The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Poll: Majority oppose unilateral action against Iraq
Martin Merzer, Knight Ridder, January 12, 2003

With U.S. troops heading for the Persian Gulf, Americans say in overwhelming numbers that they oppose unilateral U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, according to a national Knight Ridder poll.

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Nuclear mediators resort to political mind reading
David E. Sanger, New York Times, January 12, 2003

An Asian diplomat emerged from one of the many meetings on defusing the North Korean nuclear crisis saying that no one could know what Kim Jong Il wants: a nuclear arsenal or new relationship with the West.

But the real mystery, he said, is here in Washington. "I'd just like to get a handle on what President Bush has in mind," he said. This administration, he said, "sends as many conflicting signals as the North Koreans."

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Iraqi oil and the global economy
James T. Bartis, RAND, January 6, 2003

If Saddam Hussein is ousted as leader of Iraq, the United States will face critical decisions about the future of the world's second-largest oil reserves. Should the United States support greatly increased Iraqi oil production? Or should America protect the status quo of artificially high oil prices?

The choice the United States makes will have profound repercussions far into the future, because Iraq holds 112 billion barrels of proven reserves of crude oil -- more than five times the size of U.S. reserves.

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Challenge of America / Nukes are North Korea's hedge against U.S. attack
Takuji Kawata, Daily Yomiuri, January 11, 2003

If the United States moves to implement a containment policy, a source in Seoul said, "The measures will not only include searches of North Korean ships but also restrictions on trade with the North with Japan and South Korea."

"The North Korean economy can just about survive with money from Japan and South Korea. The trade restriction would stop the money flow and make the North economically barren, eventually forcing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program," the source said.

For that end, the United States needs Seoul to suspend all of its South-North projects, including tours to the Diamond Mountains and railway connections with the North.

However, [South Korean President-elect] Roh and the South Korean public are unlikely to accept the demand.

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U.S. 'will attack even without UN backing'
Toby Harnden, The Telegraph, January 10, 2003

America will not delay a war with Iraq until the autumn and is prepared to launch military action against Saddam Hussain without any additional authorisation from the United Nations, a senior Bush administration adviser said on Thursday.

Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board and a hawk whose views carry considerable weight in the White House, rejected suggestions from British ministers and senior Foreign Office officials that plans for an early war should be put on hold.

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Where are the hawks on North Korea?
Faced with a real crisis, Bush does nothing

Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, The American Prospect, February 1, 2003

Does George W. Bush actually believe his own foreign-policy pronouncements? A year ago he made North Korea a charter member of the "axis of evil" and vowed not to "permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." The National Security Strategy he issued last September warned that the United States would strike preemptively to make good on that pledge. Bush told Bob Woodward that he "loathed" Kim Jong Il, North Korea's "dear leader." On Jan. 3, Bush added that he had "no heart for somebody who starves his folks."

All this tough talk would make you think Bush would be putting Pyongyang in his gun sights after it decided last month to restart its production of plutonium. But he isn't. Instead, he and his advisers are counseling patience, dismissing preemption and trumpeting the virtues of working with North Korea's neighbors. "Don't be quite so breathless," Colin Powell said, dismissing an interviewer who wondered why the administration did no more than express "disappointment" at Pyongyang's decision to violate three major international agreements. "This is not a military showdown," Bush said, "this is a diplomatic showdown."

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Madness in the making
Lead Editorial, The Guardian, January 11, 2003

The possibility that the US will resort to the use of nuclear weapons in a future conflict is greater now that at any time since the darkest days of the cold war. This growing danger does not principally arise from old fears about the threat from strategic nuclear missiles. Although the US, Russia, China, France and Britain retain such weapons, their overall numbers have been reduced. Rather, the 21st century's own looming nuclear nightmare has two other main causes. One is the US development of new generations of theatre or battlefield nuclear weapons and an increasing willingness by the Bush administration to use them pre-emptively. The other is the proliferation of nuclear weapons-related technology and the linked acquisition by "rogue states" and international terrorist groups of other relatively less potent weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological agents.

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North Korea battles the big squeeze
Hamish McDonald, The Age, January 11, 2003

With yesterday's announcement by North Korea that it was withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the country's isolated communist regime has stepped up an increasingly strident effort to win security guarantees and economic openings from the United States and other Western-oriented countries.

Behind the implied nuclear threat is a regime facing a sharp increase in economic privation for its 23.5 million people in the coming months, as the US-led freeze on oil shipments last month takes effect and contributions to a United Nations food relief program fall short.

The North Koreans are also counting on the rising anti-American sentiment in South Korea, where the public is sceptical about the reality of the nuclear threat painted by Washington and irritated by the presence of 37,000 American troops.

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Has the tide turned against another Gulf war?
Patrick Seale, Daily Star, January 10, 2003

It is time to put the question everyone is asking: Will the United States and Britain attack Iraq? Yes or no? No one ­ not even the man in the White House ­ can yet answer that question with total certainty, but several indications suggest that the tide may have turned against the war.

Two unforeseen factors outside the Middle East have worked in Iraq’s favor. First, the Washington hawks’ argument that Iraq must be disarmed by force has been punctured by the Bush administration’s mild, “diplomatic” response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. If the acute danger from Pyongyang’s “real” weapons of mass destruction can be defused and neutralized by negotiations, surely the dubious threat from Baghdad’s “alleged” weapons can be dealt with in the same way. International public opinion, not least in the United States, is now reaching this conclusion, and this must certainly inhibit President George W. Bush from deciding to attack.

The crisis in Venezuela is the second factor no one foresaw. Venezuelan oil exports have been severely reduced by the six-week-long general strike which is threatening to bring down the regime of President Hugo Chavez. If a war were also to disrupt Iraq’s oil exports, the world oil market would lose a total from both producers of some 5 million barrels daily. Such a large amount could not be quickly made up by other producers, even if OPEC increases production. As a result, oil prices, already well over $30 a barrel, would soar still higher, dealing a severe blow to the already depressed American and world economies.

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N Korea follows Bush's lead
Daniel Plesch, BBC News, January 10, 2003

North Korea has decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, invoking its legal right to do so.

The move increases international tension and the risk of Japan reconsidering its position on nuclear weapons.

But it is in line with the new approach to global security adopted by the Bush administration.

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Sharon: He's gotta go
Yoel Marcus, Ha'aretz, January 10, 2003

In a normal country, the first thing expected of a prime minister suspected of bribe-taking, fraud and breach of trust, who is being questioned by the police, is to step aside, right then and there. Because someone who is suspected of such crimes - after taking an outrageously oversized loan (NIS 7 million, or NIS 14 million gross) at a totally ridiculous rate of interest, repaid with tricks and shticks, through phony companies and fishy financial channels that sent the money half around the world - can't simply wash his hands of the whole affair and blame it on the media.

It wasn't the media that produced the incriminating document, just as it wasn't the media that invented the corruption in the primaries. The allegations come from the law enforcement authorities of the state, following the discovery of an official receipt from a friend who loaned Ariel Sharon $1.5 million to repay his campaign debts from 1999. Sharon simply forgot to report the loan, as required by law.

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Sharon's fingerprints on latest suicide bombing
Steve Niva, Counterpunch, January 9, 2003

It is difficult to imagine that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with his much vaunted military and strategic acumen, did not understand the consequences of his policies over the past month.

Since the last suicide bombing on November 21, escalating Israeli military assaults have killed over sixty Palestinian civilians, culminating in the December 26 wave of killing and abductions, in which Israeli occupying forces killed at least nine Palestinians, injured more than 30 and abducted several others.

On that day alone, Israeli execution squads assassinated three prominent members from three different militant Palestinian groups: Hamza Abu el-Rab of Islamic Jihad, Ibrahim Hawash, of Hamas and Gamal Abu el-Nader of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades. All three groups vowed revenge.

As if on que, the horrific double suicide bombing near the old Tel Aviv bus station took place within two weeks of these assassinations and reports have now confirmed that the bombers were members of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades. Twenty two Israeli's and foreign workers were killed and a hundred more injured.

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Plan: Tap Iraq’s oil
U.S. considers seizing revenues to pay for occupation, source says

Knut Royce, Newsday, January 10, 2003

Bush administration officials are seriously considering proposals that the United States tap Iraq's oil to help pay the cost of a military occupation, a move that likely would prove highly inflammatory in an Arab world already suspicious of U.S. motives in Iraq.

Officially, the White House agrees that oil revenue would play an important role during an occupation period, but only for the benefit of Iraqis, according to a National Security Council spokesman.

Yet there are strong advocates inside the administration, including the White House, for appropriating the oil funds as "spoils of war,” according to a source who has been briefed by participants in the dialogue.

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U.S. seeks to tone down drums of war
Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2003

The drumbeat of war may be slowing.

After weeks of mounting expectations that an invasion is imminent, the United States and many of the key players in the showdown with Iraq indicated Thursday that U.N. weapons inspections will run well beyond the Jan. 27 due date for the first formal report to the world body on Saddam Hussein's cooperation.

Barring solid discoveries or new evidence about Iraq's weapons programs, widespread assumptions about an American-led military operation beginning in early February may also be off, according to U.S., European and U.N. officials.

"It's wrong to assume anything has to happen in January or February. We're not in this to call a quick war, so don't assume any timetable," a senior State Department official said Thursday on condition of anonymity. "We have to exhaust the U.N. process to get people to come through with military and other support."

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Bush sidelines his Cuban hardman
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, January 10, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday announced a new job - in effect a demotion - for Otto Reich, the controversial Cuban-American who has been responsible for policy in Latin America for the past year.

The decision is a climbdown which acknowledges that the Senate, even with its new Republican majority, will not confirm Mr Reich as assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere.

Mr Reich, a hardline anti-communist, has been accused of supporting terrorists in Central America and appearing to welcome a military coup in Venezuela. [...]

Last April Mr Reich came under scrutiny for apparently welcoming the military coup which led to the brief removal from office of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

More recently he angered the Venezuelan government by saying: "An election is not sufficient to call a country a democracy."

The Venezuelan vice-president, Jose Vicente Rangels, called him "a clown".

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Ministers, speak now
Jackie Ashley, The Guardian, January 10, 2003

First the good news for Tony Blair: his cabinet is not split about Iraq. All this loose talk of divisions is so much journalistic hot air. Second, the not-so-good news for our prime minister: the cabinet is not split only because it is united in deep angst and worry about what he is up to.

In recent weeks, three cabinet ministers, two of whom you would classify as ultra loyal, have privately expressed to me grave doubts about the course apparently being pursued by Mr Blair. "This is not what we were elected for," said one. "This is madness," said another.

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Allies in a spin over lack of evidence
US and UK blame inspectors' failure to find a smoking gun on Baghdad's 'passive' cooperation

Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, January 10, 2003

Washington and London responded to the failure of the UN inspectors to find evidence of forbidden weapons in Iraq by telling Saddam Hussein yesterday that he had yet to demonstrate "proactive cooperation" with the inspections.

Hans Blix, the head of Unmovic, the chemical and biological team, told reporters in New York: "We have now been there for some two months and been covering the country in ever wider sweeps and we haven't found any smoking guns."

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Anti-war train drivers refuse to move arms freight
Kevin Maguire, The Guardian, January 9, 2003

Train drivers yesterday refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition believed to be destined for British forces being deployed in the Gulf.

Railway managers cancelled the Ministry of Defence service after the crewmen, described as "conscientious objectors" by a supporter, said they opposed Tony Blair's threat to attack Iraq.

The anti-war revolt is the first such industrial action by workers for decades.

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Europeans seek to rein in American war machine
Hassan Hafidh, Reuters, January 10, 2003

Europe moved to stay America's hand over Iraq on Friday, as top officials spoke out against a rush to war on the basis of inconclusive weapons inspections.

"Without proof, it would be very difficult to start a war," the European Union's foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana told French newspaper Le Monde.

One of President Saddam Hussein's main Iraqi enemies also urged against an invasion and warned that the sort of occupying force Washington envisages would face broad, armed resistance.

"We reject the idea of an invasion and occupation of Iraqi territory," said Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

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U.S. warned to tread lightly in Yemen
Jim Lobe, OneWorld, January 9, 2003

The United States should tread carefully in pursuing the "war on terrorism" in the key Arab state of Yemen, according to a new report released Wednesday by a major international think tank, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

Published in the wake of last month's murder of three U.S. missionaries at a hospital they helped run in the town of Jibla, the report, 'Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile State,' warns against a narrow focus on terrorism and any effort to establish a large military presence there.

See also Yemen: Coping with terrorism and violence in a fragile state

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Feeling isn't argument
William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, January 9, 2003

President George W. Bush continues to repeat moral arguments for a U.S. attack on Iraq because his domestic political adviser, Karl Rove, has convinced him that the "moral clarity" of his declarations about the war against evil and the wickedness of Saddam Hussein have proved a decisive electoral asset.

However, his current difficulties in consolidating U.S. and international opinion behind an invasion of Iraq lie in the realms of reason and evidence. His speeches have, in those respects, offered nothing new to demonstrate that the United States should attack Iraq here and now, with or without a new United Nations mandate.

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Europe and 'religious' US drifting apart
Judy Dempsey, Financial Times, January 8, 2003

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Mr Javier Solana, says Europe and the US are growing further apart despite rhetoric about the values that bind both sides of the Atlantic.

The reason, he says, is a 'cultural phenomenon', one that goes beyond the pattern of US foreign policy swinging between unilateralism and multilateralism.

This time the unilateralist pendulum is different. It is, says Mr Solana, being swung by religion.

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Poet laureate joins doubters over Iraq

Britain's poet laureate, appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, in his service to monarch and nation, offers these words about Britain and America's leading warmongers and their critics:

Causa belli by Andrew Motion

They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn.
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad:
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.

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Plenty of patriotism, but little citizenship
Diane E. Dees, Democratic Underground, January 8, 2003

What does it mean to "love America" and have little or no regard for its land and its inhabitants?

Citizenship is a forgotten concept, one that brings to mind images of elementary school children holding hands and learning about the pledge of allegiance and the importance of safety crossing guards. But citizenship is the expression of one's ability to live with others. Unlike patriotism, it is organic, it requires commitment. It is not a feeling, but a pattern of behavior that acknowledges that none of us can live without the cooperation of others, and that all of us need to behave with decency and compassion.

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TV ads say S.U.V. owners support terrorists
Katherine Q. Steelye, New York Times, January 8, 2003

Ratcheting up the debate over sport utility vehicles, new television commercials suggest that people who buy the vehicles are supporting terrorists. The commercials are so provocative that some television stations are refusing to run them.

Patterned after the commercials that try to discourage drug use by suggesting that profits from illegal drugs go to terrorists, the new commercials say that money for gas needed for S.U.V.'s goes to terrorists.

"This is George," a girl's voice says of an oblivious man at a gas station. "This is the gas that George bought for his S.U.V." The screen then shows a map of the Middle East. "These are the countries where the executives bought the oil that made the gas that George bought for his S.U.V." The picture switches to a scene of armed terrorists in a desert. "And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his S.U.V."

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U.S. troops in South Korea encounter increased hostility
James Brooke, New York Times, January 8, 2003

Lt. Col. Steven Boylan's combat patch comes from flying helicopters in El Salvador, but his parents think his Purple Heart should come from walking the streets of Seoul.

That became clear one night last month when three Korean men cornered him in a tunnel on his way home. "They started cussing me in English, `G.I. get out, G.I. go home,' " the colonel, a 41-year-old Wisconsin native, recalled today. "They attacked me, and I made a defensive maneuver. It was only when I made it back to post that I saw I had been stabbed."

The world worries about whether North Korea is making nuclear weapons. Television correspondents do live stand-ups from the demilitarized zone, the "last cold war frontier." But to hear some G.I.'s tell it, the highest risk of violence is on the streets of South Korean cities, where political leaders have allowed anti-Americanism to run unchecked.

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Swords, plowshares and 9/11 steel
Clyde Haberman, New York Times, January 7, 2003

Make no mistake, Rita Lasar said. She would have opposed this brewing war against Iraq even if her brother, Abraham Zelmanowitz, had not died at the World Trade Center. But he did die there, and that painful reality, she said, stoked an antiwar passion that might otherwise have stayed dormant.

"I don't want terror rained on other people to avenge my brother's death," Ms. Lasar said the other evening in her East Village apartment. "And I don't spend any time thinking about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and what I want to do to those people. It's irrelevant at this point. What's relevant is not having other innocent people die because my brother died."

Ms. Lasar, a 71-year-old widow, is well aware that her stance is a distinctly minority view, among Americans in general and, no doubt, among relatives of the Sept. 11 victims in particular. All the same, it is probably not a crime against democracy to note that, agree with them or not, some of the relatives feel that the country is on a misbegotten path toward war.

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Court rules U.S. can hold citizens as 'enemy combatants'
Neil A. Lewis, New York Times, January 8, 2003

A federal appeals court handed the Bush administration a major victory today in ruling that a wartime president has the authority to detain indefinitely a United States citizen captured as an enemy combatant on the battlefield and deny that person access to a lawyer. [...]

The Hamdi case appears to be the first in modern American legal history in which a citizen has been detained without being charged and without being given access to a lawyer. While Mr. Hamdi's lawyers are certain to seek a review from the Supreme Court, there is no guarantee the justices will take up the case.

Along with Mr. Hamdi, the only other American citizen being held without charges is Jose Padilla, an American accused of trying to explode a radioactive bomb in the United States. He is being held in a military brig in South Carolina.

Today's ruling may be the most far-reaching yet in a host of court cases brought on by the Bush administration's efforts in the war against terrorism.

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Despite so many fans, war is no game
Americans see it as the dark twin of the Olympics

Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2003

While the symbols of patriotism are everywhere -- from the ubiquitous military recruitment ads to the stars and stripes affixed to referee uniforms at the Orange Bowl -- television news anchors chirp about the latest troop movements and "incidents" in the "no-fly" zone. And for many Americans huddled around the tube in midwinter, knocking off Saddam Hussein is an easy sell, offering as it does a cheap thrill demanding less sacrifice than that needed to acquire playoff tickets -- and less angst over the outcome.

However, the viewing public doesn't seem to understand that what is being planned by our president is not Gulf War II -- a swift punch in the mouth to our old ally Hussein -- but rather a multiyear occupation by the U.S. of an independent, powerful and modern Muslim nation rife with ethnic tension.

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The liar's club
David Hackworth, WorldNetDaily, January 7, 2003

Did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld misspeak last month when he said that the Pentagon could duke it out simultaneously with both North Korea and Iraq? Or did he join the SecDef Liar's Club?

Like most control freaks, Rummy picks his positions very carefully, and you better believe a whole lot of strategizing goes down before his carefully scripted weekly gig on national television.

In this case, he surely would've been aware that the U.S. forces earmarked for fires on the Korean peninsula are many of the same Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units now moving at max speed toward Iraq. He also had to know that despite the almost $400 billion 2003 defense budget, there's no way the USA can handle two major scraps at the same time – not to mention the mother of all threats: al-Qaida – with forces at about half Desert Storm strength and stretched to the breaking point in more countries than there are flags.

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North Korea adds fuel to nuclear crisis
Julian Borger, The Guardian, January 8, 2003

Could Kim Jong Il be receiving a retainer from Saddam Hussein? No doubt the "Dear Leader" needs the money and the oil, while his timing could not be better from the Iraqi despot's point of view.

The sudden escalation of the North Korean nuclear programme and Pyongyang's ejection of international inspectors has complicated the United States strategy both diplomatically and militarily. It is now much harder for the US to go to the security council to make the case for military action against Saddam Hussein, who might have nuclear weapons in a few years time, while pushing a diplomatic approach towards the quixotic North Korean government, which probably has a couple of crude plutonium weapons already.

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North Korea forcing Bush to back off stated policy
'Pre-emption' turns out to mean U.S. only attacks weaker enemies

Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, January 6, 2003

Soon after rolling out a new post-Cold War foreign policy doctrine, the Bush administration is scrambling to explain why "pre-emption" may be appropriate for dealing with Iraq, but not such a good idea in defusing the threat from fellow "axis of evil" member North Korea.

A spate of nuclear brinkmanship from North Korea, which is threatening to push ahead with the production of fissile material for a series of nuclear bombs, has created an unexpected opening for Democrats and opponents of a looming war with Iraq.

The critics have seized on the North Korea crisis as an opportunity to attack the administration for apparent inconsistencies in a foreign policy strategy that stresses the need to move beyond the Cold War practices of containment and deterrence.

"What North Korea shows is that deterrence is working," said Joseph Nye, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who served as a senior Pentagon official during the Clinton administration. "The only problem is that we are the ones who are being deterred."

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U.S. shares blame for North Korea's bad behaviour
Gavan McCormack, The Age, January 8, 2003

The previous crisis, in 1994, went to the brink of war. It was settled by the Jimmy Carter mission and the subsequent agreement between the US and North Korea known as the Geneva Agreed Framework.

North Korea shelved its graphite nuclear reactor plans in return for an American proposal to construct light-water reactors to generate 2000 megawatts of electricity by a target date of 2003, and to supply 500,000 tonnes a year of heavy oil for energy generation in the interim.

Other clauses committed the two to move towards full normalisation of political and economic relations and the US to provide assurances to North Korea against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the US.

Nine years have passed. There are no light-water reactors, there is nothing much but a large hole in the ground and there is no prospect of any power generation until about the end of this decade. And, far from there being any progress towards normalising political and economic relations, President Bush, at the outset of his presidency, called North Korea part of the "axis of evil", and in place of formal assurances talked about pre-emptive attack and indicated a willingness to include nuclear weapons as part of it.

If Pyongyang has plainly departed from the Agreed Framework, therefore, it did so after the agreement had already been substantially voided by the US, in the reactor commitment, the failure to proceed with the promised normalisation, and the nuclear guarantee.

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The 'virus' of terrorism
H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe, January 3, 2003

We need to work closely with other nations and friends where we can find them. We will seek to disrupt terrorists when we find them, and we will take losses again, as we did in September of the year before last. It will take years, but in the end it will be the openness of our society, the freedoms that attract even those who oppose our policies. The best thing we have going for us is tolerance.

Of all the graffiti that sprang up on walls and signs around ground zero in the weeks following 9/11, one caught my eye as summarizing all the sassy resilience that Americans need in these troubled times ahead. It read: ''Infidels welcome here.''

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U.S. calls off search for 5 foreign men
Curt Anderson, Associated Press, January 7, 2003

The FBI has called off a nationwide search for five foreign-born men amid questions about the reliability of the tipster who told authorities the men were smuggled into the country last month.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday, said the names of the men and their photos will be removed from an FBI Web site. A message to local police agencies around the country telling them the search was off was to be transmitted Tuesday, the official said.

See also The case of the five vanishing suspects and Pakistani says he's in FBI wanted photo

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The disquieted Americans
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, January 7, 2003

After September 11, there was much nervousness in the worlds of film and television in LA about screening or embarking on any production that might appear to be in bad taste or deemed unpatriotic. Some of this was for understandable reasons of sensitivity but a timid self-censorship played its part, too.

Plans for a film about the Florida election fiasco of 2000 were dropped and anything that appeared to show the president or the US military in a poor light was reckoned to be unfeasible. A raft of television shows in which the CIA were shown in a flattering light appeared. But is the climate finally changing?

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Bush the gunslinger
Arie Caspi, Ha'aretz, January 7, 2003

Since the attack on the World Trade Center, Americans, like Israelis, have blurred the distinctions between different kinds of terrorism. There are at least two kinds. Some terrorist actions are carried out by small, esoteric groups like the Red Brigades or the Baader-Meinhof gang. Then there are the terrorist actions of underground groups representing the oppressed dreams of their environment, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaida.

Esoteric gangs can be wiped out. The public within which they operate detests them. But waging war on organizations that enjoy popular support is an unholy mess. In most cases, what actually happens is the complete opposite of the surface outcome. The media coverage of the fight enhances national consciousness and adds new members to the groups under attack. When one group is eliminated, worse ones sprout up in its place. Bush's frontal assault on radical Islam has revived Islamic nationalism and made the fight against terror into a war of civilizations.

The United States is now much more hated in Muslim countries than it was before September 11. America-hatred runs deep even in such supposedly friendly countries as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Egypt is second only to Israel in the amount of foreign aid it receives from the United States. The Americans have pumped over $20 billion into the country in the last decade. But the Egyptian media does not give a hoot about the money. Most of them treat America as an enemy.

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The case of the five vanishing suspects
Peter Cheney and Victor Malarek, The Globe and Mail, January 4, 2003

Like the posthumous Elvis Presley, Canada's five mysterious terror suspects seem to have popped up everywhere.

They were at Akswesasne, being smuggled into the United States by natives. They were at Toronto's Pearson Airport, where they slipped into Canada by claiming refugee status. One was seen on a bus entering the Lincoln Tunnel. Another was spotted on a West Coast ferry.

By the middle of this week, they had starred in hundreds of newspaper and television reports and had been on the lips of everyone from U.S. President George W. Bush to Senator Hilary Clinton, who announced at a press conference that they had entered the United States through Canada.

But yesterday, the FBI admitted that the most important ingredient in the story -- that is, the proof -- is nowhere to be found: "There is no border-crossing information that would say they're here," FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell said. "And to say they came in from Canada is pure speculation." [...]

"We don't know if they ever entered the U.S.," Mr. Cogswell said. "And in fact we've never linked these guys to terrorists. Most of what we have here is an unknown, and even with these individuals we don't know if they are true names with those photographs."

"We're chasing rumours," a senior RCMP officer said. "We don't know if these five men were ever in Canada and we certainly have no proof whatsoever that they crossed into the United States either legally or illegally."

Asked what might have triggered the initial FBI allegation about the five Middle Eastern men entering the U.S. from Canada, the Mountie replied caustically: "It was a slow week at the White House. They needed something to stir the pot because nothing was happening in Iraq."

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Act now against war
George Monbiot, The Guardian, January 7, 2003

The rest of Europe must be wondering whether Britain has gone into hibernation. At the end of this month our prime minister is likely to announce the decision he made months ago, that Britain will follow the US into Iraq. If so, then two or three weeks later, the war will begin. Unless the UN inspectors find something before January 27, this will be a war without even the flimsiest of pretexts: an unprovoked attack whose purpose is to enhance the wealth and power of an American kleptocracy. Far from promoting peace, it could be the first in a series of imperial wars. The gravest global crisis since the end of the cold war is three weeks away, and most of us seem to be asking why someone else doesn't do something about it.

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Axis praxis
Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, January 6, 2003

A not completely crazy case can be made that the most influential thinker in the foreign-policy apparatus of the Administration of George W. Bush during its first two years was not one of the familiar members of the gold-shielded Praetorian Guard—not Dick Cheney or Colin Powell, not Condi or Rummy, not Tenet or Wolfowitz—but, rather, a forty-two-year-old Canadian named David Frum. During Year I of Bush II, Frum was a White House speechwriter. Although he left the job only ten months ago, his memoir of those distant days has already been written, edited, and printed, and, as of this week, is in the stores. (The revolving door used to turn with stately languor. Now it comes equipped with a tachometer.) In the book, he writes that when drafting duties for last year's State of the Union Message were being doled out, his assignment was "to provide a justification for a war," specifically a war with Iraq. After much cogitation, he hit upon the idea of likening what the United States has been up against since September 11, 2001, to the villains of the Second World War. The phrase he came up with was "axis of hatred." Higher-ups changed this to "axis of evil," to make it sound more "theological." Although Frum initially intended his "strong language" to apply only to Iraq, Iran was quickly added. (You can't have a single-pointed axis.)

North Korea was an afterthought. It got stuck in at the last minute, but Frum doesn't quite explain how or why. Perhaps it was meant to echo the global span of the original (Baghdad-Tehran-Pyongyang equals Berlin-Rome-Tokyo). Perhaps it was an application of the rhetorical Rule of Three (our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor; of the people, by the people, for the people; blood, sweat, and tears). Perhaps it was the product of intoxication brought on by an excess of moral clarity. Most likely, it was simply oratorical affirmative action, bused in to lend diversity to what would otherwise have been an all-Muslim list. One thing it was not was the product of careful policy deliberation.

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The suicide bombers
Professor Avishai Margalit (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), New York Review of Books, January 16, 2003

In this conflict practically every statement one makes is bound to be contested, including the description of the attackers as suicide bombers and the victims as civilians. Islamic law explicitly prohibits suicide and the killing of innocents. Muslims are consequently extremely reluctant to refer to the human bombers as suicide bombers. They refer to them instead as shuhada (in singular: shahid), or martyrs. Palestinians are also reluctant to use the expression "Israeli civilians," which implies that they are innocent victims. Even if they are Israeli dissidents they are not regarded as such. In a recent attack by Hamas at the campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the victims, Dafna Spruch, had been active in one of the most fearless peace protest groups in Israel, Women in Black. Hamas dealt with this simply by claiming that she belonged to Women in Green, a ferocious anti-Palestinian right-wing organization. As such, she was not innocent.

Spokesmen for Hamas justify the killing of civilians by saying it is a necessary act of defense—the only weapon they have to protect Palestinian women and children. "If we should not use" suicide bombing, the Hamas leaders announced this November, "we shall be back in the situation of the first week of the Intifada when the Israelis killed us with impunity."

A report by Amnesty International in July 2002 summarizes the arguments cited by the Palestinians as reasons for targeting civilians. The Palestinians claim that

they are engaged in a war against an occupying power and that religion and international law permit the use of any means in resistance to occupation; that they are retaliating against Israel killing members of armed groups and Palestinians generally; that striking at civilians is the only way they can make an impact upon a powerful adversary; that Israelis generally or settlers in particular are not civilians.

The report finds these reasons unacceptable. It considers Israeli violations of human rights so grave that many of them "meet the definition of crimes against humanity under international law." But it also concludes, "The deliberate killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups amounts to crimes against humanity."

Throughout the twentieth century the nineteenth-century taboo on targeting and killing civilians has been eroding. In World War I only 5 percent of the casualties were civilians. In World War II the figure went up to 50 percent and in the Vietnam War it was 90 percent. Amnesty International is making an admirable effort to restore the prohibition against targeting and killing civilians. Its report, rightly, does not make any moral distinction between those who kill themselves while killing civilians and those who spare themselves while killing.

My concern with the suicide bombers here is to understand what they do and why they do it and with what political consequences. To put the matter briefly, it is clear that there will be no peace between Israel and Palestine if suicide bombings continue. It is not clear that there will be peace if they stop, but there would at least be a chance for peace.

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Kim Jong-il out-Saddams Saddam
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, January 7, 2003

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be green with envy.

Not only has North Korean President Kim Jong-il eclipsed him in the US mass media, but his fellow evil-doer in the infamous "axis of evil" is also defying the world's dominant power on a daily basis, and getting away with it.

After all, dozens of United Nations weapons inspectors are crawling all over Iraq without the slightest hindrance, scouring the country for evidence of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Despite such cooperation, US President George W Bush threatens war to "liberate" Baghdad virtually every day.

How does this square with his kid-gloves treatment of Pyongyang, which Washington believes already has chemical, biological and as many as two nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them as far away as Japan and even Hawaii?

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Alien nation
Alex Gourevitch, The American Prospect, January 13, 2003

In the midst of the Washington-area sniper attacks last fall, Montgomery County (Md.) Police Chief Charles Moose was forced to make an unusual televised appeal to immigrants. "Perhaps some of our immigrant community members feel like there would be some problem for them because of their status ... if they come forward," Moose said. "We hope that is not the case, but if that is the case, we want to stress that that is not our interest in this matter." He was responding to an incident the previous day in which two immigrants had been apprehended for questioning in the sniper case, cleared but then dumped in deportation proceedings. What was odd was that Moose had to make the appeal at all. It is a policy in local and state police departments across the country not to enforce civil-immigration law because they want immigrants to be forthcoming about crimes -- such as homicide. It is even the official legal opinion of the U.S. Department of Justice that local and state police do not have the inherent authority to enforce civil-immigration law. Or at least it was until Attorney General John Ashcroft started changing the law.

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Dick Armey's warning
Nat Hentoff, Washington Times, January 6, 2003

In his December 6 farewell address at the National Press Club, the retiring Republican Majority Leader warned of the "awful, dangerous seduction" of sacrificing our freedoms for safety in our war to defeat "this insidious threat that comes right into our neighborhood."

Armey emphasized that "we the people, had better keep an eye on ... our government. Not out of contempt or lack of appreciation or disrespect, but out of a sense of guardianship.

"How do you use these tools we have given you to make us safe in such a manner that'll preserve our freedom? ... Freedom is no policy for the timid. And my plaintive plea to all my colleagues that remain in this government as I leave it is, for your sake, for my sake, for heaven's sake, don't give up on freedom!"

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The lies we are told about Iraq
Pentagon propaganda got us into the first Gulf War. Will we be fooled a second time?

Victor Marshall, Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2003

The Bush administration's confrontation with Iraq is as much a contest of credibility as it is of military force. Washington claims that Baghdad harbors ambitions of aggression, continues to develop and stockpile weapons of mass destruction and maintains ties to Al Qaeda. Lacking solid evidence, the public must weigh Saddam Hussein's penchant for lies against the administration's own record. Based on recent history, that's not an easy choice.

The first Bush administration, which featured Dick Cheney, Paul D. Wolfowitz and Colin L. Powell at the Pentagon, systematically misrepresented the cause of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the nature of Iraq's conduct in Kuwait and the cost of the Persian Gulf War. Like the second Bush administration, it cynically used the confrontation to justify a more expansive and militaristic foreign policy in the post-Vietnam era.

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North Koreans blame U.S. for their nation's plight
Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2003

Kim In Joon, 60, a guard at a seaside overlook whose job is to prevent visitors from taking photographs that might reveal military installations, is one of the rare North Koreans who sometimes meet foreigners. He welcomes an American visitor walking through his park with a New Year's greeting and a broad smile, gold-capped teeth glinting in the sun.

Politely, Kim explains that he has nothing personal against the American people -- it's their government that is the bane of his existence. He can provide a long list of the perfidies he believes have been committed by the United States, ranging from the division of Korea after World War II to the Korean War. But his most immediate grievance -- more mundane than geopolitical -- is the shortage of electricity in his apartment.

Under a 1994 agreement, the United States was supposed to build the North Koreans two safe light-water nuclear reactors and supply fuel oil in return for North Korea's freezing its nuclear program. But the reactors are years behind schedule, and in November, the United States and its allies ordered that deliveries of fuel oil to the North be suspended after Pyongyang acknowledged having a secret uranium-enrichment program.

"It's because of the Americans that our electricity is so bad," said Kim, who lives in a first-floor apartment in the nearby port city of Kosung, which has at best a few hours of electricity each night. "We have a refrigerator, a television, a washing machine that we can't use because we don't have the electricity. When I see all those appliances that don't work, I get so mad I want to throw them at the Americans.

"How can we trust the Americans when they don't keep their promises? We have no choice but to prepare ourselves to fight," he continued, as he mimicked brandishing a bayonet.

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Nuclear arming could snowball
Sonni Efron, Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2003

The vivid prospect of a North Korea with enough plutonium for six or eight bombs could prompt neighboring countries to consider building their own nuclear arsenals, security experts warn.

Moreover, it could mean that North Korea by mid-decade would begin exporting plutonium to an eager global black market, a threat that policy analysts say could not only destabilize East Asia but also encourage nuclear aspirants in the Middle East and other regions.

"We could be approaching a nuclear tipping point," said Mitchell Reiss, dean of international affairs at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

"What we're concerned about is whether it's going to start a nuclear chain reaction" in which previously nonnuclear countries "may start to reconsider their bargain and to hedge their bets," he said. "If you see North Korea acquire even a small nuclear arsenal, they may begin to wonder whether nonproliferation is a mug's game."

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Post-Saddam Iraq:
Linchpin of a New Oil Order

Michael Renner, Foreign Policy in Focus, January, 2003

Only in the most direct sense is the Bush administration's Iraq policy directed against Saddam Hussein. In contrast to all the loud talk about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and human rights violations, very little is being said about oil. The administration has been tight-lipped about its plans for a post-Saddam Iraq and has repeatedly disavowed any interest in the country's oil resources. But press reports indicate that U.S. officials are considering a prolonged occupation of Iraq after their war to topple Saddam Hussein. It is likely that a U.S.-controlled Iraq will be the linchpin of a new order in the world oil industry. Indeed, a war against Iraq may well herald a major realignment of the Middle East power balance.

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Wartime Iraq aid calamity feared
Relief agencies predict humanitarian disaster

Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 2003

Despite the near-constant talk of a U.S.-led invasion to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, aid officials here say there appears to be little preparation by the Bush administration, the United Nations or private foreign aid agencies to handle a potential humanitarian disaster.

Aid officials cite a litany of calamities in the making if war comes: the expected exodus of Iraqi refugees, either internally or across national borders, as well as potential interruptions in food distribution, electricity, water, fuel, waste disposal and public health services throughout the country.

Making matters worse, say these officials, is Iraq's already weakened condition -- a result of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 U.S.-led Persian Gulf War and 12 years of international economic sanctions that have ruined the economy of this once-flourishing nation.

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The burden of empire
Michael Ignatieff, New York Times, January 5, 2003

At a time when an imperial peace in the Middle East requires diplomats, aid workers and civilians with all the skills in rebuilding shattered societies, American power projection in the area overwhelmingly wears a military uniform. ''Every great power, whatever its ideology,'' Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once wrote, ''has its warrior caste.'' Without realizing the consequences of what they were doing, successive American presidents have turned the projection of American power to the warrior caste, according to the findings of research by Robert J. Lieber of Georgetown University. In President Kennedy's time, Lieber has found, the United States spent 1 percent of its G.D.P. on the nonmilitary aspects of promoting its influence overseas -- State Department, foreign aid, the United Nations, information programs. Under Bush's presidency, the number has declined to just 0.2 percent.

Special Forces are more in evidence in the world's developing nations than Peace Corps volunteers and USAID food experts. As Dana Priest demonstrates in ''The Mission,'' a soon-to-be-published study of the American military, the Pentagon's regional commanders exercise more overseas diplomatic and political leverage than the State Department's ambassadors. Even if you accept that generals can make good diplomats and Special Forces captains can make friends for the United States, it still remains true that the American presence overseas is increasingly armed, in uniform and behind barbed wire and high walls. With every American Embassy now hardened against terrorist attack, the empire's overseas outposts look increasingly like Fort Apache. American power is visible to the world in carrier battle groups patrolling offshore and F-16's whistling overhead. In southern Afghanistan, it is the 82nd Airborne, bulked up in body armor, helmets and weapons, that Pashtun peasants see, not American aid workers and water engineers. Each month the United States spends an estimated $1 billion on military operations in Afghanistan and only $25 million on aid.

This sort of projection of power, hunkered down against attack, can earn the United States fear and respect, but not admiration and affection. America's very strength -- in military power -- cannot conceal its weakness in the areas that really matter: the elements of power that do not subdue by force of arms but inspire by force of example.

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