The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Occupation forces halt elections throughout Iraq
William Booth and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, June 28, 2003

U.S. military commanders have ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders.

The decision to deny Iraqis a direct role in selecting municipal governments is creating anger and resentment among aspiring leaders and ordinary citizens, who say the U.S.-led occupation forces are not making good on their promise to bring greater freedom and democracy to a country dominated for three decades by Saddam Hussein.

The go-slow approach to representative government in at least a dozen provincial cities is especially frustrating to younger, middle-class professionals who say they want to help their communities emerge from postwar chaos and to let, as one put it, "Iraqis make decisions for Iraq." [ complete article ]

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The BBC reported what we were all told - and it was right
Peter Beaumont, The Observer, June 29, 2003

It is one of the oldest rules of political damage limitation. Deny the specifics, where they are deniable, as angrily as possible and hope that the wider accusations will collapse under the weight of your indignation.

No one would deny that Alastair Campbell is a master of damage limitation. And last week, with the BBC, it looked as though he was playing for keeps. It is a high-risk strategy. For while Andrew Gilligan did get it wrong in the detail of his initial allegation that the Government had 'sexed up' its first dossier on Iraq's alleged retention of weapons of mass destruction in September to claim Iraq could launch those weapons in '45 minutes', the problem for Campbell is that a journalist who has followed this story knows that Gilligan still got it right.

He did so because he reported what was widely being briefed to journalists - including myself - by MI6 officers and the Foreign Office that Number 10 (Campbell in particular) had gone out of its way to overstate the threat posed by Iraq to make the case for war. [ complete article ]

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BBC set to sue Minister over Iraq 'lies' claim
Kamal Ahmed and Martin Bright, The Observer, June 29, 2003

The unprecedented row between the Government and the BBC took a dramatic twist last night when Andrew Gilligan, the reporter at the centre of claims that Number 10 deliberately 'sexed up' evidence against Saddam Hussein, announced he was ready to sue a serving Minister. [ complete article ]

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Once hailed, soldiers in Iraq now feel blame at each step
Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times, June 29, 2003

After riding into Iraq on a wave of popular euphoria, American and British forces are unexpectedly finding themselves the brunt of criticism for everything that goes wrong these days.

"We are furious about people pointing guns at us," said Hamid Hussein, 33, pushing his broken-down Volkswagen bus to the front door of his house this morning. A United States Army Humvee was parked in the middle of his street, and a soldier in the turret ordered Mr. Hussein in English to stop where he was.

If the complaint is not about security, then it is about the lack of electricity this week in Baghdad. [ complete article ]

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The BBC row has been got up to obscure the ugly truth
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, June 28, 2003

We must not allow ourselves to be diverted by Downing Street, and in particular by Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's chief spin doctor, from extremely serious issues which go to the very heart of how we are being ruled. Ministers are desperate to reduce it all to a row about the BBC, its questioning of the reasons for going to war in general and a report by its defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, in particular.

On the face of it, they seem to be succeeding. Mr Campbell took on the BBC after giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee on Thursday, knowing the media would lap it up. Yesterday Jack Straw continued the onslaught on the beleaguered Gilligan.

Mr Gilligan's crime was to report that an intelligence source had told him last September's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was changed at the behest of Downing Street and the claim that such weapons were ready for use in 45 minutes was inserted into it.

I have no idea who the source was. What is certain is that for months the intelligence and security services had been expressing deep concern about pressure placed on them by their political masters and the use to which their secret information would be put. [ complete article ]

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Sound and fury over the BBC
Nicholas Watt and Janine Gibson, The Guardian, June 28, 2003

Downing Street was last night embroiled in a full scale war with the BBC after the corporation accused the No 10 communications chief, Alastair Campbell, of intimidatory tactics and of pursuing a "personal vendetta" against its defence correspondent.

To the fury of Downing Street, which is demanding an apology over a BBC report that the government "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's banned weapons, the corporation went on the offensive as it launched a point-by-point rejection of Mr Campbell's criticisms.

In its strongest ever attack on Tony Blair's government, which was cleared by director general Greg Dyke, the BBC insisted that it was standing by the contentious story by its defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan.

Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, wrote to the prime minister's director of communications: "I do not accept the validity of your attacks on our journalism, and on Andrew Gilligan in particular. We have to believe that you are conducting a personal vendetta against a particular journalist whose reports on a number of occasions have caused you discomfort."

His sharply worded letter, stretching to eight pages, was immediately rejected by Downing Street as "weasel words and sophistry". Mr Campbell made clear that he would not let the matter drop as he said: "BBC standards are now debased beyond belief. It means the BBC can broadcast anything and take responsibility for nothing."

The war of words erupted after after Mr Campbell demanded a response from the BBC to 12 questions about Mr Gilligan's report on May 29 that Downing Street had "sexed up" last September's dossier on Iraq's banned weapons to improve the case for war. [ complete article ]

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Surge of attacks claims U.S. life in Shia city
Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, June 28, 2003

An American soldier has been killed in Najaf, one of the holiest cities for Shia Muslims, the US authorities said yesterday.

Two more US servicemen were missing last night, apparently abducted from their vehicle somewhere north of Baghdad.

Another soldier was shot in the neck as he shopped for video compact discs in the city. There were unconfirmed reports that he was dead.

In a week that has seen a big rise in action against coalition troops, the Najaf killing is particularly ominous because it took place in a Shia area.

Almost all the previous attacks on the coalition forces since President George Bush formally declared on May 1 that combat had ended have been confined to the Sunni Muslim areas in and around Baghdad.

US troops have felt relatively safe in Shia areas such as Najaf, which suffered badly under Saddam Hussein and initially welcomed the US presence. [ complete article ]

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The rest was up to God
Gideon Levy, Haaretz, June 28, 2003

Eight relatives were on their way home from work when a tank suddenly opened fire on the family car. One of the passengers, a father of eight, was killed. The army says it knows nothing about the incident.

Not a word has been written in Israel about the life and death of Nabil Jardat, who lived quietly and died quietly. No headlines, no reports, not even a mention of the killing of this clothing merchant and father of eight, who was on his way home to Silat al-Hartiya from his store in Jenin about two weeks ago, holding his young son on his lap, when a soldier apparently shot at him from a tank, without any warning or obvious reason - and killed him.

How did this killing occur? Was it an act of self-defense by a soldier in a tank against the group of merchants and their children in the vehicle? Defense of state security? Defensive Shield? Dispersal of rioters? Or maybe it was a one-time exception? The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office did not express any regret for this bit of terror on the road: The IDF claims it has not even heard of the incident. With only six investigative files opened against soldiers for killings in almost three years of intifada and over 2,000 Palestinian casualties, one can hardly expect someone to go to the bother of seriously investigating the killing of a small-time merchant from Silat al-Hartiya. [ complete article ]

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Barghouti is seen as leader on rise
Karin Laub, Associated Press, June 27, 2003

Marwan Barghouti has cemented his reputation as a Palestinian leader on the rise after clinching a truce deal with Islamic militants from his tiny prison cell.

The 43-year-old Barghouti -- who used to whip up crowds with fiery anti-Israel speeches -- was already popular before securing the militias' agreement Wednesday to halt attacks on Israelis for three months. Polls had him running second only to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and he was touted as an eventual successor to his one-time mentor.

However, the cease-fire deal, which still awaits formal announcement, has taken him to a new level. He has upstaged veteran leaders and has shown he has enough credibility to get things done. [ complete article ]

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Caught in the crossfire: Broadcasting in wartime
David Elstein, Open Democracy, June 25, 2003

Alastair Campbell, head of communications for the British prime minister, has just denounced the BBC for its 'lies' and for 'having an agenda' in its reporting of the Iraq war. The BBC denies both charges. In a careful analysis of different national coverage of the Iraq war, David Elstein suggests that overall Britain's state broadcaster, despite its claims to impartiality, could not and did not avoid being conscripted into the coalition. [ complete article ]

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The United States in Iraq:
An experiment with unilateral humanitarianism

Joel R. Charny, Foreign Policy in Focus, June 26, 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom, the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the U.S. and its coalition partners, embodies a new approach to post-conflict humanitarian action. This approach unifies security, governance, humanitarian response, and reconstruction under the control of the Department of Defense. Humanitarian action is unilateral in character and linked inextricably to the U.S. security agenda in the context of the global war on terrorism. The UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations, traditionally the coordinators and implementers of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction programs, are expected to play supportive roles within an effort managed by the Pentagon.

While public attention has focused on the Iraq war as the expression of the Bush administration's new national security policy of pre-emptive self-defense, there has been virtually no public discussion of the far-reaching implications of the administration's new approach to humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction. [ complete article ]

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The unintended consequences of crisis public diplomacy:
American public diplomacy in the Arab world

R.S. Zaharna, Foreign Policy in Focus, June, 2003

With the end of major military action in Iraq, U.S. public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world has entered a new, more challenging phase. In the post-September 11 phase of U.S. public diplomacy, America was the undeniable victim of a terrorist attack. That image fit with the underlying message of America’s war on terrorism, namely, “join us in fighting evil aggression against innocent civilians.” Even still, America’s public diplomacy initiative failed. Now, with the U.S.-led military action in Iraq, America is no longer perceived as the victim but rather as the aggressor. If selling Washington’s message was tough before, it just got infinitely harder. Before embarking on a new diplomacy phase, it is critical to understand what went wrong in the first. [ complete article ]

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Experts question depth of victory
Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, June 27, 2003

The wave of more sophisticated attacks on U.S. troops and civilian occupation forces in Iraq is raising new worries among military experts that the 21-day war that ended in April was an incomplete victory that defeated Saddam Hussein's military but not his Baath political party.

Neutralizing Baathist resistance is proving to be a more difficult job than the Pentagon calculated, and the continuing violence is becoming an embarrassment, one U.S. official in Baghdad said. [ complete article ]

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Cheney and the CIA: Not business as usual
Ray McGovern, Hartford Courant, June 27, 2003

As though this were normal! I mean the repeated visits Vice President Dick Cheney made to the CIA before the war in Iraq. The visits were, in fact, unprecedented. During my 27-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, no vice president ever came to us for a working visit.

During the '80s, it was my privilege to brief Vice President George H.W. Bush and other very senior policy-makers every other morning. I went either to the vice president's office or (on weekends) to his home. I am sure it never occurred to him to come to CIA headquarters. [ complete article ]

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How Hamas became the key to the roadmap
Tony Karon, Time, June 25, 2003

The fact that all parties in the region have been waiting for Hamas to deliver its verdict on the cease-fire proposed by Abbas underscores the growing role of the Islamist movement in Palestinian political life. While Secretary of State Colin Powell dismisses Hamas as "a handful of individuals" who must not be allowed to "blow up the roadmap," the reality is plainly more complex. Hamas is believed by Israeli security services to have fewer than 1,000 men under arms in Gaza, compared with some 50,000 on the payroll of the PA security forces. But those numbers don't explain, for example, why Abbas repeatedly and strenuously emphasizes that he has no intention of going to war on Hamas -- which is exactly what the Israelis and the Bush Administration are expecting him to do. Abbas, instead, is looking to draw those groups into a unity government and avoid confrontation. His reason is that those organizations have stronger support on the ground, right now, than the Palestinian Authority. [ complete article ]

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Militia trained in Iran controls a tense town
Shaila K. Dewan, New York Times, June 27, 2003

The Badr Brigade, a militia group whose members trained in Iran during the long rule of Saddam Hussein, controls this town of 50,000 people where six British soldiers and four Iraqis were killed in a firefight this week, residents said today.

Officials in Washington have said that United States intelligence reports indicate that the Badr forces -- based and trained in Iran during Mr. Hussein's rule -- have set up headquarters and tried to recruit supporters in towns in southern Iraq, and that fighters who have returned to Iraq from Iran have shed their uniforms and melted into the civilian populations. [ complete article ]

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Others gauge Iraqi scientist's ordeal
Dafna Linzer, Associated Press, June 27, 2003

Mahdi Shukur Obeidi wanted to make a deal. In exchange for asylum, the Iraqi scientist would turn over hidden information about Saddam Hussein's former nuclear weapons program.

Instead, he was arrested by the U.S. military in Baghdad, released by the CIA, sent into hiding and then whisked out of the country after he went public.

The Bush administration, which went to war to disarm Saddam of unconventional weapons no one has found, has said intelligence would be forthcoming once Iraqi scientists begin to cooperate. Experts say the scientists' willingness to cooperate will depend on how the Americans handle Obeidi and others. [ complete article ]

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The man who would be king of Iraq
Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, June 27, 2003

Two weeks ago, a man who had spent only the first two years of his life in Iraq came back to Baghdad with a plan for life after Baath.

Iraq should be ruled by a constitutional monarchy, says Sherif Ali bin Hussein - and he, as the chosen prince of the Hashemite royal family, should be the one to steer the country toward stability.

After 45 years of exile in Beirut and London, Sherif Ali has returned to Iraq as head of the Constitutional Monarchy Movement. Rather than offering to rule reluctantly, the investment banker is making a pitch to put himself on a throne that vanished nearly a half-century ago. [ complete article ]

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Our troops are paying the price for a quick-win war
Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, June 27, 2003

Donald Rumsfeld said in a speech before the Iraq war that nation building was like setting bones: if you got it wrong, the result would be crooked. The US defence secretary now risks seeing his own axiom come true, thanks to the startling inadequacies of the preparations for administering Iraq, inadequacies for which he and his department were largely responsible. And, as is the way with these things, failures in the civil sphere rebound in the military one, so that ordinary American and now British soldiers are having to pay for the insouciance, the spurning of good advice, and the over-confidence about governing Iraq that was evident in Washington before and during the war. [ complete article ]

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Once more, we hear that America is being "sucked into a quagmire"
John Pilger, New Statesman, June 19, 2003

America's two "great victories" since 11 September 2001 are unravelling. In Afghanistan, the regime of Hamid Karzai has virtually no authority and no money, and would collapse without American guns. Al-Qaeda has not been defeated, and the Taliban are re-emerging. Regardless of showcase improvements, the situation of women and children remains desperate. The token woman in Karzai's cabinet, the courageous physician Sima Samar, has been forced out of government and is now in constant fear of her life, with an armed guard outside her office door and another at her gate. Murder, rape and child abuse are committed with impunity by the private armies of America's "friends", the warlords whom Washington has bribed with millions of dollars, cash in hand, to give the pretence of stability.

"We are in a combat zone the moment we leave this base," an American colonel told me at Bagram airbase, near Kabul. "We are shot at every day, several times a day." When I said that surely he had come to liberate and protect the people, he belly-laughed. [ complete article ]

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Pipeline attacks put Iraq oil exports in doubt
Hassan Hafidh and Peg Mackey, Reuters, June 26, 2003

Iraq was hit by a new oil pipeline explosion on Thursday, underlining concerns that a breakdown in security is undermining Baghdad's efforts to restore crude exports.

News of the blast, the sixth in two weeks, came as Iraq's de facto oil minister Thamir Ghadhban told a news conference that sabotage could undermine the drive for oil exports needed to fund Iraq's post-war reconstruction.

"Surely these are serious incidents and they will affect our performance, there is no doubt about that," he said.

Ghadhban said Iraq still hoped to boost production from current rates of 900,000 bpd, less than a third of pre-war capacity, to two million bpd by the end of the year.

"We have our eyes on those targets if not more, but security and stability are not in our hands," he said. [ complete article ]

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Veteran neo-con advisor moves on Iran
Jim Lobe, Asia Times, June 26, 2003

When The Washington Post published a list of the people whom Karl Rove, President George W Bush's closest advisor, regularly consults for advice outside the administration, foreign policy veterans were shocked when Michael Ledeen popped up as the only full-time international affairs analyst. [ complete article ]

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An alternative to empire
John Feffer and Miriam Pemberton, AlterNet, June 24, 2003

...the United States has been suffering gradual hearing loss for some time. The louder the world raises its objections, the more deafly the United States soldiers on. The historical moment created by the Sept. 11 attacks could have accomplished a minor medical miracle by restoring to the United States the ability to hear. In fact, the American government and the American people gratefully listened to the expressions of sympathy that came pouring in from around the world and were surprised to hear from some unexpected quarters such as Libya's Muammar Qaddafi and Cuba's Fidel Castro. But the restoration of hearing was only partial. Our leaders still could not hear why so much of the world is unhappy with U.S. foreign policy. They could hear the sweet strains of sympathy but not the bass rumblings of dissatisfaction. [ complete article ]

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'There is not a single fact in either dossier that is actually disputed'
So said Tony Blair yesterday. Well then, what about ...

The Independent, June 26, 2003

The 45-minute warning?
The Niger connection?
The propaganda?
The terrorist links? [ complete article ]

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Inexperienced hands guide Iraq rebuilding
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, June 25, 2003

Two months after the fall of Baghdad, the critical task of postwar rebuilding and governance of most Iraqi cities remains in the hands of U.S. military personnel, almost all of whom lack expertise in government administration and familiarity with the Arab world.

Some current and former U.S. officials involved in the reconstruction effort contend that the failure to more quickly include civilian reconstruction specialists in the postwar occupation has delayed resumption of local government operations and led to resentment among the nearly 20 million Iraqis who live outside the capital.

"The reliance on the military has been a mistake," a senior U.S. official here said. "You need civilians in an operation like this. This is both a political and a military operation. We need to emphasize the political dimension more."

Although there are about 1,000 people working for the U.S.-led civil occupation authority in Baghdad, almost all of them are based in a vast presidential palace complex on the banks of the Tigris River. Outside the capital and a few other large cities, the job of local administration and reconstruction remains the responsibility of the military's civil affairs teams, which are staffed largely with reservists.

The teams were established and trained to provide emergency humanitarian aid, deal with refugees and perform basic infrastructure repair -- not to rebuild town governments, set up courts, disburse salaries, sort out agricultural problems or take on many of the other chores they have been forced to perform in postwar Iraq.

"We've been given a job that we haven't prepared for, we haven't trained for, that we weren't ready for," said a senior civil affairs officer in central Iraq. "For a lot of the stuff we're doing, we're making it up as we go along." [ complete article ]

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'Run or you will die.' The soldiers did not go and they died...
Jason Burke, The Guardian, June 26, 2003

There is little to mark where the soldiers died, only a mound of shattered glass, holes gouged in a peeling plaster wall and a rusty smear of dried blood along a filthy corridor floor.

Nor is it clear how they died. The rear of the police station is still burning. The front wall, below the small turret where a torn Iraqi flag is flying, is covered in bullet scars.

Two of the six-strong detachment of British Royal Military Police killed in this scruffy, sun-baked town on Tuesday morning tried to hold off their attackers from the roof of the police station. The rest took up positions in three rooms on the ground floor, facing a broad dirt road, a wall and a secondary school. [ complete article ]

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Soldier says Iraqi children turned away
Donna Abu-Nasr, Associated Press, June 23, 2003

On a scorching afternoon, while on duty at an Army airfield, Sgt. David J. Borell was approached by an Iraqi who pleaded for help for his three children, burned when they set fire to a bag containing explosive powder left over from war in Iraq.

Borell immediately called for assistance. But the two Army doctors who arrived about an hour later refused to help the children because their injuries were not life-threatening and had not been inflicted by U.S. troops.

Now the two girls and a boy are covered with scabs and the boy cannot use his right leg. And Borell is shattered.

"I have never seen in almost 14 years of Army experience anything that callous," said Borell, who recounted the June 13 incident to The Associated Press.

A U.S. military spokesman said the children's condition did not fall into a category that requires Army physicians to treat them -- and that there was no inappropriate response on the part of the doctors.

The incident comes at a time when U.S. troops are trying to win the confidence of Iraqis, an undertaking that has been overwhelmed by the need to protect themselves against attacks. Boosting security has led to suspicion in encounters between Iraqis and Americans. There are increased pat-downs, raids on homes and arrests in which U.S. troops force people to the ground at gunpoint -- measures the Iraqis believe are meant to humiliate them. [ complete article ]

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Road map: Sharon and the record
Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus, June 20, 2003

One thing to keep in mind about the current push for peace between Israelis and Palestinians is that Ariel Sharon is one of the most consistent political figures in the Middle East, and he keeps his word. It is a deeply chilling observation.

Back in the early 1970s, when Sharon engineered the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, he was always clear that they were permanent, and that their primary function was military. "They guard both the birthright of the Jewish people," he told the newspaper Ha'aretz, "and also grant us essential strategic depth to protect our existence." For all his talk about "painful concessions" in the present "road map," those priorities have never altered a whit.

However, like any good general, deception is always central to his strategy. [ complete article ]

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Intelligence expert said to tell legislators he was pressed to distort some evidence
James Risen and Douglas Jehl, New York Times, June 25, 2003

A top State Department expert on chemical and biological weapons told Congressional committees in closed-door hearings last week that he had been pressed to tailor his analysis on Iraq and other matters to conform with the Bush administration's views, several Congressional officials said today.

The officials described what they said was a dramatic moment at a House Intelligence Committee hearing last week when the weapons expert came forward to tell Congress he had felt such pressure.

By speaking out, they said, the senior intelligence expert, identified by several officials as Christian Westermann, became the first member of the intelligence community on active service to make this sort of admission to members of Congress. [ complete article ]

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Veil of secrecy around village hit in U.S. raid
Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, June 25, 2003

On a desolate panorama of hardtack desert along the Syrian border here, the United States military has cordoned off part of this village, evicted five families whose houses were bombed six days ago and refused to say what is going on.

Two villagers were killed, a young woman, Hakima Khalil, and her infant daughter, Maha, in an aerial assault that began just after 1 a.m. Thursday.

At dusk today, a convoy of more than 20 military transports arrived with earth-moving equipment and pulled into the circle of Bradley fighting vehicles that guard every approach to this sandy knoll littered with broken masonry and bomb-damaged homes.

"Stop right there," said Specialist Arthur Myers of New Jersey. "If you take a picture, I will break your camera." [ complete article ]

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Air force commander says Israel knew militant's wife would be killed in strike
Associated Press, June 24, 2003

Israel knew that the wife of a senior Hamas militant was with him when it decide to kill him, but went ahead with the airstrike anyway, the air force commander said Tuesday.

In July, an air force F-16 dropped a one-ton bomb on the house of Salah Shehadeh, leader of the Hamas military wing, in Gaza City. Shehadeh and a Hamas activist were killed, along with Shehadeh's wife and 16 other bystanders, among them nine children. [ complete article ]

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Losing the peace in Afghanistan
Jim Lobe,, June 24, 2003

Just as the United States is struggling to deal with major postwar headaches in Iraq, its efforts to pacify Afghanistan appear to be unraveling, according to a new report by a key group of experts sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Asia Society.

Titled "Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace?" [PDF document], the 24-page document, authored by, among others, three retired senior U.S. government policymakers who specialize in South Asian affairs, answers that question very much in the affirmative and argues that Washington must do far more, and urgently, to save the situation. [ complete article ]

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Political fallout over Iraq rattling Washington
Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, June 25, 2003

The political fallout from the unexpected hazards of occupying Iraq is starting to be felt in Washington, although it remains unclear who, if anyone, is to be held responsible for what is seen as inadequate postwar planning.

President George W. Bush runs a hermetic administration that does not look kindly on leaks of unfavourable news. However, according to several advisers and analysts, the White House is directing its displeasure at certain figures in the Defense Department and questioning the "neo-conservative" lobbyists who wish to impose what they call Pax Americana on the world.

The rethink is driven by the main priority of the White House - Mr Bush's re-election next year. [ complete article ]

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Violence spreads south as forces of the rump regime get ever bolder
Ewen MacAskill and Michael Howard, The Guardian, June 25, 2003

A British commander, briefing yesterday, noted that Amara, like most of southern Iraq, had seen few incidents since the end of the war. The British-run sector, based in Basra and stretching north to Amara and west almost as far as Nassiriya, had seen few attacks on troops, in contrast with the almost daily ambushes against US forces further north.

This relative calm was attributed to the sector being predominantly Shia Muslim, people who suffered three decades of oppression under Saddam and grudgingly welcomed the arrival of British forces as liberators. It has been so quiet that British soldiers for the last few weeks have been patrolling without body armour. [ complete article ]

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Iraq occupation force 'callous' over radiation risk
Press Association, The Guardian, June 24, 2003

British and US forces showed "callous disregard" by failing to take action over high levels of radiation found at villages near a looted Iraqi nuclear site, a British campaigner said today.

Dozens of people near the Tuwaitha facility, south of Baghdad, are reported to have suffered nosebleeds, rashes and other symptoms of radiation poisoning.

Iraqi troops guarding the site fled at the start of the war, leaving looters free to steal uranium storage barrels, which locals later used as drinking water containers.

Mike Townsley, the head of a Greenpeace team working in the area, warned that not enough was being done to discover the extent of the problem.

He called for UN nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be brought in to carry out a full survey of the area.

One radiation source discovered by the environmental group measured 10,000 times above normal readings. [ complete article ]

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The fact that Hussein's gone doesn't make lying right
Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2003

There was a time when the sickness of the political far left could best be defined by the rationale that the ends justified the means. Happily, support for revolutionary regimes claiming to advance the interests of their people through atrocious acts is now seen as an evil dead end by most on the left. Immoral and undemocratic means lead inevitably to immoral and undemocratic ends.

Unfortunately, junior Machiavellis claiming to wear the white hat still are running amok among us. This time, however, they are on the right, apologists for the Bush administration arguing that noble ends justify deceitful means. [ complete article ]

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Poll: Majority of Americans back use of force in Iran
Richard Morin and Claudia Deane, Washington Post, June 24, 2003

Most Americans would support the United States taking military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons despite growing public concern about the mounting number of U.S. military casualties in the aftermath of the war with Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

President Bush last week said the rest of the world should join the United States in declaring that it "will not tolerate" nuclear weapons in Iran -- a vow that most Americans appear willing to back with force. By 56 percent to 38 percent, the public endorsed the use of the military to block Iran from developing nuclear arms. [ complete article ]

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Howard Dean: Sharon's man?
Ahmed Nassef, Muslim WakeUp, June 22, 2003

Although often portrayed as progressive, former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean falls short on several issues important to progressives, with the Middle East being one of the more glaring.

True, Dean is one of the Democratic presidential hopefuls who opposed the invasion of Iraq (along with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, conservative Senator Bob Graham, former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun, and Rev. Al Sharpton), but he is closer to a hawk when it comes to Israel/Palestine and US policy toward Iran.

In a major foreign policy speech earlier this year, Dean, while calling for an end to Palestinian violence, did not call for an end to Israeli violence, let alone an end to the illegal Israeli occupation.

And when asked whether his views are closer to the dovish Americans for Peace Now (APN) or the right wing, Sharon-supporting American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he stated unequivocally in an interview with the Jewish weekly The Forward, "My view is closer to AIPAC's view." [ complete article ]

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Of dignity and solidarity
Edward Said, Counterpunch, June 23, 2003

In early May, I was in Seattle lecturing for a few days. While there, I had dinner one night with Rachel Corrie's parents and sister, who were still reeling from the shock of their daughter's murder on March 16 in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer. Mr. Corrie told me that he had himself driven bulldozers, although the one that killed his daughter deliberately because she was trying valiantly to protect a Palestinian home in Rafah from demolition was a 60 ton behemoth especially designed by Caterpillar for house demolitions, a far bigger machine than anything he had ever seen or driven. Two things struck me about my brief visit with the Corries. One was the story they told about their return to the US with their daughter's body. They had immediately sought out their US Senators, Patty Murray and Mary Cantwell, both Democrats, told them their story and received the expected expressions of shock, outrage, anger and promises of investigations. After both women returned to Washington, the Corries never heard from them again, and the promised investigation simply didn't materialize. As expected, the Israeli lobby had explained the realities to them, and both women simply begged off. An American citizen willfully murdered by the soldiers of a client state of the US without so much as an official peep or even the de rigeur investigation that had been promised her family.

But the second and far more important aspect of the Rachel Corrie story for me was the young woman's action itself, heroic and dignified at the same time. [ complete article ]

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Statehood without land
Muna Hamzeh, Al-Ahram, June 19, 2003

In yet another public relations coup, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has managed to convince western public opinion that as part of implementing the roadmap for Mideast peace, he is willing to offer the Palestinians "painful territorial concessions" by agreeing to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

Never mind that the nearly 94 illegal outposts in question are mostly uninhabited caravans that settlers -- with the full backing of the government and military -- established on hilltops adjacent to existing and thriving settlements that Israel never plans to dismantle. Never mind that the dismantling of these outposts would in no way hinder Israel's control over the vast majority of occupied Palestinian land.

The fact remains that Israel continues to forcibly confiscate Palestinian land, illegally build settlement bypass roads as well as expand existing settlements. And by doing so, Israel would automatically deem any future Palestinian "state" totally non-viable and lacking in any significant geographical contiguity. [ complete article ]

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Aftermath of war
Not exactly an eye for an eye

Robert Higgs, San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2003

In the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists killed more than 3, 000 people, some 90 percent of them at the World Trade Center, the rest on the hijacked airliners and at the Pentagon. The taking of life shocked many people the world over, not the least of them the president of the United States. Regardless of one's ethical, religious or political beliefs, no one could condone the murder of thousands of innocent people.

In the "war on terrorism" that ensued, President Bush sought, or so he claimed, to "bring to justice" the responsible parties. The first difficulty, of course, was that the 19 people most directly responsible for the crimes were already dead. Bush looked past them, however, in his quest to "root out" all those who might have harbored or otherwise aided the perpetrators. This project made some moral sense: We all understand the concept of "accomplice to murder."

At this juncture, however, the president's moral vision must have grown murky. [ complete article ]

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Denial and deception
Paul Krugman, New york Times, June 24, 2003

Politics is full of ironies. On the White House Web site, George W. Bush's speech from Oct. 7, 2002 -- in which he made the case for war with Iraq -- bears the headline "Denial and Deception." Indeed.

There is no longer any serious doubt that Bush administration officials deceived us into war. The key question now is why so many influential people are in denial, unwilling to admit the obvious. [ complete article ]

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How two students built an A-bomb
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, June 24, 2003

Dave Dobson's past is not a secret. Not technically, anyway - not since the relevant US government intelligence documents were declassified and placed in the vaults of the National Security Archive, in Washington DC. But Dobson, now 65, is a modest man, and once he had discovered his vocation - teaching physics at Beloit College, in Wisconsin - he felt no need to drop dark hints about his earlier life. You could have taken any number of classes at Beloit with Professor Dobson, until his recent retirement, without having any reason to know that in his mid-20s, working entirely as an amateur and equipped with little more than a notebook and a library card, he designed a nuclear bomb.

Today his experiences in 1964 - the year he was enlisted into a covert Pentagon operation known as the Nth Country Project - suddenly seem as terrifyingly relevant as ever. The question the project was designed to answer was a simple one: could a couple of non-experts, with brains but no access to classified research, crack the "nuclear secret"? [ complete article ]

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Power moves may be uniting hard-liners in Iraq and Iran
David Rohde and Nazila Fathi, New York Times, June 24, 2003

In a step that may intensify a struggle between moderates and conservatives in Iraq, a hard-line Shiite cleric recently met with the leadership in Iran, according to his aides.

American military officials confirmed that the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, had recently traveled to Iran. The trip comes after repeated American warnings to Iran not to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.

Just what Mr. Sadr did in Iran is uncertain, other than attending the June 4 anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's theocracy.

However, two of Mr. Sadr's senior aides said he had met with Ayatolloh Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme religious leader; Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of Iran's judiciary; and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's former president. [ complete article ]

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What did Eisenhower mean when he warned of a military industrial complex? Take a look at the Carlyle Group
Interview with Dan Briody, BuzzFlash, June 23, 2003

They are at the epicenter of the military-industrial-complex-Bush-Cheney-crony-capitalism administration. The Carlyle Group is the model example of the nearly seamless connection between the Bush administration, self-enrichment and companies who receive big government defense contracts.

The roster of Carlyle "consultants" reads like a who's who guide to government officials of the 1980s, starting with former president George Bush, former secretary of state James Baker, and former defense secretary Frank Carlucci.

The most chilling aspect of Briody's book ["The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group"] is that the political connections and lobbying activities he unmasks are not illegal.

It is a testament to the brain dead mainstream media that the relationship between the Carlyle group and the Bush-Cheney cartel is not a national scandal. [ complete article ]

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The selling of the war
The first casualty

John B. Judis and Spencer Ackerman, The New Republic, June 19, 2003

Foreign policy is always difficult in a democracy. Democracy requires openness. Yet foreign policy requires a level of secrecy that frees it from oversight and exposes it to abuse. As a result, Republicans and Democrats have long held that the intelligence agencies--the most clandestine of foreign policy institutions--should be insulated from political interference in much the same way as the higher reaches of the judiciary. As the Tower Commission, established to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal, warned in November 1987, "The democratic processes ... are subverted when intelligence is manipulated to affect decisions by elected officials and the public."

If anything, this principle has grown even more important since September 11, 2001. The Iraq war presented the United States with a new defense paradigm: preemptive war, waged in response to a prediction of a forthcoming attack against the United States or its allies. This kind of security policy requires the public to base its support or opposition on expert intelligence to which it has no direct access. It is up to the president and his administration--with a deep interest in a given policy outcome--nonetheless to portray the intelligence community's findings honestly. If an administration represents the intelligence unfairly, it effectively forecloses an informed choice about the most important question a nation faces: whether or not to go to war. That is exactly what the Bush administration did when it sought to convince the public and Congress that the United States should go to war with Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Sharon: Building settlements is OK
Associated Press, June 23, 2003

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that Israel still could build Jewish settlements in defiance of a U.S.-backed peace plan.

The plan known as the "road map" says Israel must dismantle all outposts put up since March 1, 2001 -- more than 60, according to an anti-settlement watchdog group -- and freeze "all settlement activity."

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin said the demand to freeze all construction is unrealistic.

"There can't be a total freeze on any construction, because you can't freeze life in those places," he told The Associated Press. [ complete article ]

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'Quartet' at odds on Israeli attacks
Dan Ephron, Boston Globe, June 23, 2003

The United States appeared yesterday to be at odds with other members of a forum overseeing Middle East peace efforts over the legitimacy of Israel's targeted killings of Palestinian militants, according to officials attending an economic conference here yesterday.

The killings, which have been widely criticized by human rights groups, have emerged as a key stumbling block in talks between Israelis and Palestinians on implementing the initial stages of an international peace plan known as the ''road map.'' [ complete article ]

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America brings democracy: Censor now, vote later
David Rohde, New York Times, June 22, 2003

Just as neoconservatives in Washington had hoped, the concept of demokratiya [democracy in Arabic] has taken hold in the Iraqi imagination, raising the possibility that it will inspire change throughout the Middle East.

But there is a problem: The United States isn't perceived as a cultivator of democracy here. It is seen as a military occupier that supports democracy and free speech when they serve its interest, but suppresses both when they don't. [ complete article ]

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Israel road map suffers new blow
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 23, 2003

Israel delivered another blow to the faltering road map to peace yesterday with the assassination of a Hamas leader, drawing threats of retaliation from the Islamic organisation and implicit criticism from the US secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Mainstream leaders of the Palestinians accused Israel of jeopardising the US-led peace process, after an undercover army unit shot dead Abdullah Qawasmeh in Hebron.

The Israeli government alleged that Mr Qawasmeh was responsible for organising suicide bombings that claimed more than 50 lives, including the attack on a Jerusalem bus this month in retaliation for another assassination attempt against a Hamas leader. [ complete article ]

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Now Bush wants to buy the complicity of aid workers
Naomi Klein, The Guardian, June 23, 2003

The Bush administration has found its next target for pre-emptive war, but it's not Iran, Syria or North Korea. Not yet anyway.

Before launching any new foreign adventures, the Bush gang has some homeland housekeeping to take care of: it is going to sweep up those pesky non-governmental organisations that are helping to turn world opinion against US bombs and brands.

The war on NGOs is being fought on two clear fronts. One buys the silence and complicity of mainstream humanitarian and religious groups by offering lucrative reconstruction contracts. The other marginalises and criminalises more independent-minded NGOs by claiming that their work is a threat to democracy. The US Agency for International Development (USaid) is in charge of handing out the carrots, while the American Enterprise Institute, the most powerful think-tank in Washington, is wielding the sticks. [ complete article ]

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'I just pulled the trigger'
Bob Graham, London Evening Standard, June 19, 2003

At first glance they appear to be the archetypal Band Of Brothers of Hollywood myth, brave and honest men united in common purpose.

But a closer look at these American GIs, sweltering in the heat of an unwelcoming Iraq, reveals the glazed eyes and limp expressions of those who have witnessed a war they do not understand and have begun to resent. By their own admission these American soldiers have killed civilians without hesitation, shot wounded fighters and left others to die in agony.

What they told me, in a series of extraordinary interviews, will make uncomfortable reading for US and British politicians and senior military staff desperate to prevent the liberation of Iraq turning into a quagmire of Vietnam proportions, where the behaviour of troops feeds the hatred of an occupied people. [ complete article ]

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Dangerous liasons
Peter Beaumont, The Observer, June 22, 2003

There was a picture last week in London's Evening Standard newspaper of a group of young American soldiers. It brought me up short. I had turned inside from the front page story about a group of American soldiers who had admitted that they were so indiscriminate with their fire that they had killed civilians, perhaps a lot of them, in the battle for Baghdad. The young men looked like any other of the US troops I had met in Iraq. And then a face jumped out. One of the group seemed somehow familiar. Scouring the text I realised that I had met men from this unit as I drove into Baghdad. And how, by their own account, they had almost killed me. [ complete article ]

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U.S. general condemns Iraq failures
Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, June 22, 2003

One of the most experienced and respected figures in a generation of American warfare and peacekeeping yesterday accused the US administration of 'failing to prepare for the consequences of victory' in Iraq.

At the end of a week that saw a war of attrition develop against the US military, General William Nash told The Observer that the US had 'lost its window of opportunity' after felling Saddam Hussein's regime and was embarking on a long-term expenditure of people and dollars for which it had not planned.

'It is an endeavour which was not understood by the administration to begin with,' he said.

Now retired, Nash served in the Vietnam war and in Operation Desert Storm (the first Gulf War) before becoming commander of US forces in Bosnia and then an acclaimed UN Civil Affairs administrator in Kosovo. [ complete article ]

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Iran muddies Afghanistan's waters
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, June 21, 2003

With the ground situation in Afghanistan expected to deteriorate even further in the coming weeks, Pakistan will once again serve as a back yard for US military and diplomatic initiatives to contain the spreading guerrilla warfare.

At the same time, Iran, which is steadily being pushed against the wall by the United States, still has a few cards left to play in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq, in an attempt to tie down harassed US forces further in those countries and divert attention from itself. [ complete article ]

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A revolution short of a leader
Hooman Peimani, Asia Times, June 21, 2003

This Monday, more than 250 Iranian intellectuals called on Ali Khamenei to relinquish his status as Iran's "supreme leader". Being published after about five days of anti-regime student demonstrations in Tehran and a few other cities, their letter is significant for its timing and also its courageous content. However, its importance lies in offering a direction and a potential leadership for the rising democratic movement, which, as a leaderless movement, will have no chance for success. [ complete article ]

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U.S. finds a communist ally against Iran
B. Raman, Asia Times, June 21, 2003

The United States, which used Islamic fundamentalists against communism in Afghanistan in the 1980s, has embarked on an operation to use communists to bring about the end of the Islamic regime in Iran.

The dozens of anti-cleric and secular Iranian exile groups operating from the West against the Islamic regime in Tehran broadly fall into the following categories:

-- The left-oriented Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK - People's Mujahideen) and elements allied with it in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). They mainly operate from West Europe, with headquarters in France.

-- The monarchists, mainly operating from the US, with the help of neo-conservative and Jewish lobby groups.

-- The remnants and new adherents of the old pro-Moscow Communist Party of Iran, called the Tudeh Party, and other communist factions, mainly operating from the United Kingdom. [ complete article ]

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