The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Fortress America
Matthew Brzezinski, New York Times, February 23, 2003

It is commonly held that a country as big and confident in its freedoms as the United States could never fully protect itself against terrorists. The means available to them are too vast, the potentially deadly targets too plentiful. And there is a strong conviction in many quarters that there is a limit to which Americans will let their daily patterns be disturbed for security precautions. Discussing the possibility that we might all need to be equipped with our own gas masks, as Israelis are, Sergeant McClaskey of Baltimore assured me it would never happen. ''If it ever reaches the point where we all need gas masks,'' McClaskey said, shaking his head with disgust, ''then we have lost the war on terror because we are living in fear.''

What does it really mean, however, to ''lose the war on terror''? It's as ephemeral a concept as ''winning the war on terror.'' In what sense will it ever be possible to declare an end of any kind?

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Destroying missiles would be to 'sign death warrant', says Iraq
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, February 23, 2003

An increasingly cornered Iraq complained yesterday it might be signing its own death warrant if it obeyed a United Nations order to destroy dozens of missiles at the moment the US is poised to lead an invasion.

"They want us to destroy them at a time when we are threatened daily," said Owayed Ahmed Ali, the director of the Ibn al-Haithem plant, which produces the al-Samoud missiles, after another visit by UN weapons inspectors.

The protest is the most specific reaction yet to the demand by Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, that Baghdad start destroying the missiles by Saturday, after they were found to exceed the 93-mile range permitted by existing arms restrictions on Iraq.

With the order coming barely a week after Mr Blix's relatively benign report on 14 February, US diplomats were delighted. Not only does it impose a de facto deadline for Iraqi compliance, it also fits in with the likely timetable for the Bush administration to go to war.

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John Bolton in Jerusalem:
The new age of disarmament wars

Ian Williams, Foreign Policy in Focus, February 20, 2003

Much of the world is worried about the impending war with Iraq, and rightly so. But this may just the beginning of a new age of disarmament wars.

From the homeland of Armageddon this week came worrying signs that we should begin worrying about the even longer and harder wars to follow. John Bolton, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Disarmament Affairs and International Security, was in Israel this week, for meetings about "preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

It seems appropriate for the U.S. and Israel to meet about disarmament issues. After all, Israel is universally acknowledged by everyone--excepting the U.S. government--as a considerable nuclear power, and much of the world regards its prime minister as a profound threat to international security. However, we can be sure that neither item was on Bolton's agenda.

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Powell speaks with forked tongue
Terry Jones, The Observer, February 23, 2003

It was interesting to hear Colin Powell accuse France and Germany of cowardice in not wanting to go to war. Or, as he put more succinctly, France and Germany 'are afraid of upholding their responsibility to impose the will of the international community'. Powell's speech brings up one of the most outrageous but least examined aspects of this whole war on Iraq business. I am speaking about the appalling collateral damage already being inflicted on the English language.

Perhaps the worst impact is on our vocabulary. 'Cowardice', according to Colin Powell, is the refusal to injure thousands of innocent civilians living in Baghdad in order to promote US oil interests in the Middle East. The corollary is that 'bravery' must be the ability to order the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis without wincing or bringing up your Caesar salad.

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While last weekend's demonstrations proved that the global anti-war movement is a force that cannot be ignored, the movement's influence may have been stronger in Baghdad than in Washington. The Iraqi regime's concessions to the inspections process slowed up, probably in response to a wait-and-see policy as the Iraqis watched to see how global opposition to war would affect both the Security Council and Turkey, one of the Bush administration's vital yet reluctant partners. To the extent that Saddam feels emboldened by the impression that the rest of the world is taking his side, ironically war is now closer than ever. The clincher was delivered yesterday by Hans Blix who now has no need to present the Security Council with a smoking gun. With or without American direction, he has engineered a fait accompli. Iraq has been ordered to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles because in flight tests they exceeded a UN-imposed 90 mile limit by 20 miles. Will Iraq place its faith in its own ability to avert war and now throw away one of the strategic assets that it would certainly use during a US invasion?

It's the empire, stupid!
Paul Woodward, Yellow Times, February 22, 2003

While the anti-war movement is now showing its collective strength, this is the time to remember that the effectiveness of this movement will depend not only on strength in numbers but clarity of purpose and the ability to endure. War is just as imminent now as it was last week. The movement needs to reflect on its goals beyond the onset of war and not merely as war approaches.

In the United States, much of the opposition to a war against Iraq has been couched in terms that avoid facing the fear that now weighs heavily on the rest of the world. That fear is the fear of America's imperial ambitions.

In the aftermath of September 11, nations and individuals outside America who expressed sympathy for grieving families and a wounded nation were neither offering America a license for vengeance, nor inviting the imposition of America's own conception of global security. Neither were critics of American foreign policy implicitly supporting terrorism. But rather than countenance the need for debate in a time of crisis, the self-appointed defenders of American freedom cast a shadow over their critics by suggesting that dissent at such a time amounted to lying down with the enemy.

This taboo on dissent, while it has since diminished, has yet to be fully shaken off. Fearful that criticism of government will be labeled "unpatriotic" or "anti-American," the language of dissent inside America has frequently been tailored so that it minimizes any risk of offense. Thus, it assumes sanitized forms through populist slogans such as "peace is patriotic" and "win without war." Rather than attempt a direct challenge against the full scope of U.S. foreign policy, many critics of war seem to favor speed bumps rather than a roadblock down the path to war. Instead of an unqualified and emphatic "No," the appeal has frequently been a tepid, "Not yet!"

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As the world focuses on Iraq, the bodies pile up in Gaza
Justin Huggler, The Independent, February 22, 2003

The question hung over the concrete rubble and twisted iron support rods, the ruined buildings where Palestinians said three young men were killed when the Israeli army demolished them this week.

Is the Israeli military taking advantage of a time when the world is not paying attention to what is going on here, when media coverage is focusing on Iraq, to step up its campaign in the occupied territories?

In the past week, while the world's press focused on the UN security council and Baghdad, the violence has suddenly surged. In six days, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed in a series of Israeli operations, chiefly in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Nablus.

The dead have been a combination of unarmed civilians, armed militants, members of the legitimate Palestinian security forces and one a medic trying to reach a sick patient.

But this week's violence was not a response to a suicide bombing or an attack by Palestinian gunmen in Israel.

Inside Israel, the situation has been at its most calm for months. There have been no suicide bombings. Nobody has been killed in a militant attack.

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Defiance on missiles could be war trigger
Brian Whitaker, Richard Norton-Taylor and Nick Paton Walsh, The Guardian, February 21, 2003

Iraqi intransigence over missiles that can travel 20 miles beyond a 94-mile limit set by the United Nations was rapidly emerging last night as a possible trigger for an American invasion.

As weapons inspectors prepared to order the rockets' destruction, President Saddam Hussein held a council of war with his military chiefs. The meeting came a day after the Iraqi leader vowed that peace "at any cost" was unacceptable. Several westerners who have been working privately to avert conflict expressed desperation yesterday at what they see as a hardening of Iraq's stance.

They point out that Baghdad has made no positive moves on disarmament since last Friday - which they fear is due to a misreading of the disarray in the UN security council and the anti-war demonstrations last weekend.

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Troops take 19th-century 'Monroe Doctrine' global
U.S. troops appear suddenly to be deploying everywhere, and with very little notice

Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, February 21, 2003

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but on the same week that one of the country's leading neo-conservative writers called explicitly for Washington to serve as "Globocop", the Pentagon announced it was sending 3,000 troops to the Philippines for joint operations against a minor Muslim guerrilla group.

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Lighting the fuse
Freeing the Iraqi people to death

Peter Matthiessen, Orion, February, 2003

The country today is very much concerned about the young Americans in the military whose lives will be endangered in an attack upon Iraq. But in the event of that attack, who in the White House will take responsibility for the never-mentioned yet inevitable slaughter of Iraqi civilians whose sole offense was getting in the way of a regime change?

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When U.S. foreign policy meets biblical prophecy
Paul S. Boyer, AlterNet, February 20, 2003

Does the Bible foretell regime change in Iraq? Did God establish Israel's boundaries millennia ago? Is the United Nations a forerunner of a satanic world order?

For millions of Americans, the answer to all those questions is a resounding yes. For many believers in biblical prophecy, the Bush administration's go-it-alone foreign policy, hands-off attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and proposed war on Iraq are not simply actions in the national self-interest or an extension of the war on terrorism, but part of an unfolding divine plan.

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Bush: Iraq can be lesson to U.S. foes
Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 21, 2003

President Bush today outlined an expansive vision of a postwar Iraq, speaking of toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a lesson to other American foes and of turning the country into a model of Middle East democracy and prosperity. [...]

At a time when the administration is facing nuclear challenges from North Korea and Iran, Bush spoke of using Hussein's undoing as an example to others. "By defeating this threat, we will show other dictators that the path of aggression will lead to their own ruin," he said. [...]

The White House scheduled today's appearance to showcase the administration's tax cut proposals, and Bush devoted a large chunk of his speech to reciting the package's details. But the Iraq situation drew the most intense reaction from the audience and from conservative supporters on Bush's motorcade route here in Newt Gingrich's Cobb County.

Among hundreds of flag-waving well-wishers, support for an Iraq invasion figured prominently. "Give War A Chance," proclaimed one poster, with a photo of Hussein on a map of Iraq in cross hairs. One of the few antiwar demonstrators along the route held a poster saying: "Stop the Terrorists Before They Start a War on Iraq." According to the local Marietta Daily Journal, students at Harrison High School, where Bush spoke, said "it has been made clear to them that protests against Bush and the impending war with Iraq will not be tolerated."

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After Iraq, does U.S. have other targets?
Susan Taylor Martin, St. Petersburg Times, February 19, 2003

Given the enmity between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it's not surprising that many in the Arab world think attacking Iraq is just the first step in a U.S.-Israeli plot to control the entire Middle East.

What is surprising is that a senior U.S. official would fuel such an explosive idea at such a sensitive time. Yet that could well be the effect of recent remarks by John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

As reported in Ha'aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Bolton told Israeli officials Monday that he has "no doubt America will attack Iraq and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterward."

Bolton made his comments in private talks -- reporters learned of them from other sources -- and it's not known if he elaborated on how America would "deal" with those nations. But there's little doubt his message, however incomplete, unsettled officials in Damascus, Tehran and Pyongyang.

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Sharon says U.S. should also disarm Iran, Libya
and Syria

Aluf Benn, Ha'aretz, February 18, 2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that Iran, Libya and Syria should be stripped of weapons of mass destruction after Iraq. "These are irresponsible states, which must be disarmed of weapons mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve," Sharon said to a visiting delegation of American congressmen.

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Full U.S. control planned for Iraq
Karen DeYoung and Peter Slevin, Washington Post, February 21, 2003

The Bush administration plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, with an interim administration headed by a yet-to-be named American civilian who would direct the reconstruction of the country and the creation of a "representative" Iraqi government, according to a now-finalized blueprint described by U.S. officials and other sources.

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Inspectors call U.S. tips 'garbage'
Mark Phillips, CBS News, February 20, 2003

While diplomatic maneuvering continues over Turkish bases and a new United Nations resolution, inside Iraq, U.N. arms inspectors are privately complaining about the quality of U.S. intelligence and accusing the United States of sending them on wild-goose chases.

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The will of the world
Jonathan Schell, The Nation, February 20, 2003

February 15, 2003, the day 10 million or so people in hundreds of cities on every continent demonstrated against war in Iraq, will go down in history as the first time that the people of the world expressed their clear and concerted will in regard to a pressing global issue. Never before--not during the Vietnam War, not during the antinuclear demonstrations of the early 1980s--had they made known their will so forcefully by all the means at their disposal. On that day, history may one day record, global democracy was born.

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A trap set for protesters
Michael Hardt, The Guardian, February 21, 2003

Washington's new anti-Europeanism is really an expression of their unilateralist project.

Corresponding in part to the new US anti-Europeanism, there is today in Europe and across the world a growing anti-Americanism. In particular, the coordinated protests last weekend against the war were animated by various kinds of anti-Americanism - and that is inevitable. The US government has left no doubt that it is the author of this war and so protest against the war must, inevitably, be also protest against the United States.

This anti-Americanism, however, although certainly justifiable, is a trap. The problem is, not only does it tend to create an overly unified and homogeneous view of the United States, obscuring the wide margins of dissent in the nation, but also that, mirroring the new US anti-Europeanism, it tends to reinforce the notion that our political alternatives rest on the major nations and power blocs. It contributes to the impression, for instance, that the leaders of Europe represent our primary political path - the moral, multilateralist alternative to the bellicose, unilateralist Americans. This anti-Americanism of the anti-war movements tends to close down the horizons of our political imagination and limit us to a bi-polar (or worse, nationalist) view of the world.

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U.S. combat force of 1,700 is headed to the Philippines
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, February 21, 2003

The United States will send more than 1,700 troops to the Philippines in the next few weeks to fight Muslim extremists in the southern part of the country, opening a new front in the campaign against terrorism, Pentagon officials said today.

The first troops are to be deployed within days. Unlike a six-month mission last year that involved 1,300 American troops, it will not limit United States forces to an advisory role allowing them to fire only in self-defense, military officials said.

The operation will last as long as necessary "to disrupt and destroy" the estimated 250 members of the extremist group Abu Sayyaf, one official said. It steps up the battle against terrorism as the United States prepares for possible war with Iraq and continues to hunt Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

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The martial plan
Paul Krugman, New York Times, February 21, 2003

Some observers also point out that the administration has turned the regular foreign aid budget into a tool of war diplomacy. Small countries that currently have seats on the U.N. Security Council have suddenly received favorable treatment for aid requests, in an obvious attempt to influence their votes. Cynics say that the "coalition of the willing" President Bush spoke of turns out to be a "coalition of the bought off" instead.

But it's clear that the generosity will end as soon as Baghdad falls.

After all, look at our behavior in Afghanistan. In the beginning, money was no object; victory over the Taliban was as much a matter of bribes to warlords as it was of Special Forces and smart bombs. But President Bush promised that our interest wouldn't end once the war was won; this time we wouldn't forget about Afghanistan, we would stay to help rebuild the country and secure the peace. So how much money for Afghan reconstruction did the administration put in its 2004 budget?

None. The Bush team forgot about it. Embarrassed Congressional staff members had to write in $300 million to cover the lapse. You can see why the Turks, in addition to demanding even more money, want guarantees in writing. Administration officials are insulted when the Turks say that a personal assurance from Mr. Bush isn't enough. But the Turks know what happened in Afghanistan, and they also know that fine words about support for New York City, the firefighters and so on didn't translate into actual money once the cameras stopped rolling.

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Sunshine, containment, war
The Korean options

Gavan McCormack, TomDispatch, February 20, 2003

We hardly grasp how fully we live inside an American, even a Washington-centered world. The East Asian scholar Gavan McCormack doesn't. (Perhaps it helps to be in Australia.) His long essay on the two Koreas, which begins below and was written for this weblog, is a rare attempt to bring us closer to another world -- that of the two Koreas. It turns out that whether you stand in Seoul or Pyongyang, you immediately see things quite differently.

The brutality and bizarreness of a North Korean regime presiding over a society in a state of exhaustion blinds us both to a history we know little about and to the simple, if also brutal, logic of its nuclear position -- but in this case the brutality is, in fact, an American one. McCormack offers us a way to re-imagine the Korean situation and so the situation of East Asia itself. And he poses a simple question: Why don't we attend more closely to the views of the neighbor nearest to North Korea which has the most to lose from its collapse, not to speak of a new war on the Korean peninsula? -- Tom Engelhardt

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The French remember, but we don't
Molly Ivins, Abilene Reporter News, February 20, 2003

George Will saw fit to include in his latest Newsweek column this joke: "How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? No one knows, it’s never been tried." That was certainly amusing. One million, four hundred thousand French soldiers were killed during World War I. As a result, there weren’t many Frenchmen left to fight in World War II. Nevertheless, 100,000 French soldiers lost their lives trying to stop Hitler.

On behalf of every one of those 100,000 men, I would like to thank Will for his clever joke. They were out-manned, out-gunned, out-generaled and, above all, out-tanked. They got slaughtered, but they stood and they fought. Ha-ha, how funny. In the few places where they had tanks, they held splendidly.

Relying on the Maginot Line was one of the great military follies of modern history, but it does not reflect on the courage of those who died for France in 1940. For 18 months after that execrable defeat, the United States continued to have cordial diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany.

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Short Iraq war would cost world $1 trillion
Reuters, February 20, 2003

A short war with Iraq could cost the world one percent of its economic output over the next few years and more than $1 trillion by 2010, Australian researchers said in a report Thursday.

A long war could more than triple the costs, they said.

The compounding effects of rising oil prices, extra budget spending and economic uncertainty could cut $173 billion from the world economy in 2003 alone, said the researchers, Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin and Center for International Economics executive director Andrew Stoeckel.

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Bush's war timetable unravelling
Owen Bowcott, Ewen MacAskill, Gary Younge and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, February 20, 2003

The Bush administration's determination to keep to a tight timetable that would see its forces ready to go to war against Iraq by early March is in danger of coming unstuck.

Plans to open a northern front against Iraq - seen as vital to ensure a pincer movement against Baghdad - were looking shaky last night as Turkey resisted an ultimatum from Washington to accept US troop deployments or forfeit a multi-billion dollar compensation package.

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Iraqis will not be pawns in Bush and Blair's war game
Kamil Mahdi, The Guardian, February 20, 2003

In [British] government comment about Iraq, the Iraqi people are treated as a collection of hapless victims without hope or dignity. At best, Iraqis are said to have parochial allegiances that render them incapable of political action without tutelage. This is utterly at variance with the history and reality of Iraq. Iraqis are proud of their diversity, the intricacies of their society and its deeply rooted urban culture.

Their turbulent recent history is not something that simply happened to Iraqis, but one in which they have been actors. Iraqis have a rich modern political tradition borne out of their struggle for independence from Britain and for political and social emancipation. A major explanation for the violence of recent Iraqi political history lies in the determination of people to challenge tyranny and bring about political change. Iraqis have not gone like lambs to the slaughter, but have fought political battles in which they suffered grievously. To assert that an American invasion is the only way to bring about political change in Iraq might suit Blair's propaganda fightback, but it is ignorant and disingenuous.

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Muslim lands say war could bring havoc
Felicity Barringer, New York Times, February 19, 2003

A phalanx of Muslim nations, including two of the United States' closest allies and Iraq's closest neighbors, warned today that the Middle East could face a harvest of political, human and economic havoc in the event of an American-led war against Saddam Hussein.

Speaking during an open debate at the Security Council today, representatives of states from Morocco to Yemen echoed the words of the Iranian envoy, Javad Zarif, who said that "the extent of destabilization in the region and uncertainty in Iraq in the case of a war may go far beyond our imagination today."

Envoys from Iraq's neighbors Jordan and Turkey, both with close ties to the United States, said they were still suffering from the economic and human dislocations caused by the Persian Gulf war.

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Turkish demand risks impeding war strategy
Amberin Zaman and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2003

The Bush administration's plans to open a northern front in a war against Iraq appeared in jeopardy Tuesday after the Turkish government said it won't seek a parliamentary vote allowing U.S. troops in the country unless Washington greatly increases the size of a proposed aid package.

Facing strong resistance at home to a war, Turkish officials said they need far more than the $6 billion in grants and $20 billion in loans that the U.S. has offered before they will seek legislative approval for the troop movement.

President Bush and other top officials, who were expecting a final go-ahead from the Turks on Tuesday, instead were left fuming about the latest demands and weighing how to respond.

In Ankara, the Turkish capital, a senior Western official close to the talks said: "This is it — it could all be over.... Relations between Turkey and the United States are basically heading south."

The Western official insisted that the postponement of the parliamentary vote was an effort by the Turks to get the Bush administration to drop its plan to funnel troops through the country.

"The objective is to make the U.S. give up on the idea of a northern front," he said.

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Is Saddam a menace or a nuisance?
Tony Karon, Time, February 19, 2003

...while for Blair and Bush the greatest danger is doing nothing about Saddam, their opponents see the remedy of a U.S.-led invasion and occupation as posing far more danger to the region and even, ultimately, the West than any threat currently posed by the regime in Baghdad.

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What would you suggest?
Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, February 19, 2003

Here's the question every opponent of the coming war on Iraq fears most: well, what would you do? We're comfortable enough announcing what we would not do, rattling off all the flaws, contradictions and hypocrisies of the war camp. We've got those arguments down pat, and apparently they're winning the day: witness not only the million-plus who marched last weekend but the clear majority polled by the Guardian yesterday against a military attack.

But what do we say when our opponents ask not for our criticisms but our alternative course of action? I don't mean our solution to Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. On that we can legitimately dispute the scale and urgency of the threat, citing other more pressing dangers. Nor do we have to find a response to the alleged links between Baghdad and al-Qaida: the evidence for those is so flimsy even Downing Street seems embarrassed by the claim.

No, we need an answer to the argument which has become Tony Blair's favourite in recent days: that war is needed to topple a cruel tyrant who has drowned his people in misery. In this view, the coming conflict is a war of liberation which will cost some Iraqi lives at first, to be sure, but which will save many more. It will be a moral war to remove an immoral regime. To oppose it is to keep Saddam in power.

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Ashcroft readies new assault on civil rights
Jack M. Balkin, Newsday, February 18, 2003

Just as the Bush administration is preparing a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, its Justice Department has been preparing yet another pre-emptive strike - a new assault on our civil liberties.

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Rising anti-American sentiment could slam the tech sector
David Kirkpatrick, Fortune, February 18, 2003

Every day we see new evidence of how technology is shrinking our globe. When we say "globalization" we really mean "technologization."

Dramatic evidence of our linked global society came last Saturday with the massive, coordinated worldwide demonstrations against a possible war in Iraq. News reports called it the largest protest movement in history, and that seemed likely. But how did it get so big so fast, and, as many reports pointed out with wonder, before a war even happened?

In a word, technology.

What made the protests in a reported 600 cities worldwide so potent was not only their size—up to six million in total—but their coordination. The Internet gives every potential protester information and, in many cases, encouragement. And e-mail allows protesters and organizers to communicate at no cost. I predict this is just the first in a new era of global coordinated protest. The issues may change, but the connected crowds will remain.

President Bush’s apparent rush to war may have another implication in this time of newly globalized technology—the U.S. industry’s already shaky vitality could be at risk. Anti-Americanism, driven by resistance to U.S. policies, is starting to affect sales of U.S. products around the world. Both Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble have seen sales in the Middle East affected. A small upstart brand called Mecca-Cola is gaining adherents in Europe and the Middle East. And a survey recently conducted by Euro RSCG Worldwide found that large majorities of the citizens of many countries—including Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom—felt the "world is becoming too Americanized."

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Imagine a Nigerian-style scam letter from Bush
Kaleem Omar, Balochistan Post, February 19, 2003

Imagine what might happen if the Nigerians were to teach George W. Bush how to write an email scam letter. Making allowances for Bush's peculiar brand of English, the result might go something like this.

Immediate Attention Needed: Highly Confidential

From: George Walker Bush

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am George Walker Bush, son of the former President of the United States of America George Herbert Walker Bush, and currently serving as President of the United States of America — the land of mom, apple pie and ethnic profiling.

This letter might surprise you because we have not met neither in person nor by correspondence. Those are the best kinds of meetings I always say. But don't tell Laura about this letter. She might get the wrong idea if you happen to be a woman.

I came to know of you in my search for a reliable and reputable person to handle a very confidential business transaction, which involves the transfer of a huge sum of money to an account requiring maximum confidence.

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Iranian-backed forces cross into Iraq
Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, February 18, 2003

Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition forces have crossed into northern Iraq from Iran with the aim of securing the frontier in the event of war, according to senior Iranian officials.

The forces, numbering up to 5,000 troops, with some heavy equipment, are nominally under the command of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a prominent Iraqi Shia Muslim opposition leader who has been based in Iran since 1980 and lives in Tehran.

A US State Department official said he was aware of reports that part of Ayatollah Hakim's Badr brigade had crossed into northern Iraq but declined further comment. Analysts close to the administration of President George W. Bush said the US was concerned about the intentions of this new element in an increasingly complicated patchwork of forces in northern Iraq.

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Two war foes take steps on seeking presidency
David E. Rosenbaum, New York Times, February 19, 2003

Two strong opponents of war with Iraq, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, made plans today to take the first step toward running for the Democratic nomination for president.

Their lawyers were under instructions to file official papers today to form exploratory committees so the campaigns could begin raising money under federal election law. But most government offices here were closed because of the weekend snowstorm. Mr. Kucinich and Ms. Moseley-Braun said the papers would be filed the first day the Federal Election Commission was open for business.

Mr. Kucinich, 56, and Ms. Moseley-Braun, 55, clearly hope to wrest the most liberal elements of the Democratic Party away from the better known candidates in the race.

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Americans abroad face anger at U.S.
Jane Perlez, New York Times, February 19, 2003

These are uneasy, tense times for Americans living abroad. As the possibility of war against Iraq rises, especially a war that the United States may fight virtually alone, so does anti-Americanism in the streets, newspapers and cafes of foreign cities.

Interviewed around the world, Americans expressed confidence that people nearly everywhere tried to distinguish between them and their government. But they acknowledged that anger over American policies — and resentment of American power — had translated into varying degrees of wariness, discomfort and even risk for Americans living in different parts of the world.

In some places, like Pakistan and Egypt, old pique at the United States is now fortified by fury at what many people see as the Bush administration's hostility to Islam.

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Iraqi exiles cited by Blair are backed by Iran
Jeevan Vasagar and Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, February 19, 2003

From his lectern yesterday and his conference podium on Saturday, Tony Blair has flourished a succession of letters and emails from Iraqi exiles as proof that a war to remove Saddam is supported in at least one quarter.

Mr Blair took a personal interest in Iraqi human rights after meeting a group of seven Iraqi women at Downing Street last November, two of whom wept as they told him their stories. But he was criticised yesterday for selectively quoting from those Iraqis who share his views while ignoring other exiles who have written to No 10 opposing war.

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Blast from the past
Matt Seaton, The Guardian, February 19, 2003

Politicians on both sides of the argument over Iraq have been busy rummaging through the history books. The pro-war camp constantly warn against repeating the mistakes of appeasement. The antis claim we are heading for another Suez. But which is the more plausible parallel? A dozen leading historians offer their perspectives.

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Oil, empire, and influence in the new Eurasia
Raffi Khatchadourian, Village Voice, February, 2003

Deep beneath the waters of the Caspian Sea lie oil reserves rivaling those of the entire United States. Extracting the crude is one problem; finding a way to bring it to Western markets has been almost impossible. Backed by the U.S. government and a collective of 11 major oil firms, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline will cross mountains, desert wastes, and earthquake zones, while skirting potential battlefields and terrorist hideouts as it covers a distance equivalent to that from New York to Miami.

Construction will begin this spring, officials say, whether American troops invade neighboring Iraq or not. In this series, Raffi Khatchadourian explores the geography-political, economic, and social-of a conduit for coveted oil.

Part one: crude measures

Part two: code of the Kalashnikov

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Three mystery ships are tracked over suspected 'weapons' cargo
Michael Harrison, The Independent, February 19, 2003

Three giant cargo ships are being tracked by US and British intelligence on suspicion that they might be carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Each with a deadweight of 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes, the ships have been sailing around the world's oceans for the past three months while maintaining radio silence in clear violation of international maritime law, say authoritative shipping industry sources.

The vessels left port in late November, just a few days after UN weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix began their search for the alleged Iraqi arsenal on their return to the country.

Uncovering such a deadly cargo on board would give George Bush and Tony Blair the much sought-after "smoking gun" needed to justify an attack on Saddam Hussein's regime, in the face of massive public opposition to war.

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Oil and ethnic rivalries fuel fight for Iraqi border town
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, February 19, 2003

Abdul-Samat Ali Baram is the latest casualty of a prolonged campaign by the Baghdad government, stretching back decades, to reduce the Kurdish population of the oil province of Kirkuk and replace its people with Arabs.

The fate of Kirkuk, at the centre of Iraq's northern oilfields, will once again become a explosive issue in Iraqi politics if Saddam Hussein is overthrown. For years he has sought to change its demography, replacing Kurds and Turkomans, another of Iraq's multitude of minorities, with Arabs from southern Iraq.

But the looming war has rekindled the hopes of the Kurds that they will be able to reclaim their homes.

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Flashback for the Kurds
Peter W. Galbraith, New York Times, February 19, 2003

As the Bush administration struggles to induce Turkey to support a war with Iraq, our Kurdish allies in northern Iraq are realizing that once again America is about to double-cross them.

Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition, went to Ankara this month and told top Kurdish leaders to accept a large deployment of Turkish troops — supposedly for humanitarian relief — to enter northern Iraq after any American invasion. He also told the Kurds that they would have to give up plans for self-government, adding that hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes by Saddam Hussein would not be able to return to them.

For the Kurds, this brought bitter memories. They blame Henry Kissinger for encouraging them to rebel in the early 1970's and then acquiescing quietly as the shah of Iran made a deal with Iraq and stopped funneling American aid to them. (Mr. Kissinger's standing among Kurds was not helped by his explanation: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.")

After the Persian Gulf war, the first President Bush called on the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein. When the Kurds tried to do just that, the American military let the Iraqis send out helicopter gunships to annihilate them.

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US plan for new nuclear arsenal
Julian Borger, The Guardian, February 19, 2003

The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes", "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.

The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.

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A tale of two crises
Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, February 17, 2003

Nobody can say for sure how long a war with Iraq might take, but one thing seems increasingly apparent: North Korea is moving to take full advantage of the United States' preoccupation with Saddam Hussein to build up its nuclear arsenal.

If there are any doubts on this score, they can be dispelled by examining the Worldwide Threat Briefing that C.I.A. Director George J. Tenet presented to Congress last week. That C.I.A. report did not receive as much attention as it deserved, possibly because it was unclassified and its conclusions were in plain view for all to see. Washington is fascinated by satellite photos, communications intercepts and top secret reports. It is the warnings in black and white that generally get ignored.

The report from the C.I.A contained a worrisome message. The die is all but cast. North Korea has decided it needs nuclear arms. It is likely to reprocess the spent fuel from its Yongbyon reactor. That means it could have enough fissile material for several more bombs in a matter of months.

It gets worse from there.

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Bush's 'march of folly' in North Korea
Donald C. Hellmann, Seattle Times, February 18, 2003

Two decades ago, historian Barbara Tuchman wrote a brilliant book, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam," cataloging the pursuit by governments, throughout history, of policies contrary to their own interests. No matter what its final outcome, the still unfolding American policy toward Korea (both North and South) has produced another candidate for that parade.

Her question, addressed to the ages, must be asked of the current Bush administration: Why do people in high office act contrary to what the available information, common sense, and experience suggest?

North Korea, a tyrannical, economically-failed, rogue state with the third largest army in the world, has long been an enigmatic international problem, especially since the end of the Cold War. Over the past decade, Pyongyang has twice opted to "go nuclear" in defiance of world opinion and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, while its economy has slid into total collapse. As a strategically-located pariah state, it poses a multidimensional threat to regional peace and a clear and present danger to South Korea.

In light of the preeminent place in our policy held by the "war on terror" and the related, imminent, pre-emptive war on Iraq, the fact that South Korea has a GNP roughly equal to the entire Middle East, and the U.S. has 37,000 troops deployed as a military tripwire on the border with North Korea, would lead one to expect that Korea as a matter of course would receive priority and careful consideration in United States strategy. Surprisingly and lamentably, this has not been the case, as just a partial inventory of the policies taken by Washington over the past year can demonstrate.

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Fears grow in village U.S. cited as threat
Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2003

Those interviewed in the shadow of the mountains along the Iranian border are more suspicious of a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq than are most Kurds. In Mullah Marwan Ismail Hussein's yard, a conversation about the photograph Powell displayed [to the UN Security Council] led to criticism of what are seen here as the United States' global aspirations.

"There's not enough electricity and food for the people, so how can there be a chemical weapons factory?" Hussein asked. "The U.S. wants to monopolize the petrol of the Middle East. The U.S. wants the whole world to be one colony under itself.... Everyone knows Israel has nuclear and chemical weapons, and it's allowed to use them. It's just an American game."

As more village men gathered, Hussein had another thought.

"This issue for us is the globalization America calls for," he said. "It cannot do it in a peaceful way."

He added that Washington has shifting motives: "Why didn't the U.S. declare war on Iraq when Saddam bombed the Kurds with chemical weapons?"

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U.S. war on Iraq to create more bin Laden recruits
Samia Nakhoul, Reuters, February 18, 2003

Would a U.S.-led war on Iraq make the world and the Middle East safer? Or is it more likely to unleash a wave of anti-American rage and create more recruits for Osama bin Laden?

The answer from the streets of the Middle East, official circles, analysts, academics and clerics is almost unanimous -- a U.S. invasion will most certainly provoke a backlash, and this could put the security of the world at risk.

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Democratic mirage in the Middle East
Marina Ottaway, Thomas Carothers, Amy Hawthorne, and Daniel Brumberg, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The increasingly popular idea in Washington that the United States, by toppling Saddam Hussein, can rapidly democratize Iraq and unleash a democratic tsunami in the Middle East is a dangerous fantasy. The U.S. record of building democracy after invading other countries is mixed at best and the Bush administration's commitment to a massive reconstruction effort in Iraq is doubtful. The repercussions of an intervention in Iraq will be as likely to complicate the spread of democracy in the Middle East as promote it. The United States has an important role to play in fostering democracy in the region, but the task will be slow and difficult given the unpromising terrain and lack of U.S. leverage over key governments. (Complete policy brief in PDF document)

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Risking a civil war
Turkey is demanding that it send 60,000 to 80,000 of its own troops into northern Iraq

Owen Matthews, Sami Kohen and John Barry, Newsweek, February 24, 2003

Turkey is raising its price for allowing U.S. forces to invade Iraq from its territory. In early negotiations with the United States, Ankara spoke of sending in Turkish troops to set up a “buffer zone” perhaps 15 miles deep along the Iraqi border. This would prevent a flood of Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq, the Turks said.

But now, Newsweek has learned, Turkey is demanding that it send 60,000 to 80,000 of its own troops into northern Iraq to establish “strategic positions” across a “security arc” as much as 140 to 170 miles deep in Iraq. That would take Turkish troops almost halfway to Baghdad. These troops would not be under U.S. command, according to Turkish sources, who say Turkey has agreed only to “coordination” between U.S. and Turkish forces. Ankara fears the Iraqi Kurds might use Saddam’s fall to declare independence. Kurdish leaders have not yet been told of this new plan, according to Kurdish spokesmen in Washington, who say the Kurds rejected even the earlier notion of a narrow buffer zone. Farhad Barzani, the U.S. representative of the main Kurdish party in Iraq, the KDP, says, “We have told them: American troops will come as liberators. But Turkish troops will be seen as invaders.”

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Saudi Arabia hardens opposition to US war on Iraq
Omar Hasan, Middle East Online, February 18, 2003

Buoyed by worldwide anti-war sentiment, Saudi Arabia, the US key ally in the Gulf, has hardened opposition to a unilateral attack on Iraq, warning that no foreign troops will wage war on Baghdad from the kingdom.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal took the Saudi anti-war stance a step forward by declaring Monday that an attack by the United States on Iraq would be seen by many as an act of aggression.

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Turkey makes U-turn against US
Head of Turkey's ruling party throws cold water on US war plans because of row over financial aid

Sibel Utku, Middle East Online, February 18, 2003

Turkey threw US war plans for Iraq into disarray on Tuesday, hinting it might stall the deployment of US troops because of a row over how much money Washington is prepared to offer to offset economic losses resulting from a possible conflict.

The head of Turkey's ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Ankara's backing for a US-led war was subject to change if Washington did not meet its demands for billions of dollars in compensation to cover the impact on the fragile Turkish economy.

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Behind the great divide
Paul Krugman, New York Times, February 18, 2003

There has been much speculation why Europe and the U.S. are suddenly at such odds. Is it about culture? About history? But I haven't seen much discussion of an obvious point: We have different views partly because we see different news.

Let's back up. Many Americans now blame France for the chill in U.S.-European relations. There is even talk of boycotting French products.

But France's attitude isn't exceptional. Last Saturday's huge demonstrations confirmed polls that show deep distrust of the Bush administration and skepticism about an Iraq war in all major European nations, whatever position their governments may take. In fact, the biggest demonstrations were in countries whose governments are supporting the Bush administration.

There were big demonstrations in America too. But distrust of the U.S. overseas has reached such a level, even among our British allies, that a recent British poll ranked the U.S. as the world's most dangerous nation — ahead of North Korea and Iraq.

So why don't other countries see the world the way we do? News coverage is a large part of the answer.

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Jimmy Carter backs anti-war campaign
Alexandra Williams, Daily Mirror, February 18, 2003

Forever the diplomat, Carter was careful not to directly criticise President George Bush by name.

He said: "Some very embarrassing things have happened in this country.

"Time magazine in Europe did a public opinion poll on its website and over 350,000 people responded to the question, 'Which country poses the greatest threat to world peace?'

"North Korea received seven per cent of the votes, Iraq received eight per cent and the United States received 84 per cent.

"We have lost the ability apparently in our country to convince other nations to stand side by side with us."

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Poodle power
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, February 17, 2003

The real nature of the British-American relationship is certainly difficult for outsiders - and sometimes insiders too - to understand. But it's particularly important at the moment that Saddam Hussein does not misunderstand it, since it figures large in his calculations.

Iraq has made no secret of its view that Britain holds the key to avoiding war. It argues (rightly, I think) that, whatever unilateral action Mr Bush may threaten, he will not actually attack Iraq without British support. Iraq's goal, therefore, is to drive a wedge between Britain and the US. Mr Blair, in turn, is well aware of Iraq's goal and has made sure so far that no wedge can be driven.

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War planners begin to speak of war's risks
David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, New York Times, February 18, 2003

Senior Bush administration officials are for the first time openly discussing a subject they have sidestepped during the buildup of forces around Iraq: what could go wrong, and not only during an attack but also in the aftermath of an invasion.

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Don't start what you can't finish
The Economist, February 14, 2003

Afghanistan has been fought over by foreigners for centuries, and many Afghans have an understandable resentment of foreign influence. However, the government of President Hamid Karzai, installed after American-led forces kicked the Taliban out of Kabul at the end of 2001, knows that it needs all the foreign help it can get if it is to turn its country into a stable, coherent entity. In particular, Mr Karzai is keen that America fulfil its promise to help spread democracy and prosperity across a land that has been riven by war for more than two decades.

But if the world is watching America’s commitment to post-Taliban Afghanistan as a sign of what might happen in post-Saddam Iraq, it is likely to be disappointed. The consensus is that, having changed the Afghan regime, America has lost interest before finishing the job.

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The smart way to be scared
Gregg Easterbrook, New York Times, February 16, 2003

A terrorist release of chemical weapons in an American city would probably have effects confined to a few blocks, making any one person's odds of harm far less than a million to one.

Your risk of dying in a car accident while driving to buy duct tape likely exceeds your risk of dying because you lacked duct tape.

Last week, a Washington talk radio host discussed what listeners should do if "a huge cloud of poison gas is drifting over the city." No nation's military has the technical ability to create a huge, lingering gas cloud: in outdoor use, chemical agents are lethal only for a few moments, because the wind quickly dilutes them. Chemical agents are deadly mainly in enclosed circumstances — subways, for example, or in building ventilation systems. The duct-taped room in a home is of little use in such a scenario.

A 1993 study by the Office of Technology Assessment found that one ton of perfectly delivered sarin, used against an unprotected city, could kill as many as 8,000. But the possession by terrorists of a ton of the most deadly gas seems reasonably unlikely, while perfect conditions for a gas attack — no wind, no sun (sunlight breaks down nerve agents), a low-flying plane that no one is shooting at — almost never happen. Even lights winds, the 1993 study projected, would drop the death toll to about 700.

Seven hundred dead would be horrible, but similar to the harm that might be inflicted in a crowded area by one ton of conventional explosives. Because these explosives are about as deadly as chemicals pound for pound, but far easier to obtain and use, terrorists may be more likely to try to blow things up. Almost all recent terrorist attacks around the world have involved conventional explosives.

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Unrivaled military feels strains of unending war
Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, February 16, 2003

Four times over the past 12 years -- in Iraq, in Haiti, in Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan -- U.S. forces have dispatched enemy forces in a matter of weeks. Today, on the eve of a possible new war against Iraq, those forces are exponentially more lethal, and their commanders, who have known little but victory over their careers, are confident almost to the point of cockiness.

"At no time in the history of modern warfare has a force been as well-trained, well-equipped and highly motivated as our Air Force is today," Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, said last month. Indeed, one of the Air Force's slogans is "Global Reach, Global Power."

That reach, say military commanders and other experts, may also prove to be an Achilles' heel: The more capable the U.S. military has become, the more it has been asked to do, and now strains are beginning to show. As the Bush administration prepares for war with Iraq, it is also sustaining peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, protecting South Korea from a newly aggressive North Korea and pursuing a war against terrorism that stretches from Afghanistan and the Caucasus to the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia.

This is a period characterized by what seems like continuous warfare, likened by military analyst Ralph Peters to the Thirty Years War that decimated Western Europe in the 17th century, and the effects are beginning to tell on the military's manpower, on its budget, on the nation's treasury, and on a conflict of priorities -- between the need to fight today's wars and the pursuit of means to dominate tomorrow's.

These tensions are partly the legacy of the nation's response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but they will not dissipate any time soon: They are implicit in the administration's new national security strategy. That 33-page document, issued in September, commits the nation both to maintaining U.S. military hegemony and to attacking rogue or terrorist states before they can threaten the United States.

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A new power in the streets
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, February 17, 2003

The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

In his campaign to disarm Iraq, by war if necessary, President Bush appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary: millions of people who flooded the streets of New York and dozens of other world cities to say they are against war based on the evidence at hand.

Mr. Bush's advisers are telling him to ignore them and forge ahead, as are some leading pro-war Republicans. Senator John McCain, for one, said today that it was "foolish" for people to protest on behalf of the Iraqi people, because the Iraqis live under Saddam Hussein "and they will be far, far better off when they are liberated from his brutal, incredibly oppressive rule."

That may be true, but it fails to answer the question that France, Germany and other members of the Security Council have posed: What is the urgent rationale for war now if there is a chance that continued inspections under military pressure might accomplish the disarmament of Iraq peacefully?

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Rabbi rift
Don Hazen, AlterNet, February 13, 2003

The truth depends on your perspective, but according to the antiwar groups involved, [Rabbi Michael] Lerner wasn't so much banned from speaking at the SF rally as he was simply never considered. The four groups co-sponsoring the SF march had agreed not to invite speakers who were critical of any of the groups.

This may not be the most principled decision -- and probably represents Answer's agenda since they have been the most criticized -- but it's understandable. These groups are trying to stop a war. They make compromises to be able to work together and get on with things.

Mitchell Plitnick of Jewish Voice for Peace, part of the United for Peace Coalition, says the whole affair has been blown out of proportion. He says the Tikkun community were part of a discussion about the speaker situation at a Feb. 4 meeting and were fine with it since other speakers would cover Lerner's concerns. "Then Lerner sent out an email press communication saying he was blackballed, never contacting anyone at United for Peace."

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Forceful tactics catch up with U.S.
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, February 16, 2003

Months of painstaking efforts by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to win international consensus for military action against Iraq have been complicated by a growing resentment over what many foreign diplomats regard as the Bush administration's heavy-handed and bullying tactics over the past two years.

Those tensions boiled over at the Security Council on Friday to a degree rarely seen in the U.N. chamber. Although Iraq's cooperation with weapons inspectors was the official subject at hand, U.S. behavior became an important subtext of the debate as the audience broke U.N. rules and applauded French and Russian demands that the rush to war be slowed down.

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Put Sharon on trial - in Israel
David Forman, Ha'aretz, February 17, 2003

As someone who was a simple soldier in the war in Lebanon, it is clear to me that the collapse of the military ethic, including purity of arms, officially began during that war, in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatilla, when Ariel Sharon was defense minister. For Sharon, the contempt for the ethical dimension of warfare began much earlier, in Gaza and Kibyeh, but then his influence and methods were felt only at the platoon level. In the Lebanon War, as defense minister, his influence was universal. But the contempt he demonstrated then toward purity of arms took its own vengeance on him and he was fired from that job.

Twenty years have passed and Sharon is again in a position of power from which he can set the standards for Israeli fighting. Apparently, what guided Sharon during his military career and reached its shameful climax at Sabra and Chatilla, now dictates the way the IDF conducts its war against terror - with scorn for the moral standards at the heart of the Israeli Army since its establishment. And thus we are every day witness to the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians: not those caught in a cross-fire, but people like that 65-year-old woman [killed in one of the latest Israeli demolition operations].

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Global demonstrations - breaks down the numbers
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The demise of the nuclear bomb hoax
Imad Khadduri, former Iraqi nuclear scientist, YellowTimes, February 16, 2003

On February 14, 2003, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), submitted, in accordance with U.N. Resolution 1441, his second report to the Security Council on Iraq's nuclear non-capability.

Much to the chagrin of President Bush and Colin Powell, the nuclear inspection chief's findings not only cleared the smoke from the imagined "smoking gun," but also dissipated the smog of misinformation with which the American government, hungry for war, has surrounded this issue.

The matters raised by ElBaradei merit further comment.

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Peaceful S.F. crowd protests stance on Iraq
At S.F. rally, 200,000 seek alternative to U.S. war

Anastasia Hendrix, Pamela J. Podger, and Steve Rubenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, February 17, 2003

An estimated 200,000 people of nearly all ages spilled into lower Market Street on Sunday in San Francisco for a spirited but peaceful protest against U.S. plans to invade Iraq.

Ringing cowbells, banging temple drums, chanting, singing, dancing and waving colorful signs, puppets and placards, the marchers moved slowly up Market in a huge anti-war demonstration. While most simply walked the route, many pushed baby carriages, underscoring the argument that war would threaten the future of children most of all.

The march came one day after millions of people around the world demonstrated against the U.S. government's stance on Iraq. It coincided Sunday with an war protest in Sydney by about 200,000 people.

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Europeans angry and disgusted with Bush
Feel insulted by comments, mistrust motives

Anna Badkhen, Veronique Mistiaen, Elizabeth Bryant, and Jody K. Biehl, San Francisco Chronicle, February 16, 2003

With the clock ticking ever closer toward a possible war against Iraq, the gulf between the Bush administration and the public in Europe's most powerful nations continues to widen.

Interviews conducted over the past few days in England, France and Germany show mounting anger and disgust with the administration's perceived determination to push the Iraq crisis to a military conclusion regardless of world opinion.

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We are the people
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, February 17, 2003

There will be millions of people who will never forget Saturday February 15 2003. It was an extraordinary combination of the utterly prosaic and the deeply moving: a bursting bladder and the nearest toilets several hours' walk away in Hyde Park, an aching back and blisters, and then the remarkable sight of a heaving mass of people along the Embankment converging with crowds pouring across Waterloo bridge. Everywhere there were astonishing juxtapositions: the body-pierced peaceniks alongside the dignified Pakistani elder with white beard; the homemade placard "The only bush I trust is my own" drawing surreptitious giggles from a group of veiled Muslim women.

This was a day which confounded dozens of assumptions about our age. How much harder it is today than a week ago to speak of the apathy and selfish individualism of consumer society. Saturday brought the entire business of a capital city to a glorious full-stop. Not a car or bus moved in central London, the frenetic activities of shopping and spending halted across a wide swathe of the city; the streets became one vast vibrant civic space for an expression of national solidarity. Furthermore, unlike previous occasions when crowds have gathered, this was not to mark some royal pageantry, but to articulate an unfamiliar British sentiment - one of democratic entitlement: we are the people.

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Blair's 'moral' case for war in Iraq is shot full of holes
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, February 17, 2003

Downing Street is at panic stations as the full implications of Hans Blix's inspections report sink in. The two main US-British arguments in favour of launching a war on Iraq next month - that Saddam currently possesses deployable weapons of mass destruction and poses an immediate or near-term threat to the region and to us - already had few takers before Friday's UN meeting. In his peculiarly dispassionate, persuasive way, Blix further undermined and, for many, destroyed the credibility of the Anglo-American case for an early, pre-emptive attack.

A third core argument, favoured by George Bush and blithely reiterated by him in Florida last week - that Saddam is in cahoots with al-Qaida and is somehow linked or even to blame for 9/11 - is not seen as convincing even by those who have espoused it. Downing Street now knows this argument, too, is a definitive non-runner.

Assailed on all sides by unprecedented popular protest, at odds with Europe, outnumbered in the security council, with the Pentagon's clock inexorably ticking, and rightly worried that an impatient Bush may reject the "UN route", dish his British ally and press on regardless, Tony Blair has now reached his bottom line: morality.

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Sign of the times

Ultimate Flags, on online flag retailer based in Illinois, reports that their "patriotic peace" version of the US flag is now one of their top-selling flags:

Peace flags and not military flags are breaking sales records ahead of a possible war in Iraq at, a major online flag seller.

"Before any military conflict we see an upsurge in the sales of Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy flags," said John Nesbit, founder of, "But this time, we are also being flooded with people wanting flags with peace symbols, especially our "Patriotic Peace"
(Ultimate Flags press release)

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Antiwar rallies draw millions around world
The biggest protests take place in nations whose governments back U.S. policy toward Iraq

Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2003

Millions of protesters opposed to a U.S.-led war on Iraq demonstrated around the world Saturday as anger at the Bush administration moved from the United Nations to jampacked streets.

Protests in Europe included some of the largest antiwar demonstrations in decades, authorities said. And the biggest marches took place in nations that are strong U.S. allies and whose governments support President Bush's confrontation with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The sea of marchers was another sign that the Iraq crisis has not only embittered U.S. relations with Europe but driven a wedge between many Europeans and their leaders.

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One US rule for Israel, another for Saddam
Henry Porter, The Observer, February 16, 2003

Britain and America may have to dilute their demands if they are to persuade the Security Council to consider a new resolution. Britain's Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, talked of 'offering new language', an altogether less belligerent approach than the run-up to the meeting in November when resolution 1441 was adopted.

It seems likely that the US-UK strategy will rely on the threat in a paragraph at the end of 1441: 'The council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations.' All members of the council have already voted in favour of this.

Whatever the form of words eventually accepted, the US and UK are still certain to meet opposition from Europe and in turn the hawks in the US government will condemn those urging a veto of early action in Iraq. So it is a good moment to remember America's own record of vetoing resolutions critical of Israel.

To raise this at any time, but especially now, will inevitably be considered to be anti-American and anti-Israeli, possibly even anti-Semitic. But it is none of these things. There is long-term legal and political inconsistency between the treatment of Israel and other countries in the region, and the greatest weakness in America's case on Iraq is that it shows no signs of acknowledging its history of favouritism.

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Switzerland hosts Iraq relief talks
Jonathan Fowler, Associated Press, February 15, 2003

Major countries--with the United States notably absent--met with officials from Iraq's neighbors and aid agencies Saturday to prepare for the relief work that will be needed if there is a war.

Neutral Switzerland invited 30 countries to take part in the closed-door conference, including all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, other major donor countries and Iraq's neighbors like Jordan and Turkey.

Four permanent Security Council members--Britain, France, Russia and China--are attending the two-day Geneva conference, which ends Sunday. But the United States refused, on grounds that U.N. agencies already have made extensive preparations and it is unclear how the meeting would help.

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Our hopes betrayed
How a US blueprint for post-Saddam government quashed the hopes of democratic Iraqis

Kanan Makiya, The Observer, February 16, 2003

The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities.

The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government.

The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition, and is guaranteed to turn that opposition from the close ally it has always been during the 1990s into an opponent of the United States on the streets of Baghdad the day after liberation.

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America, a nation divided, with no bridges left to build
Robert Fisk, The Independent, February 16, 2003

Sometimes I rather suspect that the anti-war left in America likes being in a permanent minority. I mean no disrespect to the Noam Chomskys and Daniel Ellsbergs and Dennis Bernsteins; they fight, amid abuse and threats, to make their voices heard. Yet I have an uneasy feeling that many on the intellectual left are fearful that America will lose its next war amid massive casualties – but are even more fearful that America may win with minimal casualties.

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Over a million march in Rome against war
Leonardo Sacchetti, Inter Press Service, February 15, 2003

”No War! No ifs, ands or buts!” was emblazoned across a banner in Italian, painted in white and red, opening the massive peace march Saturday in the Italian capital that drew some 1.5 million people.

Trains, buses and cars filled with people had been arriving in Rome since the wee hours of the morning. Italy turned out to be one of the hot spots of the international protest against the war that the United States is planning against Iraq, which it accuses of hiding weapons of mass destruction.

”We had expected a million people,” one of the organisers, marching amidst other pacifists, told IPS. ”But many more showed up.”

The march organisers, under the 'Fermiamo la guerra' (Let's stop the war) coalition, estimate that the demonstrators numbered around three million. The official police tally put the total at 950,000.

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