The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
The high and the mighty
Bush's national-security strategy and the new American hubris

Stanley Hoffmann, The American Prospect, December 20, 2002

The first indication that America's strategic thinkers were working on a radically new foreign-policy doctrine for the post-Cold War world came in 1992 with the Defense Planning Guidance draft, a tract that's been called "Dick Cheney's masterwork." It produced such an outcry that it had to be toned down before it was published. The draft, however, assumed that the most important of America's unique qualities was its military dominance. The Cheney draft also introduced the idea that unilateral military action, the preemptive use of force and the maintenance of a U.S. nuclear arsenal strong enough to deter the development of nuclear programs elsewhere were now appropriate U.S. policies. This was a major departure from anything exceptionalism had meant before. It called on the United States neither to cultivate its own garden nor to pursue a world mission through multilateral organizations that would define and legitimize common goals. Instead, it demanded of America only that it be, remain and act as the world's sole superpower.

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No room for justice
Ronnie Kasrils and Victoria Brittain, The Guardian, December 21, 2002

Bethlehem is a familiar talisman of peace in Christmas festivities, but this year the innocent image is gone, perhaps for ever. Today Bethlehem's residents are entombed in their houses 24 hours each day. When the Church of the Nativity was besieged for weeks by the Israeli army in April - the International Red Cross refused entry; misinformation about priests held hostage put out by the Israeli government; wounded Palestinians incarcerated by Israeli forces; others killed and dozens deported to Europe or bussed to Gaza - Bethlehem became, like Sharpeville, a name for injustice.

The parallels between the Palestinians' 50 years of struggle for their own land and the anti-apartheid movement's decades of military and civil campaigns for majority rule are seen as obvious in Southern Africa, where liberation wars successfully ended colonialism and racial oppression. That took much too long; but the international community is even further behind in expressing outrage and taking action against Israel than it was against the apartheid government.

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Hunting terrorists, INS bags taxpayer
Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2002

The war on terrorism reached Woodland Hills last week. The federales threw a net over a 39-year-old construction worker, a working Joe with a Christmas tree in the living room and two American cars in the driveway.

This country and western fan happens to be a British citizen who was born in Iran and moved to California four years ago. Kourosh Reyhanyfar reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service last week to reregister, and like dozens if not hundreds of other men, his reward for compliance was a trip to jail.

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US government recruiting terrorists
Editorial, The War in Context, December 20, 2002

While PR guru and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Charlotte Beers, is still working on new ways to win the hearts of Muslims outside America, the Justice Department is recruiting terrorists here in the homeland. This is not some ludicrous conspiracy theory, but rather a description of what appears to be an historical inevitability.

This week, the INS arrested - en masse - Muslims, mostly Iranians, who were dutifully complying with new immigration regulations. Since 9-11, Muslims living in America have had to endure being treated with suspicion - even though George Bush asserts that America is not at war with Islam. Now anyone from the Middle East has ample reason to fear becoming an object of government persecution.

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U.S. stands alone accusing Iraq of 'material breach'
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, December 20, 2002

The United States was the lone voice in the 15-member United Nations Security Council on Thursday accusing Iraq of ''material breach'' of its obligations to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors in their search for weapons of mass destruction.

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Them and us
Yasmin Hai, The Guardian, December 20, 2002

Yasmin Hai grew up in a multicultural suburb of London, where Muslims and Jews, with so much in common, appeared to live happily side by side. So what went wrong? Why have some of her old friends' attitudes changed so much? And were things really so perfect then? Twenty years on, she returns to her old haunts in search of answers.

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Mass arrests of Muslims in Los Angeles
Megan Garvey, Martha Groves and Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2002

Hundreds of men and boys from Middle Eastern countries were arrested by federal immigration officials in Southern California this week when they complied with orders to appear at INS offices for a special registration program.

The arrests drew thousands of people to demonstrate Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesmen refused Wednesday to say how many people the agency had detained, what the specific charges were or how many were still being held. But officials speaking anonymously said they would not dispute estimates by lawyers for detainees that the number across Southern California was 500 to 700. In Los Angeles, up to one-fourth of those who showed up to register were jailed, lawyers said.

(Editor's note: The LA Times headline for this story is Hundreds are held after visits to INS. The BBC wasn't mealy-mouthed in its headline writing, so I inserted theirs.)

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The New York Police Department wants to watch you
Chisun Lee, Village Voice, December 18, 2002

The enemy could be anywhere. So the authorities say they must look everywhere. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks a vast network of government agencies, from federal to local, has amassed extraordinary powers to inspect what ordinary Americans say, do, and believe in the course of their daily lives.
As the nation's largest law enforcement agency—nearly twice the size of the Federal Bureau of Investigation—the New York City Police Department could be the biggest Big Brother of all. Yet it faces quite a stumbling block. A long-standing federal order, imposed after a landmark lawsuit revealed rampant surveillance abuses of political activists, prevents the NYPD from spying on whomever it wants.

Now the NYPD is fighting to gut the order and get its old powers back.

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The name of the game is assassination
The Pentagon has learned from Israel's policy of 'targeted killings'

Tony Geraghty and David Leigh, The Guardian, December 19, 2002

Israeli hardliners had the pleasure this week of seeing their controversial tactic of "targeted killing" of their enemies vindicated by being imitated. For it has emerged that their close allies in the US administration have now drawn up a target list for a systematic policy of assassination against those they call terrorists.

Considering the closeness of the Israeli right and the hawks at the Pentagon, this development should come as no surprise. The US has borrowed not just their policy, but their techniques too. It was Israel that pioneered the use of the Hellfire missile for summary executions such as the US carried out last month in Yemen.

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Yemen, an uneasy ally, proves adept at playing off old rivals
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, December 19, 2002

When Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, met with President Bush a year ago, the Yemeni offered to help reconcile America's grievances with Saddam Hussein of Iraq, a longtime ally of Mr. Saleh's.

There is an Arab proverb, the Yemeni president said. If you put a cat into a cage, it can turn into a lion. Mr. Bush responded that he had no intention of reconciling, a senior administration official said.

"This cat has rabies," Mr. Bush said, referring to Mr. Hussein, and then added with a bluntness that was said by officials in the room to have shocked Mr. Saleh, "The only way to cure the cat is to cut off its head."

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the global campaign against terrorism forced the United States into an important but uneasy alliance with Yemen and its president, Mr. Saleh, a volatile army commander who seized power in Yemen in 1978 and who sided with Iraq during the Persian Gulf war of 1990-91.

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The secret war on Iraq
John Pilger, The Mirror, December 18, 2002

The American and British attack on Iraq has already begun. While the Blair government continues to claim in Parliament that "no final decision has been taken", Royal Air Force and US fighter bombers have secretly changed tactics and escalated their "patrols" over Iraq to an all-out assault on both military and civilian targets.

American and British bombing of Iraq has increased by 300 per cent. Between March and November, according to Ministry of Defence replies to MPs, the RAF dropped more than 124 tonnes of bombs.

From August to December, there were 62 attacks by American F-16 aircraft and RAF Tornadoes - an average of one bombing raid every two days. These are said to have been aimed at Iraqi "air defences", but many have fallen on mostly populated areas, where civilian deaths are unavoidable.

Under the United Nations Charter and the conventions of war and international law, the attacks amount to acts of piracy: no different, in principle, from the German Luftwaffe's bombing in Spain in the 1930s as precursor to its invasion of Europe.

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Group says U.S. broke law in use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan
Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, December 18, 2002

The U.S. military violated international law in Afghanistan by indiscriminately dropping cluster bombs on populated areas, killing at least 25 civilians and injuring numerous others, Human Rights Watch said in a report scheduled for release today.

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Projection on fall of Hussein disputed
Ground forces chiefs, Pentagon at odds

Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, December 18, 2002

With war possible soon in Iraq, the chiefs of the two U.S. ground forces are challenging the belief of some senior Pentagon civilians that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will fall almost immediately upon being attacked and are calling for more attention to planning for worst-case scenarios, Defense Department officials said.

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Elliot Abrams: Bush's trusty new Mideast point man
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, December 19, 2002

This month's surprise - some in the State Department might say shocking - appointment of Iran-contra veteran Elliott Abrams as the top White House Mideast adviser has bolstered the notion that President George W Bush sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict very differently from his father.

The appointment, announced by Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, two weeks ago, places a dyed-in-the-wool neo-conservative, whose views on the region have long been close to those of the Israel's Likud Party, in one of the most sensitive and powerful posts in the foreign policy apparatus. Although he has never been known as an Arab-Israeli specialist, what he has written on the subject is consistent with the positions of a number of prominent neo-cons such as Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle.

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Journalists are under fire for telling the truth
Robert Fisk, The Independent, December 18, 2002

First it was Roger Ailes, the chairman of the Fox News Channel, who advised the US President to take the "harshest measures possible" against those who attacked America on 11 September, 2001.

Let us forget, for a moment, that Fox News's Jerusalem bureau chief is Uri Dan, a friend of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the author of the preface of the new edition of Sharon's autobiography, which includes a revolting account of the Sabra and Chatila massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians and Sharon's innocence in this slaughter. Then Ted Koppel, one of America's leading news anchormen, announced that it may be a journalist's duty not to reveal events until the military want them revealed in a new war against Iraq.

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Al Qaeda is reviving, U.N. report says
Colum Lynch, Washington Post, December 18, 2002

Al Qaeda continues to command an extensive network of well-financed terrorist operatives in 40 countries and has reopened new training camps in remote eastern Afghanistan to prepare a new generation of Islamic extremists for attacks against the West, according to a United Nations report.

"Let's face it: The sympathy for this organization is actually quite widespread in many countries," Michael Chandler, the chief author of the report, told reporters today.

"New volunteers are making their way to these camps, swelling the numbers of would be al Qaeda activists and the longer term capabilities of the network," the report by a U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against the international terror movement said.

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Jerusalem Patriarch: Mideast leaders must make
peace or quit

Joseph Algazy and Agencies, Ha'aretz, December 18, 2002

Israeli and Palestinian leaders should make peace or quit, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land said Wednesday, in an unusually direct criticism of the leaders of both sides.

"If the present leaders do not succeed in making peace, there is only one solution - open the way to other leaders, perhaps they will succeed better where the present ones have failed," the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, told a pre-Christmas news conference.

Asked if he meant Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat should step aside, he said: "I am calling on all those who are unable to make peace to step down, first the Israeli authorities, because this is in their hands... If Arafat is unable to make peace, of course, let him give the place to another one."

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Folly of our masters of the universe
Global elites must realise that US imperialism isn't in their interest

Michael Hardt (Professor of Literature, Duke University, North Carolina), The Guardian, December 18, 2002

Some of the worst tragedies of human history occur when elites are incapable of acting in their own interest. The waning years of ancient Rome, for example, were full of misguided political and military adventures that brought death and destruction to the elites, their allies and their enemies alike. Unfortunately we are again facing such a situation.

It seems inevitable that the United States will soon conduct a full-scale war in Iraq. The US is also engaged in a war on terrorism that may extend to all regions of the globe. And, most importantly, the US has embarked on a foreign policy of "security" that dictates that it not merely react to threats but anticipate them with pre-emptive strikes.

These military adventures are one sign that the US is fast becoming an imperialist power along the old European model, but on a global scale. It is imposing itself as the active and determining centre of the full range of world affairs, military, political, and economic. All exchanges and decisions are being forced, in effect, to pass through the US.

The ultimate hubris of the US political leaders is their belief that they can not only force regime change and name new leaders for various countries, but also actually shape the global environment - an audacious extension of the old imperialist ideology of mission civilisatrice . Regime change in Iraq is only the first step in an ambitious project to reconstruct the political order of the entire Middle East. And their designs of power extend well beyond that.

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Don't let Bush light Iraq fire
Linda McQuaig, Toronto Star, December 15, 2002

Shooting frogs with BB guns was apparently pretty standard entertainment for young boys in Texas in the 1950s. But for added amusement, George W. Bush and his friends used to tuck firecrackers into the mouths of frogs, throw them in the air, and watch them explode.

The story - recounted with fondness by a Bush childhood friend in a long, flattering New York Times profile of Bush during the 2000 presidential election campaign - never became an issue on the campaign trail.

Despite psychiatric evidence that children who are cruel to animals often go on to be abusive adults, the U.S. media apparently decided that the torture of frogs was nothing more than a charming little anecdote from Dubya's early years. (Imagine what the media would make of a charming little childhood anecdote like that, if it were in Saddam Hussein's background.)

It should have at least been a clue that Bush - now the most powerful man in the world - has a taste for blowing things up, not to mention an insensitivity to suffering.

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Debunking the bin Laden tape
Voice detective wonders why U.S. called it genuine

Sandro Contenta, Toronto Star, December 16, 2002

In this sleepy hamlet at the foot of the snow-capped Alps, the mysterious fate of the world's most wanted man takes the form of coloured patterns and frequency signals generated by an ominous drone.

"You will be killed just as you kill," threatens the voice, purportedly that of Osama bin Laden, specifically naming Canada and other Western countries as targets.

The sound lights up a computer screen with clusters of vertical lines and patches of blues and greens, making a "voice print" that is matched against others confirmed to be the Al Qaeda leader's.

"The more I work on this, the more I'm confident that it's not him," says Hervé Bourlard, director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence, one of the world's leading voice-recognition institutes.

Bourlard's conclusion - that the tape is probably the work of an imposter - caused a worldwide sensation on Nov. 29 and rekindled the mystery of whether bin Laden is dead or alive.

It also raised questions about U.S. intelligence, which declared the mystery solved by describing the audiotape, broadcast Nov. 12, as "genuine" and recently recorded.

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'War on terror' infringing human rights, UNHCR says
Reuters, December 17, 2002

The U.N.'s human rights chief said Tuesday that the U.S.-led "war on terror" was hurting human rights and exacerbating prejudices around the world.
"The war on terrorism has had some damaging effects, I would suggest, on human rights standards across the world," United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights Sergio Vieira de Mello told a news conference in Helsinki.

Governments across the globe have invoked the "war on terror," announced by President Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, to justify activities that de Mello said are damaging human rights in the industrialized and developing worlds.

De Mello said he understood the need to provide security against attacks on civilians after the September 11 attacks which killed more than 3,000 people. But he said that the "war on terror" had aggravated existing prejudices.

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Rep. Sabo: Preach outside choir
Casey Selix, St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 16, 2002

About 350 people interested in pushing for peace packed the pews of a Minneapolis church Sunday afternoon, but they were advised to quit preaching just to the choir.

U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, one of five Minnesota members of Congress who voted against authorizing war with Iraq in October, told people to spread the word to unlikely quarters.

"My observation in American politics is that most people talk to people who think like themselves - regardless of where they are in the political spectrum,'' the Minneapolis DFLer told the audience at Lyndale United Church of Christ. "You need to have more cross-conversations. … You've got to spend time with people who may be prospects, who are not already committed."

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Boxer rejects talk of war, first strikes
U.S. losing its moral authority, she warns in S.F.

John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, December 17, 2002

The Bush administration's drumbeat for war and backing for political assassination could be a long-term disaster for the country, Sen. Barbara Boxer said Monday.

"I believe we have lost the moral high ground with the talk of war, assassination and first strikes coming out of Washington," she told about 200 people at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco. "Sometimes might might have to back right, but only as a last resort."

Recent reports indicate that the administration has authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to hunt down and kill top al Qaeda leaders and terrorists, as well as suggestions that pre-emptive nuclear attacks could be used against countries and groups likely to use weapons of mass destruction.

"This is not a time for arrogance," Boxer said.

The United States has the military and political power to impose its will on the rest of the world, she said, but only at the cost of sowing seeds of resentment, even among our allies.

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Most unconvinced on Iraq war
Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2002

Despite a concerted effort by the Bush administration, more than two-thirds of Americans believe the president has failed to make the case that a war with Iraq is justified, according to a Los Angeles Times poll.

The overwhelming majority of respondents — 90% — said they do not doubt that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction. But in the absence of new evidence from U.N. inspectors, 72% of respondents, including 60% of Republicans, said the president has not provided enough evidence to justify starting a war with Iraq.

The results underscore the importance of the outcome of U.N. arms inspections underway in Iraq if the Bush administration expects to gain clear public support for an attack.

See also Poll analysis: Americans are of two minds about war in Iraq

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The papers that cried wolf
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, December 16, 2002

The risk of giving currency to false or questionable claims is now a daily problem for those of us who try to write about Iraq without turning into other people's weapons of mass deception.

Even a simple reference to Iraq's weaponry can be problematic. Some readers object that "weapons of mass destruction" is a tendentious phrase. "Chemical, biological and nuclear" is accurately descriptive, though it becomes too much of a mouthful when used repeatedly in a story. Reuters news agency and others increasingly - and rather emotively - talk about "doomsday weapons". In practice, "doomsday" is beginning to mean anything nasty possessed by Iraq, though not by the United States.

Last Wednesday, for example, a Reuters report stated: "The United States threatened possible nuclear retaliation against Iraq if its forces or allies were attacked with doomsday weapons." Let's see how that looks the other way round: "The United States threatened retaliation with doomsday weapons against Iraq if its forces or allies were attacked with chemicals."

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Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, December 16, 2002

For more than a generation, state-endorsed assassination has been anathema in the United States. In 1975, after revelations of C.I.A. efforts in the nineteen-sixties to kill Fidel Castro and other hostile foreign leaders, a Senate committee led by Frank Church concluded that such plotting "violates moral precepts fundamental to our way of life. . . . We reject absolutely any notion that the United States should justify its actions by the standards of totalitarians. . . . Of course, we must defend our democracy. But in defending it, we must resist undermining the very virtues we are defending." In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning political assassination, and that order remains in force.

In the aftermath of September 11th, however, the targeting and killing of individual Al Qaeda members without juridical process has come to be seen within the Bush Administration as justifiable military action in a new kind of war, involving international terrorist organizations and unstable states. Defense Department lawyers have concluded that the killing of selected individuals would not be illegal under the Army's Law of War if the targets were "combatant forces of another nation, a guerrilla force, or a terrorist or other organization whose actions pose a threat to the security of the United States."

On July 22nd, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld issued a secret directive ordering Air Force General Charles Holland, the four-star commander of Special Operations, "to develop a plan to find and deal with members of terrorist organizations." He added, "The objective is to capture terrorists for interrogation or, if necessary, to kill them, not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise." The manhunt would be global in its reach, Rumsfeld wrote, and Holland was to cut through the Pentagon bureaucracy and process deployment orders "in minutes and hours, not days and weeks."

When I asked Rumsfeld's office for comment, I was referred to a December 3rd press briefing in which the Defense Secretary had been questioned about the Pentagon's policy on the use of the Predator "to assassinate or to kill an Al Qaeda." Rumsfeld initially responded with a characteristic joke: "I'm working my way over to figuring out how I won't answer that." He then turned serious, and said that the policy "is what you all know it to be. There is really no mystery to it. We recruit, organize, train, equip, and deploy young men and women, in uniform, to go out and serve as members of our military. They are not trained to do the word you used"—assassinate—"which I won't even repeat. That is not what they're trained to do. They are trained to serve the country and to contribute to peace and stability in the world."

Nonetheless, many past and present military and intelligence officials have expressed alarm at the Pentagon policy about targeting Al Qaeda members. Their concerns have less to do with the legality of the program than with its wisdom, its ethics, and, ultimately, its efficacy. Some of the most heated criticism comes from within the Special Forces.

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Matthew Engel, The Guardian, December 16, 2002

Now whereabouts on the axis of evil can we be? The country's long-reigning leader thinks the president of the US is contemptible, a sentiment heartily reciprocated. The leader's official spokeswoman directly insulted Bush, and she was repudiated only grudgingly. Almost every day some new outrage perpetrated by the US is reported in the newspapers, whereupon the Americans are denounced by commentators and letter-writers. Academics travelling across the country on book promotion tours say they are astounded by the level of anti-American vituperation out in the hinterland. Top-level relations with Washington, it is agreed, are at their worst level in decades. Can this mean war?

Well, maybe not. This is Canada that we're talking about.

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Who can you trust?
A gathering of opposition groups in London reveals just how difficult agreeing a plan for democracy in Iraq will be

Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, December 16, 2002

More than 300 delegates from Iraqi opposition groups gathered in London on the weekend in an attempt to draft a blueprint for a democratic Iraq if, or when, Saddam Hussein, is toppled.

Yet despite the the smiles, cigarette smoke and plaudits, bitter divisions continued to rumble around the meeting, underlining the difficulty of finding common ground among the delegates, given their considerable ethnic, religious and political divisions.

American pressure was credited with bringing the various groups together, yet it was differences among the US foreign policy establishment itself that were reflected in arguments off the conference floor.

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All reason is about to be gassed, poxed and nuked
This week the countdown to war on Iraq may begin in earnest

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, December 16, 2002

Unreason permeates every aspect of Bush's slow-burn, post-Afghanistan campaign against Iraq. Unreason is the warlord now and is now unleashed. For just consider.

Bush says people planning to use weapons of mass destruction are the big global threat. So Washington has pledged itself to pre-emptive, any-time use of weapons of mass destruction if provoked. Is that reasonable or what? Bush says he has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. But for a decade the US starved and impoverished those same people with unleavened sanctions. Now, taking the direct approach, it is willing to kill them outright in order to "liberate" them.

Bush says Iraq is but part of his wider "war on terror". But while he plots Saddam's downfall, al-Qaida is plotting his (and maybe ours). Bush surely knows that nuclear-arming, desperate North Korea and its ballistically unstable "Dear Leader" present a far greater, wider and immediate threat than Iraq's rusting Scuds and mutinous army. But do his eyes turn from the gates of Baghdad? No, they do not.

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Pentagon debates propaganda push in allied nations
Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, December 16, 2002

The Defense Department is considering issuing a secret directive to the American military to conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers in friendly and neutral countries, senior Pentagon and administration officials say.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has not yet decided on the proposal, which has ignited a fierce battle throughout the Bush administration over whether the military should carry out secret propaganda missions in friendly nations like Germany, where many of the Sept. 11 hijackers congregated, or Pakistan, still considered a haven for Al Qaeda's militants.

Such a program, for example, could include efforts to discredit and undermine the influence of mosques and religious schools that have become breeding grounds for Islamic militancy and anti-Americanism across the Middle East, Asia and Europe. It might even include setting up schools with secret American financing to teach a moderate Islamic position laced with sympathetic depictions of how the religion is practiced in America, officials said.

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Rubbing salt in old wounds
Bush's appointments of Iran-Contra scandal alumni add insult to unhealed injuries of the Cold War

Mat Welch, National Post, December 14, 2002

What threshold of crime or misconduct does a United States citizen have to cross to become ineligible for participation in public life? The answer may be: Startlingly low, unless your crime was committed in the service of a Cold War that the United States has not yet settled at home.

In eight of the 50 states, being convicted of any felony is enough to forfeit the very right to vote, for life. Crimes classified as felonies run the gamut from minor drug possession to capital murder; Winona Ryder's celebrated shoplifting trial, for example, resulted in two felony convictions, for grand theft and vandalism.

If Ryder lived in Florida instead of California, she would join the 31% of the black voting-age population there in being barred from enjoying the most basic of democratic rights. (Conversely, if Florida had Maine's more liberal voting laws, Al Gore would be president.)

Regardless of what you think about a system that disenfranchises more than four million Americans, the rationale is clear enough: For citizens wishing to have a say in public life, some crimes are beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour. The rule of law, and perhaps even the imperative of national self- defence, demands no less.

Unless, that is, the criminal is a Republican politician.

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Keeping track of John Poindexter
Paul Boutin, Wired, December 14, 2002

The head of the government's Total Information Awareness project, which aims to root out potential terrorists by aggregating credit-card, travel, medical, school and other records of everyone in the United States, has himself become a target of personal data profiling.

Online pranksters, taking their lead from a San Francisco journalist, are publishing John Poindexter's home phone number, photos of his house and other personal information to protest the TIA program.

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In Egypt, U.S. war on terrorism seen as war on Islam
Mark McDonald, Miami Herald, December 15, 2002

Many Egyptians think there's a bad smell about U.S. policy on the Mideast these days. Washington's war on terrorism is increasingly seen here as a war on Islam, with the principal victims Palestinians and Iraqis. Anxiety over a possible attack on Iraq has become a clear and present anger.

"Nobody here shares the view that the Iraqi regime poses a threat to the U.S., to the region or to world peace," said Mustapha Kamel al Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University. "American foreign policy is extremely unpopular, and President Bush is always seen to be taking the side of right-wing Israelis.

"When Bush called (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon a man of peace, well, that was too unbelievable. People can only laugh at that."

After Sept. 11, there was widespread sympathy in Egypt for American losses, but that good will has dissipated. Now, there's widespread distrust of U.S. motives in the Mideast, regardless of whether those motives are bound up in oil, religion, democracy or the war on terrorism.

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The wild card in a post-Saddam Iraq
Peter W. Galbraith, Boston Globe, December 15, 2002

Kurdistan is the wild card in any US plans for Iraq. Protected by American F-16s since a failed uprising at the end of the Gulf War, the Kurds today govern a Vermont-sized territory inside Iraq, stretching along Iraq's northern border with Turkey, from Syria to Iran. With five airfields, an extensive internal road system, and some territory only 100 miles from Baghdad, Kurdistan offers US military planners a potential base for operations. Unlike reluctant American allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the Kurds have no hesitation about supporting the United States in a war against a dictator whom they hold responsible for the murder of upward of 100,000 of their compatriots.

Most important, the Kurds possess considerable military assets. The army that I watched training in July in Zawita is under the command of Masood Barzani, the leader of one of two Kurdish political parties that divide the north into almost equal-sized mini-states. Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party can field 65,000 disciplined, albeit lightly armed, troops. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, commands a roughly comparable force from his base in Sulamanyeh, a city close to the Iranian border. By contrast, Afghanistan's Northern Alliance - to whom the Kurdish militia is often compared - had only 5,000 troops at the start of last year's campaign to oust the Taliban.

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