The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
CIA holding children for interrogation
Olga Craig, The Telegraph, March 9, 2003

Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.

Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan last September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi where their father had been hiding.

He fled just hours before the raid but his two young sons, along with another senior al-Qa'eda member, were found cowering behind a wardrobe in the apartment.

The boys have been held by the Pakistani authorities but this weekend they were flown to America where they will be questioned about their father.

Last night CIA interrogators confirmed that the boys were staying at a secret address where they were being encouraged to talk about their father's activities.

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UN launches inquiry into American spying
Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, March 9, 2003

The United Nations has begun a top-level investigation into the bugging of its delegations by the United States, first revealed in The Observer last week.

Sources in the office of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan confirmed last night that the spying operation had already been discussed at the UN's counter-terrorism committee and will be further investigated.

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The long history of UN espionage
Ian Davis and David Isenberg, The Observer, March 9, 2003

Last Sunday's revelation, published in The Observer, of a 'top secret' US memo, supposedly showing that the NSA has eavesdropped on members of the UN Security Council in recent weeks for insights into their negotiating positions on Iraq, is shocking. But perhaps not for the reasons that might first come to mind.

While the US administration has refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the memo, it is a sad truth that spying at the United Nations, both at the headquarters and among its various agencies and field missions is as old as the UN itself. The real significance of this story is what this rare public disclosure of such aggressive dipomatic tactics, whether seen as fair or foul, tells us about the atmosphere at the United Nations at a time when the world's diplomats stand starkly divided over the prospect of war on Iraq.

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Why we are not prepared
to win the peace in Iraq

US Ambassador Robert Barry, Conflict in Iraq, March 7, 2003

The increasingly ambitious agenda for post-Saddam Iraq now includes disarmament, regime change, democracy in Iraq and a safer world for all. What is missing is any realistic discussion of the sacrifices that will be required to produce this kind of rosy scenario. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair seem determined to avoid discussing the costs and burdens of defeating Saddam Hussein and rebuilding the country afterwards until after a decision to go to war has been made. This creates a serious risk that our publics and parliaments will decline to shoulder the burdens of victory. Losing the peace in Iraq may carry greater risks than attempting to contain Saddam Hussein. We need to look carefully at plans for peace before the die is cast for war.

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Industrial-scale mortuaries being sought for mass terror fatalities
Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, March 9, 2003

[British] Ministers are secretly scouring the country for mortuaries to take thousands of civilian bodies from a terrorist attack after war breaks out with Iraq.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has appointed one of Britain's leading coroners to spearhead the search for huge temporary mortuaries, such as aircraft hangers. Richard Sturt, who retired as the East Kent Coroner two years ago, is touring the country meeting planning chiefs to assess how they could cope with "mass fatalities".

But emergency planners are criticising the search as too small and too slow to meet the urgency of the threat.

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Not in our name, Mr Blair
You do not have the evidence. You do not have UN approval. You do not have your country's support. You do not have your party's support. You do not have the legal right. You do not have the moral right. You must not drag Britain

Lead Editorial, The Independent, March 9, 2003

The die is cast. President Bush says he will go to war with or without the backing of the UN. Tony Blair indicates he will support him. The senior UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, asks to be given more time – a few more months at most. His request is brushed aside by the US and the UK governments.

There is only one way out of this nightmare: Tony Blair could be genuinely bold. This is his last chance to use his unique position close to the shoulder of President Bush to urge restraint, calm and reason – a cautionary voice that will be even more necessary if there is no second UN resolution authorising military action.

It is a sad reflection on Mr Blair's position, locked in an alliance with President Bush, that we hold out no hope that he will use his influence to avert a rush to war. Yet before he leads this country into a conflict it does not want, with consequences too ghastly to contemplate, we urge Mr Blair to reflect again on the motives and justification for a pre-emptive strike unparalleled in modern times. None of the shifting causes for war have been convincing, and are even weaker now, on the eve of a military campaign.

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Who is in charge?
Edward Said, Al-Ahram, March 6, 2003

The Bush administration's relentless unilateral march towards war is profoundly disturbing for many reasons, but so far as American citizens are concerned the whole grotesque show is a tremendous failure in democracy. An immensely wealthy and powerful republic has been hijacked by a small cabal of individuals, all of them unelected and therefore unresponsive to public pressure, and simply turned on its head. It is no exaggeration to say that this war is the most unpopular in modern history. Before the war has begun there have been more people protesting it in this country alone than was the case at the height of the anti- Vietnam war demonstrations during the 60s and 70s. Note also that those rallies took place after the war had been going on for several years: this one has yet to begin, even though a large number of overtly aggressive and belligerent steps have already been taken by the US and its loyal puppy, the UK government of the increasingly ridiculous Tony Blair.

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Bush, the Bible, and Iraq
Stan Crock, Business Week, March 8, 2003

Two reasons have surfaced for the deep divisions over Iraq that have created a political chasm between the U.S. and allies such as France, Germany, and Russia. One is that other nations oppose what they see as an unprovoked war. The second is that they view the threat Baghdad poses to the world as far less ominous than the one the Bush Administration imagines.

A third factor is also at work, though: religious rhetoric, perhaps even fervor, which divides the President and many of those who voted for him from leading thinkers abroad, including those in some Western democracies. As European nations become more secular, they're increasingly suspicious of a country with a born-again Christian President, whose political base includes the majority of non-Arab fundamentalists in the U.S. British playwright Harold Pinter spotlighted this suspicion when he recently called Bush "a hired Christian thug."

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Bush's irrelevant case for war
David Corn, The Nation, March 7, 2003

Bush's problem has been that a case for war based on the potential threat from Iraq is, obviously, not as compelling as a case predicated on an actual and immediate threat. If a nation faces a potential threat, it has the luxury of weighing--and debating--various aspects of going to war: the moral legitimacy of the action, the possible consequences and costs, how other governments and populations will react, the alternatives to an invade-and-occupy response. Many of these concerns, though, could be shoved aside, if the United States were confronting a clear-and-present danger.

Consequently, Bush has had to hype the case--to present it in black-and-white terms in order to turn a judgment call into an imperative.

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UK nuclear evidence a fake
Ian Traynor, The Guardian, March 8, 2003

In a 55-page report last September detailing British intelligence evidence of Baghdad's ongoing attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, the government said that since 1998 "Iraq has sought the supply of significant supplies of uranium from Africa".

British officials named the state of Niger as the source of the uranium and passed their evidence to the UN nuclear watchdog, the international atomic energy agency, in Vienna.

"Close scrutiny and cross-checking of the documents, the letterheads on them, the signatures on them, led us to conclude with quite absolute certainty that the documents were false," an IAEA official said.

"They were fabricated," said another IAEA official.

The fabrication was transparently obvious and quickly established, the sources added, suggesting that British intelligence was either easily hoodwinked or a knowing party to the deceit.

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Bush fights the good fight, with a righteous quotation
Ben Macintyre, The Times, March 8, 2003

The literature of the First World War shapes our consciousness of war itself: nearly a century later, the language, myths and iconography of that conflict underpin an understanding of what war means across much of the world.

It seems appropriate, then, as we prepare for war in Iraq, that George W. Bush should be immersing himself in the words of a British writer from the Great War. His choice from the canon could hardly be more telling. Not for Bush the grimly inspired ironies of Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, nor the poignant, painful questioning of Wilfred Owen. Instead, every morning at dawn, the US President devotes himself to the exhortations of Oswald Chambers, a Scottish evangelist who died while serving as an army chaplain in Egypt in 1917.

Chambers's little book, My Utmost for the Highest, provides a daily devotional commentary alongside a biblical text. It is uncompromising stuff, "full of spiritual pluck and athleticism" in the writer's words, advocating absolute devotion to the will of God. That Bush should be reading this before going into battle says much about the religious belief that permeates his Administration, and much about the way the conflict will be fought and interpreted. It is also central to explaining the disquiet of nations with embedded secular political traditions, most notably France, when faced with the most overtly Christian American President of modern times.

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Storm of Mideast war has gathered over decades
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, March 8, 2003

How did it come to this, and so quickly? History can be a roller coaster but for all the markers along the way, it is still hard to understand how in 18 months the ride has led from Osama Bin Laden to Saddam Hussein; from a nightmarish day of terrorist attacks in the United States to an unprovoked war against a country that had nothing to do with those attacks.

On September 11, 2001, America had the sympathy of the world. Now, as 200,000 of its troops stand poised to invade Iraq, with 40,000-plus from its faithful ally Britain alongside, attitudes have been transformed.

America, or more accurately perhaps, the people who run America, have rarely been so mistrusted, disliked, even hated.

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Bush's struggle over N Korean threat
Geraldine Carroll, BBC News, March 7, 2003

Poised to unleash war on Iraq, the Bush administration is under siege at home and abroad over its failure to ease the growing North Korean nuclear crisis.

Critics say the Stalinist North is far more dangerous than Saddam Hussein, and are worried by President George W Bush's refusal to order direct talks with its leader Kim Jong-il.

Mr Bush is also being accused of standing by as Pyongyang prepares to crank up a reprocessing plant at Yongbyon which could churn out up to six nuclear bombs by midsummer, according to CIA estimates.

William Perry, a former defence secretary who supported the Clinton administration's policy of engagement with the North, has a dire warning for Mr Bush.

"The proposed policy of isolation and containment will not work. It can hardly isolate North Korea more than they are already isolated," he said.

And for Americans still traumatised by the horror of September 11, he warned that with Pyongyang's proliferation record, North Korean plutonium could find its way into the hands of terrorists.

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Democrats lambaste Bush on Iraq
Jim VandeHei and Helen Dewar, Washington Post, March 7, 2003

Congress's top two Democrats yesterday pointedly criticized President Bush's Iraq policy, signaling a renewed Democratic willingness to challenge the administration's march toward war just as international opposition is hardening.

In separate Capitol Hill appearances a few hours before Bush's prime-time news conference, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it would be premature to invade Iraq without trying to win broader international support.

Daschle's and Pelosi's double-barreled criticism stood in contrast to the largely bipartisan and subdued support that Congress has given to Bush's approach to Iraq. Although a few congressional Democrats have vocally opposed war plans from the outset, party leaders generally have kept low profiles.

"The situation has put us in a more isolated position than I ever anticipated," Daschle said, adding there is "virtual unanimity" among Democrats that Bush has failed in his diplomatic dealings. He said Democrats feel the administration is "rushing to war without adequate concern for the ramifications of doing so unilaterally or with a very small coalition of nations."

Pelosi, an opponent of war in Iraq from the beginning, told reporters that Bush has not made a convincing case to the three audiences that matter most.

"It has not been made to the American people," she said. "It has not been made to the world community. It has not been made to the [United Nations] Security Council that war is the best way."

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War with Iraq 'could be illegal'
Peter Gould, BBC News, March 7, 2003

Could George W Bush and Tony Blair one day find themselves facing criminal charges for going to war against Iraq?

A British academic, Professor Nicholas Grief, says this is not as far fetched as it may seem. He cites the Nuremberg charter of 1945, which established the concept of a crime against peace.

"There is a school of thought that going to war without the express authority of the Security Council would violate the UN charter," says Professor Grief.

"That could raise serious questions about the personal responsibility of President Bush and Mr Blair, and they could have a case to answer.

"They could be held to account in years to come. It is something they ought to be concerned about."

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An unnecessary, avoidable, dangerous war
Robert Malley, International Herald Tribune, March 7, 2003

After months of furious zig-zagging, the rationale for the coming U.S. invasion of Iraq finally has landed where it always was meant to be. This war-to-be has little to do with disarmament and everything to do with regime change.

As the Bush administration has made plain, it matters not now whether Saddam Hussein destroys more weapons or cooperates with the inspectors. These steps, we are told, are only being taken in response to the pending military threat - whose purpose, mind you, was precisely to force such concessions - and therefore are of no moment.

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Apocalypse now
Peter Beinart, The New Republic, March 6, 2003

Already, hawks inside and outside the Bush administration are tiptoeing in the direction of a preemptive strike [against North Korea]. In the March issue of Commentary, Joshua Muravchik writes, "Not only does the North's belligerence leave us no choice but to `think' about war, we cannot exclude the possibility of initiating military action ourselves." Defense Policy Review Board Chairman Richard Perle recently said the Bush administration needed to consider ways to "neutralize" North Korea's massive military firepower. As the Nelson Report, an influential Washington newsletter on Asian policy, put it last week, "The dirty little secret ... is that some Bush hard-liners not only are willing to risk war, they think that if the U.S. pushes hard enough, N. Korea will prove to be a paper tiger and swiftly collapse." When Pyongyang begins building nukes and the U.S. military is done toppling Saddam, that dirty little secret will become a full-blown policy option.

Given these circumstances, you'd think the president and his top advisers would be frantic. Instead, they're eerily sanguine. For weeks now, Bush officials have been denying that North Korea's behavior constitutes a "crisis." Secretary of State Colin Powell called Pyongyang's missile test "fairly innocuous" and "not surprising." One Bush official told Sanger that "nothing is happening--and no one knows how we will respond when the bomb-making starts."

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Neglect of the Palestinian plight is risky and wrong
Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, March 7, 2003

So anxious are we about the coming war in the Middle East that we sometimes overlook the one that is already going on. It takes an unusually bloody round of killing by Israelis and Palestinians like the one this week to remind outsiders that they are still at each other's throats. Yet the hostilities between the two peoples are clearly as great a source of instability, violence, and terror as anything for which Saddam Hussein is at this moment responsible. Clearly. And yet that is not clear to the Israeli government, nor to the Bush administration in Washington, welded as it is to Ariel Sharon and his purposes. Their blindness is familiar enough, but familiarity does not mean that it is any the less dangerous.

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Using torture to fight terror
Richard Cohen, Washington Post, March 6, 2003

Of course, lots of nations practice [torture]. Some of them, as it happens, are our allies. The Washington Post reported on Dec. 26 that the United States shipped -- "rendered," is the term of obfuscation -- some suspected terrorists to these countries to be, well, tortured. The information is then used by U.S. intelligence, which pretends ignorance. The Post named Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

Here is what happened after The Post broke that story: nothing. The Bush administration naturally denied that it condones torture, and the American public, possibly busy returning Christmas presents, smartly moved on to the funny pages. Only some human rights organizations paid any attention, but they might as well have been yelling into the wind. No one gave a damn.

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America admits suspects died in interrogations
Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, March 7, 2003

American military officials acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under interrogation at Bagram air base north of Kabul – reviving concerns that the US is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qa'ida operatives.

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The way we live now
Tony Judt, New York Review of Books, February 27, 2003

The Americans who laid the framework for the only world most of us have ever known - George Marshall, Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Charles Bohlen, and the presidents they served - knew what they wished to achieve and why the European-American relationship was so crucial to them. Their successors today have their own very different conviction. In their view Europeans, and the various alliances and unions in which they are entwined, are an irritating impediment to the pursuit of American interests. The US has nothing to lose by offending or alienating these disposable allies of convenience, and much to gain by tearing up the entangling web of controls that the French and their ilk would weave around our freedom of movement.

This position is unambiguously stated in a new short book by Lawrence Kaplan and William Kristol, The War over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission. Both men are Washington-based journalists. But Kristol, who once gloried in the title of chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and is now a political analyst for Fox TV, is also the editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the "brains" behind the neoconservative turn in US foreign policy. Kristol's views are shared by Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and others in the power elite of the Bush administration, and he articulates in only slightly restrained form the prejudices and impatience of the White House leadership itself.

The War over Iraq is refreshingly direct. Saddam is a bad man, he ought to be removed, and only the US can do the job. But that is just the beginning. There will be many more such tasks, indeed an infinity of them in coming years. If the US is to perform them satisfactorily - "to secure its safety and to advance the cause of liberty" - then it must cut loose from the "world community" (always in scare quotes). People will hate us for our "arrogance" and our power in any event, and a more "restrained" American foreign policy won't appease them, so why waste time talking about it? The foreign strategy of the US must be "unapologetic, idealistic, assertive and well funded. America must not only be the world's policeman or its sheriff, it must be its beacon and guide."

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The Pentagon's private army
Nelson D. Schwartz, Fortune, March 3, 2003

If and when the shooting starts in Iraq, American companies will be more critical than in any previous conflict, including the last Gulf war. That's because the Army has changed dramatically in the past decade, shedding almost one-third of its soldiers even as it has taken on missions from Kosovo to Kabul. At the same time, a government-wide push to privatize, as well as the increasing complexity of military hardware, makes the military more and more dependent on contractors. The upshot is that the Pentagon is outsourcing as many tasks as possible to enable the military, if you'll forgive the MBA-speak, to focus on its core competency: fighting.

Mundane chores like KP duty and laundry detail have been outsourced at bases as far away as Afghanistan and Kuwait. Closer to home, even recruiting is being privatized. At stations in ten states, the medal-bedecked, ramrod-straight recruiter of yesteryear has been replaced by a casual-Friday-outfitted headhunter from one of two private firms. You probably have never heard of these corporations--Cubic, DynCorp, ITT, and MPRI aren't exactly household names--but the Pentagon would clearly be lost without them. "You could fight without us, but it would be difficult," says Paul Lombardi, CEO of DynCorp, which saw revenues rise 18% in 2002, to $2.3 billion. "Because we're so involved, it's difficult to extricate us from the process."

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Hungry in Gaza
Peter Hansen, The Guardian, March 5, 2003

The world has grown used to the idea that severe hunger manifests itself only in the hollow cheeks and distended stomachs of an African famine. But today in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank an insidious hunger has the Palestinian people in its grip. Hidden in the anaemic blood of children or lost in the statistics of stunted growth, a dreadful, silent malnutrition is stalking the Palestinians.

The populations of Gaza and the West Bank have lived for over two years with checkpoints, closures and curfews that have ravaged their economy. Over half are now unemployed and more than two-thirds are living below the poverty line.

The effect of this economic collapse was felt first in the erosion of family savings, followed by increased indebtedness and then the forced sale of household possessions. The Palestinian extended family and community networks have saved the territories from the absolute collapse that might have been found elsewhere in the face of such rapid decline.

See also World Bank report highlights 60 percent poverty level in Palestinian territories

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Strangeloves in bloom
James P. Pinkerton, Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2003

The intellectual mission of the Iraq hawks today is to erase bad memories of past conflicts so as to wipe the slate clean for future conflicts. "Liberal views, forged in Vietnam and tempered in Central America and beyond, got the world wrong," [columnist Mona] Charen laments. War opponents, she alleges, were politically and ideologically misguided, although it is likely that most simply wanted to prevent more Americans from being killed in a futile quagmire. Fortunately for the pro-warriors, after 30 years the memories of the Vietnam debacle and its terrible toll have grown dim.

Yet even as the U.S. was losing the hot war in Vietnam, it was winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union. And that's a victory the hawks don't like to talk about anymore. Why not? Because the favored strategy of the ultrahawks -- the forcible "rollback" of the Soviet Union -- was not adopted. Instead, presidents from Truman to the first Bush followed a tough-minded strategy of armed containment. Acting in conjunction with allies, in accordance with international law, the U.S. waited out the Soviet Union until it collapsed of its own dead weight.

Today, the Iraq hawks, in their increasingly Strangelovian fashion, don't want to repeat the Cold War patience. They don't want to let the inspections process chip away at Hussein's arsenal; they don't want the dictator to be lured into exile. They want a hot war, and they want it now.

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Agent who saw 9/11 lapses still faults F.B.I. on terror
Philip Shenon, New York Times, March 6, 2003

The veteran F.B.I. agent who exposed the bureau's failure to heed evidence of terrorist plots before the Sept. 11 attacks is now warning her superiors that the bureau is not prepared to deal with new terrorist strikes that she and many colleagues fear would result from an American war with Iraq.

The agent, Coleen Rowley of the bureau's Minneapolis field office, is not a counterterrorism specialist and does not have access to detailed intelligence about Al Qaeda and its planning. But she is a 22-year F.B.I. veteran who is intimately acquainted with the bureau's inner workings and with the thinking of fellow agents, including agents who specialize in counterterrorism.

In a letter last week to the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, Ms. Rowley said that he had a responsibility to warn the White House that the bureau would not be able to "stem the flood of terrorism that will likely head our way in the wake of an attack on Iraq."

Excerpts from F.B.I. agent's letter to Director Mueller

Full text of F.B.I. agent's letter to Director Mueller

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A fissure deepening for allies over use of force against Iraq
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, March 6, 2003

The declaration issued today by Germany, Russia and France against war in Iraq now - with its implicit threat of veto - may go down as the loudest "No!" shouted across the Atlantic in a half century or more.

The nine-paragraph statement may not have slowed the seemingly inexorable drive by the Bush administration to commence military operations as early as next week.

But the fact that Europe's largest powers felt compelled to present President Bush with an 11th-hour challenge deepened fissures that have opened in the last year with major allies.

It also set up a final confrontation at the Security Council over a resolution authorizing war in Iraq, a step that increasingly looks as if it could be forsaken for lack of majority support among the 15 members.

Joint statement issued by France, Germany, and Russia.

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Rights on the rack
Alleged torture in terror war imperils U.S. standards of humanity

Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2003

In Afghanistan, it is hardly surprising to find two dead bodies with signs of torture. This week, however, a shocking U.S. military coroner's report also suggested that the most likely suspect in the homicides was the U.S. government. Even more disturbing is emerging evidence that the United States may be operating something that would have seemed unimaginable only two years ago: an American torture facility.

Credible reports now indicate that the government, with the approval of high-ranking officials, is engaging in systematic techniques considered by many to be torture.

U.S. officials have admitted using techniques that this nation previously denounced as violations of international law. One official involved in the "interrogation center" in Afghanistan said "if you don't violate someone's human rights, you probably aren't doing your job."

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This isn't funny. If Dick Cheney has his way, before long, newspaper editors will be submitting cartoons for government approval before they get published. Has Cheney heard of the First Amendment?

Web site hears from Dick Cheney after parody involving wife
Benjamin Weiser, New York Times, March 6, 2003

Vice President Dick Cheney's office has spurred an unusual dispute by asking a Web site that parodies the Bush administration to remove a satirical biography and pictures of the vice president's wife, Lynne.

After receiving the request in a letter from Mr. Cheney's counsel, the Web site doctored the photographs of Mrs. Cheney, adding a red clown nose and blackening out one of her front teeth, said its creator John A. Wooden.

"The letter is, if you read it carefully, it is only a request," he said. "But there's really no such thing as a request from the vice president's office. It's a threatening letter."

The New York Civil Liberties Union said yesterday that it would go to court to defend the parody's posting if Mr. Cheney's office did not back down from its request.

"They should know better — this is pure intimidation," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the civil liberties group.'s Mrs Cheney page

Letter from the Vice President's Counsel

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Britain's dirty secret
David Leigh and John Hooper, The Guardian, March 6, 2003

A chemical plant which the US says is a key component in Iraq's chemical warfare arsenal was secretly built by Britain in 1985 behind the backs of the Americans, the Guardian can disclose.

Documents show British ministers knew at the time that the £14m plant, called Falluja 2, was likely to be used for mustard and nerve gas production.

Senior officials recorded in writing that Saddam Hussein was actively gassing his opponents and that there was a "strong possibility" that the chlorine plant was intended by the Iraqis to make mustard gas. At the time Saddam was known to be gassing Iranian troops in their thousands in the Iran-Iraq war.

But ministers in the then Thatcher government none the less secretly gave financial backing to the British company involved, Uhde Ltd, through insurance guarantees.

Paul Channon, then trade minister, concealed the existence of the chlorine plant contract from the US administration, which was pressing for controls on such exports.

He also instructed the export credit guarantee department (ECGD) to keep details of the deal secret from the public.

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What can the world do if the US attacks Iraq?
Jeremy Brecher, Common Dreams, March 5, 2003

If the US attacks Iraq without support of the UN Security Council, will the world be powerless to stop it? The answer is no. Under a procedure called "Uniting for Peace," the UN General Assembly can demand an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal. The global peace movement should consider demanding such an action.

See also There is a way to stop the war

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The Pentagon Papers
Upcoming broacast of FX Networks original movie, Sunday March 9, 8PM E/P

"A one-time war-planner who became an antiwar advocate when he obtained a secret history that revealed how America's leaders had misled the nation to gain support for the Vietnam War. Convinced that Americans have a right to know the truth, and hopeful that the truth will bring an end to the war, Ellsberg copies this massive document, more than 7,000 pages long, and leaks it to the New York Times, touching off a constitutional crisis that pits the rights of a free press against the government's right to protect national security secrets. At the same time, Ellsberg finds himself the target of a nationwide manhunt, facing charges of treason that are finally dropped only when it is discovered that the Nixon administration had broken the law in its attempt to bring him to justice, taking what would prove the first steps toward its eventual downfall in the Watergate scandal." - Text from FX Network's promotional web site.

Daniel Ellsberg hopes that this movie will encourage others who are now in the position he was in to consider leaking current documents.

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Europeans think America does more harm than good
Andrew Osborn, The Guardian, March 5, 2003

Anxiety about America and the way it projects its global power was exposed yesterday when an European commission opinion poll showed that half the union's citizens see Washington as a danger to world peace rather than a force for good.

Citizens in all 15 member states believe it does more harm than good when it comes to promoting world peace, fighting poverty in the developing world and protecting the environment.

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While the 9-11 attacks seemed to expose the absurdity of missile defense, a nuclearized North Korea will provide the proponents of missile defense with a justification for their multi-billion dollar project that it might otherwise lack.

U.S. said to be resigned to a nuclear Korea
Sonni Efron, Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2003

The Bush administration has concluded that it probably cannot prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and is focusing on managing the geopolitical fallout, informed Capitol Hill sources said Tuesday.

In closed briefings and private conversations with members of Congress over the last several weeks, administration officials have indicated that they expect North Korea to begin reprocessing its plutonium stockpiles soon, perhaps within a few weeks, the sources said. Once reprocessing begins, North Korea will be able to produce enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon a month.

A Senate staff member who is privy to the briefings said the administration was "preparing people up here for a de facto, if not declared, North Korean nuclear state and saying that this is something we can deal with through isolation, sanctions, deterrence and national missile defense."

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Anti-war Turkish MPs shifting towards support of US troop deployment
Agence France-Presse, March 5, 2003

Anti-war Turkish lawmakers who blocked the deployment of US troops in Turkey for any Iraq conflict are changing their minds ahead of a possible second vote in parliament, officials said.

The powerful Turkish army threw its weight behind the deployment of US forces in the country Wednesday, saying Ankara would otherwise lose both vital US financial aid and a say in shaping post-war Iraq.

But even before the army chief spoke out, members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reported that opinion in the Islamist-rooted movement had begun to swing in favor of backing the United States.

"There are many who say they have changed their opinion and will vote in favor if a second vote is held," senior AKP legislator Vahit Erdem told AFP.

He said the change of heart was mostly a result of anti-war MPs realizing that Turkey would not be able to influence developments in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, where it perceives serious threats to its own security, if it denied support to the United States.

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In the name of God
Jack Beaty, The Atlantic, March 5, 2003

Unless a coup topples Saddam Hussein or he goes into exile, the U.S. will soon mount the first unprovoked war in its history, the first fought in pursuance of a doctrine under which we claim the right to attack nations that have not attacked us but who might, who could, who would if we do not strike first—a war fought in the subjunctive, based on a string of "ifs." If Saddam possesses usable weapons of mass destruction and if, to take a scenario George W. Bush takes seriously, he builds a fleet of pilotless drones and if he somehow gets them out of Iraq and if he builds or hires ships and launches his drones from them and if he has found a way to make the drones spread weapons of mass destruction and if it is not a windy day and if our Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, CIA, and DIA are as asleep as they were on September 11, then Saddam will attack us. Alternatively, Mr. Bush warned in the State of the Union address, "Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own." Italics mine.

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Turkish democracy only operates by military consent - and that suits the White House just fine!

Turk military backs U.S. troops move, warns Kurds
Ayla Jean Yackley, Reuters, March 5, 2003

Turkey's powerful armed forces on Wednesday backed a tentative government move to submit a fresh motion to parliament allowing U.S. troops to open a "northern front" against Iraq from Muslim Turkey.

Chief of the General Staff Hilmi Ozkok said Turkey would be better off in any war than out of it, and argued that opening an extra front against Iraq from Turkey would mean a short war.

The rare public statement from the influential general could boost U.S. hopes for a deal with its NATO ally after a pledge of billions of dollars in aid failed to convince parliament last weekend to allow 62,000 U.S. soldiers to deploy.

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Bush pushes the big lie toward the brink
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2003

So the truth is out: George W. Bush lied when he claimed to be worried about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Otherwise, Iraq's stepped-up cooperation with the U.N. on disarmament would be stunningly good news, obviating the need to rush to war.

Instead, the U.N. weapons inspectors' verification of Iraq's destruction of missiles, private meetings with Iraqi weapons scientists, visits to locations where biological and chemical weapons were destroyed in 1991 and a series of unfettered flights by U2 spy plans have been met with a shrug and sneer in Washington. The White House line is that even if the Iraqis destroy all their slingshots, Goliath is still bringing his tanks and instituting "regime change." The arrogance is breathtaking. We have demanded that a country disarm -- and even as it is doing so, we say it doesn't matter: it's too late; we're coming in. Put down your guns and await the slaughter.

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Right takes centre stage
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, March 4, 2003

Adopting a thoroughly US capitalist view of terrorism, that suicide bombers are only in it for the money, Mr Bush wants to wait until the funds for Palestinian attacks on Israel have been cut off.

He goes on to suggest that other countries allegedly responsible for funding Palestinian terrorism must be dealt with after Iraq. They include Syria and Iran, but also, according to the Israelis, Saudi Arabia and the EU.

Once these regimes have been sorted out, there will still be the problem of suicide bombers who are not trying to earn a bit of cash for their families, but are supposedly attracted by the prospect of 72 virgins awaiting them in paradise.

At that stage, Mr Bush may have to consider further military strikes to bring about regime change in heaven: that could prove to be an especially interesting confrontation.

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U.S. cannot live in world without allies
Senator Chuck Hagel, Kansas State University, February 20, 2003

With new eras come new challenges, and today America again [as it did after World War II] stands at a pinnacle of power and again bears a heavy burden for securing a better tomorrow, for our citizens and for all the peoples of the world. At this critical juncture, the success of our actions will be determined not by the extent of our power, but by an appreciation of its limits. America must approach the world with a sense of purpose in world affairs that is anchored by our ideals, a principled realism that seeks not to re-make the world in our image, but to help make a better world.

We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that comes with great power. Our foreign policy should reflect the hope and promise of America tempered with a mature wisdom that is the mark of our national character. In this new era of possibilities and responsibilities, America will require a wider lens view of how the world sees us, so that we can better understand the world, and our role in it.

Senator Hagel is a Republican member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Lawyer arrested for wearing a 'peace' T-shirt
Reuters, March 5, 2003

A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.
According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.

When Downs refused the security officers' orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing "in that he knowingly enter(ed) or remain(ed) unlawfully upon premises," the complaint read.

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What would Genghis do?
Maureen Dowd, New York Times, March 5, 2003

In her new book "The Mission," about America's growing dependence on the military to manage world affairs, Dana Priest says that the Pentagon commissioned the study [on ancient empires] at a time [before 9/11] when Rummy did not yet have designs on the world.

To the dismay of his four-star generals, the new secretary was talking about pulling American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia, the Sinai Desert, Kosovo and Bosnia. He thought using our military to fight the South American drug trade was "nonsense."

He hated to travel and scorned "international hand-holding," Ms. Priest writes, adding that the defense chief was thinking that "maybe the United States didn't need all these entanglements to remain on top." He canceled multinational exercises, and even banned the word "engagement." His only interest in colonization was in putting weapons in space.

Then 9/11 changed everything. At the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz talked about "ending states who sponsor terrorism." He and Richard Perle said our best bet for stomping out Islamic terrorism was to take over Iraq, rewrite those anti-American textbooks and spur a democratic domino effect.

Now, with the rest of the world outraged at the administration's barbed and swaggering style, the Bushies have grown tetchy about the word "empire." They insist they are not interested in hegemony, even as the Pentagon proconsuls prepare to rule in Iraq, the ancient Mesopotamian empire.

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Afghanistan rebuild sidelined as U.S. intensifies Iraq focus
Jim Lobe, OneWorld, March 4, 2003

Despite efforts by Democratic lawmakers, the World Bank, and worried relief and development organizations, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai ended a week's lobbying in Washington for increased support and attention to his country Monday more or less ignored by the media.

With some 200,000 U.S. troops poised to invade Iraq and the United Nations Security Council deeply split over whether to authorize military action, Karzai found it near impossible to pull the media limelight back to Afghanistan, confirming the fears of many of his supporters that the administration of President George W. Bush has moved on to other pursuits.

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Independent Iraqis oppose Bush's war
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, March 5, 2003

A new myth has emerged in the pro-war camp's propaganda arsenal. Iraqi exiles support the war, they claim, and none took part in last month's march through central London. So if the peaceniks and leftwingers who joined the protest had the honesty to listen to the true voice of the Iraqi people they would never denounce Bush's plans for war again.

Wrong, and wrong. A large number of Iraqis were among the million-member throng, including two key independent political groups. They carried banners denouncing Saddam Hussein (thereby echoing the sentiments of many non-Iraqis since this was not a protest by pro-Saddam patsies, as the pro-war people also falsely claim). They represented important currents in the Iraqi opposition, and ones whom the Americans have repeatedly tried to persuade to join the exiles' liaison committee.

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American journalists would do well to study David Dimbleby's interview technique.

Donald Rumsfeld interview
BBC Television, March 4, 2003

David Dimbleby: And yet America is seen as applying double standards in this, isn't it? I mean, using the UN against Iraq, for instance, and then you yourself saying - repeating two or three times, in the context of Israel and the UN resolutions there, that the occupied territories on the West Bank are so-called occupied territories. That's the kind of thing that makes people think, well, actually America is not serious about this, they're so pro-Israel that they're not.

Donald Rumsfeld: Interesting -

DD: Well, you said that.

DR: Well, first of all, I did not repeat it two or three times. You're just factually wrong.

DD: You said it twice in the same series of remarks. You used the expression "so-called".

DR: Fair enough. I was in a meeting, and I was asked a question, and the phrase came out.

DD: But is it what you think that they're so-called occupied, or do you think they're occupied and should be given up?

DR: I think that that's what a negotiation is going to solve. I mean, that is what the negotiation is about. Obviously Israel has offered to give back a major portion of the occupied territories. We know that. The agreement was there. It could have been solved if Arafat had accepted it. He didn't.

DD: But your use of the word "so-called".

DR: If it bothered you, then don't use it.

DD: It's not me it bothers. It's the other Arab states it bothers.

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Democracy pricks imperial balloon
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, March 5, 2003

"Turkish support is assured," declared deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz triumphantly after a meeting with top military and government officials in Ankara in early December.

He was referring, of course, to the US plan to deploy tens of thousands of troops at bases in southwestern Turkey from which they would open a second, northern front in their invasion of Iraq and quickly secure control of strategic oil fields around Kirkuk, while racing south to Baghdad and Tikrit.

The bluff certainty with which Wolfowitz, leader of the neoconservative faction in the administration of President George W Bush, declared his confidence was characteristic of the way in which Washington's hawks have approached the impending war with Iraq and their broader imperial ambitions.

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Khalid capture: Truths and half truths
B Raman, Asia Times, March 5, 2003

United States officials and the army of so-called counter-terrorism experts which sprang up after September 11 are projecting Khalid Shaikh Mohammad as the Field Marshal Montgomery or General Patton of al-Qaeda. But his case is getting more and more complex and mystifying - just like the earlier case involving the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, a US journalist, last year.

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U.S. diplomat's letter of resignation
John Brady Kiesling, New York Times, February 27, 2003

[Prior to] this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves.

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Beginning a modern religious war
James O. Goldsborough, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 3, 2003

George W. Bush's Iraq war will be America's first religious war, one inspired by groups of Christian fundamentalists and Jewish neoconservatives, a coalition whose zeal for war is as great as that of the original crusaders.

See also Archbishops confront Blair over Iraq war

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Since, for better or worse, the US government has claimed the right to conduct arrests and perform extra-judicial killings anywhere in the world, it needs to be asked which interests were being served by the announcement of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's arrest over the weekend. It certainly made for great headlines and a compelling image of the bedraggled fugitive being hauled into custody, but it also looked like politics got the upper hand in a conflict with intelligence. We are told that intelligence services are now racing to thwart terrorist attacks whose timing may have been brought forward because of the arrest. (Today's bombing in the Philippines may be evidence of that danger.) At the cost of losing valuable publicity during a period when the administration has been accused of losing its focus on al Qaeda, would intelligence have not been better served by delaying the announcement of Mohammed's arrest?

Taliban: Mohammed arrest won't weaken al Qaeda
Saeed Ali-Achakzai, Reuters, March 4, 2003

An intelligence officer in the Taliban government until its overthrow in late 2001, Mullah Abdul Samad, said [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed's capture would not yield information about the whereabouts of fugitive al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban's one-eyed leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

"Representatives of al Qaeda and the Taliban keep their communications going, but that doesn't mean we are likely to snitch on each other," Samad told Reuters.

Samad, who spoke by telephone from an undisclosed location, said it did not matter for the al Qaeda network if operatives were captured or died as others were trained to replace them.

"In al Qaeda, every mujahid (holy warrior) is no less than Osama bin Laden," Samad said.

The arrest of Mohammed appeared to jump-start an apparently flagging U.S.-led hunt for bin Laden and his top associates, but analysts said the fugitives would probably have moved quickly to new hiding places once they learned of his capture.

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Turkey gives Europe a lesson in democracy
Mary Dejevsky, The Independent, March 4, 2003

In rejecting a string of US requests to station troops in Turkey for deployment against Iraq, Ankara demonstrated its sense of national identity and its democratic credentials. In voting as it did, Turkey's parliament has done more than any institution in any other country to force a re-think in Washington, at least of means, if not of ends. And even if Turkey's parliament reverses its vote today – or sees it overridden on economic or strategic grounds – that will not alter two striking facts. On Saturday, Turkey's parliament showed itself, perhaps for the first time, prepared to resist the will of its transatlantic patron. It also showed itself more in harmony with popular sentiment across Europe than with Washington's war plans.

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Is this the end for a Palestinian state?
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, March 4, 2003

A single question stalks what remains of the creaking efforts to find peace in Israel: When is a state not a state?

There is growing agreement among EU officials, UN negotiators and even some American diplomats that the answer can be found in Ariel Sharon's proposals for Palestinian "independence", and the White House's evident willingness to go along with them.

Last week, President Bush made a fresh pledge to push his "road map" for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement once Iraq is dealt with. But those with an interest in the wording noted a subtle but important shift in tone that seemed to drop an insistence on dismantling many Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

A day later Mr Sharon told the knesset that the development of existing settlements would be a priority for his government, abandoning the pretence that only "natural growth" would be allowed.

Between those two pronouncements, some of those close to the negotiations see the looming death of the "two-state solution".

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Student, faith and labor groups join moratorium
Press Release, Not in Our Name, March 3, 2003

As part of the ongoing commitment to peace and justice, a diverse group of organizations has united for a National Moratorium to Stop The War to take place this Wednesday, March 5. Bringing together students, labor groups and communities of faith, the Moratorium will draw attention to a “war that will last a generation” by stopping business as usual.

The Moratorium will build upon the momentum of the massive worldwide protests of February 15th by creating a series of local events throughout the country, which together express a unified statement against the imminent war with Iraq. Massive walkouts across the nation as a display of solidarity will illustrate the broad spectrum of those opposed to war.

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The thirty year itch
Robert Dreyfuss, Mother Jones, March 1, 2003

If you were to spin the globe and look for real estate critical to building an American empire, your first stop would have to be the Persian Gulf. The desert sands of this region hold two of every three barrels of oil in the world -- Iraq's reserves alone are equal, by some estimates, to those of Russia, the United States, China, and Mexico combined. For the past 30 years, the Gulf has been in the crosshairs of an influential group of Washington foreign-policy strategists, who believe that in order to ensure its global dominance, the United States must seize control of the region and its oil. Born during the energy crisis of the 1970s and refined since then by a generation of policymakers, this approach is finding its boldest expression yet in the Bush administration -- which, with its plan to invade Iraq and install a regime beholden to Washington, has moved closer than any of its predecessors to transforming the Gulf into an American protectorate.

In the geopolitical vision driving current U.S. policy toward Iraq, the key to national security is global hegemony -- dominance over any and all potential rivals. To that end, the United States must not only be able to project its military forces anywhere, at any time. It must also control key resources, chief among them oil -- and especially Gulf oil. To the hawks who now set the tone at the White House and the Pentagon, the region is crucial not simply for its share of the U.S. oil supply (other sources have become more important over the years), but because it would allow the United States to maintain a lock on the world's energy lifeline and potentially deny access to its global competitors. The administration "believes you have to control resources in order to have access to them," says Chas Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. "They are taken with the idea that the end of the Cold War left the United States able to impose its will globally -- and that those who have the ability to shape events with power have the duty to do so. It's ideology."

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The world casts a critical eye on Bush's style of diplomacy
Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2003

"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way," George W. Bush said during his 2000 presidential campaign. "But if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us."

Little more than two years later, the world's verdict on President Bush's diplomacy is split -- between critics who see it as arrogant and allies who support its goals but sometimes wonder where the "humble" went.

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An Iranian-backed brigade, with ties to the Kurds, sets up camp in Northern Iraq
C.J. Chivers, New York Times, March 3, 2003

Advance elements of the Badr Brigade, an Iranian-backed militia that includes many deserters from Iraq's army, are building a new military encampment in northern Iraq, and preparing to move several thousand fighters into the area, according to local Kurdish officials familiar with the deployment and a visit to the camp.

The expanding activities of the brigade, which intelligence officials say receives support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and might fight as an Iranian proxy against President Saddam Hussein, pose fresh diplomatic challenges to both Kurdish authorities and the United States.

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Thousands of Iraqi Kurds march against Turkey
Sebastian Alison, Reuters, March 3, 2003

Thousands of Iraqi Kurds took to the streets on Monday to protest against Turkish plans for military intervention in Kurdish-administered northern Iraq (news - web sites), but police said the demonstration passed off peacefully.

"Anti-Turkish feeling is very high," traffic policeman Rajab Ali Kakel told Reuters at the march in Arbil, where several Turkish flags were burned. "There's never been a protest of this size here," he added.

Kakel and his colleagues put the number of marchers at up to half a million, although this could not be independently verified and other estimates put the figure below 100,000.

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Turkish vote is study in miscalculation
Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2003

Early last month, Vice President Dick Cheney telephoned Turkey's prime minister with an urgent message: The Bush administration wanted the country's parliament to vote within days - just before the Muslim holiday of Bayram -on a request to base U.S. troops in Turkey for an assault on Iraq.

The timing of the pressure struck a raw nerve here, one that was still aching when Turkish lawmakers finally took up the request Saturday and dealt it a surprise defeat. As Turks offered explanations Sunday for this stinging defiance of their strongest ally, tales of American insensitivity were high on the list.

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Bush is undeterred by opposition to using force against Iraq
David E. Sanger, New York Times, March 3, 2003

The political and logistical obstacles to realizing President Bush's goal of ousting Saddam Hussein within weeks seem to keep mounting.

Billions of dollars in promised aid have not yet persuaded Turkey to open its bases to American troops. Most members of the Security Council are still demanding both more time for inspections and better evidence that Mr. Hussein cannot be contained except by war. And Mr. Hussein himself — just as the White House predicted — has begun blowing up a few Al Samoud missiles in hopes of averting an American invasion.

And yet Mr. Bush not only sounds more certain than ever that he is about to lead the United States into war — he also talks almost as if Mr. Hussein has already been deposed.

In a deliberate and risky strategy, Mr. Bush appears to be dropping out of the public debate over whether there is value in further inspections or any alternative to ousting Mr. Hussein, or sending him into exile.

"The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government," Mr. Bush said in his Saturday radio address, skipping past the question of how he plans to remove the current one.

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Organizers of antiwar movement plan to go beyond protests
Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, March 3, 2003

The people who helped organize the largest worldwide peace demonstration in history last month say they are not through yet.

More than 120 activists from 28 countries emerged from an all-day strategy session here this weekend with plans not just to protest a prospective U.S.-led war against Iraq but to prevent it from happening. They want to intensify political pressure on the Bush administration's closest allies -- the leaders of Britain, Italy and Spain -- and force them to withdraw their support, leaving the United States, if it chooses to fight, to go it alone. And they intend to further disrupt war plans with acts of civil disobedience against U.S. military bases, supply depots and transports throughout Europe.

Finally, if war breaks out, they say, they will demonstrate in towns and cities around the world on the evening of the first day, and hold a worldwide rally on the following Saturday that they hope will rival or surpass their efforts of Feb. 15.

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The arrest of the al-Qa'ida suspect shows how the war on terror could be fought
Lead Editorial, The Independent, March 3, 2003

With the reported arrest over the weekend of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged organiser of the 11 September attacks on America, we return once again to the central question of the impending war on Iraq: will it make attacks like those of 11 September more or less likely?

From the start, The Independent has argued that war will only increase the probability of more suicide attacks on Western civilians. From the start, we have taken issue with the driving force behind this war, which is George Bush's desire to be seen to be responding forcefully to an appalling atrocity visited on his nation.

We have argued all along that the way to conduct the campaign against terrorism – apart from avoiding the rhetoric of war – ought to be through better security, cleverer intelligence and patient diplomacy. This unheroic and undramatic posture might not appeal to politicians, although we thought there was some scope for idealism and the occupation of the high moral ground. We were struck, for example, by Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference three weeks after 11 September, when he spoke in high idealistic terms of solving some of the grievances on which terrorism might feed, most notably in seeking a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Allies bomb key Iraqi targets
Nicholas Watt, Richard Norton-Taylor, and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, March 3, 2003

Britain and the United States have all but fired the first shots of the second Gulf war by dramatically extending the range of targets in the "no-fly zones" over Iraq to soften up the country for an allied ground invasion.

As Baghdad threatened to stop destroying its Samoud 2 missiles if the US presses ahead with its invasion plans, allied pilots have attacked surface-to-surface missile systems and are understood to have hit multiple-launch rockets.

Targets hit in recent days include the Ababil-100, a Soviet-designed surface-to-air missile system adapted to hit targets on the ground, and the Astros 2 ground rocket launcher with a range of up to 56 miles. These would be used to defend Iraq in the event of an invasion or to attack allied troops stationed in Kuwait.

Britain and the US insist publicly that the rules for enforcing the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq have not changed - that pilots only open fire if they are targeted. But privately defence officials admit that there has been an aggressive upping of the ante in recent weeks to weaken Iraqi defences ahead of a ground invasion.

Analysts confirm there has been an intensification of what is known as "the undeclared war".

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Endgames: Washington, UN, and Europe
Peter Howard, Foreign Policy in Focus, February 28, 2003

The dispute in NATO and the UN is not really about Iraq. It never was. It's about the United States. More specifically, it's about the Bush administration's post-September 11 doctrine to use U.S. military power to achieve national security objectives. On September 20, 2001, Bush adamantly declared: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Bush's subsequent national security strategy articulated the aggressive position of preemptive military action to eliminate potential threats. The United States is now committed to use its superior military force to shape the world in America's interests. What scares France and Germany is that Bush means it. Iraq is merely a symptom of this new disposition, a war the U.S. chooses to wage on its own terms.

What the French, Germans, and others fear most is the massive concentration of international power in and around a Bush-led United States. It's not the power capability that has produced the transatlantic rift; it's the fear that America's power is now unchecked and unmitigated by international institutions and norms. It's the fear that the U.S. can go to war without them.

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Dreaming of democracy
George Packer, New York Times, March 2, 2003

In Arabic, ''Iraq'' means ''well-rooted country,'' which suggests the kind of promotional thinking that makes urban planners christen a concrete housing project ''Metropolitan Gardens.'' The country was assembled at Versailles after World War I out of three former Ottoman provinces and handed over by the League of Nations in 1920 to be a British mandate, breaking the promise of postwar independence that T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, had made to Britain's Arab allies. But the British found this unruly concoction of peoples more trouble to govern than it was worth, even with Lawrence's friend King Faisal I on the throne, and in 1932 Iraq became an independent constitutional monarchy, though the imperial power didn't leave without securing favorable oil concessions. Within four years Iraq gave the Arab world its first modern coup. After that, the violence never really stopped, with coups, ethnic pogroms and massacres among political parties. (The Arab Baath movement emerged in World War II as a pro-Nazi group.) But the most turbulent decade followed the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy in 1958. One military regime was toppled by the next. In 1968 the Arab Baath Socialist Party finally consolidated power, destroying its opponents among the Communists and the other Arab nationalists. Saddam, the head of internal security, quickly acquired de facto power but assumed the presidency only in 1979 amid a bloody purge. Chaos gave way to dictatorship, two ruinous foreign wars and the Kurdish genocide. [...]

This bloody history has produced a hopeful new idea. Call it Iraqi exceptionalism. It's the idea that Iraqis have suffered so intensely under a radical nationalist regime that they are by now immune to the anti-Western rhetoric that remains potent in the rest of the Arab world. Iraqis crushed by Saddam's brand of Arab nationalism do not see America and Israel as their eternal enemies. The real enemy is the one within. [...]

The champions of Iraqi exceptionalism include the neoconservatives in the administration -- Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Pentagon; John Bolton at the State Department; Lewis Libby in the vice president's office; Richard Perle, who is chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a panel that advises the Pentagon -- and numerous scholars, columnists and activists, most of them identified with the pro-Israel American right. In recent weeks, President Bush himself has appeared to embrace the idea as a geopolitical rationale for war. The story being told goes like this:

The Arab world is hopelessly sunk in corruption and popular discontent. Misrule and a culture of victimhood have left Arabs economically stagnant and prone to seeing their problems in delusional terms. The United States has contributed to the pathology by cynically shoring up dictatorships; Sept. 11 was one result. Both the Arab world and official American attitudes toward it need to be jolted out of their rut. An invasion of Iraq would provide the necessary shock, and a democratic Iraq would become an example of change for the rest of the region. Political Islam would lose its hold on the imagination of young Arabs as they watched a more successful model rise up in their midst. The Middle East's center of political, economic and cultural gravity would shift from the region's theocracies and autocracies to its new, oil-rich democracy. And finally, the deadlock in which Israel and Palestine are trapped would end as Palestinians, realizing that their Arab backers were now tending their own democratic gardens, would accept compromise. By this way of thinking, the road to Damascus, Tehran, Riyadh and Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.

The idea is sometimes referred to as a new domino theory, with tyrannies collapsing on top of one another. Among the harder heads at the State Department, I was told, it is also mocked as the Everybody Move Over One theory: Israel will take the West Bank, the Palestinians will get Jordan and the members of Jordan's Hashemite ruling family will regain the Iraqi throne once held by their relative King Faisal I.

At times this story is told in the lofty moral language of Woodrow Wilson, the language that President Bush used religiously in his State of the Union address. Others -- both advocates and detractors -- tell the story in more naked terms of power and resources. David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who wrote the first two words in the phrase ''axis of evil,'' argues in his new book, ''The Right Man,'' ''An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein -- and a replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States -- would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe the Romans.''

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Bush and Blair to ditch UN if France blocks intervention
James Cusick, Sunday Herald, March 2, 2003

As hopes fade of winning a second UN resolution, Britain and the United States are now preparing the ground to argue that both governments already have the implied authority of the UN for conflict.

Sources close to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw yesterday admitted that if 'there was no prospect of winning a second resolution' -- due to the use of a UN Security Council veto by potentially France, Russia or China -- 'then we may consider abandoning it altogether'.

Washington also yesterday altered its strategy in exactly the same manner when Pres ident George Bush, referring to the existing Security Council resolution 1441, said the US was determined to enforce its terms, which demand that Saddam Hussein surrender his country's weapons of mass destruction.

Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, called the new draft resolution presented to the UN last week simply 'an affirmation of the council's willingness to enforce its own resolution'.

Over the coming week, Tony Blair is expected to reinforce the message that it is the 'authority of the UN', already explicit in the unanimously agreed resolution 1441, that must be upheld.

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Something to fear: Fear itself
The long run-up to a possible war in Iraq is exacting a heavy toll on psyches and economies from Orlando to Shanghai to Jerusalem

Shawn Hubler, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2003

In actions large and little, local and global, the world's bystanders are bracing for an imminent invasion of Iraq. Long months of debate and deadlines -- an extraordinary public run-up to possible armed conflict -- have put on hold lives and livelihoods worldwide in ways that are turning out to be as demoralizing in some respects as war itself.

"It's hard to find a historical analogy for what's been happening," said David M. Kennedy, a professor of history at Stanford University and author of "Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945."

"You'd look a long way to find a war that's had this much foreplay."

And this time, Kennedy notes, the conflict at hand affects a world shot through with connections. The impulse to hunker down has been triggered, not just in New York and Washington and Baghdad, but also in Tokyo supermarkets and San Francisco rug outlets.

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