The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda
James Risen and David Johnson, New York Times, February 2, 2003

The Bush administration's efforts to build a case for war against Iraq using intelligence to link it to Al Qaeda and the development of prohibited weapons has created friction within United States intelligence agencies, government officials said.

Some analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency have complained that senior administration officials have exaggerated the significance of some intelligence reports about Iraq, particularly about its possible links to terrorism, in order to strengthen their political argument for war, government officials said.

At the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some investigators said they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's network. "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there," a government official said.

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The economic consequences of war
Vincent Cable, The Observer, February 2, 2003

President Saddam Hussein of Iraq may have another weapon of mass destruction in his armoury - the economic effects of war. Changes in oil prices and the cost of conflict might just produce regime change in Saudi Arabia and recession for us all.

Critics of military intervention in Iraq sometimes allege that the dispute is really about oil. The response is usually defensive, along the lines that troops will be sent to risk their lives for more high-minded objectives like upholding the authority of the United Nations in relation to weapons of mass destruction and human rights.

Yet the potential conflict must be, in significant part, about oil and economics. It is neither irrational nor unworthy to put them at the centre of the debate. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has acknowledged as much. The futures of Iraq and its Gulf neighbours are important, because of oil, in a way that those of Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and Peru are not.

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U.S. arrogance comes home to roost
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, February 1, 2003

Does it matter that we've somehow morphed in public perception from the world's only superpower to the world's super-rogue state?

Of course it matters.

The macho notion that we'll do what we choose and if the world doesn't like it, it can go [insert expletive here] is both ludicrous and dangerous. We mustn't become slaves to foreign opinion, but neither should we glibly dismiss it as we prepare to launch a war that will hugely aggravate this distemper - which will nurture more terrorism.

One example: In 1991 the United States leaned on Saudi Arabia to let us keep military bases there after the Gulf War. We ignored its concerns about public opinion because the bases would improve U.S. security.

Wrong. In fact, the bases radicalized many young Saudis and persuaded Osama bin Laden to turn his sights on the United States. What seemed a shrewd move to improve our security ended up undermining our friends and strengthening our enemies.

Moreover, while the lack of allied support won't prevent us from getting into a war with Iraq, it may prevent us from getting out. The United States sees its role as the globe's SWAT team, but after we have ousted Saddam and whistled for the cleanup crew, it's not clear that the allies will want to help. Nor will they pay the bill for this Iraq war as they did the last one. Each time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insults Europe, it costs us another $20 billion.

It's also possible that if all your friends say you're making a mistake, they're not mendacious back-stabbers but simply right.

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A Korean exit strategy for the US
A review of Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and US Disengagement

Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times, February 1, 2003

Selig Harrison, one of America's finest journalists and foreign-policy analysts, has written on Korean politics for the past three decades. This book is a compendium of his thoughts on ending the convoluted 50-year regional standoff in Northeast Asia, and a reminder that the ball is in the US court to promote progress toward a unified, de-nuclearized and peaceful Korea.

Too often, Western commentators have taken a myopic view of North Korea as an irrational and belligerent "rogue state" that is the source of all troubles. Harrison presents an eagle-eyed historical and strategic sweep to demonstrate that the United States shares a large amount of blame for past tensions in the region and that US postures have to change to ease the path for North-South confederation and ultimate union.

See also U.S. commander seeks buildup in Pacific

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The brains behind Bush's war
Todd S. Purdum, New York Times, February 1, 2003

Any history of the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq will have to take account of long years of determined advocacy by a circle of defense policy intellectuals whose view that Saddam Hussein can no longer be tolerated or contained is now ascendant.

Like the national security experts who were the intellectual architects of the Vietnam War, men like McGeorge Bundy, Walt W. Rostow and others branded "The Best and the Brightest" in David Halberstam's ironic phrase, these theorists seem certain to be remembered, for better or worse, among the authors of the most salient evolution of American foreign policy since the end of the cold war: the pre-emptive attack.

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Of intimidation and Israel
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, February 1, 2003

Intimidation underlies much of the hawks' rhetoric and comes across very strongly in the administration's National Security Strategy document published in September, which makes clear that the United States favors a uni-polar world in which its military power is unrivalled. In that respect, invading Iraq is meant above all as a "demonstration" of what will happen to "rogue states" with WMD, links to terrorism or anyone else, for that matter, who challenges US supremacy.

"The fastest way to impress one charter member of the axis of evil," argued the Wall Street Journal, a major cheerleader for the hawks, earlier this month, "is to depose another, and sooner rather than later."

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Imperial America is about to strike
Patrick Seale, Daily Star, January 31, 2003

Washington is about to embark on an imperial adventure, not unlike that of London in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Britain was the dominant power in Egypt, Iraq, the Gulf, south Arabia and much of the rest of the Middle East. Bush appears to be convinced that seizing Baghdad, an ancient pole of Arab civilization, will provide a democratic model for other oppressed Arabs and “jump-start” the refashioning of the Middle East on pro-Western lines. He seems to believe that it will also deprive terrorist groups of sponsorship, making America safe from another attack, which could be even more deadly than Sept. 11, because next time weapons of mass destruction might be used. The lure of Iraqi oil must also have entered his calculations.

Nevertheless, there is a strong streak of naive idealism in Bush’s vision. It allays America’s fears of its new vulnerability to terror, while flattering its pretension that its power is being used for the benefit of humanity. Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, who in his eagerness to maintain the “special relationship” has allowed himself to be sucked into America’s war plans, is fond of saying, in the teeth of a great deal of contrary evidence, that America is a “force for good” in the world!

The truth is that Bush has been sold a load of dangerous rubbish. At the heart of the Washington decision-making process lies a cabal of Zionist extremists who have shaped America’s political and military agenda. These are the men who have set America on the path to war. To persuade the US to destroy Israel’s enemies, they have cloaked their war plans in the patriotic verbiage of America’s global destiny. Supported by friends and allies in right-wing think tanks, in the press, and in lobbying organizations, this small group of men has a narrow, Israel-centric vision. War against Iraq marks the triumph of this cabal and of its most prominent strategic thinker, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who has tirelessly campaigned for war against Iraq for five years and more.

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Al-Qaida and Iraq: how strong is the evidence?
Julian Borger, Richard Norton-Taylor and Michael Howard, The Guardian, January 30, 2003

President Bush used his state of the union address to paint a terrifying picture for the American people of another attack like September 11 - but this time with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Tony Blair reinforced the message yesterday by telling the Commons: "We do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq. We cannot be sure of the exact extent of those links."

However, a number of well-placed sources in Whitehall insisted there was no intelligence suggesting such a link. "While we have said there may possibly be individuals in the country [Iraq] we have never said anything to suggest specific links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein," said one.

Establishing the link is essential to persuading the public that Iraq represents an imminent threat, and President Bush insisted that hard evidence in the shape of "intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody" proved the connection was real.

But the intelligence analysts in the US and Britain on whose work the president's claim was supposedly based say the connections are tangential at best, and the available evidence falls far short of proving a secret relationship between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden. One intelligence source in Washington, who has seen CIA material on the link, described the case as "soft" and "squishy".

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U.S., allies could be prosecuted for Iraq war - experts
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, January 31, 2003

The United States and allies who attack Iraq without United Nations sanction could face international legal action, even though Washington has opted out of the new International Criminal Court (ICC), experts and peace activists said Thursday.

''For the first time since the end of the cold war, an act of deliberate aggression is being advanced under the pretext of legality by a major power,'' James E. Jennings, president of Conscience International, told IPS.

''The U.S. refusal to join the International Criminal Court will not permit its leaders to escape trial before a world court and other international tribunals on war crimes charges,'' he warned.

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US feels heat in Pakistan's tribal hinterland
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, January 31, 2003

The bazaar at Miran Shah is crowded with turbaned Pashtuns, most armed with Kalashnikov rifles slung idly over their shoulders.

In this part of the North Waziristan tribal agency - as in the other six "federally administered areas" in Pakistan's semi-independent tribal belt - these men are beyond the reach of the law.

Pakistan's mountainous border, long a haven for gunrunners and smugglers, has become a vital base for fighters loyal to the Taliban and al-Qaida. It has rapidly become the most urgent and difficult target in US military operations around Afghanistan.

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Polls show European public opposed to Iraq war
Reuters, January 30, 2003

While eight European leaders voice their support for Bush, polls show the European public remains opposed to war.

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Iraqis want to be rid of Saddam
David Hirst, Daily Star, January 30, 2003

However valid the official or semi-official reasons for it, disarming Iraq, or the bringing about the "regime change" which is probably the only means of ensuring that on a permanent basis, it will still be seen as the supreme expression of those double standards which are the single-most important reason why Arab hostility to the US has reached the intensity it has. It will be wreaking punishment on an Arab country for its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and its violations of UN resolutions even as the US continues to indulge an Israeli protege which has a far longer, no less deceitful, illegitimate and ultimately dangerous record of doing the same. In these conditions, the long-overdue enfranchisement of the Arab people which it might indeed unleash, ­be it in the form of a relatively orderly transition to democracy, or, more likely, in the chaotic overthrow of a rotten existing order,­ will not help America at all. Indeed, given its quasi-colonial, ever-more pro-Israeli agenda, it will turn the Arabs even more strenuously, and probably effectively, against them. The neoconservatives seem to realize this. In Commentary magazine last October, Norman Podhoretz, their veteran intellectual luminary, wrote that "regime change" should extend to no less than half-a-dozen Middle Eastern countries. However, he warned, the "alternative to (existing) regimes could easily turn out to be worse, even, or especially, if it comes into power through democratic elections;" in that case the US would have to summon up "the will to fight (a world war) against militant Islam ­to a successful conclusion." In other words, America's own policies will generate an ever-growing hostility which America will have to commit ever-growing materiel and human resources to combating. Where does such well-nigh megalomaniac, imperial logic end?

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Nightmare in Baghdad
George Friedman, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2003

The U.S. Army has never captured a heavily defended and vast city the size of Baghdad, which has a population in the millions. The brutal battles for cities such as Berlin or Kharkov took enormous numbers of lives on all sides, and Americans still remember grim fighting for much smaller cities, such as Hue or Vicksburg.

In Baghdad's sprawl, with its densely packed low houses on narrow crooked lanes, maneuverability and communications are not critical. Runners can provide what little communication is needed. Every house is a mystery and a potential strong point.

Even with great technology, you cannot see a sniper inside a building from the air. Spotting snipers from the ground is possible, but they can spot you just as easily. High-tech solutions are not very effective in this case.

Tanks can be hit by antitank weapons in ambushes or they can be allowed to pass, with ambushes focusing on the thin-skinned fuel and supply vehicles coming behind them.

Using just one or two of his divisions to hold Baghdad, Hussein could turn the battle into a war of attrition if his troops put up a merely competent fight. In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to thousands of American casualties.

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Sharon's Israel
Graham Usher, Al-Ahram, January 30, 2003

It was expected but it was still unprecedented. In the Israeli elections on Tuesday the Likud Party swept all before them, winning a colossal 37 seats in the 120- member Knesset in what was a popular endorsement, if not of his policies, then of the personality, methods and worldview of its leader and Israel's next prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

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"We are all Iraqis"
Omayma Abdel-Latif, Al-Ahram, January 30, 2003

Magdi El-Kurdy has signed himself up to go to Baghdad, but he will not be acting as a human shield. "Europeans who sympathise with the Iraqis could go as human shields," the 47-year-old entrepreneur told Al-Ahram Weekly. "But we Egyptians will go to Baghdad as fighters. We named the first battalion after President Gamal Abdel- Nasser."

El-Kurdy, who has a wife, two sons and a daughter, said on Sunday that his family understands why he needs to do this. Thousands of Egyptian volunteers have signed up to go to Iraq, El-Kurdy said, because they strongly believe that "in defending Iraq, they are defending Egypt"

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Pump up the Pentagon, hawks tell Bush
Jim Lobe, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 28, 2003

While public opinion polls show that most of the U.S. public is concerned about the economy, hawks in the Bush administration see another problem as more urgent: the Pentagon is poor. Last week a group of influential right-wing figures close to Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney complained that the current military budget of almost $400 billion--already greater than the world's 15 next-biggest military establishments combined--is not enough to sustain U.S. strategy abroad.

In a letter to the president released on the eve of his State of the Union Address, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose alumni include both Rumsfeld and Cheney, as well as most of their top aides, called for increasing the defense budget by as much as $100 billion next year.

"Today's military is simply too small for the missions it must perform," said the letter whose signatories included mainly key neoconservatives, former Reagan administration officials, and a number of individuals close to big defense manufacturers like Lockheed Martin. "By every measure, current defense spending is inadequate for a military with global responsibilities."

See also PNAC's Open Letter to the President about the defense budget

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U.S. renews claims of Hussein-Al Qaeda link
Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2003

The Bush administration's renewed assertions of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda are based largely on the murky case of a one-legged Al Qaeda suspect who was treated in Baghdad after being wounded in the war in Afghanistan.

Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi is emerging as a possible linchpin in the White House's efforts to win support for confronting Iraq, a case Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is scheduled to press before the United Nations next week.

U.S. intelligence officials say Zarqawi, 36, is one of Al Qaeda's top leaders in Europe and is allegedly Osama bin Laden's chief of chemical weapons.

His travels to Iraq and his suspected ties to terrorist plots in Britain, France and Spain tantalize White House hawks eager to link two of America's declared enemies and win support from skeptical Europeans for a possible invasion of Iraq.

But even as Powell promised Wednesday to lay out new information on Iraq-Al Qaeda links, U.S. intelligence sources said the Zarqawi connection remained highly circumstantial. Indeed, several sources said there was no clear evidence that Zarqawi's ties to Baghdad were more than medical.

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Morally Unserious
Michael Kinsley, Slate, Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The second half of President Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday night, about Iraq, was a model of moral seriousness, as it should be from a leader taking his nation into war. Bush was brutally eloquent about the cause and—special points for this—about the inevitable cost. It may seem petty to pick apart the text. But logical consistency and intellectual honesty are also tests of moral seriousness. It is not enough for the words to be eloquent or even deeply sincere. If they are just crafted for the moment and haven't been thought through, the pretense of moral seriousness becomes an insult.

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An annotated overview of the foreign policy segments of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address
Stephen Zunes, Common Dreams, January 29, 2003

The attempt to put Baathist Iraq on par with Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia is ludicrous. Hitler’s Germany was the most powerful industrialized nation in the world when it began its conquests in the late 1930s and Soviet Russia at its height had the world’s largest armed forces and enough nuclear weapons to destroy humankind. Iraq, by contrast, is a poor Third World country that has been under the strictest military and economic embargo in world history for more than a dozen years after having much of its civilian and military infrastructure destroyed in the heaviest bombing in world history. Virtually all that remained of its offensive military capability was subsequently dismantled under the strictest unilateral disarmament initiative ever, an inspection and verification process that has been resumed under an even more rigorous mandate. By contrast, back in the 1980s, when Iraq really was a major regional power and had advanced programs in weapons of mass destruction, the United States did not consider Iraq a threat at all; in fact, the U.S. provided extensive military, economic and technological support to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

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Blood on his hands
John Pilger, January 29, 2003

William Russell, the great correspondent who reported the carnage of imperial wars, may have first used the expression "blood on his hands" to describe impeccable politicians who, at a safe distance, order the mass killing of ordinary people.

In my experience "on his hands" applies especially to those modern political leaders who have had no personal experience of war, like George W Bush, who managed not to serve in Vietnam, and the effete Tony Blair.

There is about them the essential cowardice of the man who causes death and suffering not by his own hand but through a chain of command that affirms his "authority".

In 1946 the judges at Nuremberg who tried the Nazi leaders for war crimes left no doubt about what they regarded as the gravest crimes against humanity.

The most serious was unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state that offered no threat to one's homeland. Then there was the murder of civilians, for which responsibility rested with the "highest authority".

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Who says America can't fight two wars at once? Without a single shot being fired, the Bush administration, through the tireless efforts of its loyal emissary Tony Blair, has deftly made a divide-and-rule maneuver that undercuts France and Germany's opposition to war. What motivates the eight leaders who are choosing to stand tall along side GWB? Is it a commitment to defeating terrorism or thumbing their noses at the Franco-German bid for centralized European power? Probably a bit of both. But let's not forget that eight European leaders (not to be confused with the populaces they "represent") leaves the majority of the European Union and the majority of NATO that, as Rumsfeld would put it, are still choosing to remain on the sidelines. Among the eight countries backing Bush, so far, only two are providing troops. Britain is sending 30,000 (a per capita commitment that equals that of the US - drawn, moreover, from a populace overwhelmingly opposed to war) and the Czech Republic has 250 troops available in Kuwait (though the Czech defense minister told them last week that any of them who didn't feel like staying in the Gulf was welcome to go home).

So, does Bush now have the broad international support his war needs in order to quell the doubts of the average American? Sure - so long as they continue to just pay attention to headlines. As Voice of America says, European leaders declare solidarity with US on Iraq. The BBC follows suit with European leaders rally behind US. Did these European leaders mention going to war? No, but they did say that "Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people." As the bombs soon start raining down on Baghdad, we can only hope that the people of Iraq don't take it personally.

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U.N. finds no proof of nuclear program
IAEA unable to verify U.S. claims

Colum Lynch, Washington Post, January 29, 2003

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said today that two months of inspections in Iraq and interviews with Iraqi officials have yielded no evidence to support Bush administration claims that Iraq is secretly trying to revive its nuclear weapons program.

ElBaradei said in an interview that "systematic" inspections of eight facilities linked by U.S. and British authorities to a possible nuclear weapons program have turned up no proof to support the claims. "I think we have ruled out . . . the buildings," he said. ElBaradei also cast doubts on U.S. claims that Iraq has sought to import uranium and high-strength aluminum tubes destined for a nuclear weapons program.

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Demonizing Saddam
Michael S. James, ABC News, January 29, 2003

...demonizing the enemy with names, ridicule and allegations — and making it stick — amounts to more than just schoolyard-style trash talk when selling a war. Such techniques are time-tested methods for governments to move the public to action with bloodthirsty war fever or bloodcurdling fear of the enemy threat.

"War propaganda in the 20th century is getting the consent of the population for going on with the killing, and muzzling the population that feels otherwise," says Jay Winter, a history professor at Yale University.

Dehumanization allows people psychologically to throw their support behind a fight, because it's easier to approve of squashing a spider or a monster than human beings, propaganda scholars say. In World Wars I and II, for example, the U.S. government and private groups put out posters showing the enemy as looming giants or vicious animals.

Effective demonizing is often not limited to government sources, but also comes from the private media — as during earlier wars when Hollywood churned out patriotic movies and cartoons that demonized the enemy, often in what would now be considered racist ways, or during the Gulf War when the news media fed the war frenzy.

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Counting the dead
In the event of war, how many Iraqi civilians will die? And how many will starve, or be displaced?

Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, January 29, 2003

With as much secrecy as the Pentagon, the United Nations has been busily counting the likely casualty toll of a war on Iraq. While the Pentagon focuses on its troops, the network of UN specialist agencies is trying to estimate what would happen to Iraqis.

The assessments are dramatic, though for reasons of internal diplomacy or because of American pressure the UN is unwilling to go public with the figures. But a newly leaked report from a special UN taskforce that summarises the assessments calculates that about 500,000 people could "require medical treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries", according to the World Health Organisation.

WHO estimates that 100,000 Iraqi civilians could be wounded and another 400,000 hit by disease after the bombing of water and sewage facilities and the disruption of food supplies.

"The nutritional status of some 3.03 million people will be dire and they will require therapeutic feeding," says the UN children's fund. About four-fifths of these victims will be children under five. The rest will be pregnant and lactating women.

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Pentagon's quietest calculation: the casualty count
Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, January 29, 2003

Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, war planners are searching for answers to the ultimate questions about armed conflict with Iraq: Will it be worth it? Even assuming Saddam Hussein is toppled, will the likely loss of US servicemen and women be "acceptable"?

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Kennedy to seek new measure on war with Iraq
Jonathan Karl, CNN, January 29, 2003

Sen. Edward Kennedy will introduce a measure requiring President Bush to get new congressional approval before launching a military strike on Iraq, he announced Tuesday.

"Much has changed in the many months since Congress has debated war with Iraq," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement released after President Bush's State of the Union address, in which Bush tried to rally the American people to the need to disarm Iraq.

"U.N. inspectors are on the ground and making progress, and their work should continue," Kennedy said. "Osama bin Laden and the Korean nuclear crisis continue to pose far greater threats [than Iraq]."

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41 American Nobel laureates sign against a war without international support
William J. Broad, New York Times, January 29, 2003

Forty-one American Nobel laureates in science and economics issued a declaration yesterday opposing a preventive war against Iraq without wide international support. The statement, four sentences long, argues that an American attack would ultimately hurt the security and standing of the United States, even if it succeeds.

The signers, all men, include a number who at one time or another have advised the federal government or played important roles in national security. Among them are Hans A. Bethe, an architect of the atom bomb; Walter Kohn, a former adviser to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon; Norman F. Ramsey, a Manhattan Project scientist who readied the Hiroshima bomb and later advised NATO; and Charles H. Townes, former research director of the Institute for Defense Analyses at the Pentagon and chairman of a federal panel that studied how to base the MX missile and its nuclear warheads.

In addition to winning Nobel prizes, 18 of the signers have received the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science honor.

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As the flimsy equation that is supposed to link Saddam to al-Qaeda is once again being revived, it's worth re-reading these comments from the Center for Strategic and International Studies' senior fellow, Daniel Benjamin. As Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz promise that the removal of Saddam will represent a great advance in the war on terrorism, it may well turn out that they are about to hand al-Qaeda its greatest victory.

In the fog of war, a greater threat
Daniel Benjamin, Washington Post, October 31, 2002

...the greatest terrorist dangers will likely come not from Hussein's cooperation with al Qaeda before the United States topples him but from the fact that his removal would present jihadists with rich new opportunities. Even if Iraqis greet GIs as liberators -- and some would -- the lesson of the past decade is that important parts of the Islamic world will not see it that way. When the United States freed Kuwait and protected Saudi Arabia in the Gulf War, it stoked the radicals' belief that Washington was seeking to dominate the Arab world and destroy Islam. For al Qaeda, this was a catalytic event. [...]

Now, thousands of recruits later, al Qaeda and its affiliates would find American forces in a post-Hussein Iraq to be an irresistible target. Administration officials have been airing a plan for an occupation modeled on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's regency in postwar Japan, which, they contend, will plant liberal democracy in the Arab world. In the extraordinarily unlikely case that Iraq -- a country with deep divisions and nothing like the support for its leadership or wartime experience that Japan had -- is pacified, the country will still be a magnet for jihadists from all over the world. Those who today blow up French tankers off Yemen or bars in Bali will soon be picking off GIs in Basra. For the 100,000 troops trying to maintain order in a country the size of California, this will be life at "Threatcon Delta," with weapons perpetually loaded and locked.

Even more worrisome, a war to remove weapons of mass destruction from Hussein's hands could result in their falling into more lethal ones. Iraq's chemical and biological weapons are distributed around the country, in hundreds of military stockpiles and dual-use factories. As Kenneth M. Pollack points out in "The Threatening Storm," "Baghdad now has a number of mobile [biological weapons] labs that can move around the country as needed, leaving no trace and having virtually no signature that Western intelligence can detect." Iraq has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons and precursors and thousands of liters of biological agents. Throughout the 1990s, the United States was repeatedly surprised by discoveries in the course of inspections and defectors' accounts of the extent of these programs. On any given day, we could locate only a fraction of these weapons.

In the fog of war, much of this material would rapidly be "privatized" -- liberated by colonels, security service operatives and soon-to-be unemployed scientists. They know there is a market for unconventional weapons, and they will have no trouble finding buyers. The U.S. military has never faced a mission like collecting all these weapons. Even with U.S. special forces combing the country, the collapse of the Iraqi regime could prove to be the greatest proliferation disaster in history. The beneficiaries will be terrorists who have no interest in the weapons for their deterrent value; they will just want to use them.

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Daniel Ellsberg critiques press coverage on Iraq
Editor & Publisher, January 28, 2003

What differences do you see between today's Iraqi crisis and Vietnam?

One difference with Vietnam in '64 is: we now know we are headed to a big war with a lot of troops. But, still, the public feels it will be short and cheap, like the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. They expect that model. Why? Has the press failed to pursue other scenarios? The administration has mainly conveyed what its top civilian leaders seem to believe -- or want us to believe -- that this war can be as quick and cheap as those examples. There seems to be no military leader who has that same confidence.

It could go like that, but, as I saw in Vietnam, in war the uncertainties are extreme. To be confident of any outcome is naive or foolish. The press could step into this breach by aggressively probing for, and reporting, the views of dissenters who clearly abound in the Pentagon, CIA, and State Department.

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Desert caution
Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, January 28, 2003

Norman Schwarzkopf wants to give peace a chance.

The general who commanded U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War says he hasn't seen enough evidence to convince him that his old comrades Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz are correct in moving toward a new war now. He thinks U.N. inspections are still the proper course to follow. He's worried about the cockiness of the U.S. war plan, and even more by the potential human and financial costs of occupying Iraq.

And don't get him started on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

In fact, the hero of the last Gulf War sounds surprisingly like the man on the street when he discusses his ambivalence about the Bush administration's hawkish stance on ousting Saddam Hussein. He worries about the Iraqi leader, but would like to see some persuasive evidence of Iraq's alleged weapons programs.

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For Afghan rebuilding, a key year
Scott Baldauf, The Christian Science Monitor, January 28, 2003

In its second year of power, and its first real year of outright control, the government of Afghanistan has entered a crucial year that decides whether everything comes together - or falls apart.

If Kabul and other major cities are stable, donor money will flow, refugees will return, and roads will be rebuilt. If the nation remains unstable, aid resources will dry up, and Afghanistan could return to the 12th century conditions prevalent under the Taliban.

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Antiwar movement swells, still searching for its voice
Kim Campbell, The Christian Science Monitor, January 28, 2003

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Bush will try to convince Americans that it's time for a war with Iraq. It's unclear exactly how many people he needs to win over, but he faces a narrowing gap of those who favor an attack.

Americans are split on the idea of going to war, with a slight majority still favoring military action. But polls show support for invasion at its lowest point since last summer. The public's wavering is also showing up in anecdotes from the antiwar movement, which is experiencing gradual growth in its size and breadth, even as activists struggle to find a unified message.

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Why the US needs the UN
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, January 29, 2003

From a military point of view, the US does not need anything from the co-called "coalition of the willing", except the right to fly over a given country's airspace and the right to use a few airbases - which will be in Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey. Kuwait and Qatar are in the bag, but Turkey could be a very complicated matter. Washington so far has offered US$4 billion to Turkey, which is peanuts compared to the negative fallout of a possible war. Turkey estimates it may have lost as much as US$50 billion because of the 1991 Gulf War.

As the world once again contemplates the spectacle of ultra-high-tech electronic jamming, the thousands of smart, or not so smart, bombs, and the likely thousands or dozens of thousands of collateral damage, Washington will definitely need the international community for the mopping-up business of post-Saddam. Powell himself put it succinctly; the US would like to internationalize the intervention as much as possible, because later "there will be too much work to do". This is a basic tenet of the Bush doctrine: America bombs, and the rest of the world picks up the pieces.

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F.B.I. tells offices to count local Muslims and mosques
Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, January 28, 2003

The F.B.I. is ordering field supervisors to count the number of mosques and Muslims in their areas as part of the antiterrorism effort.

Civil rights advocates and Arab-American leaders denounced the survey as a form of racial profiling. Bureau officials said, however, that the results would not be used to establish quotas for investigations.

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An engineered crisis
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, January 27, 2003

On the first day of war the United States will rain down 300-400 cruise missiles on Iraq, according to a report by CBS news. That averages out at one missile every four minutes around the clock, easily exceeding the total fired over six weeks in the 1991 Gulf war.

The aim, according to the Pentagon sources quoted, is to cause such "shock and awe" that Iraqi troops will lose their will to fight at the outset. Just in case they do not get the message immediately, the US plans do the same again on day two, CBS said.

Whether this is the actual plan or merely a strategically timed bit of disinformation intended to terrify Baghdad in advance, I have no idea, but anyone who has watched television over the last few days can be in little doubt as to the awesome array of weaponry that is now being assembled for the attack. To a world that remains mostly unconvinced of the need for it, there is something surreal and not quite believable about this. How has it come about? And why now?

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Despair drives voters into arms of Sharon
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, January 27, 2003

"He promised peace and security. We don't have it today. The situation is getting worse," she said. "But, yes, I will vote for him. The prime minister hasn't done anything he promised at the beginning. I don't know if he can solve our problems but I trust him."

This is one of the paradoxes around Ariel Sharon as he heads for near-certain victory in tomorrow's election.

He came to power two years ago promising peace.

"If you counted the number of times the Sharon campaign mentioned peace in 2001, you would have thought he was a hippie about to burst into Give Peace a Chance," said Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political scientist at Hebrew University.

Yet his tenure as prime minister has been marked by more Israeli civilian deaths - close to 700 - than at any time since the struggle for independence in 1948. As Mr Sharon likes to point out, that is equivalent to 40,000 deaths in the US.

To compound the misery, the conflict has given the economy its worst battering in 50 years. Unemployment has surged above 10%, wages are falling and the once burgeoning IT sector which drove the boom of the late 90s is imploding.

Pollsters say they have never seen a sadder, more fatigued or frustrated electorate. Yet Mr Sharon retains the overwhelming confidence of the Jewish population.

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US more isolated on Iraq after Blix report
Ian MacKenzie, Reuters, January 28, 2003

The United States appears further isolated in its attitude towards Baghdad, with most of the world saying UN arms inspectors need more time to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Even Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of staunch US ally Britain, while condemning Iraq's attitude to the inspectors as "a charade", said the continuation of the searches was up to the UN Security Council - not any one state.

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A warm relationship
Natan Guttman, Ha'aretz, January 28, 2003

The announcement from National Security Council spokesman Sean MaCormack last Thursday concerning the positive manner in which the United States views Israel's request for special aid of $ 12 billion could not have come at a better time for the Likud.

Throughout the election campaign in Israel, the American administration made every effort not to create the impression that there might be a problem of any kind in Jerusalem-Washington relations, and the latest declaration makes it clear that not only is everything A-okay, but that the U.S. will now step forward to save Israel's economy.

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A bad diagnosis for the state of our union
Drs. Jack L. Paradise and Richard H. Michaels, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 27, 2003

President Bush will deliver his State of the Union message tomorrow. As physicians concerned with health and with the preservation and protection of human life, we are deeply troubled by the union's current state. [...] In our view, United States is being led, in Einstein's words, to unparalleled catastrophe -- and on many fronts. We see the state of the union as perilous. We hope urgently that the American public will recognize the dangers and will act to protect all that we hold dear.

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Why fight Iraq? For Dad, oil, Israel?
Ray McGovern, Miami Herald, January 27, 2003

My next-door neighbor, a staunch Republican, asked me recently: "What do you think of our cowboy president and Iraq? Is he crazy, or just dumb? I dont get it! Mind if we talk after work today?'"

It turned out that his questions are the same ones that countless Americans are asking.

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America's dreams of empire
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2003

Street opinion in Pakistan, and probably in most Muslim countries, holds that Islam is the true target of America's new wars. The fanatical hordes spilling out of Pakistan's madrasas are certain that a modern-day Richard the Lion-Hearted will soon bear down upon them. Swords in hand, they pray to Allah to grant war and send a modern Saladin, who can miraculously dodge cruise missiles and hurl them back to their launchers.

Even moderate Muslims are worried. They see indicators of religious war in such things as the profiling of Muslims by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the placing of Muslim states on the U.S. register of rogues and the blanket approval given to Israeli bulldozers as they level Palestinian neighborhoods.

But Muslims elevate their importance in the American cosmography. The U.S. has aspirations far beyond subjugating inconsequential Muslim states: It seeks to remake the world according to its needs, preference and convenience. The war on Iraq is but the first step.

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US presses Europeans to weaken alliance
Judy Dempsey, Financial Times, January 27, 2003

US envoys in Europe are putting pressure on European Union countries to weaken the deepening Franco-German alliance, fearing it will lead to a more independent European defence and foreign policy.

Diplomats say the US envoys have raised their concerns in bilateral meetings with European officials, a move that reflects the ever-widening gap in the transatlantic relationship. France and Germany have set out proposals to give the EU greater political clout.

"US diplomats have suggested to us they do not like certain aspects of the Franco-German plan," a senior European diplomat said ahead of today's meeting of EU foreign ministers, at which Iraq will dominate the agenda.

"The Americans discreetly question how this reinvigorated alliance will change Europe in a way that could completely redefine transatlantic relations."

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In Britain, war concern grows into resentment of U.S. power
Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, January 26, 2003

Prime Minister Tony Blair is the Bush administration's staunchest international ally in its campaign against Iraq and war on terrorism. But apart from Blair and his inner circle, there is growing unease and resentment here not just over Iraq but over U.S. power and foreign policy in general, according to political analysts, commentators and politicians.

There are fears that the United States is determined to act without heeding the concerns of its allies -- and fears that Britain will be dragged along in its wake. These fears have spread far beyond the traditionally anti-American hard left -- known here as "the usual suspects" -- to include moderates and conservatives as well.

"There's no question the anxiety is moving into the mainstream," said Raymond Seitz, a former U.S. ambassador to Britain who is vice chairman of Lehman Brothers Europe. The debate here, he said, has shifted. "It's not about how you deal with weapons of mass destruction or how you combat the threat of terrorism in the world, it's about how do you constrain the United States. How do you tie down Gulliver?"

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World rebels against America
Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, January 26, 2003

Having positioned enough U.S. troops and equipment all around this Persian Gulf neighbourhood, George W. Bush can launch a war on Iraq any time, with or without United Nations' approval. But he has already lost the political war.

That came through loud and clear in my journey through Europe, the Middle East and Asia in the last three weeks. It should become evident to North Americans in the days ahead.

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U.N. officials say intelligence to prove U.S. claims is lacking
Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Colum Lynch, Washington Post, January 27, 2003

In the most detailed description to date of U.S. intelligence-sharing with the inspectors, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said last week that the United States has identified the names of Iraqi scientists and sites associated with Iraq's weapons programs that U.S. officials believe could lead the inspectors to uncover evidence of on-going activity to develop banned arms.

"We have provided our analysis of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs, and we have suggested an inspection strategy and tactics," Wolfowitz said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "We have provided counterintelligence support to improve the inspectors' ability to thwart Iraqi attempts to penetrate their organizations."

But the information has not always panned out. After almost two months of daily searches, the inspectors have been unable to confirm U.S. and British suspicions -- outlined last year in a CIA report and a British government dossier -- that a host of former weapons sites and industrial facilities have been rebuilt during the past four years to produce banned weapons.

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On Afghan border, war drags on
Marc Kaufman, Washington Post, January 25, 2003

At a time when many U.S. officials in Washington and Afghanistan are eager to shift the focus of the U.S. military mission here from combat to the reconstruction of the country, soldiers at isolated U.S. fire bases like the one here at Shkin know firsthand why that has not yet happened. Fifteen months after the start of their campaign to topple the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda, they still face an invisible but determined enemy capable of slipping into Afghanistan from apparent havens in Pakistan to attack those they see as infidels and invaders.

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America's crude tactics
Larry Elliott, The Guardian, January 27, 2003

Let's get one thing straight. George Bush's determination to topple Saddam Hussein has nothing to do with oil. Iraq may account for 11% of the world's oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia, but the military build-up in the Gulf is about making the world a safer and more humane place, not about allowing America's motorists to guzzle gas to their heart's content. So, lest you should be in any doubt, let me spell it out one more time. This. Has. Nothing. To. Do. With. Oil. Got that?

Of course you haven't. Despite what Colin Powell might say, it takes a trusting, nay naive, soul to imagine that the White House would be making all this fuss were it not that Iraq has something the US needs. There are plenty of small, repressive states in the world - Zimbabwe for one - where the regimes are being allowed to quietly kill and torture their people. There are plenty of small, repressive states with weapons of mass destruction - North Korea, for example - which appear to pose a larger and more immediate threat to international security. But only with Iraq do you get a small, repressive country with weapons of mass destruction that also happens to be floating on oil.

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Serving notice of a new U.S., poised to hit first and alone
Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, January 27, 2003

One year after President Bush declared Iraq to be part of an "axis of evil," the United States appears ready to carry out its new doctrine authorizing pre-emptive attacks on hostile states and terrorists who represent potential threats to the United States.

While the Bush administration would prefer to have the broad support of United Nations Security Council members before it invades Iraq, it put the world community on notice today that it is fully prepared to act on its own.

"Multilateralism cannot become an excuse for inaction," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today, referring to the uphill battle to achieve a consensus at the Security Council.

He later added, "We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing."

The United States has long reserved the right to strike first to defend American troops and territory against imminent threats. But experts say the pre-emption policy is remarkable for several reasons.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Bush administration has turned pre-emption from an option into a cardinal principle of its foreign policy. The administration has also made the case for pre-empting threats that are not immediate, but merely prospective, as in the case of Iraq.

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I'm losing patience with my neighbours, Mr Bush
Terry Jones (Monty Python emeritus), The Observer, January 26, 2003

I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq: he's running out of patience. And so am I!

For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I'm sure Mr Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven't been able to discover what. I've been round to his place a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well hidden. That's how devious he is.

As for Mr Patel, don't ask me how I know, I just know - from very good sources - that he is, in reality, a Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we don't act first, he'll pick us off one by one.

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Why does Britain pretend that it has the same interests as the US?
Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Guardian, January 27, 2003

Next month, Lord Black of Crossharbour - Conrad Black, the owner of the Daily Telegraph - is giving a lecture in London entitled "Is it in Britain's national interest to be America's principal ally?" There may be no prizes for guessing his answer, but that is indeed a very interesting question, and has been for many years. The closer one looks at the relations between the two countries in terms of national interest, the more unequal they seem, though distorted by a misreading of history and a misunderstanding of motives.

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Wondering what George Bush will have to say to the American people on Tuesday evening? Frank Gaffney might have some idea. Gaffney is the founder, president, and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. He's also a protégé of Richard Perle (Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board) and a founding member of the Project for the New American Century. Would a private citizen be in a position to "draft" part of the State of the Union speech and also publish it in advance? Is Gaffney's "draft" just wishful thinking on his part, or does it reflect the unparalleled influence of a circle of neo-conservative hawks who gained ascendency inside and around the Bush administration on September 11, 2001?

Gaffney is so bold as to volunteer both themes and
text for George Bush's speech. Some of Gaffney's predictions may seem somewhat fanciful - implicating Saddam in the Oklahoma bombing - but his general theme - war against Iraq is well-nigh unavoidable and is an inextricable part of the war on terrorism - sounds exactly as they would say in the White House, "on message." Here are Gaffney's suggestions as they appear in National Review:

"The most-memorable passages of President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address will deal with the global threat of terrorism and the other foreign-policy crises currently confronting the nation. He will, after all, be summoning the American people to war — a war they did not seek but now have no choice but to fight. The following are among the themes he should use to inform, inspire, and enlist them, and some suggested words:
— The next phase of the war on terror will involve the liberation of Iraq. It is an inextricable part of the worldwide campaign against the terrorists and their state sponsors. As many of you have read in press reports, there is some evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement in not only the September 11th attacks but also in the bombing of the first World Trade Center in 1993 and the destruction of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. My administration is actively pursuing this evidence and we will be presenting our findings to the Congress and the public in due course. We will probably not know the full story until we have access to Saddam's bunkers and their secret files concerning terrorist operations. For the moment, it is enough to declare that Saddam Hussein has murderously attacked us in the past, but he has done so for the last time.
— The choice we face today is not between war and peace. Rather it is between war now — under circumstances and timing of our choosing — and war later, when conditions may be far more favorable to Saddam Hussein.
— Before this war on terror is over, we are likely to have to confront other adversaries, as well — certainly overseas and probably here at home. We will do so, wherever possible, with the help and support of our friends and allies. We will do so, however, alone if necessary. Our purpose will be not only to end a threat to ourselves but also to empower those who share our desire to live in peace and to enjoy the blessings of liberty that we Americans hold so dear."

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Half a democracy
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, January 26, 2003

Once Israel became an occupying state, it ceased to be a democracy. There is no such thing: Israel's claims about its democratic character are empty boasts. Just as there is no such thing as a partial pregnancy, there is no such thing as a partial democracy, either.

No democracy exists only as far as a particular territorial line within the country, and no democracy is reserved exclusively for a particular religion or nationality. In a truly democratic regime, everyone enjoys his freedoms and rights in equal measure. That is not the case in Israel.

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'Does Tony have any idea what the flies are like that feed off the dead?'
Robert Fisk, The Independent, January 26, 2003

On the road to Basra, ITV was filming wild dogs as they tore at the corpses of the Iraqi dead. Every few seconds a ravenous beast would rip off a decaying arm and make off with it over the desert in front of us, dead fingers trailing through the sand, the remains of the burned military sleeve flapping in the wind.

"Just for the record," the cameraman said to me. Of course. Because ITV would never show such footage. The things we see – the filth and obscenity of corpses – cannot be shown. First because it is not "appropriate" to depict such reality on breakfast-time TV. Second because, if what we saw was shown on television, no one would ever again agree to support a war.

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US buys up Iraqi oil to stave off crisis
Seizing reserves will be an allied priority if forces go in

Faisal Islam and Nick Paton Walsh, The Observer, January 26, 2003

Facing its most chronic shortage in oil stocks for 27 years, the US has this month turned to an unlikely source of help - Iraq.

Weeks before a prospective invasion of Iraq, the oil-rich state has doubled its exports of oil to America, helping US refineries cope with a debilitating strike in Venezuela.

After the loss of 1.5 million barrels per day of Venezuelan production in December the oil price rocketed, and the scarcity of reserves threatened to do permanent damage to the US oil refinery and transport infrastructure. To keep the pipelines flowing, President Bush stopped adding to the 700m barrel strategic reserve.

But ultimately oil giants such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell saved the day by doubling imports from Iraq from 0.5m barrels in November to over 1m barrels per day to solve the problem. Essentially, US importers diverted 0.5m barrels of Iraqi oil per day heading for Europe and Asia to save the American oil infrastructure.

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Rumsfeld gibe widens gap with 'old' Europeans
Jody K. Biehl, San Francisco Chronicle, January 25, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal earlier this week of Germany and France as "old Europe" because they do not favor quick military action against Iraq only serves to further isolate America from continental Europe's two largest powers, political scientists say.

As the "motor" of the 15-nation European Union, France and Germany possess close to 50 percent of the EU's population and account for close to 42 percent of its combined gross domestic product.

To suggest, as Rumsfeld did, that the center of Europe is shifting eastward and that smaller countries, whose GDP may represent 5 to 10 percent of the total, are as important as the major players is folly, the experts said.

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