The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
When to say war is won?
R.W. Apple Jr., New York Times, April 6, 2003

How and when, it seems worth asking, will the United States and its allies know they have won the Iraqi war?

In an echo of World War II, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week that the Bush administration would settle for nothing short of unconditional surrender. But a half-century ago the Allies were willing to pulverize German and Japanese cities to force the Axis to submit. Nothing like that is planned now.

On a number of occasions, President Bush has defined the war as an effort to bring about "regime change" in Baghdad, which sounds simple enough: Get rid of Saddam Hussein and his coterie and replace them, as soon as possible, with a more benign, proto-democratic government. But it is not just a matter of driving Saddam & Company from their offices, palaces and hideouts.

As recently as a week ago, Washington talked glibly of "decapitation." But no vainglorious pledge was made to capture Mr. Hussein, "dead or alive," as had been made with respect to the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who is embarrassingly still at large, as far as anyone here can discover. [ complete article ]

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The greater threat
A menace grows from Bush's Korean blind spot

Eric Margolis, The American Conservative, April 7, 2003

President George W. Bush looks like a man who is so obsessed with hunting a pesky but elusive mouse in his basement that he fails to notice that the top floor of his house is on fire.

Two recent events capture the bizarre, almost surreal nature of the twin crises over Iraq and North Korea that now confront the stumbling Bush administration. [ complete article ]

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The line out of Washington right now is that it is the coalition, that has shed "life and blood," that will have the lead role in shaping the government of post-war Iraq. The other major member of the coaltion, Britain (a country that has matched the number of US troops, per capita, and experienced a disproportionately higher number of casualties) is calling for the UN to play a leading role in the reconstruction of Iraq. Early next week, as Tony Blair and George Bush meet in Northern Ireland, Blair gets to find out whether he really has the ear of the President or whether the coalition has two voices, one that gets heard while the other gets ignored.

Condoleezza Rice says U.S., not U.N. will rebuild Iraq
David E. Sanger and John Tagliabue, New York Times, April 5, 2003

President Bush's national security adviser said today that the American-led alliance had shed "life and blood" in the Iraq war and would reserve for itself -- and not the United Nations -- the lead role in creating a new Iraqi government.

In declaring that the United Nations would have a secondary role in reconstructing Iraq and leading the country toward eventual elections, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, seemed certain to fuel the latest trans-Atlantic dispute between the Bush administration and its traditional allies. [ complete article ]

Britain offers plan for U.N.'s postwar role
Colum Lynch, Washington Post, April 5, 2003

Britain has prepared a detailed plan for the postwar governance of Iraq that would legitimize the use of force by coalition powers to quell resistance and provide a key role for the United Nations in selecting a new Iraqi interim authority and managing the country's oil wealth.

The British proposals are not being presented for an immediate vote, but rather are aimed at influencing the debate on Iraq's future in Washington and at the United Nations. Britain is concerned that the Bush administration's plans to unilaterally establish an interim authority headed by U.S. officials and Iraqi exiles will undermine efforts to unify the U.N. Security Council behind an internationally backed reconstruction effort. [ complete article ]

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Hearts, minds and bodybags
Iraq can't be a Vietnam, pundits insist. Those who were there know better

James Fox, The Guardian, April 5, 2003

George C Scott, as General Patton in the eponymous film, hisses: "Rommel, you sonofabitch, I read your book". The key book for the Iraqis was written by General Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant architect of the war against the French and the Americans. It was published in English in 1961, under the title People's War, People's Army, long before the US war in Vietnam hotted up. Though full of partyspeak, it shows how easy it is to hold up and demoralise a hugely superior army that has a long supply convoy. Giap exploited what he called "the contradictions of the aggressive colonial war". The invaders have to fan out and operate far from their bases. When they deploy, said Giap, "their broken-up units become easy prey". First harass the enemy, "rotting" away his rear and reserves, forcing him to deploy troops to defend bases and perimeters.

"Is the enemy strong?" wrote Giap. "One avoids him. Is he weak? One attacks him." There will never be enough troops to hold down the scattered guerrilla forces. General William Westmoreland, commander of US forces in Vietnam, estimated that he would have needed 2 million troops to "pacify" the country. At the peak of the war he had half that number. You can apply the principle to Baghdad or the country beyond - the topography matters less than the principle. [ complete article ]

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Terrorism task force detains an American without charges
Timothy Egan, New York Times, April 4, 2003

For the last two weeks, Maher Hawash, a 38-year-old software engineer and American citizen who was from the West Bank and grew up in Kuwait, has been held in a federal prison here, though he has not been charged with a crime or brought before a judge.

Relatives and friends of Mr. Hawash, who works for the Intel Corporation and is married to a native Oregonian, say he has no idea why he was arrested by a federal terrorism task force when he arrived for work at the Intel parking lot in Hillsboro, a Portland suburb. The family home was raided at dawn on the same day by nearly a dozen armed police officers, who woke Mrs. Hawash and the family's three children, friends said.

Mr. Hawash, who is known as Mike, has yet to be interrogated and is being kept in solitary confinement, his supporters say.

Federal officials will not comment on Mr. Hawash, though they have been pressed by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and by a group of supporters led by a former Intel vice president, for basic information about why he is being detained. [ complete article ]

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The Pentagon's (CIA) man in Iraq
David Corn, The Nation, April 4, 2003

Toward the start of the second Persian Gulf War, I found myself in a room with R. James Woolsey, CIA chief during the first two years of the Clinton administration. A television was turned on, and we both watched a news report on the latest development in the North Korea nuclear drama. How much longer, I asked him, could this administration wait before dealing with North Korea and its efforts to develop nuclear-weapons material? A little while, but not too long, he said. Until after the Iraq war? Yes, Woolsey said, we can take care of things then. (That was when the prevailing assumption was the war in Iraq would take about as long as a Donald Rumsfeld press conference.) And, I wondered, is this a challenge that can be taken care of with, say, a well-planned and contained bombing raid, one that strikes the nuclear facilities in question? "Oh, no, " he said. "This is going to be war." War, full-out war, with a nation that might already have a few nuclear weapons and that does have 600,000 North Korean soldiers stationed 25 miles from Seoul, with 37,000 US troops in between? "Yes, war." He didn't flinch, didn't bat an eye.

Woolsey is something of a prophet of war. And the Pentagon wants him to be part of its team running postwar Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Turf war rages in Washington over who will rule Iraq
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, April 5, 2003

The Bush administration was scrambling to finalise an interim government for post-war Iraq yesterday, amid a turf war pitting the Pentagon and the Vice-President's office against the State Department and Congress in Washington.

The battle concerns not only the American officials who will supervise the new ministries, but the role of exiled Iraqi leaders and the extent of United Nations involvement. Above all, it is a struggle between Colin Powell's State Department and the Pentagon of Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, supported by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President.

With victory in Iraq in sight, the names of the Americans who will supervise new ministries to replace the existing 23 in the crumbling regime of Saddam Hussein are still far from certain. Last week the Pentagon vetoed a State Department list of eight nominees, but whether the rejection is final is not clear. [ complete article ]

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Iraq debts could add up to trouble
Warren Vieth, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2003

To hear some Bush administration officials tell it, the reconstruction of Iraq will largely pay for itself, thanks to a postwar gusher of petroleum revenue.

"The one thing that is certain is Iraq is a wealthy nation," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.

A look at the national balance sheet tells a different story.

Iraq will emerge from the war a financial shambles, many economists say, with a debt load bigger than that of Argentina, a cash flow crunch rivaling those of Third World countries, a mountain of unresolved compensation claims, a shaky currency, high unemployment, galloping inflation and a crumbling infrastructure expected to sustain more damage before the shooting stops.

And the more oil Iraq produces to pump up its earnings, the more likely it becomes that prices will fall, leaving it no better off than before. [ complete article ]

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Al-Jazeera's approach choice of many Arab-Americans
Haitham Haddadin, Reuters, April 4, 2003

Perched atop a hillside road, the Khourys' red brick house in a New York suburb blends into a neighborhood that's picture-perfect Americana: green lawns, kids playing baseball and Old Glory fluttering in the wind.

But inside, something is different. The family's 36-inch television beams images that bring tears to Ray Khoury's eyes.

Khoury gets what he calls an "unfiltered" view of the Iraq war -- with vivid images of death, destruction and gore -- beamed by the controversial al-Jazeera network and other Arabic satellite stations. The picture he and thousands of other Arab-Americans are getting is a world away from the version most Americans see, they say. [ complete article ]

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Arab media portray war as killing field
Susan Sachs, New York Times, April 4, 2003

It was a picture of Arab grief and rage. A teenage boy glared from the rubble of a bombed building as a veiled woman wept over the body of a relative.

In fact, it was two pictures: one from the American-led war in Iraq and the other from the Palestinian territories, blended into one image this week on the Web site of the popular Saudi daily newspaper Al Watan.

The meaning would be clear to any Arab reader: what is happening in Iraq is part of one continuous brutal assault by America and its allies on defenseless Arabs, wherever they are.

As the Iraq war moved into its third week, the media in the region have increasingly fused images and enemies from this and other conflicts into a single bloodstained tableau.

The Israeli flag is superimposed on the American flag. The Crusades and the 13th-century Mongul sack of Baghdad, recalled as barbarian attacks on Arab civilization, are used as synonyms for the American-led invasion of Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Confusion shrouds Shia 'fatwa'
BBC News, April 4, 2003

Confusion now shrouds a US claim on Thursday that Iraq's supreme Shia Muslim cleric had issued a religious decree calling on the populace not to impede coalition forces.

The US Central Command on Thursday said the Grand Ayatollah Mirza Ali Sistani had instructed the Iraqi people "to remain calm and to not interfere with coalition actions".

Such an edict would be a significant blow to Saddam Hussein's efforts to enlist the support of Shia Muslims and other Muslim Arabs in his battle against coalition forces and to present the conflict as a "holy war".

But his son-in-law and spokesman, Ayatollah Sharestani, who is based in the Iranian holy city of Qom, could not confirm that any such fatwa had been issued.

That implied that a contradictory exhortation by Grand Ayatollah Sistani last week to stand up against invading forces still stood, despite the fact it could have been issued under duress from pro-Saddam Hussein militias. [ complete article ]

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Samar's story
Kim Sengupta, The Independent, April 4, 2003

Samar Hussein was in the kitchen helping her aunt Alia Mijbas to make breakfast when the missile landed. The farmhouse where they lived, like most of the homes in the area, is built of a soft, brown stone, and the explosion was close enough for shrapnel to cut through the house's outer walls like butter and slice into Samar's stomach. Alia was struck on both legs by razor-sharp fragments, while her five-year-old son Mahmood, who was drinking a glass of milk, was hit on the chest and shoulders. The blast knocked over the cooker, which burst into flames, severely burning one of Mahmood's brothers, 11-year-old Sahal. All were rushed to hospital, but Samar died before they got there. She was 13 years old.

The victims of this particular explosion were in Manaria, a village in Mohammedia district, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. Since the war began, this mostly rural area of dusty brown fields and quiet villages has seen 53 inhabitants injured and 22 killed. [ complete article ]

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'Liberated' city where looters run wild and death stalks the streets
Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, April 4, 2003

Nasiriyah is a city of suffering. After some of the most intense and bloody fighting yet of this war, the United States has now declared this city of up to 300,000 people in its control – the largest city in Iraq to have been "liberated". Liberation has come at a price of undoubted suffering for the people of this settlement on the Euphrates: doctors claim that up to 250 people were killed by US air strikes or artillery attacks, and that up to 1,000 were injured.

And it is not as though the Allied victory is complete. While much of the Iraqi army and Fedayeen militia may have been destroyed or forced underground, the city has been given over to lawlessness and looting. [ complete article ]

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Held under house arrest by Saddam for a decade, could this cleric be a secret weapon for the Allies?
Paul Vallely, The Independent, April 4, 2003

Iraq's most senior religious leader issued a fatwa yesterday urging the country's majority Shia community not to hinder the US and British armies. It could prove as significant a development for the invading forces as any of the military victories of the past few days.

The ruling, from Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani – the foremost Shia authority in Iraq – called on Muslims to keep calm, stay at home, not put themselves in danger and not to fight. It could add the decisive weight to the scales of war. [ complete article ]

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Hawkish lawyer to oversee Iraqi ministries
The Pentagon selects group to take power

Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, April 4, 2003

A Pentagon lawyer who sought to have US citizens imprisoned indefinitely without charge as part of the war on terrorism will supervise civil administration in Iraq once Saddam Hussein is removed.

Michael Mobbs, 54, who will take charge of 11 of the 23 Iraqi ministries, is one of several controversial appointments to the Pentagon-controlled government-in-waiting being assembled in a cluster of seaside villas in Kuwait.

Other top-level appointees include James Woolsey, a former CIA director with Israeli connections who has long pursued a theory that President Hussein, rather than Islamic militants, was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York. Another is Zalmay Khalilzad, who once sympathised with the Taliban but later changed tack.

During the Reagan administration, Mr Mobbs worked at the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, where he became known for his hawkish views on national security and American-Soviet relations.

On these issues he was closely aligned with the assistant defence secretary at the time, Richard Perle, who is widely regarded as chief architect of the war. [ complete article ]

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He's a beast, but he's their beast
Walter Reich, Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2003

Years ago, as he was honing the skills of assassin and thug that would enable him to seize power in Iraq, Saddam Hussein invited Baath Party colleagues to see his library. They were shocked to find it was filled with books about Josef Stalin. The Soviet dictator, Hussein explained, was his hero and role model.

Today, Stalin's story can teach us a lot, not only about the nature of Hussein's totalitarian rule but also about the ways in which such rule can, paradoxically, elicit genuine allegiance -- the kind for which some citizens may be willing to die. This allegiance -- as much as coercion or fear -- may explain why some Iraqi soldiers have been willing to face almost certain death by confronting our vastly more powerful troops. [ complete article ]

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Coalition military accused of mistreating reporters
Ciar Byrne, The Guardian, April 1, 2003

The international press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres has accused US and British coalition forces in Iraq of displaying "contempt" for journalists covering the conflict who are not embedded with troops.

The criticism comes after a group of four "unilateral" or roving reporters revealed how they were arrested by US military police as they slept near an American unit 100 miles south of Baghdad and held overnight.

They described their ordeal as "the worst 48 hours in our lives".

"Many journalists have come under fire, others have been detained and questioned for several hours and some have been mistreated, beaten and humiliated by coalition forces," said the RSF secretary general, Robert Menard. [ complete article ]

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Military puzzle as US advances
Jonathan Marcus, BBC News, April 3, 2003

All the signs are that US troops have been ordered to press on with their rapid advance on Baghdad. But despite some local counter-attacks, the level of Iraqi resistance has been puzzling. Is the Republican Guard a phantom army? Has its armour and artillery been destroyed from the air? Or have its forces simply melted away in the face of the US advance to take up new positions closer to Baghdad?

There is no doubt that the pace and scale of the US thrust on the Iraqi capital has been remarkable. This movement will be studied in the staff colleges for many years to come, was the comment of one senior British commander here in Qatar. Key objectives have already been identified on the routes into Baghdad, and these could well be in US hands within the next couple of days if the current rate of progress continues.

But for all the precision and choreographed logistical support, there is one great mystery - where have the Iraqi formations gone? [ complete article ]

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U.S., allies clash over plan to use Iraqi oil profits for rebuilding
Colum Lynch and Peter Behr, Washington Post, April 3, 2003

The Defense Department is pressing ahead with plans to temporarily manage Iraq's oil industry after the war and to use the proceeds to rebuild the country, creating a conflict with U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East, according to diplomats and industry experts.

The White House maintains that Iraq's oil revenue is essential to financing the country's postwar reconstruction. The administration intends to install a senior American oil executive to oversee Iraq's exploration and production. Iraqi experts now outside the country would be recruited to handle future oil sales. Industry sources said former Shell Oil Co. chief executive Philip J. Carroll is the leading candidate to direct production.

But the postwar oil strategy is clouded by legal questions about the right of the United States to manage Iraq's oil fields. Administration officials are searching for a legal basis to justify the U.S. plan. If the war succeeds, the United States may claim a legal right as an occupying power to sell the oil for the benefit of Iraq, people close to the situation said.

U.N. and British officials said the United States lacks the legal authority to begin exporting oil even on an interim basis without a new Security Council mandate. Iraq's oil sales before the war were controlled by the United Nations under its oil-for-food program. [ complete article ]

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Tony Blair is likely to soon be confronted with the real nature of his special relationship with George Bush. Blair has long championed the international cause and continues to do so in arguing that the UN must play a central role in the reconstruction of Iraq. Current negotiations, however, lead to the expectation that any concessions made by the Bush administration will be hollow gestures. The UN will be given a seat at the table as perhaps a coordinator of humanitarian relief and fundraising. Meanwhile, the real center of power will remain inside the Pentagon and as the saying goes, power is never relinquished without a struggle.

White House signals bigger role for UN in postwar government
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, April 3, 2003

The White House appeared to signal yesterday that it might be willing to accept a greater role for the United Nations in the interim postwar government of Iraq than previously indicated, including a special UN representative with civil administration powers.

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, met President George Bush in Washington on Wednesday and later said he felt that the argument inside the administration "had been won by those who believe there should be a role for the UN".

"The idea of the United Nations special representative or special co-ordinator is one they feel comfortable with," Mr Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Asked if such a representative would have a role in running the country, Mr Downer said he envisaged "an adviser and an assistant to the Iraqi interim administration", or a "liaison point" between the UN and Iraq's government.

But the idea of a UN figure with any governmental involvement goes further than Mr Bush's speeches to date, which have mentioned little more than that he favours the organisation having some kind of role. [ complete article ]

UN rule or UN role?
Lead Editorial, The Guardian, April 3, 2003

Tony Blair acknowledged yesterday that there are disagreements between Britain and the US over postwar Iraq. Before the war started, admissions of this kind were a no-go area. But there will be more such talk when Colin Powell sits down with his EU and Nato opposite numbers in Brussels today to discuss the issue. Washington and London disagree not just about Iraq's future. There are divisions too over the treatment of Iraqi prisoners, and over US sword-rattling against Syria and Iran. But the question is whether these interesting differences are sufficient to lead the government to draw a line; or whether, as Mr Blair characteristically says, they can be reconciled.

If experience is a guide, the government will end up supinely supporting whatever line the Bush administration finally takes. [ complete article ]

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Urban warfare
Pentagon plans for worst nightmare

Oliver Burkeman, Stuart Millar, and Nick Paton Walsh, The Guardian, April 3, 2003

American and British military tacticians rarely tire of invoking the name of Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher of war credited with laying the groundwork for everything from "decapitation strikes" to the policy of "shock and awe". But as coalition troops push north for an assault on Baghdad, through stubborn opposition from the most highly trained of Saddam Hussein's fighters, it is another aphorism of Sun Tzu's that may be ringing in the ears of their commanders. "The worst policy," he wrote, brooking no argument, "is to attack cities."

There is nothing encouraging about the list of bloody, high-casualty urban entanglements that strategists on both sides of the Atlantic have been scrutinising for lessons they might apply if drawn into a street-by-street fight for the Iraqi capital. From Stalingrad, Manila and Seoul to Beirut, Grozny and Mogadishu, the history of what the US marines call Mout - military operations on urbanised terrain, known to the British as Fibua, for fighting in built-up areas - is one of massive civilian and military casualties with incendiary effects on public opinion back home. [ complete article ]

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A "clash of civilizations"? Sort of....
Peter Stephenson, Electronic Intafada, April 2, 2003

As I watch the "hourly" news and see military convoys "roll" along roads which were already ancient in the time of Jesus, I can not help but be feel overwhelmed by the irony that the very intervals of time, and modes of transport, and calculations used in the attack on Iraq were first created in this same place, along with the concept of civilization the invaders assume they are there to uphold.

Do these soldiers and their commanders actually understand that this is the cradle of civilization, and that they, too, have a stake in it? Do they understand that the very legal rights they feel themselves to be fighting for and the very kinds of food that nourishes them have their origins there? Do they know that the wheeled vehicles they ride upon come from there? Moreover, how will the residents, many of whom know much of their own luminous history, feel about the new heroes from America who have given them "Big Macs, Mickey mouse and thermonuclear war," as one Canadian writer (Paul William Roberts) recently put it? [ complete article ]

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Which war am I watching?
Claude Salhani, UPI, April 1, 2003

Is this live broadcast of the mother of all battles -- the one to bring democracy to Mesopotamia -- or yet, another frightening comparison -- specters of Israel's 1982 incursion into Lebanon, another attempt to "liberate" an Arab nation from oppression and impose security.

Indeed the similarities between the current conflict being fought along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and Israel's Lebanese misadventure are numerous -- and one that the allies would be wise to take lessons from. [ complete article ]

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Saddam's regime is a European import
Bernard Lewis, National Post, April 3, 2003

In the Western world, knowledge of history is poor -- and the awareness of history is frequently poorer. For example, people often argue today as if the kind of political order that prevails in Iraq is part of the immemorial Arab and Islamic tradition. This is totally untrue. The kind of regime represented by Saddam Hussein has no roots in either the Arab or Islamic past. Rather, it is an ideological importation from Europe -- the only one that worked and succeeded (at least in the sense of being able to survive). [ complete article ]

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Britain is up to its neck in this mire
We should not pretend that we can come out of the war unsullied

Jackie Ashley, The Guardian, April 3, 2003

Our troops may be behaving professionally and well, but it is British missiles and British pilots too, who rain down death on Iraqi cities. It is British tanks and British soldiers too, who are fighting, street by street, through impoverished districts of bewildered and innocent people. It is a British war, as well as an American one, which is bringing still greater hunger, thirst, fear and death to people who had little enough to start with. And if things get even worse when we reach Baghdad, that is Britain's responsibility - our democracy, our politicians, and us as voters. The anger of the Arab world doesn't distinguish between us and the Americans. And we fool ourselves if we do, too. [ complete article ]

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U.N.'s Annan says all sides will lose in Iraq War
Reuters, April 2, 2003

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday that that he saw no chance of an immediate cease-fire in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and warned all sides that they would end up as losers. [ complete article ]

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Wailing children, the wounded, the dead: victims of the day cluster bombs rained on Babylon
Robert Fisk, The Independent, April 3, 2003

Were they American or British aircraft that showered these villages with one of the most lethal weapons of modern warfare? The 61 dead who have passed through the Hillah hospital since Saturday night cannot tell us. Nor can the survivors who, in many cases, were sitting in their homes when the white canisters opened high above their village, spilling thousands of bomblets into the sky, exploding in the air, soaring through windows and doorways to burst indoors or bouncing off the roofs of the concrete huts to blow up later in the roadways. [ complete article ]

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The message coming from our families in Baghdad
Haifa Zangana, The Guardian, April 3, 2003

The last time I managed to speak to my eldest brother, Salam, was two days before the invasion of Iraq. He told me that his daughter Rana had just given birth to a baby boy.

"But she isn't due for another month," I said.

"The doctor tried to induce labour but failed, so he had to perform a caesarean," he explained. "We had to take the risk because we hear that war is starting in few days and then there'll be no hospital to take her to." Trying to ease my horror he continued: "She isn't the only one. Hundreds of women in Baghdad are doing the same thing."

Prime Minister Tony Blair says this is a war to liberate the Iraqi people. As an Iraqi Kurd whose family and people have been bombarded continuously in Baghdad for the last 14 days, I beg to differ. [ complete article ]

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Family slain at checkpoint sought safety
Associated Press, April 2, 2003

The Hassans decided to make the journey after an American helicopter dropped fliers over their farming village that showed a drawing of a family sitting at a table, eating and smiling, with a message written in Arabic.

Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Furbush, an Army intelligence analyst, said the message read: "To be safe, stay put."

But Hassan said he and his father thought it just said, "Be safe." To them, that meant getting away from the helicopters firing rockets and missiles.

"A miscommunication with civilians," said an Army report written Monday night.

The family of 17 packed into its 1974 Land Rover. Hassan's father drove. In his 60s, he wore his best clothes for the trip through the American lines: a pinstriped suit.

"To look American," Hassan said.

They planned to go to Karbala. They stopped at an Army checkpoint on the northbound road near Sahara, about 25 miles south of Karbala, and were told to go on, Hassan said.

But "the Iraqi family misunderstood" what the soldiers were saying, Furbush said.

A few miles later, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle came into view. The family waved as it came closer. The soldiers opened fire. [complete article]

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The lost rebellion
Dan De Luce, The Guardian, April 2, 2003

The column of Iraqi army soldiers looked exhausted and broken. They were in retreat, making their way north from a humiliating rout in Kuwait.

"Even the Republican Guard was demoralised. They were holding two fingers down, signalling defeat," said Sayed Nour Battat, recalling the closing days of the 1991 Gulf in his home town of Basra.

"The soldiers were desperately looking for something to eat. They offered their weapons in exchange for civilian clothes," Battat said. "Suddenly, there were a huge number of guns in ordinary people's hands. With those weapons, we had the power to change things. "

Sensing Saddam Hussein was losing his grip, the Shia Moslems of southern Iraq seized their moment in 1991 in an "intifada" that erupted across southern cities in a spasm of violence and chaos.

Twelve years after that failed rebellion, Britain and the United States are hoping for Shias in Iraq to rise up again. But the scars from the last attempt run deep, and Shia exiles say they will never forgive Washington and its allies for standing by while Baghdad exacted merciless revenge. [complete article]

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Perle's new world order -- and ours?
Stanley I. Kutler, Boston Globe, April 4, 2003

Where are you, Stanley Kubrick, now that we need you? Forty years ago, he gave us the classic film satire, ''Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.'' Richard Perle would have the star turn in a new Kubrick version, appearing as the second coming of the Prince of Darkness. He certainly has been a busy fellow of late.

First, Perle is the proud, hardly modest, behind-the-scenes promoter of the present Iraq policy. Then we have Perle, lobbyist extraordinaire. Several companies, charged by the Department of Defense and the FBI with dubious connections to the Chinese government, retained Perle to lobby the Pentagon in their behalf. The revelations prompted Perle to resign as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, but he remains a member -- a distinction without a difference.

Perle's real importance is in the realm of policy and strategic doctrines. He has pursued an ambitious agenda for years, which now is momentarily triumphant. Sadly, it has gone largely unnoticed and unchallenged. [complete article]

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U.S. raid damages Baghdad hospital
Samia Nakhoul, Reuters, April 2, 2003

U.S. missiles damaged a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad and other civilian buildings on Wednesday, killing several people and wounding at least 25, hospital sources and witnesses said.

The attacks, which took place at 9:30 a.m. (0630 GMT), caught motorists who had ventured out during a lull in the bombing. This correspondent saw at least five burned-out and twisted cars halted in the middle of the road. Witnesses said the drivers burned to death inside. [complete article]

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White House divided over reconstruction
Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2003

The Bush administration is deeply riven by disputes over postwar Iraq, particularly on three key issues — the role of the United Nations, who will lead the country and which elements of the U.S. government will oversee its reconstruction, administration officials say.

The fight, those involved say, is about whether Iraq is transformed through an international effort under U.N. supervision, as the State Department prefers, or through a process designed and controlled largely by the United States and designated Iraqis, as the Pentagon prefers.

So far, the Pentagon's approach is prevailing, producing intense squabbling both in Washington and at the Hilton Hotel in Kuwait, where many U.S. officials are drafting plans and preparing to head to Baghdad when the war ends.

At a meeting scheduled Thursday in Brussels, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell plans to tell his European and NATO counterparts that the Bush administration wants United Nations assistance with humanitarian and reconstruction projects, and possibly a stabilization force, but seeks no help in re-creating Iraq politically, U.S. officials said. The Pentagon has championed this approach. [complete article]

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'It would be O.K. if the invaders brought us water'
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 2, 2003

This landscape is a cross between a "Mad Max" movie and Dante's "Inferno." The highway is littered with the carcasses of Iraqi tanks, artillery and trucks, while jittery British 20-year-olds use their tanks to create a checkpoint on the edge of Basra. Iraqi snipers down the road use machine guns and mortars to plink periodically at the tanks as families of Iraqi refugees trudge steadily by with sacks of possessions slung over their shoulders, the sky behind them an apocalyptic black with smoke from raging oil well fires.

The ordinary Iraqis here seem more pragmatic than many of the U.S. officials deciding their fate. While ideologues in Washington offer sweeping judgments about what Iraqis want, many Iraqis seem less dogmatic and are willing to suspend final judgment until they see an answer to this question: Will the invasion make people's lives better?

Unfortunately, many Iraqis here are growing angry because so far the invasion has made their lives incomparably worse. They have lost food, drinking water and security. In every swamp or fetid pool of water, families are filling plastic containers with the sewage-tainted filth that is the closest they can now get to water.

"It would be O.K. if the invaders brought us water," said Munshid, a young man from Basra who, like others, did not want his full name used. "But so far they bring only thirst." [complete article]

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The Pentagon still denies responsibility for Friday's Baghdad market bombing but the fog of war is starting to lift. With a missile serial number, the Pentagon should be able to say where and when such missiles have been fired, where they were aimed and whether they hit their targets. In a bombing campaign of unparalled precision, it should not be difficult to put to rest any argument about whether the "evidence" that was presented to Robert Fisk was in fact planted.

The proof: marketplace deaths were caused by a US missile
Cahal Milmo, The Independent, April 2, 2003

An American missile, identified from the remains of its serial number, was pinpointed yesterday as the cause of the explosion at a Baghdad market on Friday night that killed at least 62 Iraqis.

The codes on the foot-long shrapnel shard, seen by the Independent correspondent Robert Fisk at the scene of the bombing in the Shu'ale district, came from a weapon manufactured in Texas by Raytheon, the world's biggest producer of "smart" armaments.

The identification of the missile as American is an embarrassing blow to Washington and London as they try to match their promises of minimal civilian casualties with the reality of precision bombing. [complete article]

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I am angry and ashamed to be British
As a dual national of Pakistan and Britain, it is the loss of British credibility I find hardest to stomach

Jemima Khan, The Independent, April 2, 2003

Even the moderates here in Pakistan are outraged. Across the board, young and old, poor and rich, fundamentalist and secularist are united in their hatred of the US and their contempt for Britain. Such unprecedented unanimity in a country renowned for its ethnic and sectarian divides is a huge achievement.

Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the leader of the combined religious party Majlis Muttahida Amal (MMA), announced triumphantly: "The pro-West liberals have lost conviction. Islamic movements have come alive."

This new-found unity, which includes for the first time the pro-West ιlites, the liberal middle classes and the mullahs, has been boosted by a fear that Pakistan may be on the US target list. We may not be seeing burning effigies of Bush and Blair daily (although there has been some of that), but many of those with Western connections are considering severing those links. Angry and fearful, expatriate Pakistanis are returning home, and property prices are soaring despite recession. The boycott against British and US goods is growing.

The same is happening throughout the Muslim world. A previously fractured ummah is finally uniting against a perceived common foe, leaving the fundamentalists jubilant and their pro-West leaders, despite their dependence on the US, with no choice but to join the anti-war chorus. [complete article]

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Mesopotamia. Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates
Arundhati Roy, The Guardian, April 2, 2003

On the steel torsos of their missiles, adolescent American soldiers scrawl colourful messages in childish handwriting: For Saddam, from the Fat Boy Posse. A building goes down. A marketplace. A home. A girl who loves a boy. A child who only ever wanted to play with his older brother's marbles.

On March 21, the day after American and British troops began their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, an "embedded" CNN correspondent interviewed an American soldier. "I wanna get in there and get my nose dirty," Private AJ said. "I wanna take revenge for 9/11."

To be fair to the correspondent, even though he was "embedded" he did sort of weakly suggest that so far there was no real evidence that linked the Iraqi government to the September 11 attacks. Private AJ stuck his teenage tongue out all the way down to the end of his chin. "Yeah, well that stuff's way over my head," he said.

According to a New York Times/CBS News survey, 42 per cent of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. And an ABC news poll says that 55 per cent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein directly supports al-Qaida. What percentage of America's armed forces believe these fabrications is anybody's guess.

It is unlikely that British and American troops fighting in Iraq are aware that their governments supported Saddam Hussein both politically and financially through his worst excesses. [complete article]

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Emperor George
Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, April 2, 2003

This war is un-American. That's an unlikely word to use, I know: it has an unhappy provenance, associated forever with the McCarthyite hunt for reds under the beds, purging anyone suspected of "un-American activities". Besides, for many outside the US, the problem with this war is not that it's un-American - but all too American.

But that does an injustice to the US and its history. It assumes that the Bush administration represents all America, at all times, when in fact the opposite is true. For this administration, and this war, are not typical of the US. On the contrary, on almost every measure, they are exceptions to the American rule.

The US was, after all, a country founded in a rebellion against imperialism. Born in a war against a hated colonial oppressor, in the form of George III, it still sees itself as the instinctive friend of all who struggle to kick out a foreign occupier - and the last nation on earth to play the role of outside ruler. [complete article]

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On March 14, 2003, at a Department of Defense briefing, Army Maj. Gen. David Barno gave an upbeat assessment of progress that had been made in training the "Free Iraqi Forces":

"We have worked an agreement here, the U.S. government and Hungarian government, to train up to 3,000 over the calendar year that we're in right now, ending on 31 December. And I've got a Training Task Force sized to do that, so I'm prepared to train anyone up to that number, and there's certainly hundreds available that I'm seeing that are potentially in the pipeline for the program."

Two weeks later, the program has been shut down having produced less than 100 graduates. Meanwhile, other Iraqi exiles are returning to Iraq in their thousands to join the war, not as part of the "coalition of the willing" but in defense of their homeland.

US closes exiles training camp after only 100 turn up
Ian Traynor, The Guardian, April 2, 2003

A US military programme in Hungary that was to train up to 3,000 Iraqi exiles to take part in the war against Saddam Hussein was closed down abruptly yesterday after dispatching less than 100 recruits to the war zone.

The decision to abandon the programme after only two months of operation had been taken in the past few days, said Major Bob Stern, the US army spokesman for the operation at the Taszar airbase, south-west of Budapest.

While Iraqi exiles are reported to be flocking home to join the fight against the US and Britain, the failure of Washington to attract exiles to the US banner appeared to be an embarrassment. [complete article]

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Damage to Iraqi holy sites would enrage Muslim world, experts say
Sacred landmarks on allies' road to Baghdad

Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 2003

Two of the largest land mines on the U.S. military's march to Baghdad are a pair of holy sites especially sacred to the Shiite branch of Islam -- Karbala and Najaf.

Iraqi fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein hope to exploit the religious significance of these two landmarks of Muslim history, while U.S. and British troops are trying to avoid damaging tombs whose destruction could enrage the Muslim world.

Karbala, the place where the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed was martyred, and Najaf, another spot known to Shiites as "the wondrous place of martyrdom," have both seen heavy fighting in recent days. [complete article]

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U.N. Charter offers governing solution for post-war Iraq
Stephen B. Young, Pioneer Press, April 1, 2003

Article 77 (c) of the U.N. Charter provides a very specific way for the United States and the United Kingdom, once they establish their military power over Iraq, to place Iraq in a U.N. trusteeship for the U.N. to administer until the territory recovers its own powers of self-government.

The trusteeship agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations for the interim administration of Iraq must specify the "terms under which the trust territory will be administered" and must "designate the authority which will exercise the administration of the trust territory."

A commitment by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair today to withdraw from the administration of Iraq in favor of a U.N.trusteeship once regime change has been accomplished would cement the legitimacy of the intervention.

It would put the internal political affairs of Iraq under international law to restore the sovereign rights of the Iraqi people over their land and their affairs. [complete article]

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Afghans hear threat from a distant war
April Witt, Washington Post, April 1, 2003

Shiragha, a 20-year-old soldier in a local militia, relishes the new freedoms the United States brought to Afghanistan along with mobile phones, Western clothes and Pepsi. But he grinned today as he predicted more deadly violence against Americans here because of the war in Iraq.

"Anywhere people see an American, they will kill him," he said. "Why not? As soon as I hear somewhere Muslims are attacked by non-Muslims, I want to kill them."

As if to emphasize the point, a man who described himself as Shiragha's commander fired a Russian-made antiaircraft weapon at a nearby hillside as shopkeepers along the dusty road to Kabul braced for trouble.

Amid a series of attacks on Westerners in recent days -- and fresh calls for jihad, or holy war -- many Afghans have said they fear that the war in Iraq will destroy the fragile, relative stability they have enjoyed since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban, the radical Islamic militia that ruled most of Afghanistan for five years.

"The only thing the Americans have brought us is peace and security in Afghanistan," Hazratullah, 40, a shopkeeper in Jalalabad's Darunta district, said. "They didn't bring a factory like we thought they would. They didn't bring a dam for electricity. The prices are increasing. Still, the government is not okay. Still, the warlords are in power. Still, there are weapons everywhere.

"Now, all the people worry that again we'll have fighting in Afghanistan and people will be hungry." [complete article]

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Pentagon, State Dept. spar on team to run Iraq
Karen DeYoung and Peter Slevin, Washington Post, April 1, 2003

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has rejected a team of officials proposed by the State Department to help run postwar Iraq in what sources described as an effort to ensure the Pentagon controls every aspect of reconstructing the country and forming a new government.

While vetoing the group of eight current and former State Department officials, including several ambassadors to Arab states, the Pentagon's top civilian leadership has planned prominent roles in the postwar administration for former CIA director R. James Woolsey and others who have long supported the idea of replacing Iraq's government, according to sources close to the issue. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld's design for war criticized on the battlefield
Bernard Weinraub and Thom Shanker, New York Times, April 1, 2003

Long-simmering tensions between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army commanders have erupted in a series of complaints from officers on the Iraqi battlefield that the Pentagon has not sent enough troops to wage the war as they want to fight it.

Here today, raw nerves were obvious as officers compared Mr. Rumsfeld to Robert S. McNamara, an architect of the Vietnam War who failed to grasp the political and military realities of Vietnam.

One colonel, who spoke on the condition that his name be withheld, was among the officers criticizing decisions to limit initial deployments of troops to the region. "He wanted to fight this war on the cheap," the colonel said. "He got what he wanted." [complete article]

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Why 2003 is not 1991
Dilip Hiro, The Guardian, April 1, 2003

When Ali Hammadi al-Namani killed himself and four American soldiers in a suicide attack near Najaf on Saturday, he put the final nail in the coffin of the "liberation" scenario of the Washington-London alliance. The invading Anglo-American forces will now have to keep all Iraqi civilians at bay, treating everyone as a potential suicide bomber - just the way Israel's occupation army treats Palestinians.

Earlier, any prospects of an uprising in the predominantly Shi'ite city of Basra disappeared on Tuesday when Grand Ayatollah Mirza Ali Sistani issued a fatwa, calling on "Muslims all over the world" to help Iraqis in "a fierce battle against infidel followers who have invaded our homeland". Sistani is based in Najaf, the third holiest place of Shi'ite Muslims, and it is likely that Nomani, a Shi'ite, was following his fatwa. As the only grand ayatollah of Iraq, Sistani is the most senior cleric for Iraqi Shi'ites, who form 70% of ethnic Arabs in Iraq. Any Anglo-American attempt to devalue Sistani's opposition to the invasion - by saying he's a Saddam stooge, for example - will boomerang because of his status; there are only five grand ayatollah's in the world.

By now it is apparent that the Anglo-American decision-makers made a monumental miscalculation by imagining that Iraqis in the predominantly Shi'ite southern Iraq would welcome their soldiers as liberators. It stems from their blind faith in the unverified testimonies of the Iraqi defectors combined with their failure to realise the complexity of the task of overthrowing President Saddam Hussein's regime. [complete article]

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The smart donor's guide to aid for Iraq
Nick Cater, The Guardian, April 1, 2003

So how do you choose the right charity for your cash? As consumer experts would say: shop around, compare what they offer, and ask questions. Almost every aid agency has a website, and if you need more information, email or call them: the speed, content and quality of the responses may well help you decide.

Consider whether they are a big agency with a well-known name or smaller and more likely to value your gift. They may have a faith dimension, only respond to crises or have a wider role.

It is important to choose a charity that can use your money well because it knows Iraq, has a good track record in similar crises or performs specialist tasks others cannot. A few agencies were already operating in Iraq before the war; many more are waiting for security clearance. [complete article]

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'You didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!'
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, April 1, 2003

The invasion forces suffered another self-inflicted disaster in the battle for hearts and minds yesterday when soldiers from the US 3rd infantry division shot dead Iraqi seven women and children.

The incident occurred on Route 9, near Najaf, when a car carrying 13 women and children approached a checkpoint.

A US military spokesman says the soldiers motioned the vehicle to stop but their signals were ignored. However, according to the Washington Post, Captain Ronny Johnson, who was in charge of the checkpoint, blamed his own troops for ignoring orders to fire a warning shot.

"You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!", he reportedly yelled at them.

In another checkpoint incident this morning, US forces say they killed an unarmed Iraqi driver outside Shatra.

Meanwhile it has emerged - as a result of detective work on the internet by a Guardian reader - that the explosion in a Baghdad market which killed more than 60 people last Friday was indeed caused by a cruise missile and not an Iraqi anti-aircraft rocket as the US has suggested. [complete article]

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The Gaza or Grozny choice
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, April 1, 2003

There are two options for Washington to win this war: the Gaza option or the Grozny option.

The suicide bombing near Najaf is proof that the "Palestinization" of Iraq is in full swing. The repeated calls for jihad from Islamic scholars in al-Azhar in Cairo, the Grand Mufti of Syria and a powerful imam in Najaf show that the jihad in Mesopotamia is also in full swing. In mass protests from Rabat in Morocco to Peshawar in Pakistan, from Kolkata in India to Jakarta in Indonesia, the Arab - and Muslim - street continues to demonstrate its opposition to the events unfolding in Iraq.

And certainly the majority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims - and seemingly most Iraqis themselves - don't believe that the coalition has marched on Iraq to liberate its people. The message of the "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle - "When we leave, the oil will be left behind to the people of Iraq" - rings hollow in many a Middle Eastern ear.

And with every day that the war drags on, with mounting casualties on both sides, and especially civilian deaths, the crucial question remains: What price victory? By choosing the Gaza option - a war of attrition - Washington falls into Saddam Hussein's trap: it will serve him on a plate the explosive image he is seeking, that of an Israeli tank in the streets of Gaza juxtaposed with a US tank in the streets of Baghdad. By choosing the Grozny option - a scorched-earth policy - Washington will have to level Baghdad to win the war. [complete article]

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In the line of fire: two holy cities that the US dares not desecrate
Justin Huggler and Paul Vallely, The Independent, April 1, 2003

American forces advancing on Baghdad were yesterday fighting on the outskirts of one of the holiest places in Shia Islam. The 101st Airborne Division surrounded the holy city of Najaf, and there was talk of it preparing for possible house-to-house fighting, a move that would run the risk of inflaming the Shia world.

The US military said it had killed 100 Iraqi paramilitaries around Najaf, and said more were lying in wait among the tombs of saints and martyrs in the great Wadi al-Salaam graveyard which encircles the city on three sides, one of the world's largest cemeteries.

Further north, US soldiers were fighting what was reported to be the most intense ground battle of the war so far, in Hindiyah. But on the road ahead of Hindiyah, between them and Baghdad, lies a Shia shrine of perhaps even greater symbolic potency, the holy city of Karbala. [...]

The fall of the two holy cities [Najaf and Karbala] would be a blow to President Saddam, but it would be a blow he would try to turn to his advantage. Any damage to the great gold-domed shrines of the two cities could turn the Iraqi Shias against the British and Americans, and cause fury across the Shia world.

More than that, the two cities are shrines to martyrs. The concept of martyrdom is at the heart of Shia Islam, and none is more laden with significance than the martyrdom of Hussein at Karbala. Any large-scale casualties in these holy cities would be charged with extraordinary symbolism. [the complete article]

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The smell of war
Philip Caputo, Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2003

It is said that our most evocative sense is the sense of smell, and after the names of the villages and the numbers and the dates have grown dim in your memory, the thing you can never forget about a battlefield is the smell. [the complete article]

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The battle for Shi'ite hearts and minds
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, March 29, 2003

Najaf and Karbala are the holiest sites of Shi'ite Islam. Najaf - where Ayatollah Khomeini lived before returning to lead the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 - is the site of Imam Ali's tomb, the Prophet Mohammed's cousin and revered 14th century founder of the Shi'ite branch of Islam. Karbala is the site of the famous 7th century battle where Imam Hussein was killed and subsequently buried.

To the utmost horror of Shi'ites everywhere - Arabs, Persians, South Asians - American tanks are now rumbling around Najaf and Karbala. If the conquest of Baghdad - the iconic seat of the Caliphate for 700 years - is bound to ignite fury in the Sunni Arab world, one shudders to imagine what would happen in the Shi'ite world if Najaf and Karbala are desecrated during the war or under American occupation. [the complete article]

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US draws up secret plan to impose new regime on Iraq
Brian Whitaker and Luke Harding, The Guardian, April 1, 2003

A disagreement has broken out at a senior level within the Bush administration over a new government that the US is secretly planning in Kuwait to rule Iraq in the immediate period after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Under the plan, the government will consist of 23 ministries, each headed by an American. Every ministry will also have four Iraqi advisers appointed by the Americans, the Guardian has learned.

The government will take over Iraq city by city. Areas declared "liberated" by General Tommy Franks will be transferred to the temporary government under the overall control of Jay Garner, the for mer US general appointed to head a military occupation of Iraq.

In anticipation of the Baghdad regime's fall, members of this interim government have begun arriving in Kuwait.

Decisions on the government's composition appear to be entirely in US hands, particularly those of Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence. [the complete article]

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Shi'ite headache for the Americans
Gwynne Dyer, Straits Times, March 31, 2003

'Wimps go to Baghdad,' they say in neo-conservative circles in Washington. 'Real men go to Teheran.'

It sounds tough at dinner parties, and the macho intellectuals who talk like that never worry that genuinely hard men can overhear their silly chatter. But they can, and they are already taking measures to protect themselves. They live in Iran.

Iran's Islamist government is split between the moderate reformers around President Mohammad Khatami and the radical mullahs around Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but it is the mullahs who control the army and foreign policy.

They are terrified by the imminent arrival of the United States army on Iran's western frontier, only a couple of hours' drive from the country's biggest oil fields, especially as US President George W. Bush has put Iran on his 'axis of evil' hit-list. So the more trouble the US has in Iraq, the better. [the complete article]

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Why is my country bombing these poor people?
James Doran, The Times, March 31, 2003

At the front of the 1375 [Greyhound bus] to Pittsburgh is Mary Singletary, 60, from Connecticut, who is off to visit her daughter in Newark, New Jersey. Like many Americans, she does not like the idea of flying during the war. Her son, Raymond, 38, is in the US Navy aboard the USS Constellation somewhere in the Gulf. She hears from him almost every day, but still worries constantly.

"I don't like war, period. That's it," she says, "but all you can do is keep on living. And hope that he does, too."

Hearing a discussion about the war, the dozen passengers aboard the stuffy bus look up from their newspapers or open dozing eyes, hopeful for a distraction from the stench of the chemical lavatory.

None of them likes the idea of war -- and none understands why the US is engaged in conflict in Iraq at all. [the complete article]

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Refugees hurl abuse and stones at the British Desert Rats
Daniel McGrory, The Times, March 31, 2003

Shaking his fist at the British armoured column speeding past him, Abdiraza Jeri and his friends spat out a volley of insults as others in the weary trail of refugees threw stones at the Desert Rats.

The 42-year-old haulage contractor had been walking for three hours to escape the siege of Basra. He was intending to return with his fleet of lorries filled with water so that some of the city's 1.4 million parched residents had something to drink. But he and thousands more tramping along this main road could not understand yesterday why such a formidable array of British tanks was parked on the edge of his city while gangs of Saddam loyalists slowly strangled Basra. British soldiers sitting on their Warrior vehicle looked stunned when a couple of packets of sweets that they had thrown to children were hurled back by their fathers. [the complete article]

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Post D-Day depression
Geov Parrish, WorkingForChange, March 27, 2003

Until two weeks ago, there was a clear alternative to war: the inspection process, which at minimum bought time, at best was a path out of an artificially induced, but nonetheless real, crisis. When that was lost, so too were many members of the new anti-war movement, because there was no "next step," no contingency plans in the peace movement's demands beyond lame and hypocritical calls to "support the troops." Possibilities abound, from a movement to have the U.N., rather than United States, take part or all of the post-invasion administration of Iraq, to a concerted push to unseat Bush in 2004. Yet at the moment more protesters are trying to impeach Bush (which is not, repeat not, repeat not going to happen) than to elect a Democratic president in less than 20 months. [the complete article]

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Remembering what we were told to expect

Saddam's ultimate solution
An interview with Richard Perle

WNET, July 11, 2002

Richard Perle: Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder.

Now, it isn't going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn't going to be months either. And if I had to guess I would guess that a strategy that combines effective collaboration with the opposition and a readiness to send in Americans if necessary is where we'll wind up.

[…] The evolution of American air power since the last war against Saddam Hussein has been phenomenal. We can now see what's going on on the ground, and from a safe distance. And what we can see we can destroy with great precision. Saddam has no notion of what's coming. But what's coming is the ability to target precisely everything of consequence in his military establishment.

James P. Rubin: […] Do you agree that we have to be ready for the worst scenario, namely that Saddam doesn't collapse in a matter of days?

Richard Perle: Yes, of course we have to be ready for the worst scenario. But a proper integration of the opposition in Iraq with American air power, backed up by American Special Forces, and ultimately a larger force if necessary should be sufficient. Both to assure that we won't have a debacle, we have to have an integrated approach. And that means the use of American air power to prevent Saddam from massing his forces to attack the opposition on a ...

James P. Rubin: And what about American ground forces?

Richard Perle: Well, we'll need some American forces.

James P. Rubin: So what would your guesstimate be of the level of effort that would be involved?

Richard Perle: Well, I would be surprised if we need anything like the 200,000 figure that is sometimes discussed in the press. A much smaller force, principally special operations forces, but backed up by some regular units, should be sufficient. Of the 400,000 in Saddam's army, I'll be surprised if ten percent are loyal to Saddam. And the other 90 percent won't be completely passive. Many of them will come over to the opposition.


James P. Rubin […] …you've been a strong advocate of taking action against Saddam Hussein. How quickly do you think we should act and what specifically do you think the United States should do militarily in this situation?

Richard Perle: This evidence is very powerful. There is collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, which means to destroy us. It entails chemical weapons, biological weapons, training in their application. And he's working on nuclear weapons. The message is very clear - we have no time to lose, Saddam must be removed from office. Every day that goes by is a day in which we are exposed to dangers on a far larger scale than the tragedy of September 11.

James P. Rubin: So what specific military plan would you put forward and discuss with your colleagues and friends in the government right now?

Richard Perle: There is an internal opposition to Saddam Hussein. The Kurds in the north, and we've seen what their motives are for his removal, the Shi'a in the south, who have risen up without support in the past, together with American air power, American special forces, and potentially American ground forces beyond special forces, we have the ability to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime. And it will be quicker and easier than many people think. He is far weaker than many people realize.

James P. Rubin: Top officials of the Pentagon, top Department of Defense officials, top military officials from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on down appear to be telling members of Congress and the media that the only serious way to go about this problem is to deploy a large ground force that can deal with all unexpected contingencies. You've put forward an optimistic scenario, and it may be right, but don't you think it's the job of the administration to be prepared for the worst? And what is your reaction to the military's suggestion that you need 200,000-plus forces for this mission?

Richard Perle: The 200,000 number sounds large to me. But if we're going to err, we should err on the side of too many rather than too few. Provided that reaching for that large number doesn't make it impossible for us to establish the base and the infrastructure from which to operate. If it were self-defeating then it would be foolish. I think we discovered in 1991 that we really didn't need the very sizeable force that we sent in. It was over very quickly with little resistance. There were people surrendering to journalists after all.

You always want to err on the side of caution. But it's possible to be too cautious.

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Offense and defense
The battle between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon

Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 31, 2003

As the ground campaign against Saddam Hussein faltered last week, with attenuated supply lines and a lack of immediate reinforcements, there was anger in the Pentagon. Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war's operational details. Rumsfeld's team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning -- traditionally, an area in which the uniformed military excels -- and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "He thought he knew better," one senior planner said. "He was the decision-maker at every turn."

On at least six occasions, the planner told me, when Rumsfeld and his deputies were presented with operational plans -- the Iraqi assault was designated Plan 1003 -- he insisted that the number of ground troops be sharply reduced. Rumsfeld's faith in precision bombing and his insistence on streamlined military operations has had profound consequences for the ability of the armed forces to fight effectively overseas. "They've got no resources," a former high-level intelligence official said. "He was so focussed on proving his point -- that the Iraqis were going to fall apart."

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Horrific human suffering in this insane war
Brian Reade, The Mirror, March 31, 2003

She could be asleep. In her flannel pyjama bottoms and 101 Dalmatians top, her eyes gently closed, little Sarah looks like any other seven-year-old.

Except she is lying on a stainless steel mortuary tray, another victim of this bloody war.

She had just finished breakfast and was playing with her brother and sisters on Friday when her life was violently stolen.

Her mum Shafaa was washing the dishes, happy that her Baghdad home was ringing to the sound of children's laughter, until a huge explosion knocked her to the floor. After the shock had subsided, she saw "blood splattered against the walls" and her four babies lying silently in the rubble. [...]

As usual, the Iraqis blamed coalition bombs and our apologists said it may have been stray Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. But Shafaa doesn't care. It was you and me who started this war and it us who stole away her flesh and blood.

British mothers who lose their children in this conflict get them back in coffins draped in Union Jacks as brass bands play them off the plane. Feted for their courage and honoured for their sacrifice.

But this is how we treat the Iraqi mothers who lose their children. With contempt, disdain and the cowardly, de-humanising epitaph: Collateral damage.

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Speaking a different language - but we've got the Phrasealator
James Meek, The Guardian, March 31, 2003

The marines have brought the whole encyclopaedia of military technology with them to Iraq. From aircraft to x-ray machines, they have a myriad ways to kill, heal wounded, survey, spy, reconnoitre, communicate with each other, shell, defend, attack, enfilade. They have brought all the machines and all the skilled people trained to use them.

The equipment necessary to talk to Iraqis, understand their problems and respond to their needs, however, seems to have been left on the quayside in California.

Maj Cooper and his colleague, Major Mark Stainbrook, are part of a tiny number of civil affairs officers attached to the marines. Neither speaks Arabic, and their interpreter has poor English.

Even before Saturday's suicide bomb attack on US troops, the response of marines towards Iraqi civilians has been characterised by fear, suspicion and mistrust. While there is no sign of ill-treatment of civilians, there has been little attempt to actively make friends in Iraqi communities, to carry out foot patrols in villages to assure locals that the US is providing security, or to systemise the movement of Iraqi civilians across US-held territory.

Any fire on the marines has characteristically been met with overwhelming firepower in return, often involving artillery, air strikes by helicopters and the marines' own F-18 fighters. While there are genuine attacks by Iraqi irregulars on marines' convoys, it is impossible to verify whether all the "attacks" are genuine, and the light casualties and low loss of vehicles strongly suggest that some "ambushes" are simply civilians being shot at by jumpy marines.

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America and the Shiites
Claude Salhani, UPI, March 28, 2003

While top brass military analysts in the Pentagon burn the midnight oil trying to figure out the reasons why their strategy may have not gone entirely according to plan, they might want to consider the fact that the Iraqi south is mostly populated by Shiite Muslims.

Although the Shiites that live in Basra and its surrounding areas have no love whatsoever for Saddam, his Republican Guards, Baath Party paramilitaries, or Fedayeen goons, they nevertheless have just as much distrust of America and its foreign policy.

Shiites and Americans have history in this region -- and none of it is really any good.

People have long memories in this part of the world. The Shiites recall, for instance, that when the Baath Party came to power in a bloody coop, it was with the help of the CIA. And they have suffered much since.

They recall the bloody eight-year war with Iran -- a nation of fellow Shiites -- during which the United States supported Saddam, providing him with weapons, even helping him get started on some of the chemical and biological warfare agents they now have come to collect.

And most of all, they recall the period after the first Gulf War in 1991, when they rose up in open revolt against Saddam. U.S.-led coalition forces -- having driven the Iraqi army from Kuwait -- were only a few miles away from the outskirts of Basra, but remained there, abandoning the Shiites at the last minute to the wrath of Saddam's thugs.

About 200,000 Iraqi Shiites were brutally slaughtered in the south by Saddam's forces after the failed uprising. This is not a typographical error. Read it again, two hundred thousand dead after the end of Desert Storm.

This fact alone explains why coalition troops fighting "to liberate" Iraqis have not yet been greeted with open arms.

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Israelis trained US troops in Jenin-style urban warfare
Justin Huggler, The Independent, March 29, 2003

The American military has been asking the Israeli army for advice on fighting inside cities, and studying fighting in the West Bank city of Jenin last April, unnamed United States and Israeli sources have confirmed. Reports that US troops trained with Israeli forces for street-to-street fighting have been denied.

If the US army believes the road to Baghdad lies through Jenin, there is reason for Iraqi civilians to be concerned. During fighting in the Jenin refugee camp last April, more than half the Palestinian dead were civilians. There was compelling evidence that Israeli soldiers targeted civilians, including Fadwa Jamma, a Palestinian nurse shot dead as she tried to treat a wounded man. A 14-year-old boy was killed by Israeli tank-fire in a crowded street after the curfew was lifted. A Palestinian in a wheelchair was shot dead, and his body was crushed by an Israeli tank.

Israeli soldiers prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded and refused the Red Cross access. Using bulldozers, the Israeli army demolished an entire neighbourhood – home to 800 Palestinian families – reducing it to dust and rubble.

Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history and strategy at Jerusalem's internationally respected Hebrew University, has told reporters that, following his advice to US Marines, the American military bought nine of the converted bulldozers used in the Jenin demolitions from Israel.

Professor van Creveld said he gave advice to marines last year in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He said he was questioned about Israeli tactics in Jenin, and told them the giant D9 bulldozers, manufactured for civilian use in the US but fitted with armour-plating in Israel, were among the most useful weapons.

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Defenders of the faith
Dan De Luce, The Guardian, March 29, 2003

The US has warned Iran to keep out of the war, but Iraqi Shia troops armed by Tehran may be difficult to sideline in war or peace.

Washington has long harboured suspicions about the Iranian-based Badr Corps due to their allegiance to Iran's conservative clerical leaders, who have funded and armed the group for the past two decades.

Composed of Iraqi refugees and those Iraqi prisoners of war who chose not to return home during the Iran-Iraq war, the Badr Corps portrays itself as the defenders of the Shia majority in Iraq. Apart from some 1,500 troops that were deployed into northern Iraq before the war, the Badr Corps has kept a low profile since the war started more than a week ago.

But threats from US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday that the Badr Corps soldiers will be treated as "combatants" could aggravate tensions between coalition forces and the largest Shia opposition organisation.

See also Ayatollah al-Hakim warns US will repeat its errors

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The good, the bad and the propaganda
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, March 30, 2003

It's hard to tell which propaganda is of inferior quality in this war, the American or the Iraqi.

Last Thursday, for example, U.S. General Vincent Brooks spoke with reporters at his headquarters in Qatar. He showed photographs of a U.S. Marines officer shaking hands with Iraqi children.

The children looked embarrassed, perhaps even stunned, and the handshakes looked constrained.

And what did the officer-propagandist say to the press? "We are looking at children who, for the first time in their lives, are getting a taste of freedom." No less: The taste of freedom is a handshake with an invader.

The next day, a similar photograph was published in Israel - an American soldier carrying a horrified Iraqi infant, who is naked from the waist down. "In good hands" was the caption the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth chose for this huge front-page picture. Good hands? And why is the child unclothed? What happened to its parents? Why is the child frightened?

So meager is the stock of genuine justification for the war in Iraq, that America has to resort to cheap propaganda like pictures of children in the arms of its soldiers.

In the eyes of the American propaganda machine, the U.S. occupation - which has so far killed at least 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and 350 civilians - is the epitome of justice. America behaves like America and we [in Israel], unfortunately, follow its lead: This war, like all those before it, is waged between the forces of absolute good, i.e. the United States, and the forces of absolute evil, this time Iraq.

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Leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (including Kanan Makiya, whose latest article in The Washington Post appears below) have long championed the idea that Iraqis in exile, under INC leadership, should play a crucial role in the liberation of Iraq. Richard Perle and James P. Woolsey have been among the INC's most vocal supporters. How the INC and other groups in exile might ever be capable of turning their dreams into reality remains far from clear.

Mobilization of Iraqi exiles falls short
Sonya Yee and Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2003

They're called the Free Iraqi Forces, and many of them sport paunches and gray-tinged mustaches. Their average age is 42.

The Iraqi exiles, trained by U.S. forces at this remote air base in southwestern Hungary, graduated Friday and will soon take up positions in Iraq as liaisons between the American military and the Iraqi population.

The trouble is, only 21 men were in Friday's graduating class. A meager total of 74 have been trained so far in the program, which U.S. officials say may be doomed to insignificance because Iraqi dissident groups have failed to provide enough candidates to undergo training.

The program was approved last year and launched in January with much fanfare, a congressional mandate and more than $90 million to train and equip as many as 3,000 Iraqis. So few have been trained that some U.S. officials have taken to calling it the "million-dollar-a-man army."

Iraqis must share in their liberation
Kanan Makiya, Washington Post, March 30, 2003

The United States is failing to make use of what should be its most valuable asset in this war: the many Iraqis who are willing to fight and die for their country's liberation.

Those who imply that a rising surge of "nationalism" is preventing Iraqis from greeting American and British troops with open arms are wrong. What is preventing Iraqis from taking over the streets of their cities is confusion about American intentions -- confusion created by the way this war has been conducted and by fear of the murderous brown-shirt thugs, otherwise known as Saddam's Fedayeen, a militia loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who control the streets of Iraqi cities and who are conducting the harassing attacks on American and British soldiers.

The coalition forces have not yet sent clear and unmistakable signals to the people of Iraq that, unlike in 1991, there will be no turning back before Hussein's regime has been overturned. In order to do this effectively they must count on the Iraqi opposition, which has so far been marginalized.

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Winning Iraqi hearts and minds
Unless America wins support from the Iraqi people, a prolonged guerrilla war could result

Michael Hill, Baltimore Sun, March 30, 2003

As coalition forces continue the push into Iraq, it is important to realize that history is full of cautionary tales for great powers that assume overwhelming military superiority will bring easy victory over an outmatched opponent.

If the people of Iraq see these troops from the United States and Britain as forces freeing them from an oppressive dictator, then the war could be short and the transition to peace easy.

But if they instead view the troops as illegitimate invaders of their nation, then that could help form an indigenous opposition, leading to a lengthy struggle.

The important fight is for the hearts and minds of people on all sides of the military struggle.

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Remembering what we were told to expect

First strike, then what?
Marian Wilkinson, The Age, September 28, 2002

General Joseph Hoar, who served as a senior American officer during the 1991 Gulf War, was clearly itching to take a swipe at the armchair generals in the Defence Department. Their most optimistic scenarios for war with Iraq suggest Saddam Hussein will be defeated within weeks of United States-led forces launching their attack.

Testifying to the US Senate this week, Hoar spoke cuttingly about "people in this city who believe the military campaign against Iraq will not be difficult". He hoped they were right, he said, but he wanted to put another scenario to them. This was that Saddam had learnt a bitter lesson in the last Gulf War and would not try to take on the US in the open desert.

"The nightmare scenario," said Hoar, "is that six Iraqi Republican Guard divisions and six heavy divisions, reinforced with several thousand anti-aircraft artillery pieces, defends the city of Baghdad. The result would be high casualties on both sides, as well as in the civilian community."

US forces would inevitably prevail, he said, "but at what cost, as the rest of the world watches while we bomb and have artillery rounds exploded in densely populated Iraqi neighbourhoods".

What would it look like? Senator Ted Kennedy asked.

"All our advantages of command and control, technology, mobility, all of those things are in part given up and you are working with corporals and sergeants and young men, fighting street-to-street. It looks like the last 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan", said the general. "That's what we are up against."

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The Neocons' war
This is supposed to burnish our reputation?

Harold Meyerson, LA Weekly, March 28, 2003

When the histories of the U.S.-Iraqi war are written, someone is going to have to track down when exactly the neoconservatives sold the Brooklyn Bridge to our president.

I don't mean the idea of the war itself, though the neocons have been promoting it ever since Poppy Bush let Saddam off the hook in 1991. I have in mind, rather, the notion that the war would unleash the genie of democracy throughout the Middle East, that with our victory would come a quantum leap in America's prestige and reputation. Television would beam to all the world heartwarming images of U.S. troops being rapturously received as they speed across Iraq; and we would again become the liberators we were in 1944-5.

It was a lovely scenario, but to believe it, the neos had to willfully forget countless lessons of history, and at least one law of thermodynamics: That for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. In the world according to the neos, world-shaking changes in U.S. policy -- arrogating to itself the right to wage preventive war, and plunging Iraq into that war -- might encounter some resistance along the way, but in the end lead to an outpouring of support.

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Man who would be 'king' of Iraq
Oliver Morgan, The Observer, March 30, 2003

President, viceroy, governor, sheriff. It is difficult to know what to call Jay Garner, the retired US general who will run Iraq if and when Saddam Hussein is deposed.

The 'call me Jay' 64-year-old would prefer 'co-ordinator of civilian administration'. That's the bland description of his job heading the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the Pentagon agency preparing to govern Iraq's 23 million people in the aftermath of war, provide humanitarian support and administer the lucrative business of reconstruction.

Garners credentials are intriguing. He has a fine record in United Nations-backed humanitarian operations, playing a senior role in protecting the Kurds of northern Iraq from Saddam after the 1991 Gulf war in Operation Provide Comfort. Crucially he is now out of khaki, a vital counterpoint to General Tommy Franks, who is likely to act as a US military governor. On the other hand, he is closely linked with the group of hawks centred on US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who gave him his latest job), his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney, who are as keen to bypass the UN in the aftermath of war as they were before it.

He appears to share their strong pro-Israeli views. He has been involved in formulating their more controversial defence policies, including the US national missile defence system that has done much to undermine the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty. The company he now works for is a missile specialist and makes money from systems deployed in Israel and by coalition forces in Iraq.

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Bloodied but still unbowed, Baghdad prepares to fight
Patrick Graham, The Observer, March 30, 2003

In an interview with The Observer almost a month ago, an adviser to Saddam Hussein laid out a battle plan that seems to be unfolding with surprising accuracy. It appears the Iraqis had thought through this war more thoroughly than their adversary.

The adviser described the war as '10 Vietnams' that would be waged long after the invading forces arrived. He also believed that images of the war, especially dead American soldiers and Iraqi casualties, would sway US domestic opinion and an international outcry would force the US to stop fighting. While President George W. Bush says the outcome is inevitable, earlier predictions about Iraq's capabilities have proved inaccurate.

The regime planned to make Baghdad and the Sunni heartland around it the final battle ground that would tie up foreign troops for months, perhaps years. The adviser dismissed the possibility that the Iraqi leadership could be hunted down.

As usual, it will be the civilians who are unable to hide. It appears now that the allies will either lay siege to the city, evoking connotations of the Serbs surrounding Sarajevo, or try to enter by force. The latter will require the kind of fight through neighbourhoods unsuited to the allies' technical superiority and sensitivity to images of civilian casualties.

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