The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
U.S. 'should back Islamic Iraq'
Steve Schifferes, BBC News, April 25, 2003

America's key adviser on a new Iraqi constitution has said that the United States should accept the country becoming an Islamic democracy.

Noah Feldman, a law professor from New York University, will be advising the future Iraqi interim authority on how to design a new constitution.

He will be working for retired US general Jay Garner - Iraq's interim leader - in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

He told BBC News Online that in his view the US should support democracy in Iraq even if it was a not a secular democracy.

Speaking in Washington before departing for the region, he argued that the separation of church and state, although a central part of the US constitution, might not be appropriate for a country which was overwhelmingly Muslim. [ complete article ]

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Weapons proliferate in Baghdad bazaar
Guns sold with little U.S. interference

William Branigin, Washington Post, April 26, 2003

At the plaza on the Ad Dawrah Expressway, the lawlessness that followed the capture of Baghdad by U.S. troops has merged with an anything-goes free market to produce a dangerous juncture: an arms bazaar in which weapons of war are for sale to anyone with a little cash, with no questions asked on either side and little interference from the U.S. forces.

"We want American soldiers to come here and put a stop to this," said Sabah Michael, a college professor belonging to Iraq's Assyrian minority who lives in the neighborhood. "In Lebanon it started like this."

He stressed that he was not in the market for a weapon. "I came to look at this strange and silly practice here," he said. "This is something you do not expect to see in life. Even in a dream you don't see this."

His friend, another professor, who declined to give his name, expressed similar worries, but acknowledged having made a purchase.

"I didn't have a gun," he said. "I don't know how to use one. But now I have bought one because I can imagine what might happen in the future. . . . There's going to be a civil war if someone does not stop this." [ complete article ]

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Puppets and puppeteers in Iraq
Hooman Peimani, Asia Times, April 26, 2003

Amid the growing politicization of the Iraqi Shi'ites and the rapid expansion of the Iran-based Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), SAIRI leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer Hakim said this week in a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Iran, Alexander Maryasev, that the SAIRI did not want to create an Islamic republic in Iraq. However, although the Americans have their troops in Iraq, the rising Shi'ite political awareness with a clear anti-occupation/anti-American direction is providing the SAIRI the popular backing to demand a large share of the future Iraqi regime. It is also offering that group a high degree of political legitimacy to challenge seriously the US "regime-building" project, whether the US government likes it or not. [ complete article ]

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Pentagon sending a team of exiles to help run Iraq
The Pentagon has begun sending a team of Iraqi exiles to Baghdad to be part of a temporary American-led government there, senior administration officials said today.

The exiles, most of whom are said by officials to have a background in administration, are supposed to take up positions at each of 23 Iraqi ministries, where they will work closely with American and British officials under Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who is serving as Iraq's day-to-day administrator. [...]

The team of Iraqi technocrats was selected by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz but is officially employed by a defense contractor, SAIC, the officials said. The team is headed by Emad Dhia, an engineer who left Iraq 21 years ago and who will become the top Iraqi adviser to General Garner. As head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, General Garner is functioning as Iraq's civil administrator.

Victor Rostow, a Pentagon policy official who is serving as a liaison to the Iraqi team, said its task would be to help General Garner "turn over functioning ministries to the new Iraqi interim authority after a period of time." [...]

Mr. Dhia and Mr. Rostow provided the names of just seven Iraqis among the team of exiles, some of whom are now citizens of the United States or European countries where they have made their homes in exile. Mr. Rostow said that only a handful had agreed to be identified by name. "Most of these people believe that if they are seen as agents of America, they will be killed," he said. [ complete article ]

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American to oversee Iraqi oil industry
David Teather, The Guardian, April 26, 2003

The US is preparing to install an American chairman on a planned management team of the Iraqi oil industry, providing further ammunition to critics who have questioned the Bush administration's agenda in the Middle East.

The administration is planning to structure the potentially vast Iraqi oil industry like a US corporation, with a chairman and chief executive and a 15-strong board of international advisers.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, it has lined up the former chief executive of the US division of Royal Dutch/Shell, Philip Carroll, to take the job of chairman.

Large scale decisions on investment, capital spending and production are likely to need the approval of the advisory board, which will act like a board of directors. The day-to-day management team will be vetted by US officials and is likely to be made up of existing and expatriate Iraqi oil officials.

The structure is likely to anger opponents of the administration who argue that the US is wielding too much power in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Clerics call for Islamic state in Iraq
Alexandra Zavis, Associated Press, April 25, 2003

Hundreds of white-clad worshippers sat cross-legged on a boulevard in this war-shattered city Friday and listened to a cleric's exhortation: Iraqis must unite to create an Islamic state.

The same message resounded across Iraq on the main day of Muslim prayers, as clerics spoke about the need to come together after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Some urged the United States to leave Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Rise of Shiite religious leaders in Iraq gives U.S. pause
Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2003

The rapid emergence of Shiite religious leaders as major contenders for power in postwar Iraq is causing new divisions within the Bush administration.

The U.S. goal has been a secular government with all of Iraq's major ethnic and religious communities represented. But U.S. officials now acknowledge that a democratic Iraq could transform the oil-rich country into the Arab world's first Shiite-dominated state. Whether secular or religious, the emergence of such a state would have broad repercussions in the Arab and larger Islamic worlds.

As with many aspects of U.S. policy on Iraq, the Bush administration is divided on what to do about it. [ complete article ]

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For help in rebuilding Mosul, U.S. turns to its former foes
Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, April 25, 2003

When 40 retired Iraqi generals showed up at an auditorium in a sugar factory this week to meet U.S. military officers, it was not to surrender but to enlist in a U.S.-led effort to rebuild northern Iraq's largest city.

"The citizens look to you, as they have for years. They will ask you what to think" about Iraq's transition, Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, said to the generals. "Your attitude, I believe, will be very, very important."

Wednesday's meeting was a sign of how dramatically the U.S. military's role has shifted since the end of the war's fighting phase. The Iraqi generals were representing about 1,000 retired and out-of-work officers who had overwhelmed U.S. authorities earlier in the week by responding to a summons for help with reconstruction.

Mosul is a traditional stronghold and source of recruits for the Iraqi military; it showed little of the euphoria that swept other areas at the fall of former president Saddam Hussein. Here, U.S. forces have been chased, spit on and fired at. At least 10 Iraqis have been killed by U.S. forces in the incidents.

"The war was easy compared to this," said Lt. Col. Robert M. Waltemeyer, commander of a Special Forces group that oversaw the city until Wednesday, when the 101st took over. [ complete article ]

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Keep out of town hall, Kut tells US troops
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, April 25, 2003

First the marines tried to get this dusty town's 200 police officers back to work, but 100 dropped out after local people warned them that only traitors collaborated with America.

Then the police station burned down. It was still smouldering yesterday as frustrated US troops began to realise that governing a people is much harder than defeating one. [ complete article ]

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Goodbye to Baghdad
After three months on assignment, The Guardian's Baghdad correspondent files her last report

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, April 25, 2003

It was not a bad day for Saddam City, so far as it goes. A neighbourly dispute sent a bullet tearing through the gut and pelvic bones of a 12-year-old. A junior Shia cleric with a whisp of a beard roamed a hospital, hectoring female nurses and doctors to wear hijab while the director tried to find his way through an emergency that never came up at Baghdad Medical College -- should he use his last remaining cylinder of oxygen to operate on an eight-year-old boy, or wait to see what other miseries the morning would bring?

Outside, goats fed on mounds of rubbish, and gunfire crackled in the alleys between the low, mean houses. "Maybe they are celebrating because the electricity came back on," said a passer-by. "Maybe this is good shooting."

Good shooting, or bad shooting, it continues.

Two weeks after American troops took control of Baghdad and the world thought the war had ended, the gunfire goes on, and Iraqis get killed and injured at the rate of several dozen every day. When the lights came back to Saddam City for the first time in more than a fortnight, the hospital received seven gunshot victims. A woman in her late teens died from a bullet in the neck; a boy, about 12, and a girl, about 10, still had bullets lodged in their brains. Nobody recorded their names. [ complete article ]

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Ya Hussein
Omayma Abdel-Latif, Al-Ahram, April 24, 2003

When Hussein Al-Sadr, the director of the London-based Islamic Institute and a prominent Shi'a leader was asked by an Arab newspaper this week to define democracy he said: "it is to give the Iraqi people the right to express their true opinions about the US presence in their country." On Tuesday, Iraq's Shi'a population -- estimated at 15 million -- demonstrated this when hundreds of thousands flocked to the city of Karbala to commemorate the battle of Karbala, in which the Prophet Mohamed's grandson, Imam Hussein, was martyred in the year 680. To Iraq's Shi'a, this public show of force marked the end of almost 25 years of systematic targeting of Shi'a institutions, leaders and rituals. According to observers of the Iraqi scene, such a massive mobilisation of Shi'a influence and power is also a political display. This was visible in many a banner during the two day demonstration of faith, which carried strong anti- American slogans. "The message is simple; the Shi'a of Iraq will not accept that Saddam be replaced by another force which denies them their basic rights and shows disrespect for their political aspirations," one Iraqi analyst told Al-Ahram Weekly on Monday.

As Iraq's different secular forces begin to re-group, organise their rank and file and promote their political activities for the first time publicly, the religious establishment emerged as the most organised structure to channel overwhelmingly anti-US public sentiment and reflect the free will of ordinary Iraqis. Indeed, fears continue to grow in Washington that the religious establishment might step in to fill the power vacuum and thus undermine the US's presence in the country. But in its attempt to curb the influence of religious leaders, the US is risking the creation of more enemies. [ complete article ]

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On Howard Dean
Marty Jezer, Common Dreams, April 24, 2003

A third party presidential challenge from the left would be reactionary and traitorous in the 2004 election. The Bush Administration and the ideas it represents must be decisively defeated. That won’t be easy. A terrorist attack, another jingoistic war in the Middle East or, as I suspect, a move against Cuba might set the administration’s terms for the election. On the other hand, Bush can no longer position himself as a moderate or a "compassionate conservative." And more states may be bankrupt and more government programs slashed even as the wealthiest Americans reap their tax cuts.

But the Republicans play to win. They plan to spend $200 million even before the campaign begins and will likely bury the Democrats in campaign fundraising. The Republicans have scheduled their convention for New York City in September 2004 in order to appropriate the memorial services for the victims of 9-11. This may backfire, of course. Liberal New Yorkers may not appreciate right-wing Republicans turning their tragedy into a campaign photo opportunity. But the administration was able to convince a majority of Americans that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. It’s not inconceivable that they’ll convince that same majority that George W. Bush is Rudy Giuliani.

The New Hampshire primary in the spring of 2004 will be a shake-out for Democratic candidates. In 1968 a strong showing by Gene McCarthy forced Lyndon Johnson to give up on re-election. A strong showing by a peace candidate in New Hampshire is needed to force Democratic hawks like Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and John Edwards from the race. Howard Dean, Vermont being New Hampshire’s neighbor, could be that candidate. [ complete article ]

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Looking beyond the war
Robert Fisk interviewed by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, April 23, 2003

We claim that we want to preserve the national heritage of the Iraqi people, and yet my own count of government buildings burning in Baghdad before I left was 158, of which the only buildings protected by the United States army and the marines were the Ministry of Interior, which has the intelligence corp of Iraq and the Ministry of Oil, and I needn't say anything else about that. Every other ministry was burning. Even the Ministry of Higher Education/Computer Science was burning. And in some cases American marines were sitting on the wall next to the ministries watching them burn. [ complete article ]

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Heading toward an historic mistake
Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, April 24, 2003

Following the fall of the Taliban, Afghans started shaving their beards. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis are growing theirs.

The sudden and unmistakable assertion of majority Shiite religious and political identity is the least expected outcome for America of the Iraq war.

The remarkable pilgrimage by about 1 million faithful, including women, to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala is the first real symbol of post-Saddam Iraq. It is of far more import than the photo-op toppling of his statue in Baghdad.

What made it even more potent was its anti-American undercurrent.

But its message was no different than the one emerging from the other segments of the diverse Iraqi nation: "Thank you for freeing us from Saddam but now, please, go home."

Can anyone recall a time in history when the liberators of an oppressed people outlived their welcome in so short a period? [ complete article ]

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U.S. to seek Iraqi interim authority
Karen DeYoung and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, April 24, 2003

The Bush administration hopes to establish an Iraqi Interim Authority to begin to take over some government duties by June 3, when the current mandate of the U.N. oil-for-food program expires. Once the authority is established, administration officials said yesterday, it can begin collecting, and spending, Iraqi oil revenue

But establishment of the authority has become complicated by, among other things, the refusal of Shiite clergy representing a significant portion of the population to participate. Without their inclusion, the administration will have a hard time convincing the United Nations, or anyone else, that the authority is an adequate step toward self-government. [ complete article ]

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A new war in Washington
Jim Lobe, AlterNet, April 22, 2003

It's been barely a week since the U.S. took control of Baghdad, but the Pentagon is already embroiled in a new war, this time with the State Department.

The opening salvo was delivered Tuesday morning by the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995-98) and member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, Newt Gingrich, at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Gingrich, who is close to Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, aimed the full fury of his rhetorical fire at the State Department, accusing it of actively subverting President George W. Bush's agenda in Iraq and beyond. [ complete article ]

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Pilgrims threaten jihad against American forces
Kim Sengupta in Karbala, The Independent, April 24, 2003

The Shia pilgrimage to Karbala, one of the most potent and symbolic in recent Iraqi history, took on a strident political and martial note yesterday with demands for the establishment of an Islamic state and threats of a jihad against the "American occupiers".

The one million people commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohamed, were not only determined to take part in the rites banned by Saddam Hussein and his Baathist predecessors, but also to lay their claim for a Shia-led government.

Yesterday, the final prayers of the festival were different from the days that have gone before, with thousands of young men arriving from the cities of a de facto Shia confederacy, which is already taking shape.

The young men left their Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers in their vehicles out of respect, they said, for the holiness of Karbala.

But later, covered in blood from flagellation with chains and knife wounds they had ritually and frenziedly inflicted on themselves they roared their desire to avenge Ayatollah al-Sadr, murdered by the regime in 1999, and fight for a free, Islamic Iraq.

The show of strength was not aimed solely at the Americans or the Sunnis they accuse of oppressing them under the rule of the Baath party. Schisms have also began to appear among the Shias: the followers of the late Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr – who now follow his son Muqtadar – are lining up against Ayatollah al-Hakim, who now runs Karbala, and Ayatollah Ali Hamid al-Sistani, in Najaf. [ complete article ]

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Show of Shia power unnerves the allies
Richard Beeston and Elaine Monaghan, The Times, April 23, 2003

Scenes of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia Muslims expressing their newfound political power on the streets of Iraq's cities are causing growing concern in Western and Arab capitals.

A fortnight after American and British troops deposed Saddam Hussein's regime, there is a growing consensus that the only credible force to have emerged in the country is the Shia clergy and its followers, many of whom advocate the creation of an Iranian-style Islamic state.

"There is real concern," a senior British official said. "The Iraqi Shia are the only group to have made any real impact so far. There was a feeling that the Shia were more secular than those in Iran. Now we are not so sure." [ complete article ]

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U.S. warns Iraqis against claiming authority in void
Michael R. Gordon and John Kifner, New York Times, April 24, 2003

The American military moved today to strip Baghdad's self-appointed administrator of his authority and warned Iraqi factions not to take advantage of the confusion and the political void in the country by trying to grab power.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of ground forces in Iraq, issued a proclamation putting Iraq's politicians on notice, saying, "The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq." He warned that anyone challenging the American-led authority would be subject to arrest. [ complete article ]

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Bush warns Tehran to keep out of Iraq's Shia strongholds
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, April 24, 2003

The Bush administration issued a sharp warning to Iran yesterday, telling it not to interfere in largely Shia southern Iraq, amid signs that Washington has been caught off guard by the strength of radical Islam in that part of the country.

Speaking after reports that Iran – the stronghold of Shia Islam in the Gulf region – had sent agents across the border, the White House made clear it would not tolerate outside meddling in the daunting task of creating a stable political system from the ashes of the Saddam Hussein regime.

"We've made clear we would oppose any outside interference in Iraq's road to democracy," said Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman. Infiltration of agents to destabilise the Shia community, which makes up 60 per cent of the Iraqi population, "would clearly fall into that category". American anxieties have been heightened by the large crowds gathered for a religious festival in the Shia holy city of Karbala and by numerous rallies of protesters demanding an end to US "occupation" as leading Shia clerics fight for influence. [ complete article ]

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The lessons of Lebanon
Let's not forget the mess the US made last time it tried 'nation building' in the Middle East

Charles Glass, The Guardian, April 24, 2003

People cheered when the US marines marched into the capital. At last someone would restore order, remove the thugs and murderers from the streets, and force an end to the chaos. Then a new government arrested and tortured dissidents. The US ordered the dissidents' outside backers, Syria and Iran, to stay away. Britain joined the US in policing the streets. With Washington supporting the government and training its army, the opposition strategy meant removing the Americans and the British. Syria and Iran helped the rebels. American soldiers shot and killed Shi'ite Muslims. American and British planes bombed their neighbourhoods. Soon, the American embassy and the marine headquarters were rubble. American and British civilians were taken hostage and displayed on television. Then, the American warships sailed away and took the marines with them. The experiment in nation-building was over.

This has already happened. The time: August 1982 to February 1985. The place: Lebanon. Can it happen again, on a larger scale, in Iraq?

The forces that drove the conflict in Lebanon are duplicated in Iraq. About 40% of Lebanon's 3 million people were Shi'ite Muslims, the poorest and most desperate people in the country. Of Iraq's 24 million people, 60% are Shi'ite. Most of them, after Saddam Hussein's discrimination against them and 12 years of sanctions, are also impoverished and angry. Shi'ite Muslims of both countries look to their clergy for leadership in troubled times. There are strong family links between the Shia of Iran and of Lebanon. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's Hizbullah, was born in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf. The mother of Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is from a prominent south Lebanese family. Mullahs from both countries receive spiritual guidance, financial aid and military support in Iran.

In Lebanon, the United States antagonised Iran and Syria. In Iraq, the US appears to be doing the same, with American officials suggesting that both Iran and Syria are ripe for American-sponsored changes of regime. In Lebanon, the Lebanese - as well as the Americans, French, British and Italians of the multinational force - paid for US foreign policy errors in blood.

Charles Glass covered the recent war in Iraq for ABC News. He was ABC News Beirut bureau chief from 1983-85 and was held hostage by Hizbullah in Lebanon in 1987
[ complete article ]

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Shiite pilgrims to US: 'Thanks. Please go now.'
Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, April 23, 2003

... just as Iraq's long-repressed Shiite majority enjoy a religious reawakening, the scale of the event [in Karbala] is a show of strength for Shiite clergy who are moving quickly to fill the vacuum left by Mr. Hussein before American forces do.

"These public demonstrations are ... to express Shiite power to the Americans," says Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, the top Shiite cleric in Karbala.

"If America really likes Iraq, it should leave Iraqis to our fate," he says. "If it is a real liberator, it shouldn't force a government on us."

As up to a million pilgrims converge on Karbala this week, passing through the gilt-domed shrines of Abbas and Hussein, the topic of conversation is when American troops will leave Iraq - and what kind of government they will leave behind.

Politics and religion never mixed in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, where clerics kept a low profile, rarely wearing their robes in public, and the faithful were regularly accused of dissent and tortured by security services.

While gratitude toward America runs deep for toppling Hussein, Iraqi Shiites say they expect the US to honor promises of democracy, and to go home soon. [ complete article ]

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How the UN may fit in postwar Iraq
Scott Baldauf and Seth Stern, Christian Science Monitor, April 23, 2003

In the marble-floored Royal Palace No. 7, Lakhdar Brahimi looks as if he has the future of Afghanistan on his lean shoulders. In a way, he does.

As the United Nations point man in Afghanistan, Mr. Brahimi is responsible for every single UN activity here - from emergency food relief and refugee repatriation to peacekeeping and reconstruction. That's just the easy stuff. Soon, the UN will help the Afghan government rewrite its constitution, hold national elections, and demobilize private armies that don't particularly want to demobilize.

By most accounts, the UN's efforts in Afghanistan are considered innovative, an outgrowth of lessons learned from recent UN missions - from Rwanda to Kosovo to East Timor. Here, the UN has honed its skills, taking a back-seat role and letting Afghans make all the big decisions, while UN officials offer the funding and technical expertise to act on those decisions. It's a method that, if given the chance, the UN says it could bring to Iraq when rebuilding there begins in earnest. [ complete article ]

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Why the mullahs love a revolution
Dilip Hiro, New York Times, April 23, 2003

The Bush team's vision for a postwar Iraq was founded on the dreams of exiles and defectors, who promised that Iraqis would shower American troops with flowers. Now, with the crowds shouting, "No to America; no to Saddam," and most Iraqis already referring to the American "occupation," the Bush administration seems puzzled.

The truth is that the exiles had been in the West so long that they knew little of the reality inside Iraq; the defectors, in search of a haven from the cruel regime, told the eager Americans anything they wanted to hear. Now that these illusions have been shattered, American policy makers might do better to consider the history of the region. In particular, the dogged nationalism of the Iraqis that forced imperial Britain's departure in 1932; and, more recently, the events in 1979 after the downfall of the secular regime of the shah of Iran. [ complete article ]

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U.S. planners surprised by strength of Iraqi Shiites
Glenn Kessler and Dana Priest, Washington Post, April 23, 2003

As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.

The burst of Shiite power -- as demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands who made a long-banned pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala yesterday -- has U.S. officials looking for allies in the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region. [ complete article ]

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Oil flows again from Iraq's southern oilfields
Reuters, April 23, 2003

Oil flowed from Iraq's southern oilfields on Wednesday for the first time since the country was invaded by U.S.-led forces last month, a U.S. military spokesman said. "Slowly but surely things are coming back on line," Lt. Col. Ed Worley told Reuters at U.S. Central Command war headquarters in Qatar. [ complete article ]

Search for water continues in S. Iraq
Tini Tran, Associated Press, April 23, 2003

They crowd by the hundreds along the muddy banks of a sludge-colored canal, hands outstretched to fill containers with foul-smelling water gushing from a broken pipe.

All day comes the parade: old men pushing carts piled high with metal tins, women carrying plastic washtubs, and children on rickety bicycles loaded with barrels.

Two weeks after British forces took control of Iraq's second-largest city, water still remains out of reach for many of Basra's 1.3 million residents, forcing some to resort to desperate measures. [ complete article ]

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Iraqi force members arrested for looting
Fighters are part of group supported by Pentagon

Associated Press, April 23, 2003

U.S. troops arrested fighters of the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces yesterday after they were found looting abandoned homes of former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Fighters of the group have been caught repeatedly while looting homes in an enclave in Baghdad where members of Hussein's Baath Party lived, said Army Staff Sgt. Bryce Ivings of Sarasota, Fla [...]

Some of the Free Iraqi Forces were trained, uniformed and brought to Iraq by the U.S. military to help U.S. troops.

They are the military wing of the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress, which is led by Ahmad Chalabi, an exile who enjoys strong support from the Pentagon and others in the Bush administration.

The members of the military wing carry official identification cards, and some carry U.S.-issued weapons.

Telephone calls to the Iraqi National Congress headquarters in Baghdad were not answered yesterday.

The new Baghdad police chief, in his first day on the job, complained to a U.S. officer that the Free Iraqi Forces, among others, have looted homes in Baghdad and refuse to obey police orders.

"They will not respect our men, and we need the U.S. soldiers to help us control them," Zabar Abdul Razaq said. [ complete article ]

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The perils of empire
Paul Kennedy, Washington Post, April 20, 2003

Eighty-six years ago, another powerful invading army had just entered Baghdad. At the same time, other divisions driving north-eastwards from Egypt were occupying Palestine. Urged on by their own strategists and intellectuals, these forces would soon advance upon Damascus. They would exercise great influence upon Iran and the Persian Gulf states. Donning the mantle of liberators, they would encourage regime change in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They would send out messages of hope that "the entire Arab world may rise once more to greatness and renown" now that its oppressors were defeated. These were folks determined to make the entire Middle East secure and stable -- a blessing to the world, no doubt, but a particular blessing to their own hegemonic nation, and that nation was Great Britain. [ complete article ]

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'Good kills'
Peter Maass, New York Times, April 20, 2003

McCoy, whose marines refer to him as, simply, ''the colonel,'' was not succumbing, in his plain talk of slaughter, to the military equivalent of exuberance, irrational or otherwise. For him, as for other officers who won the prize of front-line commands, this war was not about hearts and minds or even liberation. Those are amorphous concepts, not rock-hard missions. For Colonel McCoy and the other officers who inflicted heavy casualties on Iraqis and suffered few of their own, this war was about one thing: killing anyone who wished to take up a weapon in defense of Saddam Hussein's regime, even if they were running away. Colonel McCoy refers to it as establishing ''violent supremacy.''

''We're here until Saddam and his henchmen are dead,'' he told me at one point during his march on Baghdad. ''It's over for us when the last guy who wants to fight for Saddam has flies crawling across his eyeballs. Then we go home. It's smashmouth tactics. Sherman said that war is cruelty. There's no sense in trying to refine it. The crueler it is, the sooner it's over.'' [ complete article ]

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Iraqi Shi'ite leader ready to work with U.S.
Jon Hemming, Reuters, April 23, 2003

An Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi'ite leader said he was ready to work with the United States and the international community to improve the conditions of Iraqis and establish security and stability in his war-torn homeland.

But Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, one of the most powerful voices among Iraq's majority Shi'ites, said fervent demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at the holy shrine of Kerbala showed Iraqis were able to govern themselves.

"There is no doubt we are going to cooperate with all sides and forces that have relations with the Iraqi issue," Hakim told Reuters in an interview. "Among these sides are America, Britain, the United Nations, the European Union, Arab and Islamic states."

Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has lived in exile in Tehran for more than 20 years and has often been portrayed as a firebrand wanting to establish an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Iraq.

"We cannot make a comparison between the Iraqi and the Iranian people... the characteristics of the Iraqi people are different to those of Iranian people," he said. "We should not make a copy of the Iranian revolution and establish it in Iraq."

Hakim said there could be a separation of church and state in Iraq, unlike in his host country Iran. [ complete article ]

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Americans accused of turning blind eye to killings by Kurds
Kim Sengupta, The Independent, April 23, 2003

A bitter conflict is unfolding in northern Iraq between two minority communities, with the Americans accused of turning a blind eye to killings and ethnic cleansing.

The Kurds, the victims of oppression by Saddam Hussein and previous regimes in Baghdad, are being blamed for a violent campaign of intimidation against the Turkoman population. Organisations representing the Turkomans say they want British and European troops to protect them because the Americans are acquiescing in what is taking place. [ complete article ]

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The real significance of Kerbala
Kamil Mahdi, The Guardian, April 23, 2003

The massive expression of religious sentiment in Kerbala this week has political significance beyond the symbolism of the end of Saddam's repression. Saddam repressed popular religious rituals because they provided the environment for a wider expression of political and social grievances. Now the Iraqi masses are taking to civic engagement and have begun to articulate political demands that reject occupation. [ complete article ]

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'No fly' list is challenged in a lawsuit
Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, April 23, 2003

Civil rights advocates demanded today that the federal government explain how hundreds of people — some of them vocal critics of the Bush administration — have ended up on a list used to stop people suspected of having terrorist links from boarding commercial air flights.

In a lawsuit filed in San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union said government officials had improperly withheld information about how people wind up on the "no fly" list, what steps are taken to ensure its accuracy and how people who are erroneously detained at airports can get their names off the list. [ complete article ]

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Don't believe all the patriotic fire on American TV
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, April 23, 2003

There have been times, living in America of late, when it seemed I was back in the Communist Moscow I left a dozen years ago. Turn on the local all-news radio station, and between the war bulletins, there's Lockheed Martin running spots extolling its commitment to national security and American greatness.

Switch to cable TV and reporters breathlessly relay the latest wisdom from the usual un-named "senior administration officials", keeping us on the straight and narrow.

Everyone, it seems, is on-side and on-message. Just like it used to be when the hammer and sickle flew over the Kremlin. Those vanished Central Committee propaganda bosses would have been proud of how the Bush crowd, who operate with a similar hermetic secrecy, are running things. Then it was called democratic centralism. Here they call it the "Fox Effect". The Fox in question is the Fox News cable channel, owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose super-patriotic coverage has been a ratings winner. Fox has taken its cue from George Bush's view of the universe post-11 September – either you're with us or against us. Fox, most emphatically, is with him, and it's paid off at the box office. [ complete article ]

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Hans Blix vs the US: 'I was undermined'
David Usborne, The Independent, April 23, 2003

For the first time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, confronted the Americans openly yesterday, accusing the Bush administration of lacking credibility in its efforts to hunt down Iraq's banned weapons.

Mr Blix, 74, derided by Washington for his failure to find the "smoking gun" that would have convinced the UN to give legal backing to the war, also accused Washington and Britain of deliberately undermining his efforts before the war.

He warned the Security Council that only UN inspectors, and not the teams being assembled by America, would be able to provide an objective assessment of any materials that might be found in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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As Iraqi Shiites gain clout, will U.S. interests suffer?
Barbara Slavin and Vivienne Walt, USA Today, April 22, 2003

Analysts say that the U.S. toppling of Saddam may also have unleashed violent forces beyond Washington's control and that Iraq's neighbors, in particular Iran, will take advantage. ''I think there was a blithe assumption by the administration that all this would magically fall into place,'' says Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University.

The United States is having trouble getting the lights turned back on in Iraq, let alone forming an interim government for the fractious country. Despite efforts by U.S. forces, large parts here in the Iraqi capital and in other cities have been without power and running water for weeks.

Outside the Kadhim mosque in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiya, residents say they want the new government to follow stringent Islamic laws. ''This is the first year of our freedom,'' says Firas Abdulrazak, 35, a merchant at his stall in a market across the street from the mosque. ''We can have our own government now.'' He adds that that means a devoutly Islamic regime.

Kamal Najim, a laborer, agrees. ''Murderers should be killed because that is what the Koran says: an eye for an eye,'' he says. ''If a woman is with another man, the husband surely has the right to kill her immediately.'' A crowd of about 10 Shiite neighbors cheers in agreement. One draws his finger across his throat, indicating what punishment a woman should receive for adultery. ''The woman's skin becomes dirty for every other human being,'' Najim says.

An Islamic republic of Iraq, where such harsh punishments are meted out, is not what the Bush administration had in mind when it set out to overturn Saddam's dictatorship. But it is unclear how the United States will be able to prevent that outcome. [ complete article ]

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Oh no, not again
Paul Belden, Asia Times, April 23, 2003

On Friday it took a fiery sermon by the Sunni cleric Dr Ahmad Al Qubaisee to unleash Baghdad's full-throated Muslim religious fury at US occupation forces.

On Monday, they didn't need a cleric at all.

Or, make that, rather, that they did need a cleric. To be precise, they needed the Shi'ite Ayatollah Muhammed Al Fartuzi - and they needed him now.

Trouble was, nobody seemed to know where he was. [ complete article ]

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Putting different faces on war
James T. Madore, Newsday, April 22, 2003

While U.S. news organizations have focused throughout the war on military exploits, the press overseas has emphasized civilian casualties, most notably an Iraqi boy who lost both arms and most of his family when his home was bombed last month.

The story of 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas has saturated Europe, the Middle East and Canada, having been splashed across the front pages of newspapers and highlighted on television programs for more than two weeks. In many countries, he has become a symbol of the war.

In the United States, however, people knew little of the boy until last week when U.S. forces responded to international pressure and flew him from a Baghdad hospital to a treatment center in Kuwait. [ complete article ]

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Ba'athists slip quietly back into control
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, April 21, 2003

They have quietly removed the pictures of Saddam Hussein from their sitting rooms, and reconfigured their memories to transform lives of privilege into tales of suffering. Less than two weeks after the collapse of the regime, thousands of members of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist party, the all too willing instrument of Saddam, are resuming their roles as the men and women who run Iraq.

Two thousand policemen - all cardholding party members - have put on the olive green, or the grey-and-white uniforms of traffic wardens, and returned to the streets of Baghdad at America's invitation.

Dozens of minders from the information ministry, who spied on foreign journalists for the security agencies, have returned to the Palestine Hotel where most reporters stay, offering their services as translators to unwitting new arrivals.

Seasoned bureaucrats at the oil ministry - including the brother of General Amer Saadi, the chemical weapons expert now in American custody - have been offered their jobs back by the US military. Feelers have also gone out to Saddam's health minister, despite past American charges that Iraqi hospitals stole medicine from the sick.

It has become increasingly apparent that Washington cannot restore governance to Baghdad without resorting to the party which for decades controlled every aspect of life under the regime.

It has equally become apparent that the Ba'ath party - whose neighbourhood spy cells were as feared as the state intelligence apparatus - will survive in some form, either through the appeal of its founding ideals, or through the rank opportunism of its millions of members. [ complete article ]

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How American power girds the globe with a ring of steel
Ian Traynor, The Guardian, April 21, 2003

Whenever America goes to war, the spoils of victory invariably include more US military bases overseas.

Having vanquished Saddam Hussein, the Pentagon is planning to establish four US bases in Iraq, according to reports in Washington yesterday.

The Iraqi deployment plans fall into the century-old pattern of US foreign bases being built on the back of military victory. They are also the latest episode in an extraordinary surge in America's projection of military muscle since September 11. [ complete article ]

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Hunt for Iraqi arms erodes assumptions
Barton Gellman, Washington Post, April 22, 2003

With little to show after 30 days, the Bush administration is losing confidence in its prewar belief that it had strong clues pointing to the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction concealed in Iraq, according to planners and participants in the hunt.

After testing some -- though by no means all -- of their best leads, analysts here and in Washington are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for in the places described on a five-tiered target list drawn up before fighting began. Their strategy is shifting from the rapid "exploitation" of known suspect sites to a vast survey that will rely on unexpected discoveries and leads. [ complete article ]

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The Iraqis' idea of democracy may differ from that of Mr Bush
Lead Editorial, The Independent, April 22, 2003

From the start to the end of the war in Iraq there has been an affecting simplicity, verging on naivety, about much of what President Bush has had to say. His remarks over the Easter weekend were no exception. The liberation of Iraq, he said, would make the world a more peaceful place. With Saddam Hussein no longer in power, the Iraqi people's lives would be much better. Finally, he offered: "Freedom is beautiful. And when people are free, they express their opinions as they could not do before."

All those opinions, ventured so confidently, are now about to be tested in ways of which Mr Bush and his administration may never even have dreamt. While the US administrator, the retired general Jay Garner, marked his arrival in Baghdad by promising to repair the war damage as a matter of priority, thousands of Iraqis were using their new freedom to voice their discontent. For several thousand in Baghdad – far more than have ever turned out to applaud US troops – that meant protesting against the US "occupation".

Many, many other Iraqis are channelling their new freedom into religious expression, and not at all the sort of religious expression that US evangelist Franklin Graham plans to take to Iraq very soon. [ complete article ]

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Shiites get their shot at power
John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2003

As women pick through a vendor's basket of ripe tomatoes near a burnt-out Iraqi tank on this busy stretch of road a few miles south of Baghdad, the sense that life is resuming after war is inescapable.

All seems normal -- except for the music blaring from the loudspeaker of the nearby mosque.

It is a rhythmic song honoring Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and it alternates with a message to the people from Iraq's senior Shiite Muslim leader, 73-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf. "Do no harm to the Sunnis," it tells them. "But if they harm you, you may defend yourselves."

A few short weeks ago, only the Sunni-dominated Baath Party would have dared to issue edicts to the Iraqi people -- in the name of President Saddam Hussein.

But in the absence of a government since Hussein's ouster April 9, the voice of Sistani and the network of Shiite seminaries that he heads -- the Hawza I-Ilima -- is increasingly the authority that Iraqis heed.

And the unstated message to Sunni Muslims and Christians is that the era of Shiite power has come in Iraq, commensurate with their two-thirds share of the population. [ complete article ]

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U.S. government implicated in planned theft of Iraqi artistic treasures
Ann Talbot, World Socialist, April 19, 2003

As the full extent of the looting of Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad emerges, it becomes clear that there was nothing accidental about it. Rather it was the result of a long planned project to plunder the artistic and historical treasures that are held in the museums of Iraq.

Had the National Museum of Iraq been looted by poor slum dwellers it would have been crime enough, and the responsibility would have rested with the American administration that refused, despite repeated warnings, to provide for the security of Baghdad's cultural buildings.

Once the museum staff were able to communicate with the outside world, however, it became apparent that the looting was not random. It was the work of people who knew what they were looking for and came specially equipped for the job.

Dr. Dony George, head of the Baghdad Museum, said, "I believe they were people who knew what they wanted. They had passed by the gypsum copy of the Black Obelisk. This means that they must have been specialists. They did not touch those copies." [ complete article ]

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Why Iraqis talk of occupation, not liberation
Paul McGeough, The Age, April 19, 2003

Life for Iraq's 25 million people has become a struggle to find food and their feet after the Americans ripped away Saddam's regime and then stood back as the only form of life and government most of them knew was destroyed in a looting rampage that many believe was a part of the invasion plan - all functions of government are paralysed.

Americans might be offended by a comparison with September 11. But if that traumatised the US, how do we measure the impact of such a high-powered military invasion in Iraq. A tyrant is gone, but so too is the only form of order most Iraqis know. [ complete article ]

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Confusion over who controls Iraq's oil ministry
Charles Clover, Financial Times, April 20, 2003

Ringed by US tanks and guarded by US soldiers with a very exclusive admission list, Iraq's oil ministry on Sunday appeared secluded from the disorder that reigns in the rest of Baghdad.

One question nevertheless provoked a great deal of confusion: who is in charge of the world's second largest petroleum reserves?

The former minister is barred from entering, as are his deputies. A man in a green suit, standing outside the barbed wire, introduced himself as Fellah al-Khawaja and said he represented the Co-ordinating Committee for the Oil Ministry, which few of the employees had heard of.

It draws its authority from a self-declared local government led by Mohamed Mohsen al- Zubaidi, a recently returned exile who says he is now the effective mayor of Baghdad.

According to Faris Nouri, a ministry section chief, the committee has issued a list of who should be allowed into the ministry by US troops guarding the building. On Sunday it was announced that Mr Zubaidi's deputy, former general Jawdat al-Obeidi, would lead Iraq's delegation to the next meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. [ complete article ]

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Blair 'must produce evidence for war'
Andrew Sparrow, The Telegraph, April 21, 2003

Tony Blair was under a "moral obligation" to produce evidence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, the Tories said yesterday.

Alan Duncan, a shadow foreign office minister, said Britain and America would forfeit the trust of the world if they could not find the biological, chemical or nuclear weapons whose existence was used to justify the attack on Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Will Hollywood stop Arab-bashing?
Jack Shaheen, Los Angeles Times, April 21 2003

For far too long, Hollywood has played a paradoxically hidden role in paving the way to America's war now winding down in Iraq. We first went to war with Iraq in 1943, with a movie called "Adventure in Iraq." It depicted an American soldier's "shock and awe" bombing of what the screenplay called that Arab country's "devil worshipers." (The Arab characters were mostly played by Anglos.)

"Adventure in Iraq" was nothing new. For most of the past century, Hollywood has been conditioning audiences worldwide to internalize the defamatory message that Arabs and, by extension, all Muslims are unrelenting enemies of Western values. Major studios shortsightedly but with increasing momentum have dedicated themselves to producing films and TV programs that featured overt anti-Arab propaganda.

What remains to be seen is whether Hollywood, misled by America's swift ousting of Saddam Hussein, will misconstrue our victory as a renewed license to continue its ultimately suicidal barrage or get the real message in time to mend its ways. [ complete article ]

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Give us back our democracy
Edward Said, The Observer, April 20, 2003

In a speech in the Senate on 19 March, the first day of war against Iraq, Robert Byrd, the Democrat Senator from West Virginia, asked: 'What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomacy when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?'

No one bothered to answer, but as the American military machine currently in Iraq stirs restlessly in other directions, these questions give urgency to the failure, if not the corruption, of democracy. [ complete article ]

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Religion and politics converge in march of a million Iraqi Shias
Phil Reeves and Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, April 21, 2003

A vast army of Iraqi Shia Muslims – and a few from neighbouring Iran, too – was on the move, pouring out of the towns and villages towards one of their holiest cities in a traditional annual march that was banned under Saddam Hussein. From Baghdad, the journey takes two days. But some of those who live further afield said they had been walking for five.

This was, first and foremost, a ritual, an act of self-sacrifice to mark the 40th day of mourning for the death of the prophet's grandson, Hussein, 1,323 years ago. This red letter day in the Shia calendar falls on Wednesday.

But it is an event that also has considerable political significance. Though this was primarily a religious event, the mass march – which will continue today – is a de facto show of strength by Iraq's Shia majority, ruthlessly suppressed under Saddam Hussein, and now eager to lay down their marker in the political vacuum of the chaotic and dangerous post-Saddam days. In Karbala the pilgrims find a city that is operating under the rule of the Shia elders, in what could be a blueprint for other cities across Iraq.

It could equally prove to be the start of an overwhelming problem for Washington and London as they try to establish an inclusive government among the Iraqi population, of which 60 per cent is Shia.

Since the war ended, the Shias have been quietly taking control of running Shia- dominated towns. This was another tacit reminder to the US that their community – whose aspirations bear little resemblance to Washington's hopes for the brave new world – must be taken into account. [ complete article ]

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This occupation is a disaster. The US must leave - and fast
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, April 21, 2003

Abdul al-Malaki lives opposite the gatehouse of the extravagant palace that Saddam Hussein built in his home town of Tikrit. Flanked by megalomaniac twin statues of the former Iraqi president riding a horse above four missiles, the palace arch was a daily affront to locals.

"The people of Tikrit are like the rest of Iraq. They hated Saddam Hussein. I want to kill him," the 28-year-old cafe-owner spat out his words. But as lorry-loads of US Marines trundled through the arch, he switched focus: "This is an occupation. Nothing else. We will keep quiet for a year and if they have not gone we will kill them."

The gratitude for removing Saddam Hussein on which Washington mistakenly expected to bank for years is almost exhausted. Those who warned the Bush administration against this war have been proved right. Only in the Kurdish areas of the north is there any satisfaction. [ complete article ]

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Burn a country's past and you torch its future
Robert Darnton, Washington Post, April 20, 2003

It happened here, too. The British burned our national library in 1814. It wasn't much of a library, to be sure -- just a collection of about 3,000 volumes assembled for the use of senators and representatives in the new capitol being built in the wilderness of Washington, D.C. But in destroying it, the British invaders struck at the heart of what would develop into a national identity.

Do libraries really matter for a nation's sense of its self? Evidently Iraqis felt the destruction of their national library, archives and museum in the past week as a loss of their connection to a collective past, something like a national memory. When asked to explain what the National Museum of Iraq had meant to him, a security guard answered, in tears, "It was beautiful. The museum is civilization." Even some of the looters are reportedly beginning to return what they had carried off, as if in response to a need to heal a self-inflicted wound. [ complete article ]

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Shiite clerics face a time of opportunity and risks
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, April 20, 2003

[Shiite leader, Sayyid Muqtada] Sadr and other clerics stand at the center of the most decisive moment for Shiite Muslims in Iraq's modern history. It is a revival from both the streets and the seminaries that will most likely shape the destiny of a postwar Iraq.

In the streets, the end of Hussein's rule has unleashed a sweeping and boisterous celebration of faith, from Baghdad to Basra, as Shiites embrace traditions repressed for decades. In politics, the prominence of clergy -- the major institution to survive the repression of Hussein's powerful Baath Party -- has signaled that in coming years, power may be reflected through a religious prism. And for Shiite populations abroad -- including in Iran -- the community's newfound freedom may reestablish the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala as centers of religion and politics, recasting an arc of Shiite activism that began with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. [ complete article ]

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Pentagon expects long-term access to four key bases in Iraq
Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, April 20, 2003

The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say.

American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north. [ complete article ]

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Deadly unrest leaves Mosul's residents bitter at U.S.
David Rohde, New York Times, April 20, 2003

Just over a week ago, as a vibrant spring day bloomed on the banks of the Tigris, residents of this city woke to find that the local Baath Party leadership had fled.

Suddenly free, yet alone, residents waited for American forces to rush into Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, to keep the peace.

Instead, the city turned into the most violent place in all of postwar Iraq.

By this morning, at least 31 Iraqis were dead and more than 150 wounded in clashes, including 17 believed to have been killed by American marines in disputed shootings. Looters had destroyed the city's most treasured buildings. American soldiers had been attacked, and one had been wounded.

In the midst of the vacuum, new leaders emerged, and mosques became the center of relief efforts. There is still gratitude toward America here, but the events of the last week have fed deep suspicions of the United States. [ complete article ]

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A tale of two Fridays
Maureen Dowd, New York Times, April 20, 2003

The Pentagon, a.k.a. the International Trust for Historic Preservation, has once more shown the world its deep cultural sensitivity.

Franklin Graham, the Christian evangelist who has branded Islam a "very wicked and evil" religion, was the honored speaker at the Pentagon's Good Friday service.

After Kenna West, a Christian singer, crooned, "There is one God and one faith," Mr. Graham told an auditorium of soldiers in camouflage, civilian staffers and his son, a West Point cadet: "There's no other way to God except through Christ. . . . Jesus Christ is alive because he is risen, and friends, he's coming back, and I believe he's coming back soon."

When Muslim groups complained that the Pentagon was "endorsing" his attacks on Islam, Mr. Graham asked for a photo op with Muslim Pentagon employees. They declined.

Muslims suspicious that America is on a crusade against Islam were inflamed to learn that Mr. Graham is taking his missionary act to Iraq. They are still scorched by his remarks to NBC News after 9/11: "It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, and it wasn't Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."

He wrote in his last book that Christianity and Islam were "as different as lightness and darkness," and recently told the Sunday Times of London, "The true God is the God of the Bible, not the Koran." [ complete article ]

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