The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
It's not yesterday's peace movement
Rene Ciria-Cruz, Pacific News Service, January 2, 2003

As war clouds gather, opposition to a U.S. first strike on Iraq grows in a new and different way than the Vietnam-era peace movement -- and faster. Unlike the l960s, today's movement is more diverse, with a clearer political agenda unblurred by counterculture messages.

You don't need a weatherman to see that grassroots opposition to a U.S. war with Iraq is gathering fast. Today's peace movement already draws big protest crowds even before the shooting has begun, and its ranks are more diverse than the 1960s movement, which took a few years to grow. Fueling dissent is the perception that Bush's call for a unilateral first strike against Iraq is arbitrary.

Peace activists using technology nonexistent in the '60s -- e-mail blasts, dedicated Web sites -- are preparing a march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18-20, hoping for crowds even larger than October's demonstrations by tens of thousands in the nation's capital, San Francisco and other cities.

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A lesson in U.S. propaganda
Mark Crispin Miller, AlterNet, January 3, 2003

The Gulf War was itself a propaganda masterpiece, which wowed the TV audience far more than it threatened the grotesque regime in Baghdad. And because the propaganda always blocked our view of things, it left us with important questions that remain unanswered to this day.

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The double standards, dubious morality and duplicity of this fight against terror
Robert Fisk, The Independent, January 4, 2003

I think I'm getting the picture. North Korea breaks all its nuclear agreements with the United States, throws out UN inspectors and sets off to make a bomb a year, and President Bush says it's "a diplomatic issue". Iraq hands over a 12,000-page account of its weapons production and allows UN inspectors to roam all over the country, and – after they've found not a jam-jar of dangerous chemicals in 230 raids – President Bush announces that Iraq is a threat to America, has not disarmed and may have to be invaded. So that's it, then.

How, readers keep asking me in the most eloquent of letters, does he get away with it?

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Anxious ally sees Bush's hand behind the confrontation
Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, January 4, 2003

Not for the first time since George Bush became president the United States is finding it a lot harder to deal with its friends than its enemies. On this occasion the conundrum is in north-east Asia, where Washington's efforts to punish North Korea for its nuclear transgressions have so far served only to alienate one of its staunchest allies, South Korea.

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It's the occupation, stupid!
Leah Harris, Counterpunch, December 28, 2002

The way I see it, this is not a war between the pro-Israeli perspective and the pro-Palestinian perspective. After all, one can easily be pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and opposed to the Israeli occupation. Instead, today's war of ideas is being fought amongst those who support and those who oppose Israel's 35-year-old occupation of Palestinian lives and land.

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North Korea has a point
David Kang, Financial Times, January 2, 2003

George W. Bush's administration is right to ease the pressure on the North Korean regime, since the events of the past month have threatened to spiral out of control. But the US still lacks a long-range strategy to resolve the peninsula's tensions.

In a nutshell, the problem is this: the US refuses to give security guarantees to North Korea until it proves it has dismantled its weapons programme. The North refuses to disarm without security guarantees from the US. Hence, stalemate. Without movement towards resolving the security fears of the North, resolution of the nuclear weapons issue will be limited.

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Al Qaeda vs. the White House
William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, December 28, 2002

Al Qaeda wants revolutionary change. Its attacks on America in September 2001 had the paradoxical effect of propelling the United States on to a policy course that may eventually prove more radically unsettling for world order than anything Islamic militants could ever have expected to do on their own. These are developments that will dominate international relations in 2003.

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A split with Seoul complicates crisis over North Korea
Jay Solomon, Associated Press, January 2, 2003

In a New Year's message, North Korea's state news agency said Wednesday the communist country will create an army-based "powerful nation" to defy the growing pressure being applied by the U.S. It also urged South Korea to back it in its confrontation with the U.S., seeking to drive a wedge between South Korea and the U.S. at a time when thousands of South Koreans have participated in recent weeks in anti-American protests. "There is neither reason nor condition for the fellow countrymen to strain the situation and disturb peace ... as the North and the South are heading for reconciliation, unity and reunification," the agency said.

Relations are hardly that rosy between the neighboring countries, but the gap that North Korea is seeking to exploit has been on display for two years, since Mr. Clinton ran out of time and President George W. Bush launched the U.S. on a wholly different approach to North Korea. Indeed, in the opinion of many U.S. and Asian officials who have sought to address the Korean Peninsula problem in recent years, Mr. Bush's hard-line policy toward the North -- and his rebuff of the South's attempts at reconciliation -- helped sow the seeds for the current conflict.

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Pakistani says he's in FBI wanted photo
Asif Shahzad, Associated Press, January 2, 2003

A Pakistani jeweler, who claims his photo was identified as one of five foreign-born men being sought by the FBI in the United States, said Thursday he wants to clear his name.

An AP photograph of Mohammed Asghar taken at his shop in Lahore was a near-perfect match for one included on an FBI list released Sunday under the name Mustafa Khan Owasi, down to the prominent mole on Asghar's left cheek under his eye.

The FBI is seeking the public's help in tracking down the five men, who it believes may have entered the United States illegally from Canada in a case that has heightened terrorism fears. [...]

"I was shocked when I saw my picture in the newspapers and on television channels with the name of Mustafa Khan Owasi," Asghar said.

With Asghar in the family jewelry shop on Thursday, his father, Haji Asmatullah, was sharply critical of the United States.

"I am hopeful God will help us," he said. "What credibility does the FBI, the U.S. government and the U.S. media have, running pictures without any verification?"

Nearby shopkeepers sympathized. "How can he be a terrorist?" said Mohammad Babar. "He's been here for the last 20 years. The American government and the FBI should apologize to him."

Another jeweler, Mohammad Aqeel, said the affair proved the ill-intent of Americans.

"The Americans and the FBI have just one agenda: to declare all Muslims terrorists," he said.

See also Fake-ID arrest led to FBI hunt

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Call off the war
Lead Editorial, The Guardian, January 2, 2003

Mr Bush has a history of dithering. The "axis of angst" that may have disturbed his holiday break comprises Iraq, North Korea and Israel-Palestine. On the latter issue, the Bush administration has gone back and forth repeatedly but has little to show for its efforts. Two years on, its road map for peace is stuck in a layby and it stands accused of debilitating partiality towards Ariel Sharon's government. On North Korea, Mr Bush initially scorned the diplomatic engagement championed by South Korea's leader, Kim Dae-jung. Now, after provoking Pyongyang into dangerous nuclear brinkmanship, Mr Bush says diplomacy is the only way forward.

But it is Iraq that poses the biggest test of Mr Bush's personal mettle. He has failed to persuade Americans, let alone the wider world, that Iraq poses a significant military threat to the region or to the US. The UN inspections have not been impeded, as Mr Bush predicted they would be, and no evidence has yet been found that Iraq has lied about its weapons programmes. In short, Mr Bush lacks just cause. If he means what he says about peace, and if he wants to show brave and decisive leadership, he should persevere with the UN process and call off the war.

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Half a million Afghan refugees left homeless and cold in cities
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, January 2, 2003

Half a million people — returning refugees who do not have a house to rebuild, those displaced by years of war and still unable to go home, and the urban poor made homeless by war and rising costs — have fallen through the aid net in the last year, and face the freezing winter with completely inadequate shelter in Afghanistan's cities.

For all the reconstruction efforts in the last 12 months, not a single house has been rebuilt with international assistance here in the capital, where a staggering 78,000 houses were destroyed over the years of fighting.

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M.I.T. studies accusations of lies and cover-up of flaws in antimissile system
William J. Broad, New York Times, January 2, 2003

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is looking into accusations that its premier laboratory lied to cover up serious problems with the technology at the heart of the administration's proposed antimissile defense system.

The university was prodded to act by Theodore A. Postol, a tenured M.I.T. physicist in security studies and a prominent critic of the antimissile plan. In letters to Congress and elsewhere, Dr. Postol has said M.I.T. appeared to be hiding evidence of serious flaws in the nation's main antimissile weapon, a ground-based rocket meant to destroy incoming enemy warheads by impact. His accusations center on a 1998 study by Lincoln Laboratory, a federally financed M.I.T. research center, and have grown over the years to include the institute's provost, president and corporate chairman.

Dr. Postol became known as an antimissile critic after the Persian Gulf war in 1991, when he argued that contrary to Pentagon assertions Patriot missiles had shot down few if any Iraqi Scud missiles. His contention, at first ridiculed, in time became accepted as truth.

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South Korea, once a solid ally, now poses problems for the U.S.
Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, January 2, 2003

For half a century the United States has had no more stalwart ally in Asia than South Korea, where 37,000 American troops are stationed to protect against an invasion from the North, representing the unity of purpose between the two countries.

But now South Korea has become one of the Bush administration's biggest foreign policy problems. Years of resentments over a variety of issues are boiling over in Seoul in the form of demonstrations against the United States and pronouncements by the departing and arriving presidents challenging American policies on dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

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Liberty ebbs by degrees
Bush is twisting the Constitution into an obstacle to defense, and no one is speaking up

Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2003

What would happen if you woke up living in a quasi-police state? It is a question that seems entirely academic -- if not absurd -- to Americans who pride themselves on being the leading voice of liberty in the world. This status, however, is less unquestionable as it is unquestioned. A review of administration policies at the beginning of 2003 raises serious questions about the character of the government formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Some mideast realism, please
The war on terrorism hinges on renewing the peace process

John B. Judis, The American Prospect, January 13, 2003

As George Kennan observed 50 years ago in American Diplomacy, American foreign policy has been periodically affected by bouts of evangelical idealism, which date from the country's Puritan founding and which have led Americans to seek to transform the world in our image -- and to demonize any country or regime that stands in the way. Since September 11, a group of Washington neoconservatives, some of whom serve under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have attempted to define America's objectives in the Middle East and the war against terrorism in these evangelical terms.

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The environment: Another casualty of war?
Planning for ecological recovery after Iraq

Jonathan Lash,, December 27, 2002

Just over a decade ago, facing imminent defeat at the hands of western forces, Saddam Hussein gave the order to unleash an ecological disaster of terrible proportions. As Iraqi forces retreated, they set fire to some 600 oil wells across Kuwait and intentionally spilled another four million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf.

Amid what appear to be accelerating preparations for a new war, it is worth taking time to reflect on the environmental consequences of the 1991 Gulf War.

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Dawn of imperial America
In the New World Order as seen through the eyes of George W. Bush, everyone has the right to be like Americans

Richard Gwyn, Toronto Star, January 1, 2003

Idealism vs. imperialism. Realpolitik vs. humanitarianism. Trying to make the whole world a better place or — as predicted long ago by George Kennan, the brilliant diplomat who authored the doctrine of "containing" the Soviet Union that determined U.S. policy throughout the Cold War — doing everything needed from kicking ass to spin-doctoring so that Americans can continue gorging themselves on the world's goodies.

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'War' plays into terrorists' hands
William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2002

[The bombing of 241 US Marines in] Beirut happened two decades before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, brought the phrase "asymmetrical warfare" into the language. Yet much about it is painfully current: the tangled chains of command, the poor communications, the intelligence warnings that were discounted or ignored. Reagan was shown to be detached and ignorant of the complexity of foreign affairs. American policymakers were revealed as oblivious to the motivations of those they were confronting. Senior military leaders such as Powell saw their concerns brushed aside.

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Inspectors 'have zilch' thus far
Sergei L. Loiko and Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2002

In their search for hidden Iraqi arms, U.N. inspectors have so far faced little conflict, have found little evidence and have received little outside intelligence to guide them, said one inspector. The teams have discovered two technical matters that could be considered violations of U.N. resolutions but have yet to find a smoking gun, a trace of radiation or a single germ spore.

"If our goal is to catch them with their pants down, we are definitely losing," the inspector said on condition he wouldn't be named. "We haven't found an iota of concealed material yet."

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A citizen shorn of all rights
A case vital to future Americans, too

Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, December 27, 2002

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. James Madison, Federalist Papers, 47

Yaser Esam Hamdi's name has become familiar and troubling to constitutional lawyers, but it has little resonance yet to Americans at large. However, what happens to him in our system of justice will signal how far the courts—eventually the Supreme Court—will allow George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, and Donald Rumsfeld to create what Charles Lane, the Washington Post's Supreme Court reporter, accurately calls "a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects—U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike—may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, held and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system."

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They choke on Coke, but savor Mecca-Cola
John Tagliabue, New York Times, December 31, 2002

A blurb on Mecca-Cola's label announces that 10 percent of the profit on every bottle is donated to a Palestinian children's fund; a further 10 percent goes to a local charity. Mr. Mathlouthi said South African officials had also contacted him, desirous of channeling the additional 10 percent to groups that work with AIDS-infected children.

But Mr. Mathlouthi has taken pains to produce a product that sells on its taste, rather than a customer's sense of solidarity with a political cause. The company worked with local food chemists in France to produce a formula remarkably similar to Coke's, though with less sugar. Consumers concur that it tastes exactly like Coke.

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The case against war with Iraq
General (Ret) Peter Gration, The Age, January 2, 2003

The war would be the first practical implementation of recently announced changes in US national security policy. This has moved from containment and deterrence to an open-ended doctrine of the right to pre-emptive strike if the US perceives a threat developing to its global supremacy.

In my view, this is bad policy that strikes at the very heart of efforts to create a rules-based international order, and can only lead to a less stable security environment and a marginalised UN.

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Outfoxed by North Korea
Leon Fuerth, New York Times, January 1, 2003

We're beginning the new year in a deep fix.

The Bush administration's decision to refer North Korea's revival of its nuclear-weapons program to the United Nations is a reasonable, but transparent effort to sidetrack the issue in hopes of avoiding another military crisis on the eve of war with Iraq. It is unlikely the United Nations will take meaningful action in this situation, since no power other than the United States possesses the means to back up words with action.

Even if the administration's strategy of isolating North Korea works, at best it would amount to a partial tightening of sanctions against a country whose economy is already moribund. The only additional threat available is the denial of food aid for the people of North Korea, an act that would take the United States into new moral territory.

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Let's be sure before we go to war
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Donald L. Gilleland, Florida Today, December 31, 2002

It is not unpatriotic to question the wisdom of going to war, because wars always require sacrifice on the part of our citizens. They have a right to know why we engage in war, how long it will likely take, how many of us will be involved, how many casualties we can expect, what it will cost us in money and lives, what it will do to our economy and how it will affect each of us individually.

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Bush will put N. Korea on hit list
James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, December 31, 2002

Not every New Year's resolution is kept.

The year 2002 began with America hunting for Osama bin Laden, and it ended with America aiming for Saddam Hussein. In between has come the inconvenient nuclear news from North Korea - but that's been pushed way down on the "to do" list. Indeed, the last half-century shows that the low-prioritizing of Pyongyang has been the norm. Yet one year, maybe next year, Uncle Sam is going to regret his irresolution.

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My brother's fight for democracy
Marwan Bishara, The Guardian, December 31, 2002

Since Israel's attorney-general recommended that the Arab-Israeli MP Azmi Bishara and his party be banned from running in the forthcoming elections, death threats against him have multiplied. It's natural that I should worry - he is my brother. But why should the world at large care?

The reason is that Azmi's vision of an Israel based on universal democratic values - including an end to inequality and the occupation of the Palestinian territories - is indispensable to solving the Middle East conflict. Today, this vision is threatened politically and physically.

Azmi has warned against Ariel Sharon's drive to war and supported popular resistance to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As a result, his parliamentary immunity was lifted last year and he was put on trial for "supporting terrorism". Polls show that Azmi is now the most popular leader among the one million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

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Dissident soldiers ordered to fight in occupied lands
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, December 31, 2002

Israel's high court yesterday rejected a claim by eight reserve soldiers that they should not be forced to serve in the West Bank or Gaza because Israel's army is committing war crimes.

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Sharon takes on rabbis over Jewish identity
Religious and secular clash over right to settle in Israel

Chris McGreal, The Guardian, December 31, 2002

Immigration has fallen to its lowest level since the end of the cold war and Mr Sharon is keen to revive it, even if that opens the gates to people of questionable Jewish ancestry. The government's view is that while the first generation of each wave of immigration may have difficulty embracing Israel and Jewishness, their sons and daughters frequently become enthusiastic Zionists. In the present climate, they are also often very rightwing.

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Iraq belongs on the back burner
Warren M. Christopher, New York Times, December 31, 2002

North Korea's startling revival of its nuclear program, coupled with the unrelenting threat of international terrorism, presents compelling reasons for President Bush to step back from his fixation on attacking Iraq and to reassess his administration's priorities.

North Korea's reopening of its plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon puts it within six months of being able to produce sufficient weapons-grade material to generate several nuclear bombs. Contrast this with Iraq. Not only is North Korea much further along than Iraq in building nuclear weapons but, by virtue of its longer-range missiles, it has a greater delivery capability.

Every option for dealing with this situation — including the administration's "structured containment" — is fraught with danger and potentially disastrous consequences. Having participated in the discussions leading up to the now-violated 1994 agreed framework with North Korea, I am convinced that this crisis requires sustained attention from top government officials, including the president.

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Bring back the draft
Charles B. Rangel, New York Times, December 31, 2002

President Bush and his administration have declared a war against terrorism that may soon involve sending thousands of American troops into combat in Iraq. I voted against the Congressional resolution giving the president authority to carry out this war — an engagement that would dwarf our military efforts to find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

But as a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice. Throughout much of our history, Americans have been asked to shoulder the burden of war equally.

That's why I will ask Congress next week to consider and support legislation I will introduce to resume the military draft.

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The fallout of war
Richard Leiby, Washington Post, December 30, 2002

As the United States deploys troops in anticipation of another battle with Iraq, the Pentagon says it still has no answer for an enigma that has confounded experts for more than a decade: What caused all those Gulf veterans' symptoms? The memory lapses, fatigue, joint pains, rashes, headaches, dizzy spells . . . not to mention the cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease and birth defects.

Many vets speculated that they were poisoned by a combination of vaccines, pesticides, oil fire pollution and other battlefield toxins, including chemical and biological weapons stockpiled by Saddam Hussein.

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After year of calm, looming war makes U.S. ripe for storm
Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2002

It almost seems like I'm tempting fate by bringing this up, but as 2002 turns the corner and the new year is introduced with the drumbeat of war, I've got to ask a question.

Was it luck, smarts, or the mercy of the gods that kept us safe this year?

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Starving pay the price for defiance of North Korea
Phil Reeves, The Independent, December 28, 2002

They have seen famine. They have lived with all the misery of life within a collapsing command economy run by a self-serving police state that is wedded to the worst habits of the old Soviet Union. Most North Koreans living under Kim Jong Il know what it means to suffer and endure.

But, even from their hardened perspective, the new year and the viciously bleak mid-winter presents an alarmingly prospect. Hunger and shortages loom large for a significant part of the population of 23 million, and this crisis is likely to be deepened by confrontation with the US and its allies.

Hundreds of thousands of metric tonnes of international food aid destined for North Korea's undernourished infants, expectant and nursing mothers and the elderly, are already in jeopardy.

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Bush sets course for confrontation with North Korea
Peter Symonds, World Socialist, December 30, 2002

The Bush administration is preparing to escalate the current standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program into a full-blown confrontation, with reckless indifference to the potentially disastrous consequences for the Korean peninsula and the entire region.

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Pressure on North Korea won't work, says South
Paul Eckert, Reuters, December 30, 2002

South Korea, underscoring differences with the United States, said Monday that pressure and isolation would not persuade communist North Korea to halt its nuclear brinkmanship.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, speaking ahead of the departure of international arms inspectors kicked out of North Korea, said that dialogue was the only option. The United States has called for economic sanctions.

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U.S. had key role in Iraq buildup
Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, December 30, 2002

High on the Bush administration's list of justifications for war against Iraq are President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, nuclear and biological programs, and his contacts with international terrorists. What U.S. officials rarely acknowledge is that these offenses date back to a period when Hussein was seen in Washington as a valued ally.

Among the people instrumental in tilting U.S. policy toward Baghdad during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of U.S.-Iraqi relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis in defiance of international conventions.

The story of U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein in the years before his 1990 attack on Kuwait -- which included large-scale intelligence sharing, supply of cluster bombs through a Chilean front company, and facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological precursors -- is a topical example of the underside of U.S. foreign policy. It is a world in which deals can be struck with dictators, human rights violations sometimes overlooked, and accommodations made with arms proliferators, all on the principle that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend."

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Knesset moves to bar Arab members
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, December 30, 2002

The knesset has begun proceedings to bar three Arab members and their parties from next month's general election because of their support for the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.

The hearings by a knesset committee are expected to result in the expulsion of Israel's leading Arab politician, Azmi Bishara, and two colleagues. Their parties are likely to be banned, stripping Israel's one million Arabs of their principal voices in parliament.

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Bush's moonshine policy
Mary McGrory, Washington Post, December 29, 2002

George W. Bush ends the year with a genuine nuclear crisis on his hands. He has been assiduously trying to foment one with Iraq, dropping bombs on the country and expletives on its leader. But North Korea, which is not just suspected of working on the bomb but of having at least two, has muscled Saddam Hussein off the front pages and made our crusade against Baghdad seem crass: We're starting a war not just for oil or for Ariel Sharon but because we can win it.

North Korea is a different story. It has a million men under arms. It has a built-in hostage situation at hand in the presence of 37,000 U.S. soldiers who guard South Korea. Kim Jong Il, the Communist leader of North Korea, almost makes Saddam Hussein look like Rotarian of the Year. While Hussein is welcoming U.N. arms inspectors, Kim is throwing them out. He has dismantled the international surveillance equipment installed by a treaty in 1994; he has announced he is going to make all the weapons-grade plutonium he wants. He is, in short, behaving like the radioactive lunatic he is.

And what is George W. Bush, defender of the free world, scourge of terrorists, doing about all this? As of this moment, nothing.

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Move over Iraq, North Korea wants the spotlight
Bradley K Martin, Asia Times, December 25, 2002

A quarter-century ago, Dear Leader Kim Jong-il was sharing absolute power in North Korea with his father, Great Leader Kim Il-sung. Their principal American-handler was Kim Yong-nam, a bespectacled functionary with Groucho Marx eyebrows - but no one-liners and no cigar. When I met him in 1979 his specialty was earnest, three-hour monologues over lunch.

And now? Kim Il-sung died in 1994, but otherwise at the top it's business as usual. Kim Jong-il is the Great Leader, flexing the dynasty's still enormous muscle. Kim Yong-nam acts as head of state.

In the United States, four presidents have come and gone, along with their principal North Korea-watchers.

The discontinuity in Washington may help to explain what otherwise would be a mystery: how the current US team imagines it can focus on invading Iraq while consigning to a back burner North Korea's revived threats to make trouble big time.

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