The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Rumsfeld ignored Pentagon advice on Iraq
Reuters, March 29, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly rejected advice from Pentagon planners that substantially more troops and armor would be needed to fight a war in Iraq, New Yorker Magazine reported.

In an article for its April 7 edition, which goes on sale on Monday, the weekly said Rumsfeld insisted at least six times in the run-up to the conflict that the proposed number of ground troops be sharply reduced and got his way.

"He thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every turn," the article quoted an unidentified senior Pentagon planner as saying. "This is the mess Rummy put himself in because he didn't want a heavy footprint on the ground."

It also said Rumsfeld had overruled advice from war commander Gen. Tommy Franks to delay the invasion until troops denied access through Turkey could be brought in by another route and miscalculated the level of Iraqi resistance.

"They've got no resources. He was so focused on proving his point -- that the Iraqis were going to fall apart," the article, by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, cited an unnamed former high-level intelligence official as saying.

A spokesman at the Pentagon declined to comment on the article.

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U.S. hope of swaying Arab opinion fading
Sally Buzbee, Associated Press, March 29, 2003

One chief goal of the war in Iraq is to convince Arabs that America was on their side and that getting rid of Saddam Hussein will benefit them, too.

But as prospects rise for a longer war and more dead Iraqi civilians, U.S. hopes of quickly swinging Arab and European public opinion to its favor are starting to fade.

The problem was summed up last week, perhaps unintentionally, by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The anti-American feeling now evident across the globe is a "transient problem" that will go away once the world sees liberated Iraqis celebrating Saddam's end, Powell said.

"What we have to do is get this Iraq crisis behind us and show the better life that's waiting for the Iraqi people ... and this will turn," Powell said.

The problem is that no one knows what might happen if that transition period -- the fighting in Iraq -- goes on longer than expected, or if television screens across the Mideast continue to show dead Iraqi children, not cheering Iraqi crowds.

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Iraq's guerrillas shock allied forces
Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, March 28, 2003

"I think the Iraqis have read the American defence literature over the last 12 years," says Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst with the Brookings Institution, noting that the Iraqi army has all but abandoned attempting to fight set battles in the open desert. "They figured out they better not do that again, if they didn't figure it out at the time. Now they're in a much better position."

Instead of meeting US forces on the open battlefield, most of the engagements have seen the use of guerrilla tactics, with Iraqis switching into civilian clothes and driving pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles into ambushes; hiding guns at pre-positioned points so they can pick them up and start firing; mounting hit-and-run raids on more vulnerable forces behind the main US and British lines; and sniping at patrols near cities from rooftops and windows.

In most of these engagements, Iraqi forces have come out on the losing side. Only about 50 US and UK soldiers have been killed in more than a week's fighting, while 300 Iraqi irregulars were killed in Tuesday's fight with the 7th Cavalry alone.

Still, the tenacity of the Iraqi resistance has caught many allied military leaders by surprise and forced them to rethink their own tactics to accommodate a different kind of battlefield.

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Iraqi civilians feed hungry US marines
Agence France-Presse, March 29, 2003

Iraqi civilians fleeing heavy fighting have stunned and delighted hungry US marines in central Iraq by giving them food, as guerrilla attacks continue to disrupt coalition supply lines to the rear.

Sergeant Kenneth Wilson said Arabic-speaking US troops made contact with two busloads of Iraqis fleeing south along Route Seven towards Rafit, one of the first friendly meetings with local people for the marines around here.

"They had slaughtered lambs and chickens and boiled eggs and potatoes for their journey out of the frontlines," Wilson said.

At one camp, the buses stopped and women passed out food to the troops, who have had to ration their army-issue packets of ready-to-eat meals due to disruptions to supply lines by fierce fighting further south.

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Remembering what we were told to expect

'The Iraqis will welcome the US forces with flowers and sweets when they come in.'
The following is an extract from an article in al-Mutamar, the weekly newspaper of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) of 24-30 January, in which Kan'an Makiya (Head of the Iraqi Documentation and Studies Center, Harvard University and Professor at Brandeis University in the US) related the conversation that took place at a meeting with President George W Bush three weeks earlier, attended by two other Iraqi opposition figures, Randa al-Rahim and Hatim Mukhlis.

Prof Makiya said: "President Bush intimated that the coming war was inevitable and the Iraqi regime did not have long to go, whatever developments might occur at the UN or the Security Council. Mr Bush did not go into the details of the efforts of the UN, indicating that these were just a matter of routine."

Prof Makiya continued: "After this introduction, the president began to ask us about the Iraqis and Iraq. The first question was: 'What reaction do you expect from the Iraqis to the entry of US forces into their cities?'" Mr Makiya explained that "each of us agreed that all Iraqis of all sects would welcome these forces from the very first moment. I added: 'The Iraqis will welcome the US forces with flowers and sweets when they come in'."

President Bush then moved on to his second question: 'If the initial bombardment of Iraq is severe, will the reaction be the same? I mean, will they still welcome the US army?' Prof Makiya said he chose not to give a direct answer, but instead focused on the difference between the current situation and the way things were during the Gulf war of 1991, adding: "I spoke about the collapse of morale inside Iraq, the collapse of the military apparatus etc…I stressed to President Bush my personal opinion that 'the regime will be destroyed with the first blow', pointing out that 'the problem is no longer the resistance of the Iraqi army to the US forces because the situation has changed completely from 1991.'" Prof Makiya said he expected "no real fighting right from the start of the war," and concluded by expressing the view that there would be no need for the same level of bombardment as that of 1991.

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Postwar democracy? Iraq is a hard place
David Corn, The Nation, March 26, 2003

The angry guy with the shoe.

Those who have been watching the war on television are familiar with the video footage: after the US military took control of Safwan, the southern Iraqi border town, this fellow was captured on film banging on a large, partially destroyed wall portrait of Saddam Hussein with his shoe. It was the closest the world has so far come to viewing joyous Iraqis dancing in the street before their American liberators. Such images may yet arrive, validating the assurances of American and British war advocates who maintained that this military action is indeed liberation, not conquest; that Iraqis would welcome such intervention; and that the invasion and occupation would place Iraq on the road to democracy. But if the dancing does not happen soon, the war planners can expect to have a tougher time securing Iraq and creating the environment necessary for reconstruction and democratization.

Consider the celebratory heel-banging in Safwan. A few days after the shoe-heard-around-the-world smacked against Hussein's forehead, ABC News reporter John Donvan and his crew--working unembeddedly--crossed the border into Kuwait and visited the town. They witnessed no rejoicing. Townspeople surrounded the journalists and passionately voiced their opinions of the US invasion. "We learned," Donvan reported, "that just because the townsfolk don't like Saddam, it doesn't mean they like the Americans trying to take him out....They were angry at America, and said US forces had shot at people in the town. They were also angry because they needed food, water and medicine and the aid promised by President Bush had not appeared....They asked us why the United States was taking over Iraq, and whether the Americans would stay in Iraq for ever. They saw the US-led invasion as a takeover, not liberation."

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War in Iraq and Israeli occupation: A devastating resonance
Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish, The Electronic Intifada (and The Chicago Tribune), March 28, 2003

For all the physical devastation being produced by the war in Iraq, the political and diplomatic damage to the region and American foreign policy may be even more profound. Indeed, less serious attention seems to have been paid to the requirements of rebuilding political relations than repairing the infrastructure and society of Iraq.

This conflict is further poisoning the already noxious political atmosphere between Arabs and Americans. It has intensified dangerous feelings of humiliation and outrage among the Arab public, while paranoid rhetoric about Western attacks against Islam is spreading from the religious fringe to the mainstream.

Our government's failure to secure authorization for this war from the United Nations Security Council, largely dismissed as an unfortunate but minor detail here at home, has had a profound impact throughout the world. Almost no one in the Arab world accepts the administration's stated concerns about either Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or the brutality of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. The consensus is that long-term American domination of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region is the actual aim. As a result, while most Americans see ourselves as liberators, near-universal Arab perception is that ordinary Iraqis are fighting courageously against incredible odds to defend their homeland. The profound Arab sense of violation trumps particulars about who is in charge of Iraq, even the reviled Hussein.

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Riding alone into the sunset
William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, March 28, 2003

Last Friday the most prominent of Washington's neoconservative policy groups, the American Enterprise Institute, held what one witness, a Financial Times correspondent, described as a "victory celebration."

Richard Perle, corporate consultant and member of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board, told the audience that the Iraq war was going well - that "there are more anti-war demonstrators in San Francisco than Iraqis willing to defend Saddam Hussein." He said that the pro-American coalition was growing, and Saddam Hussein's fall would be "an inspiration" to Iranians.

The members of the group, which is described as "the Bush administration ideological vanguard," discussed what to do about Iran, considered by them as even more dangerous than Iraq, in terms of its nuclear weapons program.

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The bombing of marketplaces in Baghdad, twice this week, resulting in at least 70 deaths, has triggered renewed debate about war reporting and its impact on public perceptions. After the first market bombing, CNN delayed reporting this for several hours, one can only assume in order to give the Pentagon time to accompany the story with its own version on what may or may not have happened. While networks such as CNN took it upon themselves to shield their viewers and protect them from the risk of jumping to what might be false conclusions about the accuracy of coalition "smart" bombing, the rest of the world was being confronted with the carnage.

In response to this incident, as well as with the broadcast of images of POW's and dead coalition servicemen, frustration is now being expressed by many people in the United States, that foreign - and especially Arab - newscasters aren't playing by the rules. The deference to the Pentagon showed by a patriotic US media is contrasted against what is portrayed as irresponsible reporting by the likes of al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, little is being said about the fact that, like it or not, across the Middle East perception of the war is being shaped by and reflected in the Arabic media. Even if some Americans might feel like the United States is getting a bad rap, if US forces "prevail" in Iraq they will then have to deal with the consequences of having already lost the battle for hearts and minds. Whether the Bush administration manages to convince Americans that this is a war of liberation, it will count for nothing if the Iraqis now see this as a war of conquest and later see themselves as the victims of an occupation.

As Iraqis contemplate their future they must be acutely aware of the neighboring occupation in Palestine and the plight of its people who have for many years been treated with American indifference.

Vision and division
Mamoun Fandy, Washington Post, March 30, 2003

The recent airing of gruesome pictures of American casualties and POWs has again set the American media talking about the unbridled nature of Arab television, particularly the Qatar-owned al-Jazeera network. Indeed, the Arabs are watching a different war than we are here.

Their war is presented for television consumption using the templates of the recent past: the Palestinian intifada, the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the 1956 Suez War. The imagery of the past infuses the interpretation of the current war with familiar meaning -- and makes coverage easy. [...]

Beneath the Arab modes of visual representation [in covering the war], the West is also present. Indeed, Arab coverage often copies the CNN and Fox News formats. Today, just like CNN, every one of the 10 Arab channels I watch, or appear on as a commentator, has a "war room" staffed with retired generals discussing the progress of the war and freely advising the Iraqis how to conduct it. In this way, these veterans of Arab wars are compensating for past defeat with on-air political speeches.

The tone of many reporters in Baghdad is much the same. The image drives the story. For example, an al-Jazeera reporter in the Iraqi capital falsely told his viewers on the first day of the air campaign, "Here in Baghdad, a city accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction is being hit by weapons of mass destruction." This kind of repetition is the stuff that has made Arabic poetry so justly admired. Here, the rhythm and sonority of the language act to encourage audience disregard for the true definitions of the words being used.

With few exceptions, ethical constraints are rarely discussed in the Arab media, where the notion of editorial judgment sounds to many like censorship. Several have said it reminds them of what they had to do while they were working for state-owned broadcasters. Reporters and producers know what their viewers want to see: images of empowerment and resistance because of past defeats. They also want to see what Hussein's information minister, Muhammed Said al-Sahaf, calls teaching the Americans a lesson. "We are no less than the Vietnamese. Just make it costly in body bags and the Americans will run," said a general who comments regularly on al-Jazeera. Some Arab journalists say they have little choice but to go along. "The cost of speaking out now -- even to simply say that Saddam is partially responsible for what is taking place -- is very high. It could cost you your job and could even cause you physical harm," said one.

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Advisors of influence: Nine members of the Defense Policy Board have ties to defense contractors
Andre Verloy and Daniel Politi, Center for Public Integrity, March 28, 2003

Of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, at least nine have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors.

The board's chairman, Richard Perle, resigned yesterday, March 27, 2003, amid allegations of conflicts of interest for his representation of companies with business before the Defense Department, although he will remain a member of the board. Eight of Perle's colleagues on the board have ties to companies with significant contracts from the Pentagon.

Members of the board disclose their business interests annually to the Pentagon, but the disclosures are not available to the public. "The forms are filed with the Standards of Conduct Office which review the filings to make sure they are in compliance with government ethics," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Ted Wadsworth told the Center for Public Integrity.

The companies with ties to Defense Policy Board members include prominent firms like Boeing, TRW, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton and smaller players like Symantec Corp., Technology Strategies and Alliance Corp., and Polycom Inc.

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War planners say "we overestimated the appeal of liberation." Perhaps it would be closer to the truth to say that Iraqis are not at all lacking in a desire for liberation. They simply doubt that that's what's on offer.

Plan's defect: No defectors
Bob Drogin and Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2003

A highly publicized U.S. campaign to persuade senior Iraqi military and civilian leaders to surrender has failed to produce any significant defections, and U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that those closest to President Saddam Hussein are unlikely to give up.

The effort now appears to be one of several miscalculations in a high-stakes U.S. strategy to use bombing, secret contacts and inducements -- including cash payments -- to key Iraqi leaders to quickly overthrow Hussein.

"We underestimated their capacity to put up resistance," said a Bush administration official who requested anonymity. "We underestimated the role of nationalism. And we overestimated the appeal of liberation."

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Hussein hopes to draw U.S. into urban combat
Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2003

Saddam Hussein hopes to turn the battle for Baghdad into a Mesopotamian version of Stalingrad.

The Iraqi president is an admirer of Josef Stalin. He has modeled his ruthless rule and cult of personality on the Soviet leader. As the U.S.-led invasion force stretches its supply lines to reach Baghdad, military analysts and Iraq experts say Hussein's most loyal, best-equipped troops are digging in to try to inflict the kind of carnage that stopped Adolf Hitler at the Volga River in 1943.

A first and crucial test is likely to come near the cities of Karbala and Al Kut along a so-called "red line" that forms a ring south of Baghdad, where U.S. troops are massing now. If Hussein can avoid a military collapse there that would drag down his entire regime, analysts expect him to regroup his forces for street-to-street combat in the capital. And then, he appears to be counting on the modern weapons of media and world politics for his survival.

The Iraqi regime has spent years preparing for this showdown. Its strategists have researched U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. Experts say videotapes of the movie "Black Hawk Down," which recounts the frenzied combat in Mogadishu in 1993, circulated among military men in Baghdad in recent months.

"People say to me you are not the Vietnamese, you have no jungles and swamps to hide in," said Tarik Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, in an interview published recently by the International Institute for Strategic Studies here. "I reply, 'Let our cities be our swamps and our buildings be our jungles.' "

In tactics, technology and firepower, the force closing in on Baghdad is far superior to the U.S. military that fought in Vietnam, or the German army that slowly froze, starved and ran out of ammunition in the snow and rubble of Stalingrad. But Hussein's strategy relies as much on psychology as it does on armament.

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Conservatives tailor tone to fit course of the war
Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, March 28, 2003

During the months leading up to war, many conservative commentators and policy makers fanned out across the news media to support the president's case for a preventive strike against Iraq.

Many of those commentators who argued for the doctrine of a United States-enforced world order, including Rush Limbaugh, William Kristol and Andrew Sullivan, said Iraqis would welcome allied troops as liberators. Others predicted a swift victory against a grossly outmatched and disloyal Iraqi military.

Now, with televised images of Iraqis chanting anti-American slogans, and with Saddam Hussein's troops fighting back hard, the pundits have returned to the offensive, echoing President Bush's optimism and denouncing what they see as pessimism in the news media.

There is a range of views among the so-called hawks. Some simply urge patience. Some agree that they may have added to the perception that victory would come easily.

But there have been some unifying themes, most notably that allied progress has been swift and that the news media have been exaggerating the negative.

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'We will turn Bush into a dog'
The Americans badly miscalculated by believing that the Iraqis would welcome them as liberators

Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, March 27, 2003

Dogs do not live happy lives in Iraq. Considered "unclean" by Muslims and rarely kept as pets, most of those that you see are feral curs slinking through the streets late at night.

It's normal practice for Iraqi soldiers to cull the packs with machine guns. But the commandos of Saddam's fedayeen, terrorist-shock troops organized in the mid-1990s, sometimes tear a dog limb from limb and sink their teeth in its flesh. Repulsive brutality, after all, is a badge of honor for these troops; this particular rite of passage was even captured on a government video.

"The fedayeen are animals!" says a young Iraqi woman who fled her country for Jordan a few months ago. "They are trained to be like animals! Everybody is frightened of them." And even though there are only an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 of these militia, inside Iraq it feels as if the fedayeen -- meaning "those who sacrifice" -- are everywhere. These days, Iraqis say, they are forcing others to put their lives on the line in the face of the American invasion. "Saddam has succeeded in establishing a strong structure that is loyal to him," says Issam Chalabi, a former Iraqi oil minister now in exile. "These fedayeen are not only fighting the Americans, they are mainly against those who want to surrender or refuse to fight."

And yet, neither the frightened young woman, nor Chalabi (who is no relation to a would-be exile leader with the same last name), nor any of the other Iraqis or Arabs I've talked to since the fighting began last week, believes that the Iraqis' resistance to the United States is solely a matter of intimidation and fear. That plays a part; the role of the fedayeen is important. But the resistance to the United States "is a matter of Iraqi patriotism," says Chalabi. "No one will accept the Americans' presence there. And if you say anything about me, say this: I am against the war. I am against the occupation."

American administration officials and sympathetic pundits fundamentally miscalculated by believing that, as some exiles told them, because the Iraqi people hate Saddam, they would love their American "liberators." "That's where you went wrong," a Lebanese friend tells me, summing up sentiments I've heard all over the Arab world, "The Iraqis do hate Saddam -- but they do not love you."

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Practice to deceive
Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario -- it's their plan.

Joshua Micah Marshall, Washington Monthly, April, 2003

Like any group of permanent Washington revolutionaries fueled by visions of a righteous cause, the neocons long ago decided that criticism from the establishment isn't a reason for self-doubt but the surest sign that they're on the right track. But their confidence also comes from the curious fact that much of what could go awry with their plan will also serve to advance it. A full-scale confrontation between the United States and political Islam, they believe, is inevitable, so why not have it now, on our terms, rather than later, on theirs? Actually, there are plenty of good reasons not to purposely provoke a series of crises in the Middle East. But that's what the hawks are setting in motion, partly on the theory that the worse things get, the more their approach becomes the only plausible solution.

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Israelis fear Blair's influence over Bush
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, March 28, 2003

Israel protested to Tony Blair yesterday at what it called his "worrying and outrageous" comments linking the war in Iraq to a settlement of the Palestinian conflict, and at Jack Straw's accusations of western double standards over the enforcement of UN resolutions on Israel.

But the vehemence and timing of the protest, as the British prime minister met President George Bush to discuss the war and reaffirm their commitment to the "road map" to Middle East peace, reflected a growing Israeli fear that Mr Blair now exercises more influence than Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, over White House policy on the Jewish state.

The Israelis are particularly unnerved at the prospect of Mr Blair stiffening American demands over illegal Jewish settlements and forcing the pace on the creation of an independent Palestinian state far beyond the emasculated dependency Mr Sharon has in mind.

The director general of Israel's foreign ministry, Yoav Biran, called in the British ambassador, Sherard Cowper-Coles, to lodge the protest.

"The ambassador was told that we find the latest British statements worrying and outrageous," said Jonathon Peled, a foreign ministry spokesman.

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Remembering what we were told to expect

War in Iraq seen as quick win
Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, September 18, 2002

Senior Bush administration officials have concluded that the United States will quickly win a war against Iraq, based on superior American technology and a sharp deterioration of Saddam Hussein's armed forces since the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict.

Officials also believe a significant number of Saddam's army commanders and units will either refuse to fight or will assist allied troops in toppling the Baghdad regime.

Senior Pentagon policy-makers have come to that conclusion in recent weeks, and some officials are beginning to state it publicly.

"I don't think it would be that tough a fight," Vice President Richard B. Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "That is, I don't think there's any question that we would prevail and we would achieve our objective."

Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War combat pilot and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, agrees.

"I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult," Mr, McCain, Arizona Republican, said last week. "It may entail the risk of American lives and treasure, but Saddam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991."

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Buster Glosson, who designed the successful air war against Iraq in 1991, says victory can be achieved in weeks, not months, if the Pentagon exploits precision-guided munitions, special-operations troops and disloyalty within Iraq's military.

"If these basic steps are not violated and our war-fighting asymmetrical advantage is maximized, Saddam will not last 30 days," Gen. Glosson said in an interview.

Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, often reflects the thinking of other hard-liners in the department's policy shop. "I don't believe we have to defeat Saddam's army," he said in the winter. "I think Saddam's army will defeat Saddam."

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Why the Iraqis are suspicious of their liberators
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, March 28, 2003

In 1915 a British army led by Major General Charles Townsend advanced north from Basra in what he hoped would be an easy campaign to capture Baghdad. After initial victories he was forced to retreat. After suffering heavy casualties in a battle outside Baghdad the army fell back to Kut, then as now an evil-smelling and tumbledown city on a bend in the Tigris.

After a siege the army surrendered and it was only in 1917 that Baghdad was captured; 40,000 British soldiers died and were buried in the plains of Iraq. I used to visit a sad little cemetery in Kut that had turned into a swamp. The names of the dead on the tombstones were only just visible above the slimy green water.

The analogy with the present war should not be pushed too far. General Townsend's army and the Anglo-American force now fighting south of Baghdad both suffered from overextended communications. But otherwise the military superiority enjoyed by the British and the Americans against Saddam Hussein is far greater than that of the British against the Turks in the First World War.

But there is another, precise parallel between what happened south of Baghdad in 1915 and in 2003. In both cases the invading army and its political masters were grossly overconfident that they would win an easy victory. So far, this has not happened, though the Iraqi army might cave in under the terrible battering from US air power. The difficulties facing London and Washington are not just important in the context of the present campaign, but they are an ominous foretaste of the dangers in establishing any post-war settlement.

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Raw, devastating realities that expose the truth about Basra
RobertFisk, The Independent, March 28, 2003

Two British soldiers lie dead on a Basra roadway, a small Iraqi girl – victim of an Anglo American air strike – is brought to hospital with her intestines spilling out of her stomach, a terribly wounded woman screams in agony as doctors try to take off her black dress.

An Iraqi general, surrounded by hundreds of his armed troops, stands in central Basra and announces that Iraq's second city remains firmly in Iraqi hands. The unedited al-Jazeera videotape – filmed over the past 36 hours and newly arrived in Baghdad – is raw, painful, devastating.

It is also proof that Basra – reportedly "captured'' and "secured'' by British troops last week – is indeed under the control of Saddam Hussein's forces. Despite claims by British officers that some form of uprising has broken out in Basra, cars and buses continue to move through the streets while Iraqis queue patiently for gas bottles as they are unloaded from a government truck.

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Good morrrrrning, Iraq....
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, March 27, 2003's taken less than a week for American reporters to begin to doubt Pentagon briefers (foreign reporters began in that mode) – a passage that took years in Vietnam – and for the briefers to begin to look like participants in the long ago Saigon press briefings that included the infamous "body counts," mockingly nicknamed by reporters "the Five O'clock Follies." In other words, a week into the war the first cracks in what may become a media "credibility gap" are already showing. As it turns out, Pentagon policies for controlling the media were quite brilliant, but also dependent on the delivery of the promised war – a brief "cakewalk" of liberation.

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Thousands flee Basra in search of food and water
David Fox and Paul Harris, The Independent, March 28, 2003

Thousands of tired and thirsty civilians trudged out of the besieged southern Iraqi city of Basra yesterday in a desperate search for food and water.

Families drove ramshackle vehicles or walked in single file down a rail track past British Army checkpoints on the western side of the city.

"It's been 'pow, pow, pow' all the time," said Maklim Mohammed as he crossed a main bridge leading south from the city, which stands at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. "I can't stand it. I'm nervous and I'm thirsty."

Basra's 1.5 million inhabitants have endured days without water. Red Cross engineers have managed amid the battles around the city partly to restore a water treatment centre that had been down since last Friday when cables carrying electricity to the plant were cut by Allied bombardment. But most homes still have no access to potable water. People have resorted to collecting water from rivers around the city, which are polluted with sewage, prompting warnings from the UN of a potential cholera epidemic. Children are at risk from diarrhoea, which is already a big killer of Iraqi children under five.

Most of those leaving yesterday were on foot without their belongings, apparently seeking shelter with friends or relatives at Zubayr, 12 miles to the south. Most were men who said they would try to return to Basra if they could find supplies.

"We are very thirsty. Our families are very thirsty," one of those leaving said. "Where can we find water? The British told us to go down the road [south]."

In Zubayr the position was only marginally better. British and American troops handed out bottled water to an agitated crowd who begged them for more. Many said they had not had water for almost 10 days.

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France insists US should give way on rebuilding Iraq
Ian Black, The Guardian, March 28, 2003

The United Nations must play "the key role" in rebuilding Iraq after a crisis that has "shattered" the existing world order, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, insisted yesterday.

Speaking on a brief visit to London, Mr de Villepin urged Europe and the US to work in concert to construct the peace and to heal the wounds caused by the furious diplomacy that preceded the outbreak of war. But he left no doubt about France's principled position.

"The UN must be at the heart of the reconstruction and administration of Iraq," he told the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"The legitimacy of our action depends on it. We must come together to build peace together in a region rife with a sense of insecurity and deep faultlines."

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Blair and Bush admit that war in Iraq could now last for months
Andrew Grice, The Independent, March 28, 2003

Tony Blair and George Bush braced the British and American public for a longer-than- expected war in Iraq yesterday amid growing concern that the campaign has stalled.

After eight hours of talks at President Bush's Camp David retreat in Maryland, the two leaders did not deny suggestions from US military sources that the war could take months. But they sought to allay fears that the campaign had been blown off course, with coalition troops encountering stiffer resistance than expected and the hoped-for uprising by Iraqis failing to materialise.

Despite minor successes yesterday, including the destruction of 14 Iraqi tanks by British forces, no sign of substantial progress was perceived in the battles for Basra and Baghdad. The US strategy of invading Iraq with relatively small, light mobile forces is coming under increasing criticism from within and outside the US military. Armoured reinforcements may take up to a month to assemble near Baghdad.

Pentagon sources said last night that the frontline US fighting force in the Gulf would be doubled to 200,000 by the end of April. The officials insisted that this was part of the original war plan – not a reaction to the set-backs of recent days.

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Remembering what we were told to expect

Vice President Dick Cheney:

"I think it will go relatively quickly...Weeks rather than months."
"Face the Nation," CBS, March 16, 2003

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No cakewalk
Robert Novak, CNN, March 26, 2003

"There were some who were supportive of going to war with Iraq who described it as a cakewalk," Tim Russert told Donald Rumsfeld on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday.

The secretary of Defense seemed surprised. "I never did," he replied. "No one I know in the Pentagon ever did." While Rumsfeld spoke the literal truth, his response was still disingenuous.

Rumsfeld had been asked about the cakewalk description several times, rejecting it but still defending the premises for such a judgment. While its source was not technically a Pentagon official, it was a longtime Rumsfeld friend and lieutenant: Kenneth Adelman, appointed by the secretary to the Defense Policy Board (an outside advisory panel). In demanding military action against Saddam Hussein, Adelman has promised repeatedly there would be no military difficulty.

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On March 24, The New York Times, in its lead editorial politely requested Richard Perle to resolve a conflict of interest between his role as Defense Policy Board chairman and his acting as a representative for the telecommunications company Global Crossing in its negotiations with the Defense Department. Perle protests that there is no conflict of interest, but he is resigning for the sake of avoiding creating a distraction during the war. As a "special government employee" who took pride in saying that he didn't work for the government, Perle's degree of influence in the Bush administration is hardly likely to be diminished by his departure from the Pentagon. His departure at this time may however be regarded as a matter of mutual convenience to both himself and Rumsfeld. The most troubling questions he could now face, but can now more easily avoid, relate not to his business transactions but to his advocacy for a war in which he claimed that Saddam Hussein could easily be ousted without the use of major US forces.

Richard Perle resigns as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board
Stephen Labaton and Thom Shanker, New York Times, March 27, 2003

Richard N. Perle has resigned as chairman of an influential Pentagon advisory board following disclosures of business dealings that included his meeting with a Saudi arms dealer and a contract with a bankrupt telecommunications company seeking Defense Department permission to be sold to Chinese investors.

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Jubilation turns to hate as aid arrives
Burhan Wazir, The Guardian, March 27, 2003

The young man wearing the brown shawl summed it up succinctly: "We want you to go back home. We do not want your American and British aid," he said, his eyes flashing with anger.

If the British humanitarian taskforce had any doubts as to the legitimacy of his claims, the sudden burst of gunfire from a nearby building left no one in any doubt.

The first attempt to deliver aid to the Iraqi people was, in all respects, a practical and logistical disaster.

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Anti-war Arabs decry 'slaughter' in Baghdad
Caroline Drees, Reuters, March 27, 2003

After only a week of war, Arabs are saying there's a new butcher of Baghdad.

Long an epithet for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the West, Arab newspapers and citizens said pictures of burned bodies and pools of blood in a busy Baghdad neighborhood proved the name was more suitable for the American government.

"Massacre in Baghdad" screamed a headline in Lebanon's daily as-Safir on Thursday after two explosions devastated a street in the Iraqi capital and killed as many as 15 people. Iraqis called it a U.S. attack, while the U.S. military suggested it might have been a stray Iraqi anti-aircraft missile or sabotage.

Egypt's al-Ahrar condemned the "American slaughter of civilians," while Morocco's L'Opinion called the blasts a "murderous raid," and Palestinian newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida mourned the "savage bombardment" of Baghdad.

"They call Saddam Hussein a butcher. Aren't the Americans butchers? They're worse. They're killing children who've done nothing wrong," said Iman, a 26-year-old woman working in a Cairo haberdashery shop

Throughout the Arab world, from long-time U.S. allies to states Washington accuses of sponsoring "terrorism," citizens were outraged by graphic media images of bodies charred beyond recognition in a war many believe is a sinister plot to subjugate Arabs and dominate the region.

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All in the neocon family
Jim Lobe, AlterNet, March 26, 2003

What do William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Elliot Abrams, and Robert Kagan have in common? Yes, they are all die-hard hawks who have gained control of U.S. foreign policy since the 9/11 attacks. But they are also part of one big neoconservative family -- an extended clan of spouses, children, and friends who have known each other for generations.

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Who lied to whom?
Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 24, 2003

Last September 24th, as Congress prepared to vote on the resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to wage war in Iraq, a group of senior intelligence officials, including George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s weapons capability. It was an important presentation for the Bush Administration. Some Democrats were publicly questioning the President’s claim that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction which posed an immediate threat to the United States. Just the day before, former Vice-President Al Gore had sharply criticized the Administration’s advocacy of preëmptive war, calling it a doctrine that would replace “a world in which states consider themselves subject to law” with “the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.” A few Democrats were also considering putting an alternative resolution before Congress.

According to two of those present at the briefing, which was highly classified and took place in the committee’s secure hearing room, Tenet declared, as he had done before, that a shipment of high-strength aluminum tubes that was intercepted on its way to Iraq had been meant for the construction of centrifuges that could be used to produce enriched uranium. The suitability of the tubes for that purpose had been disputed, but this time the argument that Iraq had a nuclear program under way was buttressed by a new and striking fact: the C.I.A. had recently received intelligence showing that, between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had attempted to buy five hundred tons of uranium oxide from Niger, one of the world’s largest producers. The uranium, known as “yellow cake,” can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors; if processed differently, it can also be enriched to make weapons. Five tons can produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a bomb. (When the C.I.A. spokesman William Harlow was asked for comment, he denied that Tenet had briefed the senators on Niger.)

On the same day, in London, Tony Blair’s government made public a dossier containing much of the information that the Senate committee was being given in secret—that Iraq had sought to buy “significant quantities of uranium” from an unnamed African country, “despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it.” The allegation attracted immediate attention; a headline in the London Guardian declared, “African gangs offer route to uranium.”

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Two movements
The new alliance between antiwar protesters and foreign-policy realists

Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, March 24, 2003

What does an antiwar movement do with a war likely to be over in a matter of weeks? Plenty, it turns out.

The antiwar movement is actually two rather different movements that partly overlap. One movement is in the streets and on the internet -- often led by radicals, sometimes joined uneasily by liberals. The other is pragmatic and mainstream. Both were nonplussed but only temporarily by the outbreak of war, and neither has gone away.

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Springtime for the Muslim Brotherhood
Cam McGrath, Asia Times, March 28, 2003

"The present, never mind the future, is the enemy of the Brotherhood, which has not adapted to the modern age," said an article published recently in al-Hayat, a pan-Arab daily. "The Brotherhood does not possess the tools to understand modernity and doesn't dare contradict the ideologies and struggles of its great past, which it values at the expense of reality."

Yet despite this, the Muslim Brotherhood is witnessing a revival. President George W Bush administration's "war on terror" is alienating Arabs and Muslims, giving movements like the Brotherhood a newfound popularity. "We used to think of the Brotherhood as anachronistic," says civil servant Mahmoud Abdel Raouf. "Now people who were never religious are joining the Brotherhood. Bush is pushing us in this direction."

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Images of war: The parallax view
Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, March 26, 2003

So far Operation Iraqi Freedom hasn't produced many images of liberation. No collapse of the corrupt house of cards, no joyful crowds, no tossing flowers at the soldiers.

There have been a few happy images, a couple of young Iraqi men greeting American soldiers, some civilians watching tanks pass and making nonthreatening, supplicant gestures (for food, perhaps). But yesterday, the people of Iraq looked a lot more like the hassled and humiliated residents of America's poorest neighborhoods, the fodder for television shows like Fox's "Cops" and "World's Wildest Police Videos."

These were not images of liberation, but detention: Men in bluejeans with their hands on their heads and men lying on the ground with U.S. troops poised over them, guns at the ready. And if they weren't in custody, they were either in pain (a wounded 9-year-old girl, now a motherless child), or exulting over whatever small victories (a downed helicopter) they can snatch from the teeth of the overwhelming force descending on their homeland.

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Remembering what we were told to expect

Ken Adelman, Pentagon Defense Policy Board member, former assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and arms-control director under President Reagan:

"I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."
Washington Post, February 13, 2002

"[When the United States 'liberates' Iraq] we will have plenty of allies. Foremost will be the Iraqi people cheering from their rooftops just as they did at the onset of the Gulf War in 1991. And there will be dancing in Baghdad streets just as the liberated Afghans did in Kabul a few months ago."
USA Today, September 4, 2002

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Fear grips exhausted troops
Oliver Poole with the US Infantry, The Telegraph, March 26, 2003

The first of the soldiers draws on a cigarette and turns to his friend. "You bearing up?" he asks.

"I feel like we are getting our arse whipped," comes the reply. "Wherever I turn there is someone trying to kill me. Damn this country and damn these people."

"Roger that," the first says back. "Yesterday we were taking one of the soft top trucks and suddenly there are three Iraqis shooting at us. I was under that vehicle lying in the mud before I even knew it and the staff sergeant was there beside me as scared as I was.

"The Bradleys came up and started shooting the hell out of them. We got them. Took them prisoner. But, God, I thought I was going to piss myself."

His friend turns to shield his eyes from the sand. "That's the problem with this pussy army. We just wait to take hits. They [the Iraqis] took those mechanics prisoner and shot some of them in the heads. They start throwing shells at us and we can't even fire back in case it hits civilians. Damn that 'hearts and minds' shit." The first turns to the third of the guard duty who has been staring out into the sand clouds. "How you doing?"

"Not too good," he said. In recent days he has repeatedly spoken of wanting to talk to his mother.

"You'll be OK."

"I don't know if I will get out of this."

"Yes you will. We'll get through this."

The oldest, the first to speak, Sgt Bill Jones, is 21. The youngest, the last, Pte Roman Komlev, is 18. It is only four days since the American army crossed the Kuwait border but many of its soldiers are already tired and frightened.

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Bush fiddles with economy while Baghdad burns
Mark Tran, The Guardian, March 26, 2003

The war in Iraq is not going as smoothly as the Bush administration would like and the conflict is looking less and less like a walkover by the day.

Yet there can be little doubt that the US, backed by Britain, its loyal junior ally, will eventually prevail. The conflict will bring the US little glory, pitting the world's most powerful military machine against a dilapidated army, but when American and British troops enter Baghdad, the US will surely cement its status as a hyperpower.

But does the US colossus have feet of clay? It takes a brave soul to argue that America, the world's largest economy and by far its most potent military power, is about to go into decline, when it is widely perceived as a hyperpower. But Independent Strategy, a financial research company for institutional investors, has made the case in a paper that is making the rounds of big investment banks such as Goldman Sachs.

Independent Strategy believes that the US shows many symptoms of an empire that is cresting. First, it sees deepening mistrust of the US and predicts a rise in terrorism in reaction to US unilateralism.

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The big dilemma: use decisive force or fight humanely
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, March 27, 2003

This war may yet be over within two or three weeks. But enough has happened already to show how America and Britain may be undermined by conflicting goals – the short-term demands of battle and their longer term aspirations for the future of Iraq used to justify the war in the first place.

Pulling in one direction is George Bush's promise to use decisive force to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime as quickly as possible. Tugging in the other is the importance of making this "pre-emptive strike" (in plain English, unprovoked invasion) as "humane" and non-destructive as possible for all Iraqis except the leader and his immediate followers.

This is a queasy moment in Washington. The heady expectation that the regime would collapse in a few days, at the first taste of America's power, has vanished. So have hopes that Iraqi commanders would cross sides en masse. So, too, has the notion, fed by the neo-conservatives whose brainchild this war is, that the grateful inhabitants of southern Iraq would be strewing rose petals before the advancing tanks.

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Wayward bombs bring marketplace carnage
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, March 27, 2003

It was the single worst act of carnage in six days of an American aerial assault on the Iraqi capital carried out by B-52 bombers, F-17 jet fighters and cruise missiles, at all hours of the day.

And, as yesterday's marketplace slaughter so clearly demonstrates, increasingly the targets are on the edges of residential areas, far away from the lavish palaces and military installations that are the institutional heart of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The people of the Shaab neighbourhood, on the northern perimeters of Baghdad, never had an inkling they would be next. Iraqis had learned to adapt to the rhythm of the bombs, venturing out if they had to, by daytime largely, and with great caution to avoid official areas known to be the target of America's wrath.

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Probe sought of Pentagon adviser, Richard Perle
Jeremy Pelofsky, Reuters, March 25, 2003

A senior U.S. Democrat has called for an investigation of Richard Perle, an architect of the war on Iraq, for possible conflicts of interest in his roles as corporate adviser and Pentagon consultant.

Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, asked the Pentagon's inspector general to probe Perle's work as a paid adviser to bankrupt telecommunications company Global Crossing Ltd. and his guidance on investment opportunities resulting from the Iraq conflict.

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Amnesty International: Both sides in Iraq war may be guilty of war crimes
Agence France-Presse, March 26, 2003

Both sides of the week-old-war Iraq war may already be guilty of war crimes, Amnesty International human rights group said.

The US-led coalition side would be guilty because of the bombing of state television in Baghdad, Claudio Cordone, senior director for international law at the London-based group, said in a statement.

"Attacking a civilian object and carrying out a disproportionate attack are war crimes," she said.

"The onus is on the coalition forces to demonstrate the military use of the TV station and, if that is indeed the case, to show that the attack took into account the risk to civilian lives," Cordone said.

"The bombing of a television station simply because it is being used for the purposes of propaganda is unacceptable. It is a civilian object, and thus protected under international humanitarian law," she said.

The Iraqi side would be guilty if its troops are found to have fired mortars on their own people to quell an uprising in Basra, as British officials alleged yesterday.

"Any direct attack on civilians is a war crime," Cordone said. "Those who blur the distinction between combatants and civilians undermine the very foundations of humanitarian law."

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The 'Palestinization' of Iraq
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, March 27, 2003

One of the most extraordinary developments of the war so far is how the resistance of the Iraqi population against a foreign invasion has galvanized this sentiment of anger in the Arab world. "We are all Palestinians now," as a Bedouin taxi driver puts it. One of the first things anyone mentions in Jordan - be it a Jordanian, an Egyptian, a Lebanese or a Somali refugee - is their happiness about the way the Iraqi people are resisting the "invaders" (never qualified as "liberators"). Their intuition also tells them that every extra day in this war is further humiliation to the Pentagon - especially because the real war, and not the US version, is being followed by the whole Arab world, in Arabic, through Arab satellite channels.

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'Many casualties' after Baghdad market hit
Andrew Gilligan, BBC News, March 26, 2003

Fourteen civilians died and another 30 were injured in Baghdad when a shopping area was hit during an air raid by US-led coalition forces, the Iraqi authorities say. The BBC's Andrew Gilligan, at the scene in the north of the city, says it appears that two missiles hit a busy parade of shops.

An angry crowd of several hundred people gathered in the area following the strike, waving the shoes and clothes of victims. They shouted: "Down with Bush" and "Long live Saddam".

Our correspondent says the buildings have been burnt out and their contents scattered over a wide area, while several cars were set on fire. He adds that the nearest military buildings are at least a quarter of a mile away.

Reuters news agency correspondents say they have seen at least 15 burnt bodies, while some local people have said the number of dead could be as high as 45.

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How a breakdown in sanitation can bring a city to its knees within a few days
John Davidson, The Independent, March 26, 2003

The sudden collapse of a population's water supply is the most serious of humanitarian emergencies. People affected by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a flood, are more likely to fall ill and die from diseases related to inadequate water and sanitation than from any other single cause. And the effects are seen very quickly.

Water and sanitation experts at charities and non-governmental organistations say people start to fall ill after just two or three days without clean water.

Inevitably, the most vulnerable are affected first and suffer the most. That includes children under five, the elderly, the sick and the malnourished. In a city such as Basra, where health standards were already poor before the hostilities, that will be a very high proportion of the population.

With daytime temperatures soaring to more than 100F (38C), people have to drink. If clean water is not available they will drink whatever they can. And, again, the position in Basra – where there is virtually no safe alternative to the public water supply for the poorest people – is particularly serious.

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The unquiet Americans
As the U.S. military footprint grows, so does Jordanian anger

Kareem Fahim, Village Voice, March 26, 2003

For a Jordanian government concerned about the domestic backlash from a war in Iraq, the weekend was full of bad news. Apart from the televised images of Basra's war dead, and the reports of stiff resistance put up by elements of the Iraqi army, on Sunday the kingdom expelled five Iraqi diplomats, saying they violated "the security agreement" between the two countries. The prime minister swore it was merely a matter between two neighbors. But the move follows a demand by the U.S. to 60 countries worldwide to expel Iraqi diplomats and close their embassies. Jordan was the first Arab country to comply, though officials here deny it was at America's behest.

And predictably, the protests against the war have started up in earnest, some of them violent. Riot police in Amman beat back Jordanian lawyers attempting to march to the Iraqi embassy in a show of solidarity. Clashes were also reported in Palestinian neighborhoods, as well as in the southern city of Ma'an, a flashpoint for anti-government unrest. There are no signs that the anger is diminishing, and in response, King Abdullah has appeared on Jordanian television appealing for calm.

As the images of Iraqi casualties have brought about a measure of popular sympathy, tales of Iraqi resistance have become a source of pride. On Monday, Jordanians discussed the recent pictures of Iraqi farmers and their antique guns celebrating around a downed American helicopter. Whether or not the farmers did anything to bring the Apache down seems beside the point. The image would have been more powerful only if the thing had been shot out of the sky by a Palestinian teenager with a slingshot.

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Bush backer sponsoring pro-war rallies
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, March 26, 2003

They look like spontaneous expressions of pro-war sentiment, "patriotic rallies" drawing crowds of tens of thousands across the American heartland.

In a counterpoint to anti-war demonstrations, supporters of war in Iraq have descended on cities from Fort Wayne to Cleveland, and Atlanta to Philadelphia. They wave flags, messages of support for the troops - and also banners attacking liberals, excoriating the UN, and in one case, advising: "Bomb France Now."

But many of the rallies, it turns out, have been organised and paid for by Clear Channel Inc - the country's largest radio conglomerate, owning 1,200 stations - which is not only reporting on the war at the same time, but whose close links with President Bush stretch back to his earliest, much-criticised financial dealings as governor of Texas. The company has paid advertising costs and for the hire of musicians for the rallies.

Tom Hicks, Clear Channel's vice-chairman, is a past donor to Bush's political campaigning. The two were at the centre of a scandal when Mr Bush was governor and when Mr Hicks chaired a University of Texas investment board that awarded large investment-management contracts to several companies close to the Bush family - including the Carlyle Group, on whose payroll Mr Bush had been until weeks previously, and which still retains his father.

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Whenever Public Enemy Number One proves elusive (first it was Osama, now Saddam), the neo-cons look for a more immediate target. While Saddam might be able to hold out in his bunker for a few months, the neo-cons don't want to miss the opportunity to destroy the UN. Washington Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer, pours scorn on the idea of Bush going back to the Security Council, but he concedes that, "If we're going to negotiate terms, it should be with allies who helped us, who share our vision and our purposes." What he neglects to mention is that the principal among those allies, Britain, is itself strongly arguing that the UN should have a central role in post-war Iraq.

Forget them all, Mr Bush
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post (via The Guardian), March 26, 2003

Don't go back, Mr. President. You walked away from the United Nations at great cost and with great courage. Don't go back.

No one knows when this war will end. But when it does, you'll have to decide the terms. Yet in the past few days both you and Tony Blair have said you will seek a new UN resolution, postwar, providing for the governance of Iraq.

Why in God's name would we want to re-empower the French in deciding the post-war settlement? Why would we want to grant them influence over the terms, the powers, the duration of an occupation bought at the price of American and British blood? France, Germany and Russia did everything they could to sabotage your policy before the war. Will they want to see it succeed after the war?

The Frankfurter Allgemeine reports that on February 21, Germany's UN ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, wrote to his foreign ministry that the US, blocked on a UN war resolution and fighting alone, would later "remorsefully return to the council" to seek help in rebuilding Iraq.

That is their game. Why should we play it?

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The glory but not the gore
Embedded journalists are providing only a sanitised version of the war

Ghida Al-Juburi, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, March 24, 2003

A group of American soldiers have been captured by Iraqi forces - but the mainstream media in the United States has not shown footage of the event. Providers sponsoring Internet news have censored pictures of prisoners-of-war and casualties. The government has denounced any screening of POWs or fatalities in print and broadcast media, stating that this is in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network, was the first to report that American soldiers had been captured south-eastern Iraq. Within minutes, the images spread across the world. Al-Jazeera and others say they report the news as they see it - and gore is just as much part of war as the glory that comes with flag-waving coverage.

In the first week of the American-led war against Iraq, Americans are witnessing the war and its repercussions take place in real time. With the help of technology, the coverage of this war will show us more than we have ever seen before, and faster. We are bearing witness to a new form of the ultimate reality television. Yet American television and media censorship have determined and demanded that we do not need to see it all. We can see the glory, but not the gore.

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Drawing the enemy to Baghdad
Maj. Gen. Abd al-Ameer Abaees, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, March 24, 2003

Saddam Hussein has built his entire military strategy around one goal: to stay in power. All Iraq's revenue and all its institutions, military and civilian, are directed toward that purpose.

In this war for survival, Saddam's strategy is quite unique. Conventional military strategy is to defend ground, but Saddam's plan is to leave the North and the South of his country in order to defend himself in Baghdad.

By establishing the pockets of resistance we have seen in the South, Saddam is trying to wear down American and British forces so they arrive weakened at Baghdad.

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In the long hours of darkness, Baghdad shakes to the constant low rumble of B-52s
Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 26, 2003

"Can you imagine the effect on the Arabs if Iraq gets out of this war intact?" [a senior Iraqi business executive] asked. "It took just five days for all the Arabs to be defeated by Israel in the 1967 war. And already we Iraqis have been fighting the all-powerful Americans for five days and still we have held on to all of our cities and will not surrender. And imagine what would happen if Iraq surrendered. What chance would the Syrian leadership have against the demands of Israel? What chance would the Palestinians have of negotiating a fair deal with the Israelis? The Americans don't care about giving the Palestinians a fair deal. So why should they want to give the Iraqis a fair deal?"

This was no member of the Baath Party speaking. This was a man with degrees from universities in Manchester and Birmingham. A colleague had an even more cogent point to make. "Our soldiers know they will not get a fair deal from the Americans," he said. "It's important that they know this. We may not like our regime. But we fight for our country. The Russians did not like Stalin but they fought under him against the German invaders. We have a long history of fighting the colonial powers, especially you British. You claim you are coming to 'liberate' us. But you don't understand. What is happening now is we are starting a war of liberation against the Americans and the British."

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On Sunday's CBS Face the Nation, Donald Rumsfeld said, "We are not bombing Baghdad." He choses to distinguish between the buildings used by the regime and the city in which they are located. Many residents of Baghdad don't appreciate the distinction.

Civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes fuel rising anger in Iraq
John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2003

Saman Atef was finishing a late breakfast Monday when he heard a long, whining whoosh. Before he had time to ponder the noise, three of his neighbors' houses exploded in a rain of bricks, glass and dust.

In the instant the bomb or missile hit, four people were killed and 23 were injured, Atef said, and the people of his working-class neighborhood of northern Baghdad counted one more reason to feel angry with the United States.

Just before the midday attack, a robust-looking President Saddam Hussein had appeared on state television in military uniform and exhorted Iraqis to attack the U.S. and British enemy.

"Cut their throats and even their fingers," Hussein urged. "Strike them and strike evil so that evil will be defeated."

The U.S. war strategy has counted in part on separating the people of Iraq from the government of Hussein.

But the deaths and injuries from misdirected or errant bombs, or from shrapnel and fragments that spray into nearby homes even when the munitions find their intended target, are making more and more people believe that the United States is heedless of the Iraqi public.

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The following article appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, six months ago.

Pearl Harbor in reverse
Jack Beatty, Atlantic Monthly, September 25, 2002

Richard Perle, a Pentagon official during the Reagan years, says that unseating Saddam will be "a cakewalk." Perhaps, ventured Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, Perle should join the first wave into Baghdad to experience his hypothesis. An estimated one million Iraqis are tied in with Saddam's regime or party. They face imprisonment, war-crimes trials, or reprisal murders if Saddam loses power. The collateral damage that will accompany a bombing campaign could rally even more Iraqis to Saddam, making the war more lethal and the U.S. occupation more hazardous. Regimes as cruel as Saddam's have successfully used foreign aggression to galvanize resistance. Stalin scourged the Russian people, yet he successfully appealed to their nationalism to defeat the Nazis. Pol Pot, after killing more than a million of his fellow Cambodians, was able to mobilize support against the Vietnamese invasion of 1979. Saddam's strategy will be to draw us into the cities. In the open we can target his artillery, neutralizing his capacity to deliver chemical weapons. That will be difficult to do in the streets of Baghdad. Saddam will want to make us kill civilians to get at him, knowing that the bomb blasts, the collapsing houses, the bloody faces and torn bodies will be shown throughout the Arab world by al Jazeera, exacting a potentially catastrophic political price.

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Zvi Bar'el, writing for the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, makes an observation who significance cannot be overemphasized. Iraqis, with access to information issued by the Iraqi government along with news from outside sources, can now treat with the same degree of skepticism both the statements of their own government and those of the US government. Is it not then the ultimate irony that inside the "liberating" nation, both the media and the populace seem less capable of exercising critical judgment in response to their own government than do a people who America is presuming to set free? The propaganda war may be being fought between two governments, but with the complicity of much of the U.S. media, it is the American people who risk losing this war.

What happened to the civil uprising
against Saddam?

Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, March 25, 2003

The port of Umm-Qasr, the main Iraqi exit to the sea, has begun to evolve into a kind of symbol of resistance. For the past four days, continuous fighting has taken place in the city. Every day has ended with an optimistic report that the city is in U.S. hands, only for it to emerge the following day that the battles there are still ongoing.

Similar reports have started to come in about Nasiriyah and Basra - that "they are under control." These reports are not fictitious. Rather, they are partial. The cities are under external control but not total occupation.

The significant thing as far as the psychological war is concerned, is that the Iraqi people, who listen both to Iraqi television and Western radio reports (some of them on satellite channels), can now reach the conclusion that they can relate with almost the same degree of credibility to western reports as to those emanating from their own government.

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Invasion v liberation: flag rises and falls in clash of ideology
Hugh White, Sydney Morning Herald, March 25, 2003

Washington must adjust its postwar plans to the possibility that US occupation may not be welcome.

All the complexity and ambiguity of this strange war was captured in a single incident in Umm Qasr at the weekend, when United States marines raised the Stars and Stripes over the captured port, and were then ordered by the higher-ups to pull it down again.

The marines had one view of this war, and the headquarters another. The marines may prove to be right.

The marines' flag-raising was a simple, almost reflexive gesture - a symbol of conquest, harking back to the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima. It's a symbol of the old view of war - war as a business of violence and subjugation.

The curt instruction from headquarters to take the flag down again was an attempt to reassert the Administration's official view - that this is not an invasion and conquest of Iraq, but a liberation of it. It's the new view of war, much beloved by Donald Rumsfeld - of war as a matter of subtlety, psychology and persuasion.

The marines themselves have discovered in Umm Qasr that psychology and persuasion have so far not worked on Iraq's army, and more traditional means may be needed. Their coalition comrades have had similar experiences near Basra, at Nasiriyah and elsewhere in southern Iraq.

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U.S. is assembling a civilian team to run Iraq
Elizabeth Becker, New York Times, March 25, 2003

The United States is preparing to establish immediate sole control of postwar Iraq, initially without recourse to the United Nations, with a civilian administration under the direct command of the military, according to senior administration officials.

Even before American troops reach Baghdad, administration officials are assembling a team of civilian officials, largely retired American diplomats, to run Iraq as soon as the fighting is over.

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Saddam starts to sound more like his hero, Uncle Joe
Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 25, 2003

"Be patient," President Saddam kept saying. Be patient. Fourteen times in all, he told the army and the people of Iraq to be patient. "We will win ... we will be victorious against Evil." Patient but confident in victory. Fighting evil.

Wasn't that how President Bush was encouraging his people a few hours earlier? At other times, President Saddam sounded like his hero, Joseph Stalin. "They have come to destroy our country and we must stand and destroy them and defend our people and our country ... Cut their throats ... They are coming to take our land. But when they try to enter our cities, they try to avoid a battle with our forces and to stay outside the range of our weapons."

Was this, one wondered, modelled on the Great Patriotic War, the defence of Mother Russia under Uncle Joe? And if not, how to account for – let us speak frankly – the courage of those hundreds of Iraqi soldiers still holding out under American air and tank attacks?

People, party, patriotism. The three P's ran like a theme through the Saddam speech along with a bitter warning: as the American and British forces made less headway on the ground, President Saddam said, they would use their air power against Iraq ever more brutally.

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This real-time war is getting all too real
James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, March 25, 2003

So which war are you watching? The top American general, Tommy Franks, describes one war: At a press conference yesterday, he declared that American - oops, Coalition - progress has been "rapid" and "dramatic." But Iraqi second-in-command Tariq Aziz describes another: Saddam Hussein, he says, is "in good shape" and "in full control of the army and the country."

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Why Colin Powell should go
Bill Keller, New York Times, March 22, 2003

I can't count the number of times in the past two years I've heard -- occasionally from my own lips -- the observation that the Bush administration would be a much scarier outfit without Colin Powell. Allied diplomats, international businessmen and the American foreign policy mainstream have regarded him as the lone grown-up in an administration with a teenager's twitchy metabolism and self-centered view of the world. He was the one who acknowledged that other countries had legitimate interests, and that in the application of America's unmatched power there was a case for generosity because what goes around comes around. His pragmatic caution offset a moralism that sometimes verged on recklessness. If others, including the president, seemed given to hype and swagger, Mr. Powell's word seemed bankable -- at least until the White House began misspending his credibility in its rush to the war that couldn't wait.

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Blessed are the warmakers?
Foreign Policy, May-June, 2003

The United States and the European Union both want peace in the Middle East -- but that's about all they agree upon. While Washington believes that regime change in Iraq will usher in an era of regional peace and stability, Brussels worries that U.S. adventurism will make the clash of civilizations a self-fulfilling prophecy. Will war in Iraq prove to be an act of creative destruction, or simply destruction? Two outspoken thinkers from opposite sides of the Atlantic -- Richard Perle, a key national security advisor to the Pentagon, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the European Parliament's Green Party -- traded views and barbs at a recent debate in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Helga Flores Trejo, the new Director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation.

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A live report from Baghdad
Nate Thayer, Slate, March 24, 2003

The atmosphere on the street gets more and more menacing every day. There are groups of people chanting anti-American slogans. The military presence has increased dramatically. Outposts and bunkers are on every corner. Roadblocks are set up on all the main streets. The oil trenches ignited over the weekend continue to burn -- casting a literal black cloud over the city. Iraqis assume that American forces will encircle Baghdad, and they are preparing for a siege. [...]

Iraqi officials are continuing to harass us. I was just told that we will be expelled first thing in the morning. They said we will have to drive to Syria -- a 20-hour ride on a highway that we've heard is under bombardment from the coalition. It's a suicide drive, and I am not going to do it. I have about six hours to figure out how to get out of it.

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Marines losing the battle for hearts and minds
James Meek, The Guardian, March 25, 2003

Hopes of a joyful liberation of a grateful Iraq by US and British armies are evaporating fast in the Euphrates valley as a sense of bitterness, germinated from blood spilled and humiliations endured, begins to grow in the hearts of invaded and invader alike.

Attempts by US marines to take bridges over the river Euphrates, which passes through Nassiriya, have become bogged down in casualties and troops taken prisoner. The marines, in turn, have responded harshly.

Out in the plain west of the city, marines shepherding a gigantic series of convoys north towards Baghdad have reacted to ragged sniping with an aggressive series of house searches and arrests.

A surgical assistant at the Saddam hospital in Nassiriya, interviewed at a marine check point outside the city, said that on Sunday, half an hour after two dead marines were brought into the hospital, US aircraft dropped what he described as three or four cluster bombs on civilian areas, killing 10 and wounding 200.

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You should have known we'd fight
Burhan al-Chalabi, The Guardian, March 25, 2003

It is now five days since the British and US governments launched an unprecedented military invasion of my country of birth, its people, land, towns and cities. This attack was launched without UN authority, public support or the will of the international community. To win support for this unjust and illegal campaign, it has been claimed that this is not a colonial war of occupation but a war of liberation; a compassionate war. Britain and the US will save the Iraqis by bombing so they can thrive in a democratic Iraq and live at ease with their neighbours. Those who believed the hype expected the Iraqis to welcome the invading armies. After British troops were forced to retreat from Basra yesterday, a military spokesman said: "We were expecting a lot of hands up, but it hasn't quite worked out that way."

It is now clear to everyone that ordinary Iraqis are resisting this military aggression with their lives and souls. Commentators and politicians in Britain and America seem taken aback: how come the Iraqis are putting up such a fight? Why do they so passionately resist this attempt to liberate them from the brutal dictator, Saddam? But Iraqis aren't surprised at all.

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One rule for them
George Monbiot, The Guardian, March 25, 2003

Suddenly, the government of the United States has discovered the virtues of international law. It may be waging an illegal war against a sovereign state; it may be seeking to destroy every treaty which impedes its attempts to run the world, but when five of its captured soldiers were paraded in front of the Iraqi television cameras on Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, immediately complained that "it is against the Geneva convention to show photographs of prisoners of war in a manner that is humiliating for them".

He is, of course, quite right. Article 13 of the third convention, concerning the treatment of prisoners, insists that they "must at all times be protected... against insults and public curiosity". This may number among the less heinous of the possible infringements of the laws of war, but the conventions, ratified by Iraq in 1956, are non-negotiable. If you break them, you should expect to be prosecuted for war crimes.

This being so, Rumsfeld had better watch his back. For this enthusiastic convert to the cause of legal warfare is, as head of the defence department, responsible for a series of crimes sufficient, were he ever to be tried, to put him away for the rest of his natural life.

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Iraqi city suffers water shortage
David Batty, The Guardian, March 24, 2003

The Red Cross today warned of an imminent humanitarian disaster in Iraq's second city of Basra, as the aid agency struggled to restore water supplies destroyed in the war.

Most of the city has been without water and electricity since Friday, which has been threatening hospitals and sanitation services in the area, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC's spokesman, Florian Westphal, said that tackling the situation in Basra was now its top priority.

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'We're in a dark, dark tunnel'
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, March 24, 2003

While the outside world has grown accustomed to detached images of fire and fury over Baghdad, and the government here boasts of victory over the invaders, this rattled family of five in the middle-class neighborhood of Jihad has watched war turn life upside down. Their world now is isolation, dread and a bitter sense that they do not deserve their fate.

"We're in a dark, dark tunnel, and we don't see the light at the end of it," the daughter-in-law said. [...]

When it came to the cause of Iraq's predicament, family members pointed to Hussein, describing him as rash. He invaded Iran, trapping them in an eight-year war. He seized Kuwait, bringing on the Persian Gulf War and the devastation of sanctions that largely wiped out Iraq's middle class. After that war, they were ready to overthrow him themselves.

But they bitterly denounced the war the United States has launched. Iraq, perhaps more than any other Arab country, dwells on traditions -- of pride, honor and dignity. To this family, the assault is an insult. It is not Hussein under attack, but Iraq, they said. It is hard to gauge if this is a common sentiment, although it is one heard more often as the war progresses.

"We complain about things, but complaining doesn't mean cooperating with foreign governments," the father said. "When somebody comes to attack Iraq, we stand up for Iraq. That doesn't mean we love Saddam Hussein, but there are priorities."

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Outrage in Baghdad
April Hurley M.D., Electronic Iraq, March 24, 2003

In America, the saying goes goes: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

In Bagdhad, at Al Kindi Hospital Emergency, Fatima Abdullah is screaming in outrage: "Why do you do this to us??!"

Her 8 year old, Fatehah is dead, two other daughters are on stretchers wounded by a missle that crushed her uncle's home where they were staying outside Baghdad, near the Diala Bridge. An extended farming family, they have suffered with sanctions and ecomonic devastation shrinking their stock of animals to one cow, a donkey and chickens; they are barely able to feed themselves.

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The Bush administration has repeatedly told the American people that this is a war of liberation. The consequence of failing to persuade sceptics has been the sight of mass demonstrations that while troublesome could ultimately be ignored. The sceptics in Baghdad carry guns. Whether they operate inside or outside a command structure, all they will need to identify their opponents is their own eyes. With a gun, a bullet and the notion that they're defending their homeland, it won't matter whether they love or loathe Saddam. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, and all their friends spent a great deal of energy spreading the message of 'liberation.' Ultimately, there was really only one constituency they needed to convince - the people of Iraq. Was the PR over there more successful than it was here? We'll soon know.

In Baghdad, a deadly risk of urban war
Robert Little, Baltimore Sun, March 24, 2003

American soldiers approaching the outskirts of Baghdad are poised for one of the most dangerous and unpredictable operations of modern combat - a mission they are trained to perform but one that could easily lead to long days of fighting, indiscriminate destruction and casualties on a scale so far avoided in the high-tech age.

Instead of storming Basra and An Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, coalition soldiers were cordoning off those cities. But if Iraq's elite Republican Guard troops are entrenched in Baghdad as suspected - and if they choose to fight - American soldiers could soon wade into some of their heaviest and costliest urban combat since the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive in 1968.

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To the Arabs, this crusade too will fail
James Reston Jr., Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2003

On Sept. 16, 2001, only five days after the apocalypse, President Bush proclaimed a U.S. "crusade" against terrorism. Like many American politicians in our history, from Thomas Jefferson to abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John McCain, he was using the term loosely. In the American political parlance, a crusade, up to now, has meant merely a passionate campaign of moral rectitude.

For the Arab world, as we are learning, "crusade" has an entirely different meaning. In using the word, Bush scratched a raw sore of Arab resentment and handed Muslim fundamentalists a great gift: They could now use the U.S. president's own words in casting the struggle as another Western crusade against Arab lands and Islam itself. Bush's gaffe ensured that the terms of the conflict between the West and the East were defined at the outset: Christianity against Islam, Western materialism vs. Eastern spiritualism. With his talk of preemptive attack and occupation, Bush fed the Arab view of him as the quintessential Western crusader.

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Anti-war movement faces its fork in the road
Todd Gitlin, Los Angeles Times (via Newsday), March 23, 2003

For months now, the antiwar movement has defined itself in opposition to George W. Bush, to his bulldozer style, his hellbent drive toward war with Iraq, his barely disguised contempt for dissent - domestic and foreign - and his preference for "shock and awe" over treaties.

The movement may have been hazy about what it wanted, but it was crystal clear about what it didn't want: war with Saddam Hussein. With war launched, the antiwar movement faces a tactical dilemma and a programmatic one. How does it keep its troops energized? What should the new goals be?

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War is personal
Bob Herbert, New York Times, March 24, 2003

Wars are mostly talked about in grand terms -- precision bombing, shock and awe, triumph and glory, the geopolitical winners and losers.

The polls and the late-night comedians have been telling us that Bush is up and France is down, and that there's nothing more pathetic than a Democrat. When President Bush delivered his final ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, a crowd watching on closed-circuit television at a professional hockey game cheered lustily and began chanting, "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Yesterday we were issued several shocking reminders direct from the battlefield that wars are actually fought on a plane that is excruciatingly, devastatingly personal. As a sergeant who was shot in the back in Vietnam once told me, "There was nothing in the whole world except me and that pain."

In this new era of televised warfare, the Arab satellite station Al Jazeera showed gruesome footage yesterday of several Americans who had been killed and five who were being held as prisoners of war. If you were looking for a reason not to ever make light of warfare, this would be a good one. The prisoners were questioned on camera, and when one was asked why he was in Iraq, he replied, "Because I was told to come here."

However one feels about the pros or cons of this war, this development was heartbreaking. An undisclosed number of American troops in the region saw the footage, and some wept.

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20 Americans dead or missing after day of sharp clashes
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, March 24, 2003

American and British ground forces on Sunday suffered their worst casualties so far while they battled determined Iraqi forces on two fronts in what an American commander said were "the sharpest engagements of the war."

Military officials in the war zone reported that at least 20 American soldiers were missing or killed and 50 or more wounded in a day of ambushes, accidents and tank and artillery engagements.

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Battles rage in Iraqi cities, bodies litter desert
Reuters, March 23, 2003

Charred Iraqi corpses smolder in burned-out trucks. Black smoke hangs over bombed cities where U.S. troops battle Iraqi soldiers. Youths greet British tanks with smiles, then sneer when they have passed.

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Allies split over Iraq's fate
Ian Mather, Scotsman, March 23, 2003

They are united in military action but Britain and the US are divided over what to do with Iraq once war is done.

A fierce diplomatic battle is under way to gain the upper hand. Despite having bypassed the United Nations in order to go to war with Iraq, Tony Blair wants to bring in the organisation at the soonest possible moment and give it a major role in running Iraq until a legitimate government of Iraqis can be established.

US plans for post-war Iraq are more like those they put into place for a defeated Japan after the Second World War. General Tommy Franks, commander-in-chief of the American and British forces, will probably take control of Iraq as soon as Saddam Hussein is deposed, to become a modern version of General Douglas MacArthur, who was appointed de facto ruler of Japan by President Truman.

This solution is not what the British want. Britain is loath to see a foreign occupation of Iraq because of its own colonial history there, and is pushing for a full-blown UN administration along the lines of those in Kosovo and East Timor, with another UN agency to control Iraq’s oil.

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Air raids wreck civilian homes in Baghdad
Hassan Hafidh, Reuters, March 23, 2003

When Shafa Hussein returned from taking her sick son to a Baghdad hospital, she found her home in ruins, destroyed in U.S.-British air strikes.

Her house in the Qadissiya residential area of central Baghdad was reduced to rubble and all her belongings, including money, food and furniture, were buried under heaps of concrete.

"Thank God that my husband, my child and myself were not hurt," said the distraught 39-year-old woman.

Five other houses were demolished and 12 damaged in the raid, which residents said took place at 7:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. EST) on Saturday. They said several people had been wounded and taken to the nearby Yarmouk hospital, but no one had been killed.

The target of what residents said had been cruise missiles was not clear. President Saddam Husssein's Salam palace, hit in air strikes on Friday, is about two miles away. [...]

"This is real terrorism. Innocent people are sitting in their homes and bombs fall on their heads. I ask America, isn't this terrorism?" said Hulayel al-Jekhafi, whose house was damaged in the attack on the Qadissiya neighborhood.

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How a walkover turned into a three-day battle
Daniel McGrory and Tim Butcher, The Times, March 24, 2003

The skies over Umm Qasr burned orange last night as the allies brought in tanks, aircraft and heavy artillery in an attempt to bring to an end a three-day siege.

The scale of the resistance met by allied forces in Iraq's only deep-water port has stunned coalition forces.

Intelligence officers had assured the US Marines that they would meet at most a handful of Iraqi diehards refusing to surrender when they marched into Umm Qasr, and on Friday allies spoke of "pockets of resistance".

By last night that assessment had proved so wide of the mark that Marine commanders, edging nervously through the backstreets of this decrepit port, refused to predict how many more gunmen might be waiting for them. One officer said: "The fighting has got worse with each day. So much for the walkover we were told to expect."

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Flags in the dust
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, March 24, 2003

Most wars start by accident or with a flourish of misplaced jingoism. But this war is unique. It is hard to recall any conflict in history that aroused so much opposition even before it began. At best its legitimacy and purpose is in serious doubt. At worst, millions regard it as illegal and/or immoral.

Besides that, it is led by a president for whom few outside the United States have any respect. Just as the onus was placed on Iraq, during the period of inspections, to prove that it had no weapons of mass destruction, the onus now is on the invasion forces to convince a sceptical world of their bona fides. This is probably impossible to do, since the official and unofficial aims of the war cannot be reconciled. [...]

Friday brought the appalling "Shock n' Awe Show" which, in its visual effects, resembled something that might have been conceived by a big-budget Hollywood director. Its military purpose, if any, is still far from clear, and those shocked by it were mainly TV viewers outside Iraq.

After decades of wars, sanctions and repression, Iraqis themselves have become inured to almost anything. As the attack was ending, some of the Arab TV channels lingered for a few seconds on a bizarre scene in flickering night-vision green: Iraqi spectators standing in open parkland on the opposite side of the river, watching the fireworks.

Though this attack was meant to terrify the Baghdad regime into submission, nobody in Washington seems to have anticipated its effect on the rest of the world. To some in the Arab and Muslim countries, Shock and Awe is terrorism by another name; to others, a crime that compares unfavourably with September 11.

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At 100 hours, Iraq war is no re-run of Gulf triumph
Douglas Hamilton, Reuters, March 24, 2003

Military analysts said the entire operation was now entering a crucial phase which could show whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's gamble on lighter but sharper armies would pay off or prove to be too great a risk.

"The next 72 hours could show whether we've overplayed our hand," said MSNBC television analyst Dan Goure, noting that the northern front Washington had originally hoped to open from Turkey did not exist, due to Ankara's refusal to allow it.

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Richard Perle's conflict
Editorial, New York Times, March 24, 2003

As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle has been an influential architect of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and war plans. At the same time, it turns out, he has signed on to represent a major telecommunications company that has a strong financial interest in lobbying the Defense Department. This is a conflict pure and simple, and Mr. Perle should immediately drop one of his two roles.

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'This makes us love Saddam, not America'
34 die as US missiles hit wrong target

Luke Harding, The Guardian, March 24, 2003

The last thing that Omar Mohammed Saeed heard was the sound of the American missile plunging through the roof of his dormitory. It was 12.30 at night, and Mr Saeed and his fellow peshmerga fighters had been fast asleep.

The laser-guided bomb reduced the compound where Mr Saeed had been staying into a tomb of pulverised concrete and metal. There was no chance of escape.

"We don't understand. Why did America do this? My uncle was a kind man who would never have hurt anybody," his nephew, Sadar Mohammed, said yesterday. "This makes us love Saddam Hussein rather than America," he added.

Mr Saeed was killed in a US missile strike against Iraq in the early hours of Saturday. Over the weekend the US fired more than 70 missiles at territory in north-east Iraq controlled by Ansar al-Islam, a radical Islamist group linked by the Bush administration to al-Qaida.

It was Mr Saeed's misfortune that on the night the missiles fell from the sky he was sleeping in the next-door village. Most of the missiles landed on Ansar's tiny mountainous enclave, close to the town of Halabja and the Iranian border.

But four missiles hit Khormal, a large neighbouring village, and the headquarters of another Islamic group, Komala. [...]

Ansar's guerrillas have been expecting an American attack since late January, when the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, told the UN that the group had links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Its fighters took to the mountains long ago, and appear to have survived the bombardment largely unscathed.

Mr Saeed and his comrades, by contrast, were not thought to be on any US target list. They have no known connection with al-Qaida or with Baghdad. They have spent most of their life fighting Saddam Hussein.

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It's my family they're bombing
Aida Kaisy, The Guardian, March 24, 2003

If you catch yourself getting a bit of a kick out of seeing all the weaponry in action, try to remember that, contrary to the images on your television screens, people live in the building you've just seen annihilated, or in the suburb they've just announced is the next target. A missile that "accurately" hits the ministry of defence could well flatten a school next door, and on the pavement outside there will be people carrying on with their lives as best they can.

People in Iraq have to venture outside at some point if they are to survive the coming weeks. Many of my family are doctors and medics, so they have no choice but to be out on the streets of Baghdad. When I see reports of the latest attack, my first thought is not what amazing new technology America has, but which member of my family lives or works in that area .

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Nightmare in a minefield
James Meek, The Observer, March 23, 2003

Among the thousands of frightened US Marines out there in the dark on the night America invaded Iraq, Kyle Brisebois, a veteran at 33, should have been one of the cool, confident father figures to the younger men. He kept his head, but the hours of combat and chaos he saw in the fight to take Iraq's oilfields from Thursday to Friday were worse than anything he had experienced in the 1991 Gulf war.

His account to The Observer was one of the first to reveal the intensity of that first night across the border, and the blunders and breakdowns which are the bleak, farcical reality of war.

'It was a nightmare,' he said yesterday, spitting regularly from a plug of chewing tobacco as he waited on a motorway bridge near Basra, preparing to move west. 'It was the worst fucking night of my life.'

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A movement, yes, but no counterculture
John Leland, New York Times, March 23, 2003

Three and a half decades ago, protesters massed with a political goal -- to end a war -- but also out of a conviction that many of the values undergirding American society were flawed: 1950's conformity, the materialistic rat race, racism, and even monogamy and the nuclear family. The alternative values they expressed through fashion, music, sexual mores and other lifestyle choices seemed to propose an entirely different world. And many historians feel that this counterculture shaped America more profoundly and for years longer than the stop-the-war rallies.

But as protesters came together across the country last week, with a few radical contingents disrupting cities or destroying property, so far there has been little sense that they also shared a common desire to remake the country's values and institutions.

"It's been amazingly diverse," said Paul Buhle, a lecturer in American civilization and history at Brown University and founder of the New Left Journal of Radical America. "Typically, the radicalizing experience in America is that a group of people wake up and say, 'Everything I've been told is a lie.' And so you have a movement for change in values about race, sexuality, peace and art, all coming together in periods of stress. So far, we've seen very little of that. The only thing that unites people is fear of the consequences of war."

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Good foreign policy a casualty of war
Today, it is we Americans who live in infamy

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2003

We are at war again -- not because of enemy attack, as in World War II, nor because of incremental drift, as in the Vietnam War -- but because of the deliberate and premeditated choice of our own government.

Now that we are embarked on this misadventure, let us hope that our intervention will be swift and decisive, and that victory will come with minimal American, British and civilian Iraqi casualties.

But let us continue to ask why our government chose to impose this war. The choice reflects a fatal turn in U.S. foreign policy, in which the strategic doctrine of containment and deterrence that led us to peaceful victory during the Cold War has been replaced by the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. The president has adopted a policy of "anticipatory self-defense" that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor on a date which, as an earlier American president said it would, lives in infamy.

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CIA questioned documents linking Iraq, uranium ore
Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, March 22, 2003

CIA officials now say they communicated significant doubts to the administration about the evidence backing up charges that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons, charges that found their way into President Bush's State of the Union address, a State Department "fact sheet" and public remarks by numerous senior officials.

That evidence was dismissed as a forgery early this month by United Nations officials investigating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The Bush administration does not dispute this conclusion.

Asked how the administration came to back up one of its principal allegations against Iraq with information its own intelligence service considered faulty, officials said all such assertions were carefully tailored to stay within the bounds of certainty. As for the State of the Union address, a White House spokesman said, "all presidential speeches are fully vetted by the White House staff and relevant U.S. government agencies for factual correctness."

Questioned about the forgery during a recent congressional hearing, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "We were aware of this piece of evidence, and it was provided in good faith to the [U.N.] inspectors."

But in the days preceding the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, some intelligence officials had begun to acknowledge more openly their doubts about how this and other information was used to support charges that Iraq has a significant covert program to produce weapons of mass destruction.

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US general: 'West is failing Afghans'
Phil Reeves, The Independent, March 23, 2003

As American and British cruise missiles create havoc in Baghdad, a US general has accused the West of failing to do enough to rebuild the last country visited by President Bush's military – Afghanistan.

His remarks come amid widespread fury in the international community over the US-British invasion of Iraq, coupled with concern that the onslaught began before adequate preparations had been made for a possible humanitarian crisis.

The chief of the US forces in Afghanistan, Lt-Gen Dan McNeill, said he was "frustrated" that the West had "not made a more bold step" to rebuild Afghanistan, adding that this could be an important lesson for Iraq. The US search for al-Qa'ida and the Taliban would have been easier if the aid had flowed faster, he said.

His remarks echo the worries of many in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul, ranging from international aid workers to officials in the unstable transitional government of President Hamid Karzai. Fears abound that the war in Iraq, and its aftermath, will mean that international support falls away.

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The philosopher of Islamic terror
Paul Berman, New York Times, March 23, 2003

In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, many people anticipated a quick and satisfying American victory over Al Qaeda. The terrorist army was thought to be no bigger than a pirate ship, and the newly vigilant police forces of the entire world were going to sink the ship with swift arrests and dark maneuvers. Al Qaeda was driven from its bases in Afghanistan. Arrests and maneuvers duly occurred and are still occurring. Just this month, one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants was nabbed in Pakistan. Police agents, as I write, seem to be hot on the trail of bin Laden himself, or so reports suggest.

Yet Al Qaeda has seemed unfazed. Its popularity, which was hard to imagine at first, has turned out to be large and genuine in more than a few countries. Al Qaeda upholds a paranoid and apocalyptic worldview, according to which ''Crusaders and Zionists'' have been conspiring for centuries to destroy Islam. And this worldview turns out to be widely accepted in many places -- a worldview that allowed many millions of people to regard the Sept. 11 attacks as an Israeli conspiracy, or perhaps a C.I.A. conspiracy, to undo Islam. Bin Laden's soulful, bearded face peers out from T-shirts and posters in a number of countries, quite as if he were the new Che Guevara, the mythic righter of cosmic wrongs.

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Perle's plunder blunder
Maureen Dowd, New York Times, March 23, 2003

It's Richard Perle's world. We're just fighting in it.

The Prince of Darkness, a man who whips up revelatory soufflés and revolutionary pre-emption doctrines with equal ease, took a victory lap at the American Enterprise Institute on Friday morning.

The critical battle for Baghdad was yet to come and "Shock and Awe" was still a few hours away. (The hawks, who are trying to send a message to the world not to mess with America, might have preferred an even more intimidating bombing campaign title, like "Operation Who's Your Daddy?")

Yet Mr. Perle, an adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, could not resist a little pre-emptive crowing about pre-emption, predicting "a general recognition that high moral purpose has been achieved here. Millions of people have been liberated."

His conservative audience at the Reagan shrine's "black coffee briefing" (they're too macho for milk and sugar) was buzzed that their cherished dream of saving Iraq by bombing it was under way.

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Israeli commentators delight in destruction
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, March 23, 2003

It's been a long time since we've seen such enthusiasm. The television studios are filled to overflowing with major generals and brigadier generals who are terribly impressed with the war in Iraq and attempt to infect the viewers with their delight. Veteran warmongers, some of whom are responsible for past wars of choice and for appalling fiascos, hallucinatory operations and unnecessary bloodshed, are now the voice of national reason. Avigdor Ben Gal, for instance, a senior commander in the Lebanon War, without batting an eye called on the IDF to find an immediate "pretext" under cover of the Iraq war for returning to Lebanon. Others who dragged us into unnecessary adventurism, and their colleagues who turned the IDF into a brutal occupation army in the territories, are now our only national commentators.

It was apparent already during the waiting period that the lengthy anticipation was hard on them: They considered every postponement a terrible mistake and every debate about the justification for the war was heresy. Now that the forces are finally on their way, their enthusiasm bursts forth, not merely about the very outbreak of the war, but about the sophisticated equipment being used. The smart bombs and the guided missiles, the satellite navigation and the turbofan engines, the Stealth bombers and the mega-bombs are firing their imagination.

A smile akin to that of a child describing his new toys spreads on their face as they describe the magical allure of the American power of destruction. Former air force commanders, who apparently find it difficult to give up their posts, describe horrific bombing runs or flying extermination machines as if they were works of art.

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Rallies across U.S. keep anti-war message alive
San Jose Mercury News, March 23, 2003

Nearly 200,000 anti-war demonstrators took to the streets of Manhattan on Saturday, protesting the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq even as bombs rained down on Baghdad again.

Smaller demonstrations took place in dozens of cities nationwide, from thousands marching in San Francisco to several hundred protesters snaking through downtown Washington, chanting, "No blood for oil!"

In New York, the turnout for a march that was 20 abreast and 40 blocks long surprised some parade organizers. They had worried that the round-the-clock bombing and videotape of U.S. tanks racing across the Iraqi desert might cause some anti-war Americans to despair. Instead, unofficial police estimates of the crowd size grew steadily through the day, and marchers spoke of their determination to be heard a final time.

"It's too late to stop the war, but it's important to register that this is an unpopular war," said Joe Fitzgerald, 45, a musician who marched past Manhattan's tree-lined Union Square with his child and his wife, Deane Beebe. "Our government's reasoning is so nakedly cynical -- one day it's because of Al-Qaida, then weapons of mass destruction, then to establish a military presence.

"The pretext for this invasion changes ever day."

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For Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turks, when war stops, the trouble starts
David Pryce-Jones, The Telegraph, March 23, 2003

Saddam will soon be gone. Then what happens? One prediction is a bloodbath - a bloodbath followed by Saddam Mark II. The pessimists believe that the various groupings who inhabit Iraq - the Sunnis and the Shias, the Kurds, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Turcomen, to name just some of them - will fracture, and relations between them will degenerate quickly into civil war.

The State Department and the Foreign Office have always felt that Iraq was only held together by terror. That was why both Britain and America spent so much time and money supporting Saddam: they knew he was brutal - but they thought that only a tyrannical thug like him could prevent Iraq from imploding.

I am not a pessimist, and I believe that view is wrong - but there is an element of truth in it. Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic groups certainly have a serious potential for conflict. The northern city of Kirkuk, which is on the biggest oil-field in Iraq, is a good example of the kind of problem that lies in wait.

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This is the reality of war. We bomb. They suffer
Robert Fisk, The Independent, March 23, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld says the American attack on Baghdad is "as targeted an air campaign as has ever existed" but he should not try telling that to five-year-old Doha Suheil. She looked at me yesterday morning, drip feed attached to her nose, a deep frown over her small face as she tried vainly to move the left side of her body. The cruise missile that exploded close to her home in the Radwaniyeh suburb of Baghdad blasted shrapnel into her tiny legs ­ they were bound up with gauze ­ and, far more seriously, into her spine. Now she has lost all movement in her left leg.

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