electorate.

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The birth of an American tyranny
Chris Floyd, Counterpunch, November 23, 2002

We've said it before, and we'll keep on saying it: A country whose leader has the power to imprison any citizen whatsoever, on his order alone, and hold them indefinitely, in military custody, without access to the courts, without a lawyer, without any charges, their fate determined solely by the leader's arbitrary whim--that country is a tyranny, not a democracy, not a republic, not a union of free citizens.

Now it may be that it is still a tyranny in utero, a rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem--or in this case, Washington--to be born, and not yet the full-blown monster, fangs bared and back plated with bristling armored scales. But the tyranny has been conceived, it's taken root in the womb, gained definite form and is clawing, tearing its way toward the light.

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Is China reason for U.S. obsession with Iraq?
Patrick Seale, Gulf News, November 22, 2002

...before the devastating events of September 11, America's main strategic preoccupation was not with Iraq, or terrorism, or Islamic radicalism, but with the rise of China as a rival superpower. After the implosion of the Soviet Union and the breakup of the Soviet "empire" in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, American strategists identified China as the only credible long-term "enemy", the only power that might eventually challenge America's global hegemony. It was argued then that China was America's "strategic adversary" and that, of all the world's trouble spots, the Taiwan Straits was likely to provide the flashpoint for a Third World War.

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The secret war
Raymond Whitacker, The Independent, November 24, 2002

British and American warplanes are attacking Iraq's air defences almost daily, and making practice runs on other targets. US special forces are reported to be on the ground in western and northern Iraq, and military engineers are preparing and upgrading airfields in the Kurdish zone. In many ways, the war on Iraq has already begun.

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