The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
U.S. insiders say Iraq intel deliberately skewed
Jim Wolf, Reuters, May 30, 2003

A growing number of U.S. national security professionals are accusing the Bush administration of slanting the facts and hijacking the $30 billion intelligence apparatus to justify its rush to war in Iraq.

A key target is a four-person Pentagon team that reviewed material gathered by other intelligence outfits for any missed bits that might have tied Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to banned weapons or terrorist groups.

This team, self-mockingly called the Cabal, "cherry-picked the intelligence stream" in a bid to portray Iraq as an imminent threat, said Patrick Lang, a former head of worldwide human intelligence gathering for the Defense Intelligence Agency, which coordinates military intelligence.

The DIA was "exploited and abused and bypassed in the process of making the case for war in Iraq based on the presence of WMD," or weapons of mass destruction, he added in a phone interview. He said the CIA "no guts at all" to resist the allegedly deliberate skewing of intelligence by a Pentagon that he said was now dominating U.S. foreign policy.

Vince Cannistraro, a former chief of Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorist operations, said he knew of serving intelligence officers who blame the Pentagon for playing up "fraudulent" intelligence, "a lot of it sourced from the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi." [ complete article ]

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Straw, Powell had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims
Dan Plesch and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, May 31, 2003

Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned.

Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5.

The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.

The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims.

Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources. [ complete article ]

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A love under fire
Nicholas Blincoe, The Guardian, May 31, 2003

I first saw Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf on April 18 2002, by the steps to the souk in the centre of Bethlehem. I had already heard so much about them, two Americans who had met in Jerusalem and fallen in love, Adam from a Jewish background and Huwaida from a Palestinian: folklore in the making. I was not disappointed. The pair were not only striking, with an easy physicality, they were also strikingly similar; like brother and sister, rather than boyfriend and girlfriend. They were confronting a chain of Israeli soldiers who were visibly diminished by the encounter.

This was three weeks into the Israeli invasion of the West Bank, the third invasion in six months. The centre of Bethlehem was deserted, and the air was filled with the smell of meat and vegetables rotting in the refrigerator plants of the market, a market that had been comprehensively vandalised by the soldiers. The smell joined with others, from the refuse that was tied in bags and dropped out of windows to remain, uncollected, in the street, and from drains that had been fractured by the weight of the Israeli tanks; when it rained, as it did often that Easter, the raw sewage swilled out into the street.

The soldiers were young, armed and tanned. In their wraparound sports shades, they looked as though they had come to the invasion straight from a skiing holiday. But they shrank before Adam and Huwaida's questioning: why were they there; why were they choosing to follow illegal orders; why were they blocking all attempts to deliver food to families who had been forbidden to leave their homes for the past 17 days? [ complete article ]

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World or homeland? US National Security Strategy in the 21st century
Charles V. Pena, Open Democracy, May 29, 2003

The new National Security Strategy of the United States promulgated by the Bush administration in September 2002 describes itself as being "based on distinctly American internationalism". This new form of 'internationalism' – what may be termed the Bush Doctrine – projects what this remarkable document claims to be "the union of our values and our national interests". The outcome is a strategy whose "aim…is to help make the world not just safer but better."

This is a surprising posture for a Republican administration that had talked about a more humble foreign policy and criticised nation-building. It draws on early 20th century Wilsonian beliefs in America's mission to bring democracy to the old world of Europe. It reproduces a rather Clintonesque view of "promoting democracy." As such, it has brought together two groups in an unlikely alliance: the so-called neo-conservatives or 'neo-cons' (essentially, Republicans – and indeed some Democrats – who want to exercise power abroad), and liberal interventionists from the Clinton administration.

To be sure, the neo-cons would challenge the Clintonites' preference for working with the United Nations and having the support of the international community. But they arrive at the same end point, the belief that America's interests are best pursued by spreading democracy throughout the world by means of the direct projection of American military force.

While the Bush Doctrine draws upon the strategies developed by these contrasting sources in the 1990s, it only came about – and they only came together – after the events of 11 September 2001. [ complete article ]

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Save our spooks
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, May 30, 2003

On Day 71 of the Hunt for Iraqi W.M.D., yesterday, once again nothing turned up.

Maybe we'll do better on Day 72. But we might have better luck searching for something just as alarming: the growing evidence that the administration grossly manipulated intelligence about those weapons of mass destruction in the runup to the Iraq war.

A column earlier this month on this issue drew a torrent of covert communications from indignant spooks who say that administration officials leaned on them to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and deceive the public.

"The American people were manipulated," bluntly declares one person from the Defense Intelligence Agency who says he was privy to all the intelligence there on Iraq. These people are coming forward because they are fiercely proud of the deepest ethic in the intelligence world -- that such work should be nonpolitical -- and are disgusted at efforts to turn them into propagandists. [ complete article ]

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America's greatest enemy keeps no secrets
Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 2003

If the "high risk" terror threat has you hiding under the bed, come out, please. There's something you can do besides buy duct tape and bottled water. "Through Our Enemies' Eyes," by Anonymous - a man who's worked for 20 years in the US intelligence community - is now available in paperback. (This reviewer has spoken with the author several times, once in person.)

His book isn't another self-help treatise to help you remain safe should terrorists strike again. It is much more. It's a primer on Osama bin Laden - the experiences and primary religious beliefs that resulted in his jihad against the West.

The author considers everything bin Laden has said and done - including not only interviews and speeches available in the American press, but also those in the Pakistani and Arab press. The evidence is convincing: Bin Laden has telegraphed his every intention. We just have to pay better attention. As tragic as the 9/11 attacks were, "Anonymous" believes US leaders should have anticipated them. In fact, his book was completed by June 2001 and was going through government review prior to publication when the hijackers struck. [ complete article ]

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Iranian apathy may hinder U.S. bid to foment unrest
Karl Vick, Washington Post, May 29, 2003

Iranian analysts warn that any U.S. plan to foment popular unrest in Iran will run up against the same challenge that has stalled the country's struggling reform movement: The careworn Iranian public is steadily disengaging from politics.

"In the current situation, it's impossible," said Saeed Laylaz, a reformist journalist and businessman. "The people are going to their homes, not coming out into the streets. The atmosphere in Tehran and Iran is being de-politicized, step by step and day by day."

As U.S. policymakers debate what stance to adopt toward a country they accuse of sheltering senior members of al Qaeda and seeking to develop nuclear weapons, the assessment voiced by Laylaz and echoed by other reformists and foreign diplomats in telephone interviews this week suggests scant support for those urging destabilization of a government that remains largely under the control of unelected conservative clerics. [ complete article ]

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Al-Qaida 'sheltered in shah's lodge'
Julian Borger, The Guardian, May 29, 2003

The tough line on Iran contemplated by the Bush administration is partly driven by intelligence reports that al-Qaida leaders are being sheltered by the Iranian revolutionary guards at one of the former shah's hunting lodges, it emerged yesterday.

The terrorist leaders suspected of taking refuge in Iran include Saif al-Adel, an Eygptian believed to have risen to number three in the organisation, and Abu Mohammed al-Masri, a suspected organiser of the 1998 embassy bombings in east Africa. They may also include Saad bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden's sons.

The trail of clues that led to a grand hunting lodge - now a military base - in the eastern highlands near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, surfaced after an air crash in February outside the city of Kerman killed 200 soldiers from the revolutionary guards. [ complete article ]

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Officials: Rumsfeld trying to make foreign policy
Joseph L. Galloway, Philadephia Inquirer, May 29, 2003

President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and other top officials are spending hours coping with frequent, unsolicited attempts by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to make foreign policy, according to senior administration officials who are directly involved.

The officials said Bush himself had to quash a Rumsfeld proposal last month to send Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to South Korea to announce that the United States was pulling American troops off the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. [ complete article ]

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Rumsfeld pushes for regime change in Iran
Guy Dinmore and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times, May 29, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, is spearheading efforts to make "regime change" in Iran the official policy goal of the Bush administration, but his campaign is meeting with considerable resistance from other senior figures, according to officials and analysts.

A reassessment of US policy towards Iran coincides with an initiative launched by powerful conservative figures within the Islamic republic to engage the US in an attempt to restore relations -and thereby preserve the clerical regime in Tehran. [ complete article ]

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Salam's story
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, May 30, 2003

No one in Baghdad knew who he was or the risks he was taking. Apart from a select group of trusted friends, they still don't. The telephones and the internet haven't worked here since the collapse of the regime, so the Iraqis never had a chance to read the diaries of the Baghdad Blogger. Outside the country, many didn't even believe that the man who wrote only under the sobriquet Salam Pax truly existed. It was the great irony of the war. While the world's leading newspapers and television networks poured millions of pounds into their coverage of the war in Iraq, it was the internet musings of a witty young Iraqi living in a two-storey house in a Baghdad suburb that scooped them all to deliver the most compelling description of life during the war. [ complete article ]

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Senator rips lack of Iraqi weapons finds
Ken Guggenheim, Associated Press, May 30, 2003

If Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed enough of a threat to justify war, they should have been found by now, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia challenged comments by Bush administration officials that the weapons were well-hidden and may not be located soon.

"You can't quite say that it's going to take a lot more time if the intelligence community seemed to be in general agreement that WMD was out there," Rockefeller said in an interview.

Rockefeller said that if the weapons were so well concealed, the United States should have considered giving U.N. inspectors more time to find them. [ complete article ]

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Lawmaker says Halliburton deals on Iraq bigger than reported
Agence France-Presse, May 30, 2003

Halliburton Co. has received more US government contracts in Iraq than earlier reported, including an "obscure but lucrative" deal with 425 million dollars, a US lawmaker says.

Representative Henry Waxman said in a letter dated Thursday that he recently learned of the deal for Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root subsidiary to provide logistical support for US armed forces dating back to 2001.

The contracts awarded to Halliburton, the oil firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, have been criticized by Waxman and others because of the potential for favored treatment and because many appeared to be awarded without bids.

"When the contracts are combined, the total amount that Halliburton has receieved to date for work related to Iraq is now nerly 500 million dollars," Waxman's letter to US Army Secretary Les Brownlee states.

In addition, Waxman said, the open-ended nature of some oil services contracts make the potential even greater.

One contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers has "a two year duration and a ceiling of seven billion dolalrs," he said, while the second contract "has no ceiling at all," making the amount Halliburton could receive "virtually limitless." [ complete article ]

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Waggy dog stories
Paul Krugman, New York Times, May 30, 2003

An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else -- including scandals involving administration officials -- from the public's consciousness.

The 1997 movie "Wag the Dog" had quite a plot.

Although the movie's title has entered the language, I don't know how many people have watched it lately. Read the screenplay. If you don't think it bears a resemblance to recent events, you're in denial.

The Iraq war was very real, even if its Kodak moments -- the toppling of the Saddam statue, the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch -- seem to have been improved by editing. But much of the supposed justification for the war turns out to have been fictional. [ complete article ]

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U.S. raids Palestinian mission in Baghdad
Slobodan Lekic, Assoicated Press, May 29, 2003

U.S. troops raided the Palestinian Authority's mission in Baghdad and arrested 11 people after ransacking the building, a Palestinian official said Thursday. A top U.S. general said eight people were arrested.

The detained men included charge d'affairs Majah Abdul Rahman, who was running the mission in the ambassador's absence, mission official Mohamed Abdul Wahab said. They were taken to a U.S. base in the center of the city and have not been released, he said.

"They even took all of our water bottles and food cans," Wahab said. "They behaved like common thieves." [ complete article ]

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Brave new word
Derek Brown, The Guardian, May 28, 2003

That Ariel Sharon has applied the word "occupation" to Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is remarkable. That he has described the said occupation as "bad for us and them" is astounding. But that this should be interpreted as a change of heart; a signal that Israel is prepared to pull out of the territories, is both wrong-headed and dangerous.

Mr Sharon's play on words is interesting, and just might mark a significant shift in Israeli tactics. It is deeply unlikely, however, to mean a decisive change in strategy.

The Israeli prime minister, perhaps more than any other leader of our times, believes passionately that the West Bank should stay under Israeli control. That belief is founded not on religious fervour, on the endlessly repeated mantra that this is part of the land that God gave to Israel, but rather on military analysis. [ complete article ]

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Lynch family silent over rescue
BBC News, May 29, 2003

Greg and Deadra Lynch also said they could not comment on reports disputing the US military's account of her rescue from an Iraqi hospital on 1 April.

An investigation by the BBC's Correspondent programme said the story of the rescue was "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived".

But the Pentagon denies claims that the facts of Private Lynch's rescue were misrepresented by the US military, saying they are "void of all facts and absolutely ridiculous".

"We're really not supposed to talk about that subject," Mr Lynch said during a news conference at the family's rural West Virginia home.

"It's still an ongoing investigation and we can't talk about anything like that." [ complete article ]

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Pentagon aims guns at Lynch reports
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2003

It is one thing when the talk-show bullies who shamelessly smeared the last president, even as he attacked the training camps of Al Qaeda, now term it anti-American or even treasonous to dare criticize the Bush administration. When our Pentagon, however -- a $400-billion- a-year juggernaut -- savages individual journalists for questioning its version of events, it is worth noting.

Especially if you're that journalist. [ complete article ]

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U.S. hedges on finding Iraqi weapons
Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, May 29, 2003

Pressed in recent congressional hearings and public appearances to explain why the United States has been unable to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, senior Bush administration officials have begun to lay the groundwork for the possibility that it may take a long time, if ever, before they are able to prove the expansive case they made to justify the war. [ complete article ]

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WMD just a convenient excuse for war, admits Wolfowitz
David Usborne, The Independent, May 30, 2003

The Bush administration focused on alleged weapons of mass destruction as the primary justification for toppling Saddam Hussein by force because it was politically convenient, a top-level official at the Pentagon has acknowledged.

The extraordinary admission, which is bound to stir the controversy in Washington and London about the murky motivations for war, comes in an interview with Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defence Secretary, in the July issue of the magazine Vanity Fair.

Mr Wolfowitz also discloses that there was one justification that was "almost unnoticed but huge". That was the prospect of the United States being able to withdraw all of its forces from Saudi Arabia once the threat of Saddam had been removed. Since the taking of Baghdad, Washington has said that it is taking its troops out of the kingdom.

"Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to the door" towards making progress elsewhere in achieving Middle East peace, Mr Wolfowitz argued. The presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia has been one of the main grievances of al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups.

"For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on," Mr Wolfowitz tells the magazine, apparently alluding to the inter-departmental squabbling that occurred in Washington in the run-up to the war.

The comments suggest that, even for the US administration, the logic that was presented for going to war may have been an empty shell. They come to light, moreover, just two days after Mr Wolfowitz's immediate boss, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, conceded for the first time that the arms might never be found. [ complete article ]

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God save the Iraqis from the American God
James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, May 29, 2003

Once upon a time, conservatives opposed God-playing hubris. The Austrian-born economist Friedrich Hayek, for example, wrote a book titled "The Fatal Conceit." And what was that "fatal conceit"? It was the idea that "man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes." Hayek was no enemy of progress - which is achieved, he argued, through the trial-and-error experiments of the marketplace. His criticism was aimed at central planning, which sought progress instead by overturning the hard-learned lessons of human nature.

To Hayek, the idea that experts in a marbled ministry could gather the information necessary to make good decisions was the most lethal of follies. And the same centralization that strangles economic growth, he maintained, also strangles free expression, eventually turning technocrats into tyrants.

Hayek's conservatism was based on caution and prudence. The new conservatism, often called "neoconservatism," is radically different; it should be called pseudo-conservatism. It's based on the profoundly hubristic unconservative idea of creating heaven on earth, of playing God. To be sure, the pseudocons proclaim the purest of motives, but they should be judged on their results, not their rhetoric. [ complete article ]

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Poverty doesn't create terrorists
Alan B. Krueger, New York Times, May 29, 2003

"The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers," President Bush predicted in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in February.

Others in the administration, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, highlighted that Iraq's widely reported increase in payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, to $25,000 from $10,000, in the spring of 2002, encouraged suicide bomb attacks. Regime change, it was argued, would eliminate the incentive for suicide bombings.

This month's spate of suicide bombing attacks in the Middle East -- five in Israel, three in Saudi Arabia and five in Morocco -- should put this argument to rest. The number of suicide attacks per week in Israel was higher in the month after the fall of Baghdad than it was, on average, in the 14 months before the invasion. Of course, this is not a controlled experiment; other contributing factors have changed. But it would seem that the financial incentive provided by Iraq's payments has had little impact on the supply of suicide bombers so far.

Why were the policy makers wrong? [ complete article ]

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Behind the victory, a power struggle that drains life from a weary people
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, May 29, 2003

When Tony Blair visits Iraq today, he will be told about the achievements of the British armed forces, the swift and widely welcomed defeat of Saddam Hussein's tyrannical regime and how reconstruction, though difficult, is beginning apace.

It will only be half the story. He will not, for example, hear about Dr Hussain Ridha and the plight of Khalis, a small, provincial capital about 50 miles north of Baghdad. But if Khalis is anything like the hundreds of other small towns and villages across the country, then postwar Iraq is al ready in a far deeper crisis than its military occupiers will ever admit.

Khalis is an unremarkable town of around 40,000 people, set in fertile plains to the east of the Tigris river. Two days ago a newborn baby died in Dr Ridha's hands because the hospital where he works has run out of oxygen.

Doctors are now seeing 200 new patients daily, all suffering from severe diarrhoea. It is twice the average for this time of year. In addition, each day they see at least seven new typhoid patients. Yesterday Dr Ridha was on his last bottle of Flagyl, or metronidazole, one of the main antibiotics he uses for bacterial stomach illnesses. [ complete article ]

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Official explodes key WMD claim
Tom Happold and agencies, The Guardian, May 29, 2003

Downing Street doctored a dossier on Iraq's weapons programme to make it "sexier", according to a senior British official, who claims intelligence services were unhappy with the assertion that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were ready for use within 45 minutes.

Despite a No 10 denial that "not one word of the dossier was not entirely the work of the intelligence agencies," the revelations are likely to cloud Tony Blair's visit to Iraq today. Critics of the war are expected to claim that the document shows it was one of conquest, not pre-emptive self-defence or liberation.

It is understood that the parliamentary intelligence and security committee is set to launch an enquiry into the claims made by the government about Iraq. And the former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, who resigned over his opposition to the war, last night called for a more independent select committee to investigate the matter.

The unnamed official told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Most people in intelligence weren't happy with the dossier because it didn't reflect the considered view they were putting forward."

Describing how it was "transformed" in the week before it was published to make it "sexier", he added: "The classic example was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within 45 minutes. [ complete article ]

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Pakistan is losing the fight against fundamentalism
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian, May 29, 2003

When Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, gave his support to the US in its war on Afghanistan 20 months ago, he took a calculated risk: he was confronting his country's conservative religious lobby in a stand-off that would determine whether Pakistan became a modern, outward-looking democracy or a reactionary Islamic republic. There were protests as the war began, but on the whole Musharraf seemed to get away with it: when it came down to it, it seemed, even devout Muslims in Pakistan had doubts about government by mullah.

Today, with religious parties dominant in Pakistan's parliament and the introduction of sharia law imminent in the North-West Frontier Province, the question seems less clear-cut: is the NWFP a harbinger of more general religious militancy, or a special case, unrelated to the rest of Pakistan? [ complete article ]

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A road trap for America, too
Frank J. Gaffney Jr., National Post, May 29, 2003

Americans should be under no illusion: What might more accurately be called the "road trap" will probably have dire consequences for America's vital interests, as well. Specifically, if a new, sovereign safe-haven for terrorism called "Palestine" emerges, the road map will prove to be at cross-purposes with practically everything the Bush administration has been trying to do since September 11, 2001 to destroy terrorist organizations and the rogue-state regimes that sponsor them. [ complete article ]

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The case for war is blown apart
Ben Russell and Andy McSmith, The Independent, May 29, 2003

Tony Blair stood accused last night of misleading Parliament and the British people over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and his claims that the threat posed by Iraq justified war.

Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, seized on a "breathtaking" statement by the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, that Iraq's weapons may have been destroyed before the war, and anger boiled over among MPs who said the admission undermined the legal and political justification for war.

Mr Blair insisted yesterday he had "absolutely no doubt at all about the existence of weapons of mass destruction".

But Mr Cook said the Prime Minister's claims that Saddam could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes were patently false. He added that Mr Rumsfeld's statement "blows an enormous gaping hole in the case for war made on both sides of the Atlantic" and called for MPs to hold an investigation.

Meanwhile, Labour rebels threatened to report Mr Blair to the Speaker of the Commons for the cardinal sin of misleading Parliament - and force him to answer emergency questions in the House. [ complete article ]

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International Press Institute: "Caught in the crossfire: The Iraq war and the media"
Electronic Intifada, May 28, 2003

In the 54-page report, "Caught in the Crossfire: The Iraq War and the Media - A Diary of Claims and Counterclaims", IPI documents the unfolding of events relating to the media from the point of view of the media.

At least 15 journalists died in the conflict. Two are still missing. Journalists and media outlets were targeted and attacked; journalists were beaten, harassed, jailed and censored. The battle over the airwaves and public opinion was seemingly as important to the belligerents as the battles over territory and air superiority. Propaganda, bias and disinformation were more prevalent than accurate and relevant information. [ complete article ]

Read the full report.

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Unfulfilled promises leave Iraqis bewildered
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, May 27, 2003

People are confused that U.S. military forces, assumed to be all-powerful, have delivered little. They are unsettled by the lawlessness that has encouraged religious forces to step into the breach and vigilantes to dole out their own brand of justice. They are bitter at the promises -- yet unfulfilled -- of a better life that would follow the war. To many of its residents, Baghdad is a capital both liberated and occupied, but most of all just bewildered. [ complete article ]

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Global network aids theft of Iraqi artifacts
Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times, May 28, 2003

Khalil is one of the middle links in a global network of plundering that is rapidly depleting the immense reserves of ancient art and historical data that lie buried in cities that once made up the Babylonian and Sumerian empires.

The looting has been under way on a smaller scale for years, but it has exploded into an orgy of theft in the weeks since American forces toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi police force, which disintegrated at the end of the war, is not only powerless but afraid to stop the heavily armed groups that now prowl over dozens of sites. American soldiers are generally too occupied with reducing street crime and restoring basic services like electricity to pay much attention. [ complete article ]

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Daniel Pipes, peacemaker?
Michael Scherer, Mother Jones, May 26, 2003

Like many other Middle East scholars, Daniel Pipes sees a way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But unlike most of his peers, Pipes sees no room for negotiation, no hope for compromise and no use for diplomacy. "What war had achieved for Israel," Pipes explained at a recent Zionist conference in Washington DC, "diplomacy has undone."

His solution is simple: The Israeli military must force what Pipes describes as a "change of heart" by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza -- a sapping of the Palestinian will to fight which can lead to a complete surrender. "How is a change of heart achieved? It is achieved by an Israeli victory and a Palestinian defeat," Pipes continued. "The Palestinians need to be defeated even more than Israel needs to defeat them."

Obviously, such extreme views put Pipes at odds with the stated policies of the Bush administration, and even Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has indicated he will accept the "road map" for peace. So it took many by surprise last month when President Bush nominated Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace, a Congressionally sponsored think tank dedicated to "the peaceful resolution of international conflicts." [ complete article ]

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Amnesty International: Rights situation in Mideast, aggravated by war on terror
Agence France-Presse, May 28, 2003

The human rights situation across the Middle East and North Africa was further aggravated in 2002 in the name of combatting terrorism, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty catalogued what it said were clampdowns on freedom of expression and assembly, intimidation of human rights defenders, continued impunity for human rights violators, and denial of justice for victims and their families.

There was also continued widespread use of torture and unfair trials, as well as judicial and extra-judicial executions.

The London-based group slammed both Israel and the Palestinians for "war crimes" in their continuing conflict.

It accused the Israeli army of "unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement and the use of 'human shields.'"

Armed Palestinian groups were charged with the "deliberate targeting of civilians," which Amnesty said "constituted crimes against humanity," and the Palestinian Authority was accused of arresting scores of people for political reasons, executing some of them. [ complete article ]

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Classified: Censoring the report about 9-11?
Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, June 2, 2003

Why is the Bush administration blocking the release of an 800-page congressional report about 9-11? The bipartisan report deals with law-enforcement and intelligence failures that preceded the attacks. For months, congressional leaders and administration officials have battled over declassifying the document, preventing a public release once slated for this week. [ complete article ]

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Israelis set terms for peace plan
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 28, 2003

Israel has laid down a demand for a "complete cessation of terror" before it begins implementing the US-led "road map" to a peace settlement.

Palestinian negotiators say any such requirement would hold the process hostage to anyone with a bomb or gun.

The demand is among 14 amendments, leaked to the press yesterday, that the Israeli cabinet is seeking to the US plan as a condition of its reluctant approval. Other minimum demands include a requirement that the Palestinians waive any right of return to Israel for refugees, and the dismantling of Hamas and other "terrorist" organisations.

The Israelis are also demanding a bar on any discussion within the plan of the fate of established Jewish settlements or Jerusalem until final status talks towards the end of the process, and the acceptance before negotiations begin that Israel will control the borders and other aspects of a provisional Palestinian state. [ complete article ]

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Sharon: Settlements will not be discussed as part of road map
Gideon Alon, Ha'aretz, May 28, 2003

There is an understanding with the heads of the American administration that the subject of the settlements and outposts will not be discussed in the framework of the road map, but rather separately between Jerusalem and Washington, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday.

Sharon revealed at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a special American team had come here last month to examine the issue of the illegal outposts. He said he explained to them the difference between a settlement and an outpost.

Asked by Labor MK Ephraim Sneh when the illegal outposts would be dismantled, Sharon replied: "They have been, and are being, dismantled." This caused laughter among the committee's participants. [ complete article ]

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US finds evidence of WMD at last - buried in a field near Maryland
Julian Borger, The Guardian, May 28, 2003

The good news for the Pentagon yesterday was that its investigators had finally unearthed evidence of weapons of mass destruction, including 100 vials of anthrax and other dangerous bacteria.

The bad news was that the stash was found, not in Iraq, but fewer than 50 miles from Washington, near Fort Detrick in the Maryland countryside.

The anthrax was a non-virulent strain, and the discoveries are apparently remnants of an abandoned germ warfare programme. They merited only a local news item in the Washington Post.

But suspicious finds in Iraq have made front-page news (before later being cleared), given the failure of US military inspection teams to find evidence of the weapons that were the justification for the March invasion.

Even more embarrassing for the Pentagon, there was no documentation about the various biological agents disposed of at the US bio-defence centre at Fort Detrick. Iraq's failure to come up with paperwork proving the destruction of its biological arsenal was portrayed by the US as evidence of deception in the run-up to the war. [ complete article ]

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Pentagon was warned over policing Iraq
Julian Borger, The Guardian, May 28, 2003

In the months before the Iraq war the Pentagon ignored repeated warnings that it would need a substantial military police force ready to deploy after the invasion to provide law and order in the postwar chaos, US government advisers and analysts said yesterday.

Some 4,000 US military police are now being deployed in Baghdad, but only after most Iraqi government services have been crippled by a wave of looting and arson.

The anarchy and crime in the Iraqi streets was predicted by several panels of former ambassadors, soldiers and peacekeeping experts, who advised the Pentagon and the White House while the invasion was being planned. [ complete article ]

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Body counts
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, May 28, 2003

All over Baghdad on walls of mosques or outside private homes, pieces of black cloth inscribed with yellow lettering bear witness to the thousands of Iraqis killed in the American-led war. Only if they were officers do these notices make clear whether the victims were soldiers or civilians. As far as Iraqis are concerned all the dead are "martyrs", whether they fell defending their country or were struck when missiles or cluster bombs hit their homes.

Iraqis argue that in a war launched against their country illegally, every casualty is an innocent who deserves equal mourning. Yet the few western newspapers and human rights groups which have begun to calculate the war's death toll focus on civilians. [ complete article ]

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Suicide attacker a heroine to frustrated Iraqis
Scott Wilson, Washington Post, May 28, 2003

Drifting through the afternoon heat shrouded in black, Eman Mutlag Salih paced by several times, shopkeepers recalled, and she looked nervous. She passed down one side of the street, past the children congregated outside the U.S. Army post, they said, then across to repeat the loop a third, fourth and fifth time.

"We suspected something strange because of the way she was walking," said Zuhair Mahmood Ahmed, who owns a tiny portrait photography studio between two former government buildings occupied by U.S. troops. "We thought maybe she had something to say to the Americans, but here we really don't accept women talking to the Americans. So we didn't know what was happening."

Then she strode toward the smaller of the two U.S.-occupied buildings, dipping into her small nylon shopping bag, witnesses said. She withdrew a grenade, they said, and tossed it at a small group of U.S. troops standing less than 20 feet sway. Moments later, after pulling out a second grenade despite shouts from U.S. troops to lie down, she died in a hail of bullets. Soldiers covered the body, bleeding into the ground from 10 bullet wounds, as a bewildered crowd looked on.

Salih's death at the hands of U.S. soldiers on Sunday might have been just one incident in one town in postwar Iraq. But the end to her short, puzzling life reflected a broader unrest alive in the country nearly seven weeks into the U.S. occupation. It has also made her a heroine among the men and women of Baquba, a role model in the city's hostile mosques, and a worry for U.S. forces trying to tame this still mostly defiant area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad. [ complete article ]

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Shia leader says Iraqis need their weapons
Wafa Amr, Reuters, May 26, 2003

A top Iraqi cleric who has been told to disarm his powerful private army kept the Americans guessing on Monday over whether he would comply.

In a Reuters interview, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim said his militia, which is meant to hand over weapons by June 14, was unarmed but that Iraqis had a right to defend themselves because the Americans were failing to keep the peace.

U.S. forces are struggling to restore law and order six weeks after toppling Saddam Hussein and have said all Iraqis must hand in their arms by next month's deadline or be punished.

Hakim, a leader of Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims who spent 23 years in exile in Iran, controls one of the biggest militias and said he was opposed to the disarmament deadline, but did not say if he would meet it. [ complete article ]

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A formidable Muslim bloc emerges
William O. Beeman, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2003

The war in Iraq has produced an unintended consequence -- a formidable Shiite Muslim geographical bloc that will dominate politics in the Middle East for many years. This development is also creating political and spiritual leaders of unparalleled international influence.

It is easy to see the Shiite lineup. Iran and Iraq have a Shiite majority, and so does Bahrain. In Lebanon, Shiites are a significant plurality. In Syria, although they are a minority, they are the dominant power in government. They are the majority in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia and have a significant presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

The U.S. is used to thinking of the world in terms of individual nation-states. But the Shiites are a transnational force. The U.S. has unwittingly supplied the key linkage for this bloc by destroying the secular government of Saddam Hussein. That brought that country's Shiite majority to the fore, creating a solid line of Shiite-dominated nations from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. [...]

The Bush administration, as well as the U.S. Congress, has become nervous about the obvious power demonstrated by the Shiites in Iraq in the last few weeks.

The administration cannot seem to wean itself from the idea that states have primacy of power. Therefore it continually makes the conceptual error that if the Shiites become strong in Iraq they will be "controlled" by the established government in Iran.

Nothing could be further from the truth. [ complete article ]

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Pentagon adds to despair of Iran's reformers
Dan De Luce, The Guardian, May 27, 2003

The Pentagon's pronouncement that it would seek to "destabilise" Iran's Islamic republic has given the country's clerics ammunition to portray their liberal opponents as traitors. Hardly a day passes without warnings in the official press against reformists accused of sowing divisions.

"America is trying to undermine our national unity by provoking chaos and political differences as well as creating a crisis," said Mohammed Baqer Zolqadr, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards.

Washington's rhetoric could not have come at a more awkward time for President Mohammed Khatami and his allies in parliament. As the political and constitutional battle between reformists and Islamists comes to a head, the US intervention is a distraction and a pretext for muffling dissent. [ complete article ]

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A very mixed marriage
Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper, Newsweek, June 2, 2003

Opening another front in his war on terror, the president has launched an effort to coax Israelis and Palestinians toward peace. As Bush prepares for his trip to the G8 summit in France, there is talk he'll tack on a trip to the Middle East. But the "Roadmap" he wants to pursue there runs not only through the Byzantine byways of the Levant, but along the political freeways of America. If he is at all serious, Bush eventually will hit a potentially impenetrable roadblock at home: the deepening alliance between Jewish supporters of Israel and the growing ranks of Christian Zionists.

Simply put, the administration won't be able to lean hard on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon without being attacked by two blocs it cares very much about as the 2004 election approaches. Eager to capitalize on Bush's standing as a war commander and a friend of Israel's, White House strategists hope to double the size of Bush's Jewish vote. Still, the numbers there, however pivotal in places such as Florida, are small. Much more is at stake among the nation's 50 million evangelicals. Pressuring the Israelis also risks incurring the wrath -- perhaps expressed in thundering, Biblical terms -- of activists who claim to speak for that constituency, which the White House hopes will turn out in record numbers next year. "We are going to watch the Road-map very carefully," Jerry Falwell told Newsweek. [ complete article ]

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Seeing Islam as 'evil' faith, evangelicals seek converts
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, May 27, 2003

At the grass roots of evangelical Christianity, many are now absorbing the antipathy for Islam that emerged last year with the incendiary comments of ministers. The sharp language, from religious leaders like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Jerry Vines, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has drawn rebukes from Muslims and Christian groups alike. Mr. Graham called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion, and Mr. Vines called Muhammad, Islam's founder and prophet, a "demon-possessed pedophile."

In evangelical churches and seminaries across the country, lectures and books criticizing Islam and promoting strategies for Muslim conversions are gaining currency. More than a dozen recently published critiques of Islam are now available in Christian bookstores. [ complete article ]

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Neo-cons move quickly on Iran
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, May 28, 2003

Reports that top officials in the administration of President George W Bush will meet this week to discuss US policy toward Iran, including possible efforts to overthrow its government, mark a major advance in what has been an 18-month campaign by neo-conservatives in and out of the administration. [ complete article ]

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The reek of injustice
Emma Williams, The Spectator, May 17, 2003

Most Israelis never go to East Jerusalem; most Palestinians avoid the West. Jerusalem is desperate, beautiful and divided -- so clearly divided that you could put up a wall along the seam. Indeed Israel is putting up a wall, but not along the seam. It doesn't so much divide Israelis from Palestinians as Palestinians from each other, and Palestinians from Israeli settlers, grabbing yet more land in the process; all part of the extremists' plan to make any future Palestinian state unworkable by expanding the network of colonies, intersecting roads and industrial developments, leaving the Palestinians living between the mesh, in ghettoes.

Unhappy word, ghetto; but there is no other word for the enclosures being built around Palestinian towns. Qalqilya, a once thriving market town of 45,000 people, is now shut off from the world by a fence and wall of concrete 24 feet high. There is one exit, guarded by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), who determine whether the occupants, their produce, their food and medicines may or may not pass. The word 'ghetto' comes from mediaeval Venice. It described the walled-off quarter in which Jews were obliged to live: a barbarous, discriminatory policy.

But they were allowed out of the ghetto when they wanted. And even in the worst days of P.W. Botha, the Bantustans were nothing like as restrictive as life in some of the West Bank cities or Gaza -- surrounded by a massive barrier, with armed guards at the only entrance that allows through selected foreigners and a handful of Palestinians with special permits. It is hard to describe the pricking alarm you feel when approaching the giant wall and its concrete watchtowers, manned by IDF soldiers who, for whatever reason, sometimes fire in the direction of the children within. I can say this from experience; it happened to my children, who are six and nine, when I took them to the local zoo. [ complete article ]

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Next stop Tehran?
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, May 27, 2003

Imagine for a moment that you are a senior official in Iran's foreign ministry. It's hot outside on the dusty, congested streets of Tehran. But inside the ministry, despite the air-conditioning, it's getting stickier all the time. You have a big problem, a problem that Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, admits is "huge and serious". The problem is the Bush administration and, specifically, its insistence that Iran is running "an alarming clandestine nuclear weapons programme". You fear that this, coupled with daily US claims that Iran is aiding al-Qaida, is leading in only one direction. US news reports reaching your desk indicate that the Pentagon is now advocating "regime change" in Iran. [ complete article ]

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UN chief warns of anti-American backlash in Iraq
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, May 27, 2003

The UN's most senior humanitarian official in Iraq warned yesterday that US attempts to rebuild the country were overly dominated by "ideology" and risked triggering a violent backlash.

Ramiro Lopes da Silva said the sudden decision last week to demobilise 400,000 Iraqi soldiers without any re-employment programme could generate a "low-intensity conflict" in the countryside. [ complete article ]

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The story of Hiba, 19, a suicide bomber. Can the road-map put an end to all this?
Sa'id Ghazali, The Independent, May 27, 2003

Even her family is baffled that Hiba Daraghmeh insisted on covering herself from head to toe in a dark brown, all-enveloping robe at all times. The white veil she also wore - a badge of Islamic fundamentalism - concealed her head, mouth and nose. Only her almond-coloured eyes were visible to the outside world.

The shy 19-year-old student of English literature never spoke to men, and so avoided drinking coffee or tea at the cafeteria of Al Quds Open University in her home town, Tubas in the West Bank. All of her friends were women. Even her cousin, Murad Daraghmeh, 20, also a student at Al Quds, says: "I never saw her face. I never talked to her. I never shook hands with her."

The first time the world saw her young face unveiled was in a poster. Islamic Jihad released it, after her death eight days ago.

Hiba was a suicide bomber. She detonated the explosives around her waist outside the Amakim Shopping Mall in the northern Israeli town of Afula, killing three Israelis and wounding 48. [ complete article ]

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U.S. eyes pressing uprising in Iran
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, May 25, 2003

The Bush administration, alarmed by intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda operatives in Iran had a role in the May 12 suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, has suspended once-promising contacts with Iran and appears ready to embrace an aggressive policy of trying to destabilize the Iranian government, administration officials said.

Senior Bush administration officials will meet Tuesday at the White House to discuss the evolving strategy toward the Islamic republic, with Pentagon officials pressing hard for public and private actions that they believe could lead to the toppling of the government through a popular uprising, officials said.

The State Department, which had encouraged some form of engagement with the Iranians, appears inclined to accept such a policy, especially if Iran does not take any visible steps to deal with the suspected al Qaeda operatives before Tuesday, officials said. But State Department officials are concerned that the level of popular discontent there is much lower than Pentagon officials believe, leading to the possibility that U.S. efforts could ultimately discredit reformers in Iran.

In any case, the Saudi Arabia bombings have ended the tentative signs of engagement between Iran and the United States that had emerged during the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Replace Iran's rulers, U.S. lawmakers say
William C. Mann, Associated Press, May 26, 2003

Iran's hard-line government, accused by the Bush administration of harboring top Al Qaeda members, poses a big problem for the United States and should be replaced, lawmakers said yesterday.

Democrats and Republicans urged extreme care in working toward that end in order to avoid fomenting an anti-American reaction among Iranians who admire the US way of life.

In Tehran, Iran's foreign minister insisted that his country does not and would not shelter Al Qaeda terrorists and has jailed members of Osama bin Laden's network and plans to prosecute them. [ complete article ]

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U.S. adds power to India's Israeli links
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, May 27, 2003

Immediately after the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal featured an article arguing that Israel, India and Turkey were Washington's only "allies for the long haul" in the coming war against terrorism.

While an increasingly democratic Turkey turned out to be a major disappointment (from the Washington point of view), three-way ties between Israel, India and the United States are growing fast, spurred by precisely the same forces in Washington who championed the invasion of Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Iraqis frustrated by shift favoring U.S.-British rule
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, May 26, 2003

The sudden shift in postwar strategy in favor of an American and British occupation authority has visibly deflated the Iraqi political scene, which earlier this month was bustling with grass-roots politicking and high expectations for an all-Iraqi provisional government.

This week Kurdish leaders are clearing out of Baghdad to return to the north to consult with their constituents about a course of action. They have asked the new American civilian administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, to visit northern Iraq to confront the popular disenchantment.

It was Mr. Bremer who broke the news to Iraqi political groups on May 16 that the Bush administration was reversing its plan to support the immediate formation of an interim government here that would have put Iraqis in charge of the country with allied forces and Western technocrats in a supporting role.

In a "leadership council" meeting on Saturday night, the main Iraqi political groups agreed to submit a formal protest to the occupation authorities over the delay in putting an Iraqi government in place. [ complete article ]

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In Iraq, U.S. troops are still dying -- one almost every day
Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, May 26, 2003

In the public's mind, the war may be over, but U.S. troops continue to fall in Iraq at the rate of almost one a day. That is down from an average of three a day between the start of the war on March 19 and May 1, when a total of 139 American service members were killed.

The continuing casualties have had no discernible impact on the administration's willingness to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. On the contrary, the number of American GIs on the ground has risen by 15,000, to nearly 160,000, since Bush declared victory on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. [ complete article ]

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The power of one
Martin Jacques, The Guardian, May 26, 2003

It has become fashionable to denigrate national sovereignty. The arguments are well versed: sovereignty is no absolute; it should not be used to excuse the abuse of human rights; the needs of justice should override the principle of sovereignty. It is suggested that this represents some profound shift in thinking, a reversal of centuries of history. This would be true if we were talking about the charmed circle of the developed world - Britain, France, the United States and the rest. But of course we are not. The sovereignty at issue is that of countries in the developing world which, until the second half of the 20th century, for the most part did not enjoy national sovereignty anyway. For them, the taste of self-rule, the possibility of not being governed by a race and culture from far away, is, historically speaking, an extremely recent experience. And now it is again under serious assault.

Many things came to an end in 1989, even though it was not until after 9/11 that we could begin to understand what many of them were. Nineteen eighty-nine was about the defeat of communism. With 9/11 we saw the emergence of a unipolar world. The invasion of Iraq began to define the nature of American interest and the parameters of that unipolar world, as well as bringing into question many post-1945 arrangements, norms and institutions. It is now clear that the latter included one profound change that has been barely commented upon. American hyperpower marks the end of the post-colonial era, little more than 50 years after it started. [ complete article ]

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GOP politics vs. Mideast peace
Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times, May 26, 2003

The conventional wisdom inside the Republican hierarchy has always been that seeking the Jewish vote is even more of a fool's errand than going after African Americans. No longer, say hard-headed Republican leaders, who insist they can get 40 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004. They argue that social and economic liberalism now runs a poor second to support for Israel, and believe they for the first time have outdone Democrats in cheering the Jewish state. There is no more unyielding supporter of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies than House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the exemplar of muscular Republicanism.

But what about Bush's advocacy of the road map? He surely had to embrace it to retain Britain in the Iraq war coalition and keep moderate Arab states friendly. The question is whether he will risk Jewish votes by pressing for Middle East peace.

Republican activists leave no doubt about their views. DeLay has called the road map "a confluence of deluded thinking between European elites," the State Department bureaucracy and American intellectuals. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an intimate adviser of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, called the road map a conspiracy by the State Department and foreign powers "to work against U.S. policies." [ complete article ]

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The scent of racism
Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, May 26, 2003

Shock is the proper reaction to the remark of cabinet Minister Gideon Ezra, who explained last week that Arabs should be used as security guards in Israel because only they have "the sense of smell needed to smell other Arabs, more so than guards who are immigrants from the former Soviet Union."

If anyone in Europe dared to say something similar about Jews, the world would be outraged, and rightly so. Another possibility is to ignore what Ezra said: What's the relevance of a low-life utterance from a marginal minister whose level of speech only casts a gloomy light on the institution he came from, the Shin Bet security service, and on his current place at the cabinet table?

On second thought, though, we should be thankful to Ezra: He has provided an apt description of the reality in which we live. We do in fact "sniff out" Arabs, all of whom are suspect in our eyes solely because of their ethnic origins.

We are all racists. Like it or not, we live in a reality of national, not to say racist, separation. A fusion of genuine security distress, the appalling terrorist attacks in the cities, the moral scars we bear as a result of decades of occupation and the faulty education we received has created a day-to-day reality here that can only shock anyone who believes in human rights. [ complete article ]

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The neocons in power
Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books, June 12, 2003

The word "neoconservative" originally referred to former liberals and leftists who were dismayed by the countercultural movements of the 1960s and the Great Society, and adopted conservative views, for example, against government welfare programs, and in favor of interventionist foreign policies. A group of today's "neocons" now hold key positions in the Pentagon and in the White House and they even have a mole in the State Department.

The most important activists are Richard Perle, who until recently headed the Defense Policy Board (he's still a member), a once-obscure committee, ostensibly just an advisory group but now in fact a powerful instrument for pushing neocon policies; James Woolsey, who has served two Democratic and two Republican administrations, was CIA director during the Clinton administration, and now works for the management consult-ing firm Booz Allen Hamilton; Kenneth Adelman, a former official in the Ford and Reagan administrations who trains executives by using Shakespeare's plays as a guide to the use of power (www.moversandshakespeares .com); Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense and the principal advocate of the Iraq policy followed by the administration; Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, the Pentagon official in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq; and I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. Two principal allies of this core group are John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control (though he opposes arms control) and international security affairs, and Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser. Cheney himself and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld can be counted as subscribing to the neocons' views about Iraq. [ complete article ]

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On the roads of ruin
Peter Oborne, The Observer, May 25, 2003

Eighteen months have now passed since the West made a series of unequivocal promises to Afghanistan. As invasion loomed before the Labour conference in 2001, Tony Blair promised: 'We will not walk away from Afghanistan, as the outside world has done so many times before.'

The following month the Prime Minister told Parliament that he supported 'an inclusive, democratic political structure' for the country. Last month, during the Iraq war, Britain and America held up Afghanistan as the model for the elimination of a rogue state.

As British and coalition forces closed into Baghdad, documentary filmmaker Paul Yule and I flew into Kabul for Channel 4. We wanted to find out whether Britain and the West are keeping the pledges we made. We wanted to find out whether Afghanistan is on course for the secure and prosperous future promised by Tony Blair, or whether it is heading back into the horror and barbarism of the past 25 years, which has killed 1 million Afghans and spawned the terror movement that struck at New York on 11 September. To find out we visited warlords, ranged out far beyond Kabul, spoke to soldiers, policemen, farmers, refugees, aid-workers and diplomats. [ complete article ]

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Friend or foe -- the world according to Bush
Roland Watson, The Times, May 24, 2003

Bush's capacity for nurturing grudges and acting on them is well known in the hardball arena of Texas politics. What is not yet fully clear is how far he will allow his fabled thin skin and long memory to govern international affairs; whether his payback is personal or political.

When he exchanges handshakes with Jacques Chirac on French soil next week, the first time that the pair will have met since the transatlantic bust-up over Iraq, what level of distrust will be concealed behind the President's smile? According to those who knew the young Bush in Midland, Texas, M Chirac should steel himself before looking too deeply into the President's eyes. Forgiveness is not a concept that strikes an obvious chord in the rough-and- tumble oilfields of west Texas. [ complete article ]

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Pentagon sets sights on a new Tehran regime
Julian Borger and Dan De Luce, The Guardian, May 24, 2003

The Pentagon has proposed a policy of regime change in Iran, after reports that al-Qaida leaders are coordinating terrorist attacks from Iran.

But the plan is opposed by the US state department and the British government, officials in Washington said yesterday.

The Pentagon plan would involve overt means, such as anti-government broadcasts transmitted to Iran, and covert means, possibly including support for the Iraq-based armed opposition movement Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), even though it is designated a terrorist group by the state department. [ complete article ]

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Gun gangs rule streets as U.S. loses control
Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, May 25, 2003

As the blood-red sun sinks below the Baghdad skyline, the shooting begins. It is the sound of the anarchy into which the Iraqi capital has spiralled since the war's end: the rasp of machine-guns accompanied by arcs of red tracer fire across the sky. Throughout the city, fires burn, their flames licking the night.

Now, with the United Nations Security Council having formally sanctioned America's military occupation of Iraq, a massive operation is being prepared to catch up on a month of default and negligence in dealing with chaos and desperate need, with newly admitted international organisations hoping it is not too late. [ complete article ]

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