The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Sharon plans to drive down another road
Avi Shlaim, The Observer, June 8, 2003

The peace summit hosted by King Abdullah II of Jordan in Aqaba may have been a turning point in the conflict between Jews and Arabs.

The 'road map' - drawn up by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN - calls for the creation by 2005 of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, alongside a secure Israel. High-level endorsement of the plan opens the prospect of progress on the political front after two and a half years of violence and bloodshed. That prospect, however, is exceedingly slender.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most bitter and protracted international of modern times, but its basic cause is simple: there are two nations and one small area of land. Since the two nations cannot agree to share that land, the only solution is to partition it. The politics of partition, however, are anything but straightforward, for they cut to the core of each nation's image of itself and of its historic rights, going back to biblical times. [ complete article ]

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Blair misled us all, says widow of commando
Severin Carrell, The Independent, June 8, 2003

The widow of a British commando killed in the Iraq war has accused Tony Blair of "deceiving" her husband with misleading claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Lianne Seymour lost her husband Ian, 27, a Royal Navy communications mechanic, in a helicopter crash in Kuwait hours after the war began. She has been left to raise their son Beck, three, on her own.

Now, following the growing controversy over Iraq's "missing" arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Mrs Seymour has become convinced that the war was unjustified.

Thousands of servicemen and women will share her growing sense of personal betrayal, she claimed - and feel doubly suspicious about the next call to go to war. [ complete article ]

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Barrels looted at nuclear site raise fears for Iraqi villagers
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, June 8, 2003

For Iptisam Nuri, a mother of five who was sick with typhoid, the arrival of the barrels in her home at first seemed a godsend.

When the electricity went out during the war, the water-pumping station that serves this area 30 miles southeast of Baghdad shut down, and people were thirsty. Then men from a village near here broke through the fence guarding "Location C" at Saddam Hussein's nuclear complex.

"We had to find something to bring water," said one of the men, Idris Saddoun, 23.

They say they broke into the warehouse, emptied hundreds of barrels of their yellow and brown mud, took them to the wells and canals and filled them with water for cooking, bathing and drinking.

For nearly three weeks, hundreds of villagers who live in the shadow of the high earthen berm and barbed wire fences that surrounded the labyrinth of the Iraqi nuclear program here bathed in and ingested water laced with radioactive contaminants from the barrels. [ complete article ]

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Shiite Muslim party warns it may boycott Iraq council
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, June 8, 2003

A leading Shiite Muslim party announced today that it would not join a political council to help rule Iraq if its members were appointed by L. Paul Bremer, the American administrator. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq was the first political group to say it would boycott the proposed framework for an interim administration.

Hamid al-Bayati, spokesman for the council, said in an interview today that "we can't be part of an appointed administration." He said he had conveyed the group's decision to aides of Mr. Bremer in discussions this week.

The setback for the delicate political dialogue that has been under way here since Mr. Bremer arrived last month occurred on a day of continuing violence against United States occupation forces. [ complete article ]

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Some analysts of Iraq trailers reject germ use
Judith Miller and William J. Broad, New York Times, June 7, 2003

American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs. In interviews over the last week, they said the mobile units were more likely intended for other purposes and charged that the evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment.

"Everyone has wanted to find the 'smoking gun' so much that they may have wanted to have reached this conclusion," said one intelligence expert who has seen the trailers and, like some others, spoke on condition that he not be identified. He added, "I am very upset with the process."

The Bush administration has said the two trailers, which allied forces found in Iraq in April and May, are evidence that Saddam Hussein was hiding a program for biological warfare. In a white paper last week, it publicly detailed its case, even while conceding discrepancies in the evidence and a lack of hard proof.

Now, intelligence analysts stationed in the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Britain, are disclosing serious doubts about the administration's conclusions in what appears to be a bitter debate within the intelligence community. Skeptics said their initial judgments of a weapon application for the trailers had faltered as new evidence came to light. [ complete article ]

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Ex-official: Evidence distorted for war
John J. Lumpkin, Associated Press, June 7, 2003

The Bush administration distorted intelligence and presented conjecture as evidence to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a retired intelligence official who served during the months before the war.

"What disturbs me deeply is what I think are the disingenuous statements made from the very top about what the intelligence did say," said Greg Thielmann, who retired last September. "The area of distortion was greatest in the nuclear field."

Thielmann was director of the strategic, proliferation and military issues office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His office was privy to classified intelligence gathered by the CIA and other agencies about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.

In Thielmann's view, Iraq could have presented an immediate threat to U.S. security in two areas: Either it was about to make a nuclear weapon, or it was forming close operational ties with al-Qaida terrorists.

Evidence was lacking for both, despite claims by President Bush and others, Thielmann said in an interview this week. Suspicions were presented as fact, contrary arguments ignored, he said. [ complete article ]

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Iraq Sunnis seethe over loss of prestige
Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, June 6, 2003

Backed by their patron, Saddam Hussein, Sunni Muslims were Iraq's power brokers for a generation. But in the new pecking order of U.S.-occupied Iraq, they have lost much of their influence. Though there is no indication of organized resistance yet, they're angry.

"The future is jihad," said Sheik Mohammed Ali Abbas, a cleric in Ramadi, 65 miles west of Baghdad. "Do you know of anyone who can accept this humiliation? Do you just let them occupy your land while you sit and do nothing?"

The American military, which beefed up its presence in the region this week after repeated attacks and ambushes, says its mission in the Sunni heartland is twofold: Stop attacks against American positions and earn locals' trust by restoring public works and rebuilding key facilities.

Sunni Arabs, who make up about 15 percent of Iraq's 24 million people, have long been privileged. They enjoyed Ottoman patronage during centuries of rule by Sunni Turks and were later favored by British colonizers.

After Iraq's British-backed monarchy was toppled in 1958, the Sunnis' grip continued, but it was not until Saddam took over in 1979 that being a Sunni became vital to getting ahead.

Today, with the political rise of the long-oppressed Shiite Muslim majority, Iraqis in Sunni areas are venting frustration through violent protests and attacks on U.S. troops. [ complete article ]

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Bloodshed, fear and a deadly ambush
Killings at Fallujah

Robert Fisk, The Independent (via ZNet), June 6, 2003

From high over Iraq yesterday, President George Bush cast his Olympian eye over ancient Mesopotamia after praising the Americans in Qatar who had "managed" the war against Saddam Hussein. But far below him, on a dirty street corner in a dirty town called Fallujah that Mr Bush would prefer not to hear about, was a story of American blood and American power and American boots smashing down the front gates of Iraqi homes. [ complete article ]

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Iraqi attacks imperil U.S. rule
Michael Slackman, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2003

In another sign of rising armed resistance to the U.S.-led occupation, one American soldier was killed and five others wounded early Thursday in an ambush just hours after the U.S. Army sent reinforcements here [Fallouja].

Though occupation authorities say they do not believe attacks are being organized on a national level, they acknowledge that strikes against U.S.-led forces have almost tripled -- from 30 in April to 85 in May -- and are planned, in most cases, they say, by remnants of Saddam Hussein's government.

This tense and increasingly volatile situation in central Iraq -- with Fallouja as the primary hot spot -- reflects a troublesome trend that threatens to undermine the U.S. occupation: Each time there is an attack on troops, the military steps up the kind of activities that many Iraqis say inspire them to resist. And each time the Iraqis resist, U.S. forces step up their enforcement efforts. [ complete article ]

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Bush's deceptions on Iraq intelligence
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe, June 6, 2003

With about 180 American soldiers sacrificed and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and citizens killed, the unprecedented war is unraveling into a scandal that dwarfs President Clinton's Thong-gate and threatens to surpass the violation of national trust symbolized by Watergate. Bill and Monica was about lying about sex. Watergate was about President Nixon lying about a break-in.

Iraq is about Bush sending Americans to die for what may have been a lie. [ complete article ]

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Downsizing in disguise
Naomi Klein, The Nation, June 23, 2003

The streets of Baghdad are a swamp of crime and uncollected garbage. Battered local businesses are going bankrupt, unable to compete with cheap imports. Unemployment is soaring and thousands of laid-off state workers are protesting in the streets.

In other words, Iraq looks like every other country that has undergone rapid-fire "structural adjustments" prescribed by Washington, from Russia's infamous "shock therapy" in the early 1990s to Argentina's disastrous "surgery without anesthetic." Except that Iraq's "reconstruction" makes those wrenching reforms look like spa treatments.

Paul Bremer, the US-appointed governor of Iraq, has already proved something of a flop in the democracy department in his few weeks there, nixing plans for Iraqis to select their own interim government in favor of his own handpicked team of advisers. But Bremer has proved to have something of a gift when it comes to rolling out the red carpet for US multinationals. [ complete article ]

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Cloaks and daggers
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 6, 2003

On Day 78 of the Search for Iraqi W.M.D., yesterday, once again nothing turned up.

Spooks are spitting mad at the way their work was manipulated to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, and they are thus surprisingly loquacious (delighting those of us in journalism). They emphasize that even if weapons of mass destruction still turn up, there is a fundamental problem -- not within the intelligence community itself, but with senior administration officials -- particularly in the Pentagon.

"As an employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, I know how this administration has lied to the public to get support for its attack on Iraq," one of my informants rages. Some others see a pattern not so much of lying as of self-delusion -- and of subjecting the intelligence agencies to those delusions. [ complete article ]

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Shoulder to shoulder and stabbed in the back
Robin Cook, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2003

When the Cabinet of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government discussed the dossier on Hussein's WMD, I argued that I found the document curiously derivative. It set out what we knew about Hussein's chemical and biological arsenal at the time of the 1991 Gulf War. It then leaped to the conclusion that Hussein must still possess all those weapons.

There was no hard intelligence of a current weapons program that would represent a new and compelling threat to our interests. Nor did the dossier at any stage admit the basic scientific fact that biological and chemical agents have a finite shelf life -- a principle understood by every pharmacist. Go to your medicine chest and check out the existence of an expiration date on nearly everything you possess. Nerve agents of good quality have a shelf life of about five years and anthrax in liquid solution of about three years. Hussein's stocks were not of good quality. The Pentagon itself concluded that Iraqi chemical munitions were of such poor standard that they were usable for only a few weeks.

Even if Hussein had destroyed none of his arsenal from 1991, it would long ago have become useless. [ complete article ]

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U.S. withdrawal from Korea's DMZ could change dynamic along the border
Sang-Hun Choe, Associated Press, June 6, 2003

In the Pentagon's view, moving U.S. troops away from the DMZ and consolidating them at perhaps two main "hub" bases south of Seoul will still enable them to respond quickly. It believes the relocations will give the U.S. forces the flexibility to train for missions elsewhere in the region.

But "the redeployment can also be a direct message to North Korea that the United States is now readier than ever to launch a pre-emptive strike if Pyongyang does not behave," said Park June-young, a political scientist at Seoul's Ewha Woman's University.

Bush has said he prefers diplomacy in trying to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs, but has not ruled out military options. Pyongyang says Washington plans to invade following its victory in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Leading Iraqi Shiite cleric emerges to meet U.S. ally
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, June 6, 2003

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sestani, one of the most senior Shiite clerics in Iraq and the world, stepped into the political fray for the first time since the war today, meeting with a Kurdish leader who has enjoyed close ties to Washington and calling for elections to a national assembly for Iraqis to produce a new constitution.

Iraqi political figures who attended the meeting said the grand ayatollah was critical of postwar conditions in Iraq. The allied campaign to end the tyranny and oppression of Saddam Hussein "is like an occupation, not a liberation, as the people have been told," one of those who attended quoted him as saying.

Ayatollah Sestani spoke today during a meeting with Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish chieftain who is among the former opponents of Mr. Hussein who are now stepping up pressure on American and British occupation authorities to allow an Iraqi political process to move forward quickly. [ complete article ]

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The map must show a way home
Ghada Karmi, The Guardian, June 6, 2003

In 1969, Israel's prime minister Golda Meir astonished the world with this: "It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them," she said. "They did not exist."

Such a statement would be unimaginable today, thanks mainly to a tireless Palestinian struggle for recognition and legitimacy. Today's Middle East road map would seem to be an important landmark in this struggle. It establishes some significant benchmarks: it explicitly acknowledges the need for Palestinian statehood and underlines the role of territory as fundamental to a settlement of the conflict.

It is hard to believe that in the 1960s, the very word "Palestine" had slipped out of the lexicon. Growing up in England, I remember people thinking I meant "Pakistan" when I said where I was born. The 1948 exodus, tragic though it was, created a new category - "Arab refugees" - but no one remembered where they came from. [ complete article ]

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Pressure grows over U.S. killing of journalists
Ian Urbina, Asia Times, June 7, 2003

On April 8, two journalists were killed in Baghdad. By this date, only weeks into the conflict, the death toll for journalists in Iraq was an alarming 10, more than double the total killed in the entirety of the first Gulf War in 1991. But what was especially worrisome about the deaths of Ukraine-born Reuters cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, and Spanish photographer Jose Couso, was that neither man was near the front lines.

Both were in their hotels. Alongside roughly 100 other journalists from virtually every major international news outlet in the country at the time, Protsyuk and Couso were recouping in an officially recognized safe zone - the Palestine Hotel. But an American tank on the opposite bank of the Tigris River, roughly three-quarters of a mile away, fired directly at the hotel anyway. The US military stated that the incident was a regrettable though unavoidable mistake. However, with the recent release of an investigation by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists there is new evidence that the incident was in fact entirely avoidable, and a Spanish judge is being asked to file formal extradition charges against the responsible three US military officers. [ complete article ]

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Evidence of Iraq weapons was "big bluff": German UN inspector
Agence France-Presse, June 6, 2003

A German member of the UN team investigating Iraq's alleged programme of weapons of mass destruction has accused US authorities of presenting false evidence against the regime, the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reports.

His criticism adds to a growing tide of accusations that the United States and its key ally Britain deliberately manipulated information to make it look as if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The fear that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had such arms at his disposal was one of the chief justifications for the war to topple him.

The German inspector, Peter Franck, was part of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq from December last year until shortly before the US-led invasion in March.

He told Der Spiegel that US Secretary of State Colin Powell did not present truthful evidence to the UN Security Council in a famous February 5 speech.

It was "all a big bluff," Franck said.

"Basically, it was all a show for the American public."

He said Powell used satellite pictures to try to show that decontamination trucks in front of an ammunition bunker were proof that Iraq was experimenting with chemical weapons there.

However, an earlier visit by UN inspectors had already determined that the trucks were firefighting vehicles. [ complete article ]

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In Iraqi town, misery and despair add to hatred of US troops
Agence France-Presse, June 6, 2003

Qassem Hasnawi watches the US soldiers roaring through Fallujah day after day with their armoured vehicles and machine guns and only thinks about one thing -- how much he wants to spill their blood.

"Imagine how an Iraqi man feels when he sees a foreigner touching his sister," he says in the brutal summer heat of his roadside stand, where he works 16 hours a day selling local cigarettes for around 40 cents a pack.

"We can never accept it. I swear to God, I want to kill them all."

About an hour west of Baghdad, the conservative Sunni Muslim town is filthy, run-down and desolate. Children, shoeless and unwashed, beg in the streets or hustle drivers for a handout to "guard" their parked cars.

Old men dressed in rags kneel on the pavement in diagonal lines, just to keep in the thin shadow cast by the electricity poles.

But in addition to the despair, Fallujah is simmering with rage two months into the US military occupation of Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Carefully crafted remarks avoid political land mines
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, June 5, 2003

The Palestinian prime minister, the Israeli prime minister and President Bush pledged to pursue Middle East peace today in carefully crafted comments that were as significant for what they left out as for what they said. Their comments hinted at the land mines and obstacles ahead if this week's pair of summits are to produce new momentum for negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in pre-summit talks with U.S. officials, resisted placing any language in his statement that would refer to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which are key to his political base, several diplomatic sources said. Sharon was instrumental in spearheading the creation of the settlement movement. At the summit, however, he relented and declared Israel "will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts."

The word "settlement" was not spoken. Sharon drew a distinction between the remote outposts created by Jewish settlers -- mostly a few trailers on hilltops -- and those authorized by Israeli law. The U.S.-backed peace plan known as the "road map" makes no such distinction between legal and illegal outposts but calls on Israel to dismantle all erected since Sharon took office in March 2001.

Edward G. Abington, a former State Department official who advises the Palestinians, said the failure to sharpen this distinction "is going to come back to haunt everyone" because it will be easy for settlers to move around the trailers, creating a shell game. If Israel fails to credibly act against the outposts, "it will very quickly undermine the process," Abington said. [ complete article ]

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Who screwed up?
William F. Buckley Jr., Yahoo News, June 4, 2003

The Bush administration has a grave problem in the matter of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Jim Lacey, a Time correspondent embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, summarizes his analysis in National Review. He writes that "there are some simple truths that many seem to be forgetting: (l) At one time, Saddam had an extensive WMD program and enough chemical weapons and toxins to annihilate the eastern United States; (2) in the past, he used those weapons against his enemies, internal and external; and (3) he was an aggressive dictator who tortured and massacred his own people and bullied and periodically invaded neighboring countries."

Agree with all the above and you are still entitled to ask: Where is all that stuff? [ complete article ]

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Blair must quit if he is wrong about these weapons
Denis Healey, The Independent, June 5, 2003

Despite all the Prime Minister says, I am simply not convinced that there was any serious evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and I am disturbed by attempts to falsify evidence in order to show that there was. The UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, did not find any. He is an extremely honest and intelligent man, and I think it is worrying that the Americans will not let him back to continue his work. He believes that the Allies' intelligence on Iraq was shaky, and warns that it may turn out that the war was not justified.

The evidence seems to support this view. Doubts have been expressed over whether the trailers seized in Iraq are actually chemical and biological weapons laboratories as claimed. We must ask why, if Saddam had WMD, he did not use them when we attacked him? One of the British government's dossiers outlining the crimes of Saddam's regime was plagiarised from a paper by an American student of political science. The attempts to link Iraq with al-Qa'ida were simply implausible; the last thing Saddam would ever have done would be to help a terrorist he could not control.

One need only witness how the British and the Americans have twisted and turned in response to such accusations to see how weak their case was. The CIA is already reviewing the accuracy of claims about WMD, and is complaining that the Pentagon is pressing them to find evidence to bolster the case for war. The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has stated that Saddam may have destroyed his WMD. John Reid, the Leader of the House of Commons, has blamed "rogue elements" in the intelligence services for undermining the Government's case for war. But in my opinion it is much more likely that the hyping of the evidence came from the Government, not the security services.

Denis Healey was secretary of state for defence in the Labour governments of 1964–70, Chancellor of the Exchequer (1974–9), and deputy leader of the Labour party(1980–3).
[ complete article ]

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Feith denies shaping data to justify war
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, June 5, 2003

The Pentagon's top policy adviser held an unusual briefing today to rebut accusations that senior civilian policy makers had politicized intelligence to fit their hawkish views on Iraq and to justify war on Saddam Hussein.

The official, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, acknowledged that he created a small intelligence team inside his office shortly after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to search for terrorist links with Iraq and other countries that he suggested the nation's spy agencies may have overlooked.

Intelligence analysts elsewhere in the government have complained that the Pentagon team provided an alternative hard-line view of intelligence related to Iraq that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld used in meetings with President Bush and other top national security aides. [ complete article ]

Revisit Seymour Hersh's Selective intelligence.

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Intelligence chiefs tell Blair: no more spin, no more stunts
Richard Norton-Taylor and Michael White, The Guardian, June 5, 2003

MI6 and MI5 chiefs have sought the government's assurance that it will never again pass off as official intelligence information which does not come from them.

They are also insisting that any information used by Downing Street claiming to be based on intelligence should be cleared by them first.

Their demands, which the government has bowed to, reflect deep unease in the intelligence community about the government's attempt to use secret information to push its case for military action against Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Sharon sticks to script in front of Bush - but the backtracking has already begun
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 5, 2003

Ariel Sharon spent months trying to avoid yesterday's summit with George Bush designed to launch the US-led "road map" for the creation of a Palestinian state. The Israeli prime minister persuaded the US president to delay publication of the document three times, and cancelled a trip to Washington last month ostensibly because of a new wave of terror.

But yesterday he was forced to read the script the White House all but wrote for him by committing himself not only to the creation of a Palestinian state but one that is viable and contiguous and not squeezed between those individual Jewish settlers determined to claim every hilltop as Israeli land.

Mr Sharon fell short on only one count - he refused to say that it would be independent. [ complete article ]

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Children shot in third day of Israeli army raids
Conal Urquhart, The Guardian, June 5, 2003

The screams echoed around the clinic yesterday as a woman brought her seven-year-old daughter in for treatment. She had been shot in the abdomen by an Israeli soldier.

As George Bush talked about peace with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers, Israeli soldiers were rampaging around the refugee camp of Balata and the city of Nablus for the third day running.

The seven-year-old girl was the latest casualty in Balata. According to the Red Crescent, some 50 people have been treated for bullet and shrapnel wounds in two days.

Many in the West Bank were looking at their television in astonishment as their prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, met his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon, and President Bush in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba.

Many feel as if the events are entirely dislocated from them and the rhetoric is from another planet. [ complete article ]

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Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil
George Wright, The Guardian, June 4, 2003

Editor's note: The Guardian has now retracted this article and issued the following statement:

A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil" misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, "The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." The sense was that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed.

The substance of the original article can still be read here.

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End the deception
Robert Jensen and Rahul Majahan, USA Today, June 4, 2003

Americans face an important question in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion: Does it matter that our government fudged facts to justify war? Should politicians face consequences when they mislead us, especially about the need for military force?

While British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing increasing pressure because of his role in this debacle, the Bush administration is betting the American public will tire of the debate. Officials apparently think that if they constantly repeat the mantra -- ''We know for certain Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction'' -- and the news media faithfully relay that message, they will get away with their deception. [ complete article ]

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Pakistani legislators approve Islamic law for North-West Frontier Province
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, June 3, 2003

The provincial assembly here, dominated by an alliance of religious parties, voted unanimously today to introduce Islamic law to the North-West Frontier Province, fulfilling an election promise that has worried the national government and its American allies.

The six-party religious alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which holds a majority in the assembly, is opposed to the American presence in Afghanistan and is sympathetic to Taliban elements that are continuing to fight United States forces. It has campaigned to introduce Islamic law, or Shariah, to ensure better justice for the population, but critics accuse it of dragging the province back into the Taliban era.

The bill, the first introduced in any province of Pakistan, rules that Shariah will override all other laws in the local courts, and orders that the educational and financial sectors be brought in line with Islamic teaching. "All the evils of society will be crushed," the bill reads. It further promises that corruption will be rooted out, nudity and vulgarity wiped out and the life and property of the individual protected. [ complete article ]

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Peace plan may hinge on security force in disarray
Megan K. Stack and Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2003

In the littered courtyard of their security barracks, listless Palestinian officers squat in the dirt to smoke cigarettes. They have neither guns nor uniforms; they nap in the weed-grown wreckage; their shorts and socks dangle from a sagging clothesline. Across the way, Israeli jets have turned their headquarters into heaps of broken rock.

Palestinian security services have been thoroughly mangled in 32 months of fighting with Israeli forces. All over the West Bank, communications systems and vehicles were destroyed and many officers arrested or killed. Files disappeared. The men are demoralized, disarmed -- and about to feel the weight of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process land squarely on their shoulders.

As Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas heads into summit meetings this week with President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, perhaps nothing poses a greater immediate threat to the peace process than the precarious question of Palestinian security. Before Israel agrees to make any major concessions, the Jewish state wants Abbas to "combat terror" by Palestinian militants, as spokesman Raanan Gissin puts it.

But the question is whether Abbas can do that -- and if he can, will he?

Even if their equipment had not been destroyed by the Israelis, security forces could find it very difficult to root out Palestinian guerrilla fighters and would-be suicide bombers who are entrenched in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And Abbas is reluctant to risk civil war by launching a military assault on factions that are extremely popular with many Palestinians. [ complete article ]

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Iraqis say they will defy U.S. on council plan
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, June 4, 2003

Iraqi political leaders vowed today to press ahead with plans to hold a large national conference aimed at selecting a transitional government despite a decision by the top U.S. civilian administrator here to call off the assembly and appoint an interim advisory council with limited authority.

"The U.S. cannot cancel a conference that is led by Iraqis," said Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of exiles that had opposed former president Saddam Hussein's government and now is seeking to shape the country's new political system. "We believe it is very important for Iraqis to go on with this."

Qanbar said his group and other political parties would organize a national meeting next month where delegates representing Iraq's varied political, religious and ethnic groups would decide on the form and membership of a transitional administration. He said that body then would insist on assuming authority for many basic governance tasks from the U.S. government.

Such a meeting could prompt a confrontation between the U.S. occupation authority and several Iraqi political groups, such as the INC, that are widely regarded as key American allies in postwar Iraq. Should those parties insist that leaders elected at the meeting be recognized as the country's legitimate transitional government, it could strain their relations with the United States, possibly hindering U.S. efforts to work with some of the best-organized and most pro-Western political groups in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Shiites pour into Baghdad streets
John Daniszewski and Azadeh Moaveni, Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2003

Shiite anger at the U.S. occupation of Iraq boiled over here Tuesday, with thousands marching through the streets accusing American troops of violating Muslim customs and unjustly arresting a Shiite cleric.

Adding to the infuriation, Shiite political leaders said, is a new U.S. plan to appoint an interim political council of Iraqis. Some Shiites see this as a thinly disguised move to limit the influence of their religious leaders in the postwar administration of Iraq.

Other political organizations, including the former exile group the Iraqi National Congress, also are dismayed at the plan put forth Sunday by top U.S. occupation administrator L. Paul Bremer III. The plan to name a council of 25 to 30 prominent Iraqis would scuttle an earlier proposal for a broad national conference to elect an interim government. [ complete article ]

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'Fair' trial will be a travesty in terror cases
Marie Cocco, Newsday, June 3, 2003

The Bush administration's penchant for secrecy and its predisposition toward the death sentence now come together in the darkness of the war on terror.

In this darkness, only those who ultimately report to the president are to serve as judge, jury, prosecutor and, most probably, defense lawyer. Trials for the detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may or may not be open to the press. They may, and likely will, include the use of secret evidence that may be kept from the defendant and his civilian attorney, if he is sufficiently lucky to have one.

The accused would not be able to argue that perhaps he wasn't where this secret evidence says he was - maybe he was at work, or in school or even in another country at the time. He would not be able to answer the allegation because he wouldn't know what it was.

This is to be done in the name of defending liberty and justice for all. [ complete article ]

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Views of a changing world 2003
War with Iraq further divides global publics

Pew Research Center, June 3, 2003

The speed of the war in Iraq and the prevailing belief that the Iraqi people are better off as a result have modestly improved the image of America. But in most countries, opinions of the U.S. are markedly lower than they were a year ago. The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era – the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance.

These are the principal findings from the latest survey of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted over the past month in 20 countries and the Palestinian Authority. It is being released together with a broader survey of 44 nations conducted in 2002, which covers attitudes on globalization, democratization and the role of Islam in governance and society. [ complete article ]

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Bush sticks to the broad strokes
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, June 3, 2003

President Bush, who today begins his first high-profile effort at Middle East peacemaking, is convinced that Israel must accept a Palestinian state to ensure its survival, according to current and former aides who have heard him discuss the subject. But they say he has shown little interest in the details of the complex disputes in the region and remains skeptical of intervening deeply in the negotiating process.

Bush often has a viscerally negative reaction when officials try to delve deeply into issues -- such as the final borders of Israel and a Palestinian state, or the status of Jerusalem -- that are central to the conflict, according to people who have participated in discussions with the president. President Bill Clinton at the end of his term debated those questions at length with Israelis and Palestinians, but Bush dismisses them as "all those old issues," two participants in interagency debates said.

The president has baffled some of his aides with comments they thought minimized the obstacles toward the two-state solution he talks about. For instance, the president has told aides that the Israelis are wasting their money on expanding settlements in the West Bank because ultimately those projects will become housing developments for Palestinians.

Some aides suggest this is a naive view of the settlement issue, noting that experts on both sides of the issue believe unchecked expansion of the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable Palestinian state. Other Bush advisers say the president's comments simply reflected his determination to create a Palestinian state.

The president's personal relations with Middle East leaders also play a significant role in how he approaches the issues. His distaste for Yasser Arafat led to his call for new Palestinian leadership, but he is also uncertain whether Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon truly has a vision to achieve peace. The leader in the region who has won his greatest respect is Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who bluntly confronted the president last year over the Palestinian issue. [ complete article ]

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New group offers alternative to AIPAC
Caryle Murphy, Washington Post, June 3, 2003

On the same day that President Bush holds a summit with Arab leaders in Cairo, about 500 activists will visit 160 Capitol Hill offices today with the message that some supporters of Israel believe its security depends on creating a viable Palestinian state.

Participants in the "Teach-in to Congress," many of them Jewish, have been meeting in Washington since Sunday to discuss, among other things, how to counter the influence of the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee. Organizers of the conference said that offsetting AIPAC's lobbying efforts would help bring about a more even-handed U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"This is the first attempt to build a national organization that is an alternative to AIPAC," said Michael Lerner, editor of the Jewish magazine Tikkun and an organizer of the four-day conference. "We are a progressive middle path. We are both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian." [ complete article ]

See also the Tikkun Community Resolution to Congress

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U.S. won't probe secret Iraqi documents
Dafna Linzer, Associated Press, June 3, 2003

More than a decade of suspicions about Iraq's missile industry and its capabilities for delivering weapons of mass destruction could be investigated quickly now that American forces control the country.

But no U.S. weapons hunters or intelligence officials have visited the heart of Iraq's missile programs -- the state-owned al-Fatah company in Baghdad, which designed all the rockets Saddam Hussein's troops fired in 1991 and again this year. Not only that, it's not even on their agenda.

"We have the most sensitive documents here," said Marouf al-Chalabi, director-general of al-Fatah. "We were sure the Americans would target us but they haven't even dropped by."

Looters, however, have ransacked the place. The three-building complex has been stripped of everything from drafting tables to light switches.

Among the few things left behind, though, are what U.N. inspectors long believed existed but never obtained: design plans and test results for every missile system and warhead the Iraqis developed. [ complete article ]

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For jailed immigrants, a presumption of guilt
Adam Liptak, New York Times, June 3, 2003

The Sept. 11 terror attacks not only turned the nation upside down, but they also inverted the foundation principles of the American legal system.

The report issued yesterday by the Justice Department's inspector general said the nation's law enforcement authorities ceased being consumed with prosecuting violations of the law and tried to put a lid on every possible type of terrorist activity. [ complete article ]

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Peace hopes lie heavy on new force
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 3, 2003

Munjed Zydan laughs at the sudden interest in turning his doubtful young recruits into another front in the war on terrorism.

The commander of the new Palestinian security force training camp in the West Bank town of Jericho does not put it in those terms, but the Israelis do and he knows they are defining the mission. Now the CIA has arrived to ensure the new policemen get their priorities right.

"The American intelligence people were here to advise us and I said to them that with all their security the Israelis could not stop [Yitzhak] Rabin being shot," Mr Zydan said. "We can do our best to enforce security if the Israelis just get out of our cities. But if you really want to have security, you have to have justice. It's an equation. They go hand in hand together." [ complete article ]

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Standard operating procedure
Paul Krugman, New York Times, June 3, 2003

It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters -- a group that includes a large segment of the news media -- obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies.

If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war correspondent -- who supported Britain's participation in the war -- writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."

It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history -- worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted. [ complete article ]

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Plans for a British-appointed ruling council in Basra go awry
Marc Lacey, New York Times, June 2, 2003

British occupation forces here tried to put a new local governing council in place today, but residents who were angry that it was handpicked by the British poured into Basra's streets by the thousands in protest.

"We can manage ourselves, by ourselves," read one of the banners carried by demonstrators.

To prepare for the unveiling of the new government, British forces had refurbished a building and turned it into Basra's city hall. They had drawn up an elaborate flow chart. And they had sent out invitations to two dozen men who they decided had the wherewithal to help restore the city's power grid, its pumping stations and its other infrastructure.

But governing Iraq's second-largest city has proven as much a challenge as seizing it was, and the process has become embroiled in how much control religious leaders of the country's Shiite Muslim majority will assume. [ complete article ]

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Weapons Of Mass Disappearance
Michael Duffy, Time, June 1, 2003

How do take your country to war when it doesn't really want to go? You could subcontract with another nation, fight on the sly and hope no one notices. But if you need a lot of troops to prevail and you would like to remind everyone in the neighborhood who's boss anyway, then what you need most is a good reason -- something to stir up the folks back home.

As the U.S. prepared to go to war in Iraq last winter, the most compelling reason advanced by George W. Bush to justify a new kind of pre-emptive war was that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological arms -- weapons of mass destruction (WMD). "There's no doubt in my mind but that they currently have chemical and biological weapons," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in January. "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons," said Vice President Dick Cheney in March. That Iraq might have WMD was never the only reason the Bush Administration wanted to topple Saddam. But it was the big reason, the casus belli, the public rationale peddled over and over to persuade a skeptical nation, suspicious allies and a hostile United Nations to get behind the controversial invasion. And while that sales pitch fell flat overseas, it worked better than expected at home: by late March, 77% of the public felt that invading U.S. troops would find WMD.

But eight weeks after the war's end, most of that confident intelligence has yet to pan out, and a growing number of experts think it never will. Current and former U.S. officials have begun to question whether the weapons will ever be found in anything like the quantities the U.S. suggested before the war -- if found at all -- and whether the U.S. gamed the intelligence to justify the invasion. [ complete article ]

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Reclaiming hope
The peace movement after the war

Paul Loeb, WorkingForChange, June 2, 2003

The bombs that fell on Iraq shattered the armies of Saddam Hussein and the bodies of five to ten thousand civilians. They also crushed the spirits of many in the peace movement, driving participants into their shells. In the months before the war, several million ordinary Americans marched and spoke out to challenge it, joined by the largest global peace demonstrations in history. Then we watched the war on TV, or read about it in the papers, and felt hopeless and powerless. Many of us wonder now whether our actions can matter.

Because so many citizens marched, vigiled, lobbied, and otherwise raised our voices, we felt like we might stop the war. An amazing movement bloomed, seemingly out of nowhere. Then Bush invaded nonetheless. And many of us sank into despair. [ complete article ]

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WMD or not, Blair had already made up his mind
Hugo Young, The Guardian, June 3, 2003

The infamous weapons of mass destruction were a crucial pretext for Britain going to war against Iraq, but they were not the prime cause. They didn't drive the strategy. The originating, compulsive, inescapable reason was something different and, I think, more infamous. Unless we understand that, it's impossible to make sense of the bitter flounderings of Tony Blair and Jack Straw as they try to defend what is being exposed as a saga of duplicity.

What lay deeper than the weapons and whether or not they existed was a twin commitment. First, the American decision that, short of Saddam Hussein being assassinated or going into exile, war was going to happen: a decision, it is now clear, that had been made by last August at the latest. And second, the visceral inability of Mr Blair to contemplate detaching this country from whatever Washington decided. He did this in solidarity with George Bush on September 11. But arguably it began to happen earlier, when he journeyed to Camp David immediately after Bush's election, returning to pronounce him, contrary to most popular impressions, a wise and balanced statesman. [ complete article ]

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Blair rounds on Short and war critics
Andy McSmith and Paul Waugh, The Independent, June 3, 2003

Tony Blair's frustration with claims that he misled the nation over the war on Iraq boiled over yesterday when he made an unprecedented attack on Clare Short, calling her a liar, and rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the affair.

After days of mounting pressure, the Prime Minister was forced to issue his strongest denial that Downing Street had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Sweating profusely at a G8 summit press conference in Evian, Mr Blair appeared uncomfortable in the extreme as he rebutted charges his spin machine had "duped" the country into war. He even adopted the logic of his critics, who have long demanded evidence of his pretext for war, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and represented an imminent threat to the West.

Denying accusations that he had deliberately misled the nation, Mr Blair said: "I think it is important that if people actually have evidence that they produce it. But it is wrong, frankly, for people to make allegations on the basis of so-called anonymous sources, when the facts are precisely the facts we have stated."

Labour MPs intensified demands for a full investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence reports about Baghdad's weapons. Mr Blair will come under fresh pressure from MPs tomorrow when he makes a Commons statement. One Labour backbencher said the issue was as serious as the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon. [ complete article ]

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America goes backward
Stanley Hoffman, New York Review of Books, June 12, 2003

Less than two and a half years after it came to power, the Bush administration, elected by fewer than half of the voters, has an impressive but depressing record. It has, in self-defense, declared one war—the war on terrorism —that has no end in sight. It has started, and won, two other wars. It has drastically changed the strategic doctrine and the diplomatic position of the United States, arguing that the nation's previous positions were obsolete and that the US has enough power to do pretty much as it pleases. At home, as part of the war on terrorism, it has curbed civil liberties, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and the access of foreign students to US schools and universities. It holds in custody an unknown number of aliens and some Americans treated as "enemy combatants," suspected but not indicted, whose access to hearings and lawyers has been denied. The Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the courts' acceptance of the notion that the President's war powers override all other concerns have given him effective control of all the branches of government. The administration's nominees to the courts would consolidate its domination of the judiciary. [ complete article ]

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Moves toward peace shine an enigmatic light on Sharon
Megan Stack and Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2003

He has alarmed the settlers whose homesteads he forged and financed, annoyed the right-wing party that pushed him to power and baffled erstwhile foes by calling for the end of Israeli "occupation" and pushing for a Palestinian state.

Perhaps most of all, however, he has bred a deep uncertainty over his intentions: Is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intent on bringing peace to his troubled homeland -- or is he playing a savvy political game to buy time?
[ complete article ]

See also Three tests awaiting Bush in Ha'aretz.

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Barry Bearak, New York Times, June 1, 2003

"The needs are so great; everywhere you turn, it's a priority," said Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian diplomat who oversees the United Nations presence in Afghanistan. He is a veteran global troubleshooter who has also worked in Haiti and South Africa. In the late 90's, he tried to broker a peace between the Taliban and the fast-collapsing forces of the resistance, many of whom -- through the miracle elixir sometimes referred to here as vitamin B-52 -- are now central figures in the government.

When I asked Brahimi what the biggest accomplishments of reconstruction were, he answered, "Probably not very much." For him, the most important rebuilding project was bringing security to the country, and that had yet to happen. Without it, he said, everything else was in jeopardy. "The Taliban have been routed; they have been expelled from the capital, but they have not been defeated, or at least they have not accepted their defeat."

As he and I talked, there was fresh news about a particularly alarming murder. Gunmen at a roadblock near Kandahar had ordered people out of their vehicles, which in itself is a common, perhaps even expected practice along some roads. But these thugs let their Afghan captives go, while shooting a Salvadoran water engineer from the Red Cross. The next day, a Taliban commander phoned the BBC and announced a jihad against "Jews and Christians, all foreign crusaders." Two weeks later, an Italian tourist was gunned down.

The recent attacks have not been limited to foreigners. Snipers have started to target Afghans employed to clear land mines from the terrain. Ambushes occur almost daily now, causing many aid groups to further restrict already limited labors. More than that, the incidents re-emphasize a chilling truth in a violent, gun-toting land. Any number of major reconstruction projects could be stopped with a few well-aimed bullets. [ complete article ]

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A tale of two Baghdads
Thomas E. Ricks and Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, June 2, 2003

To the troops of Bravo Company, moving through a corner of this weary capital, their morning patrol represents a benign presence. The American soldiers are here to help the locals, then go home.

"Everybody likes us," Spec. Stephen Harris, a 21-year-old from Lafayette, La., said as the patrol moved through streets drenched in sun. He thinks the people want the U.S. troops to stay. "Oh, yeah," he said, taking a slug from his canteen. His assessment of the neighborhood: "I'd say 95 percent friendly."

To Mohammed Abdullah, standing on the sidewalk as the 10-man patrol passed his gated house, their presence is, as he terms it, "despicable." In a white dishdasha, a long Arab robe, the 34-year-old winced as the soldiers moved along his street, nine carrying automatic weapons slung across their chests, the 10th a medic.

"We're against the occupation, we refuse the occupation -- not 100 percent, but 1,000 percent," he said. "They're walking over my heart. I feel like they're crushing my heart."

Hundreds of U.S. Army patrols were conducted in Baghdad on Sunday. On one, two reporters followed the route of soldiers from Bravo Company of a battalion in the Army's 1st Armored Division. One reporter walked with the patrol, observing the soldiers and interviewing them, while the second trailed behind, measuring Iraqis' reactions. Together, the two views convey a sense of life in Baghdad at a delicate moment when the shape of the U.S. military occupation is still emerging -- and so is the tone of the Iraqi response to it. [ complete article ]

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U.S. civilians not told of raid on Palestinians
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, May 31, 2003

United States military officials ordered a raid on the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Baghdad this week without first informing senior American civilians in Iraq, an administration official in Washington said today.

As a result, according to a State Department official in Washington, the State Department was unaware for at least 24 hours that a military operation had been conducted against a diplomatic compound here.

"I really can't confirm anything about the events or even that they occurred," the State Department's spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, said Thursday.

Eleven people were arrested in the raid, Palestinian officials said, including the chargé d'affaires, Najah Abdul Rahman, and two other diplomats, all of whom had been accredited to the government of former President Saddam Hussein.

The Palestinian ambassador, Azzam al-Ahmed, was not in the country, having been recalled to the West Bank to serve as minister of communications in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The American civilian and military authorities seemed unable to state today where and on what basis they were continuing to detain the Palestinian diplomats. The Palestinian consul, Dalil al-Qusous, appealed to the allied authorities to release the embassy's administrative counselor, Mahmoud Barakat, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. [ complete article ]

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U.S. 'is an empire in denial'
Fiachra Gibbons, The Guardian, June 2, 2003

The United States is a "danger to the world" because of its denial that it is a military and economic empire, according to Niall Ferguson, historian and new-found darling of the American right.

Prof Ferguson is author of Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, the book whose tie-in TV series controversially concentrated on the liberalising latter days of the British empire. He said that America's refusal to admit to "what it was" meant it risked never learning the lessons of British expansionism.

"The United States is the empire that dare not speak its name. It is an empire in denial, and US denial of this poses a real danger to the world. An empire that doesn't recognise its own power is a dangerous one." [ complete article ]

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New questions about U.S. intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass terror
Bruce B. Auster, Mark Mazzetti and Edward T. Pound, U.S. News and World Report, June 9, 2003

For months, the vice president's office and the Pentagon had been more aggressive than either State or the CIA when it came to making the case against Iraq.

Veteran intelligence officers were dismayed. "The policy decisions weren't matching the reports we were reading every day," says an intelligence official. In September 2002, U.S. News has learned, the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a classified assessment of Iraq's chemical weapons. It concluded: "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons . . . ." At about the same time, Rumsfeld told Congress that Saddam's "regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas." Rumsfeld's critics say that the secretary tended to assert things as fact even when intelligence was murky. "What we have here is advocacy, not intelligence work," says Patrick Lang, a former top DIA and CIA analyst on Iraq. "I don't think [administration officials] were lying; I just think they did a poor job. It's not the intelligence community. It's these guys in the Office of the Secretary of Defense who were playing the intelligence community." [ complete article ]

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Former minister: Blair lied to cabinet and made secret war pact with US
Nicholas Watt and Michael White, The Guardian, June 2, 2003

Tony Blair is facing mounting pressure from across the House of Commons to hold an independent inquiry into the Iraq war after Clare Short levelled the incendiary allegation at the prime minister that he had lied to the cabinet.

As an increasingly exasperated prime minister once again swept aside calls for a public inquiry into the failure to uncover banned Iraqi weapons, the former international development secretary accused Mr Blair of bypassing the cabinet to agree a "secret" pact with George Bush to go to war. [ complete article ]

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A young man radicalized by his months in jail
Greg Myre, New York Times, May 30, 2003

Before he spent seven months in an Israeli jail, one of thousands of Palestinians detained on suspicion of militant activities, there was little about Fuad Qawasmeh that suggested to family and friends that he might one day become a suicide bomber. [ complete article ]

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Bush remarks confirm shift in justifying war
Dana Milbank, Washington Post, June 1, 2003

"We found the weapons of mass destruction," Bush asserted in the Thursday interview, released Friday. "We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."

Bush's assertion, one of many recent administration statements shifting focus from Iraq's weapons to Iraq's weapons programs, indicated the president would consider its accusations justified by the discovery of equipment that potentially could be used to produce weapons. But the original charges against Iraq, presented to the United Nations and the American public, were explicitly about the weapons themselves.

On Aug. 26, 2002, Vice President Cheney told the VFW National Convention: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." On Sept. 12, 2002, Bush told the U.N. General Assembly: "United Nations inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons."

In Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28, he cited evidence that Hussein had enough materials to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin and as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents. "He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them," Bush said.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in the same speech to the U.N. on Feb. 5 in which he discussed evidence of the mobile weapons labs Bush referred to last week, argued: "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, he's determined to make more." A month later, on March 7, Powell told the United Nations that Hussein has "clearly not" made a decision to "disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."

Finally, in delivering his March 17 ultimatum to Hussein to go into exile, Bush told the nation: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." [ complete article ]

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Iraq's once-privileged Sunnis increasingly see U.S. as enemy
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, June 1, 2003

Near a wall bearing the words "God, nation and the leader Saddam Hussein," a convoy of nearly a dozen cars sped through the dark streets celebrating the marriage of Harith Ahmed. The crowd of young men was boisterous, the mood was exuberant. And as is custom at Iraqi weddings in a country where nearly everyone possesses a gun, witnesses said, a teenager fired one or perhaps three celebratory shots from an antiquated rifle.

What followed last Monday night in this city turned smoldering resentment at the seven-week U.S. occupation into unrelenting anger, a window on sentiments expressed more and more often in interviews across this region of central Iraq, long home to the country's Sunni Muslim minority. [ complete article ]

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Sharon has a map. Can he redraw it?
David K. Shipler, New York Times, June 1, 2003

On a July day in 1979, a jeep bearing Israel's agriculture minister, Ariel Sharon, raced up a steep road to the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, where devout Jewish nationalists were explaining to me how Genesis contained their ancient ancestors' deed to this land from God.

Mr. Sharon had come to visit the settlers, but he ignored them once he discovered the brand new Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times, ripe for a lesson on Israeli security. While the settlers waved the Bible, Mr. Sharon pulled out a military map, which he unrolled on the hood of the jeep. It showed the detailed contours and elevations along the spine of hills that divide the eastward plunge to the Jordan River from the westward descent to the Mediterranean.

It was a clear day, so we could see almost the entire sliver of biblical land between the river and the sea. Mr. Sharon wasn't quoting from the Old Testament, however. He was using a general's gift for reading terrain to point out the dry river beds through which enemy armored columns could invade from Jordan, or from Iraq farther to the east, through the hills and onto the coastal plain, Israel's populated heartland. This was the classic Sharon briefing, one he has given many times — including to a governor of Texas, George W. Bush, during a 1998 helicopter tour. Mr. Sharon will see Mr. Bush in the Middle East again this week, at a summit meeting with the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the road map for peace that Mr. Bush now supports as president.

Whether the conflict can ultimately be solved will depend partly on Israel's willingness to dismantle most settlements in areas of the West Bank and Gaza to be used for a Palestinian state, and that willingness will depend on Israel's sense of security. [ complete article ]

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The enemy of our enemy
Chalmers Johnson, Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2003

According to the author of "Charlie Wilson's War," the exception to CIA incompetence [in conducting covert armed intervention] was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan moujahedeen ("freedom fighters"). The agency flooded Afghanistan with an astonishing array of extremely dangerous weapons and "unapologetically mov[ed] to equip and train cadres of high tech holy warriors in the art of waging a war of urban terror against a modern superpower," in this case, the USSR.

The author of this glowing account, George Crile, is a veteran producer for the CBS television news show "60 Minutes" and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. He argues that the U.S. clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was "the largest and most successful CIA operation in history" and "the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time." He adds that "there was nothing so romantic and exciting as this war against the Evil Empire." Crile's sole measure of success is the number of Soviet soldiers killed (about 15,000), which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period from 1989 to 1991. That's the successful part.

However, he never mentions that the "tens of thousands of fanatical Muslim fundamentalists" the CIA armed are some of the same people who in 1996 killed 19 American airmen at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; blew a hole in the side of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Aden harbor in 2000; and on Sept. 11, 2001, flew hijacked airliners into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Today, the world awaits what is almost certain to happen soon at some airport — a terrorist firing a U.S. Stinger low-level surface-to-air missile (manufactured at one time by General Dynamics in Rancho Cucamonga) into an American jumbo jet. The CIA supplied thousands of them to the moujahedeen and trained them to be experts in their use. If the CIA's activities in Afghanistan are a "success story," then Enron should be considered a model of corporate behavior. [ complete article ]

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Going it alone: The U.S. struggle to rebuild Iraq
Shannon Meehan and Joel Charny (Refugees International), Electronic Iraq, May 29, 2003

Nearly one month after President Bush declared the end of hostilities in Iraq, the United States is still struggling to fulfill its role as the occupying power. The difficulties center on the newly christened Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority (OCPA, formerly ORHA, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance), the organization created to manage the political, economic, and social transformation of Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein. [...]

OCPA's lack of basic resources to support its operations is remarkable and inexplicable considering the billions of dollars available for the Iraq operation. Basic logistics are not in place despite the fact that OCPA personnel have been in country for more than 5 weeks. OCPA's central office in Baghdad has no phones, no computers, and no organization-wide email system. Radio contact is not appropriately interlinked to enable the OCPA regions and even people within the same building to communicate with each other. OCPA has no website for regular communications. At the moment key information on security, priority humanitarian needs, and OCPA updates are being posted on the UN website. [ complete article ]

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Challenging America's hyperpowerdom
Mohamed Sid-Ahmed, Al-Ahram Weekly, May 29, 2003

Since its victory in the Cold War left America as the sole remaining superpower on the global stage, the world has been treated to an unbridled display of naked power that would have been unthinkable in the previous bipolar world order. The collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of a global balance of power which, however flawed, served as an effective deterrent against any such display by either of the two superpowers. Today, there is nothing to deter the United States from imposing its agenda on a helpless world, no counterpole capable of standing up to its unchallenged supremacy at the pinnacle of world power. Does this mean that the rest of the world has no choice but to bow before America? This is a question with global implications that can no longer be ignored. [ complete article ]

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