The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
MI6 chief briefed BBC over Iraq arms fears
Kamal Ahmed, The Observer, July 6, 2003

The head of MI6 [Britain's foreign intelligence service], Sir Richard Dearlove, secretly briefed senior BBC executives on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction before the Today programme claimed Number 10 had 'sexed up' part of the evidence.

In a remarkable revelation that goes to the heart of the increasingly bitter row between the Government and the BBC, broadcasting sources have told The Observer that Dearlove suggested that Syria and Iran posed a greater threat to world security than Iraq. [ complete article ]

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The white man unburdened
Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, July 17, 2003

When Osama bin Laden failed to be captured by the posses we sent to Afghanistan, Bush was thrust back to ongoing domestic problems that did not give any immediate suggestion that they could prove solution-friendly. The economy was sinking, the market was down, and some classic bastions of American faith (corporate integrity, the FBI, and the Catholic Church—to cite but three) had each suffered a separate and grievous loss of face. Increasing joblessness was undermining national morale. Since our administration was conceivably not ready to tackle any one of the serious problems looming before them that did not involve enriching the top, it was natural for the administration to feel an impulse to move into larger ventures, thrusts into the empyrean -- war! We could say we went to war because we very much needed a successful war as a species of psychic rejuvenation. Any major excuse would do -- nuclear threat, terrorist nests, weapons of mass destruction -- we could always make the final claim that we were liberating the Iraqis. Who could argue with that? One could not. One could only ask: What will the cost be to our democracy? [ complete article ]

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Wives clamour for U.S. troops return
Julian Borger, The Guardian, July 5, 2003

The Fourth of July is usually the biggest day on the calendar in Hinesville, Georgia. It is an army town, from one end to another, and patriotism is practically the local industry. The Stars and Stripes are the standard decoration all year round, but on Independence Day, they sprout from every tree, lawn and window box.

And when evening falls, much of Hinesville's 25,000 people decamps to Fort Stewart, the military base next door, for picnics and fireworks.

But this year, the martial pride has a bitter aftertaste. The red, white and blue bunting is interspersed with the fading yellow of ribbons left hanging for the soldiers still in Iraq.

They were supposed to be back home celebrating. Instead, yesterday's shootings in Balad made it more likely that their stay in Iraq will be prolonged. [ complete article ]

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Iraqis wait for U.S. troops to leave
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 5, 2003

A group of doctors sits round a table in an air-conditioned side room of Balad's only hospital, enjoying a late lunch and respite from the sweltering summer heat. These days, some of their sickest patients are whisked off to the US air force base which has sprung up a few miles away. "They've been very co-operative. They established a military hospital there and help us," says Mustafa Mahmoud, 30, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Medicine was taught in English in the best Iraqi universities, and many doctors speak it well. So it was natural that professional contacts with their uniformed new neighbours turned into social get-togethers. The Iraqi doctors occasionally ate at the base and invited the Americans to restaurants in town.

Not any more. "We can't invite them to eat with us now. People wouldn't like it, and they might accuse us of being collaborators," says an older doctor at the end of the table. "I won't give you my name because I'm afraid to. I'm an Arab and I will not accept disrespect. Tell them please. The American people must know that Iraqis no longer trust America". [ complete article ]

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Reopened holy site a risky testing ground
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2003

The sun beat down on Jerusalem's ancient walls early Thursday. Finding a bit of shade, about 20 young Israeli men and women stood at the foot of a ramp leading to the city's most hotly contested holy site.

They heard a few words from their leader, then the women pulled scarves from a bag and put them on their heads. With an armed police escort, they climbed onto the Temple Mount.

Israel has reopened the sacred ground -- known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif, or "noble sanctuary" -- to limited visits by tourists and local Israelis for the first time since rioting nearly three years ago forced a ban on non-Muslim visitors.

Violence at the site following a controversial tour by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon on Sept. 28, 2000, escalated into the current intifada that Sharon, now prime minister, is struggling to end. Sharon at the time was attempting to assert Israeli claims to all of Jerusalem. Nearly 3,000 Palestinians, Israelis and others have been killed since.

Citing security reasons, Israel restricted access by Palestinian males who were under a certain age or from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In response, Muslim authorities who control the shrine closed it off to anyone outside that faith.

The timing of Israel's decision to admit non-Muslims has more than a few people perplexed. Palestinian officials have called it a provocation. Several Israelis who were visiting the nearby Western Wall this week said it was too soon -- the bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians is still too fresh. "Why wave a red flag?" asked Natasha Pollak, an Israeli doctor and Jerusalem resident. [ complete article ]

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Flirting with fascism
John Laughland, The American Conservative, June 30, 2003

On the antiwar Right, it has been customary to attack the warmongering neoconservative clique for its Trotskyite origins. Certainly, the founding father of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, wrote in 1983 that he was "proud" to have been a member of the Fourth International in 1940. Other future leading lights of the neocon movement were also initially Trotskyites, like James Burnham and Max Kampelman -- the latter a conscientious objector during the war against Hitler, a status that Evron Kirkpatrick, husband of Jeane, used his influence to obtain for him. But there is at least one neoconservative commentator whose personal political odyssey began with a fascination not with Trotskyism, but instead with another famous political movement that grew up in the early decades of the 20th century: fascism. I refer to Michael Ledeen, leading neocon theoretician, expert on Machiavelli, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, regular columnist for National Review -- and the principal cheerleader today for an extension of the war on terror to include regime change in Iran. [ complete article ]

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Iraqis swelter in 115 degrees heat -- and fume at U.S.
American failure to restore electricity now a political issue

Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, July 3, 2003

Hour after hour, day after day, the Mussawi family sits at home, sweating. There's little to do but wait, hoping beyond hope that the electricity will come back on -- which it rarely does.

All the way down the alley, throughout the Mussawis' lower-middle-class Al- Isaleh neighborhood and across the nation, Iraqis are hot and getting hotter. And angry and getting angrier.

Soaring summer temperatures and worsening electricity blackouts -- combined with a breakdown of law and order and of such basic services as drinking water and garbage collection -- have dramatically accelerated the shift of public sentiment from briefly loving Uncle Sam to hating him with a passion. [ complete article ]

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Anger rises for families of troops in Iraq
Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, July 4, 2003

Luisa Leija was in bed the other morning, she recalled, when her 9-year-old daughter bounded in the room, saying, "Mommy, mommy, there's a man in uniform at the door."

Ms. Leija, the wife of a young artillery captain in Iraq, threw on a robe and took a deep breath. She dashed to the door, thinking: "This is not happening to me. This can't be happening to me."

A soldier in full camouflage was on the doorstep. It was a neighbor locked out of his house.

Ms. Leija is still upset. The panic has passed, but not the weariness. Or the anger. Anger that her husband, Capt. Frank Leija, has not come home yet, even though President Bush declared two months ago that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." Anger that the end of that stage has not meant the beginning of peace, that the Army has assigned new duties for her husband and his men that have nothing to do with toppling Saddam Hussein.

And anger that the talk in Washington is not of taking troops out of Iraq, but of sending more in. [ complete article ]

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A lesson from Iran on regime change
H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe, July 4, 2003

More than 25 years ago in Tehran, I was told a story by then American Ambassador Richard Helms, the former CIA chief: The Russian ambassador had asked the shah how he could accept an ambassador who had been CIA? The shah replied that at least he could be sure the Americans had sent their top spy.

In his memoirs, Helms wrote that the shah ''had always been well impressed by the quality of CIA people he had met through the years.'' Since he owed his throne to the CIA, this is not surprising.

In this new age of ideologically driven ''regime change,'' it is fitting that we remember that first US-engineered change in government in the Middle East 50 years ago next month: the coup against Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh. [ complete article ]

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Road to anarchy
T. Trent Gegax, Newsweek, July 2, 2003

Almost daily reports of dead American GIs drip in with water-torture regularity, and I keep thinking of the Army unit I left a month ago in Iraq and a conversation I had with Lt. Gen. William Wallace, a top commander during the war.

It was late May, in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, and I asked him whether the U.S. had a model in mind for rebuilding Iraq. "Well," the reliably frank V Corps commander told me, "we're making this up here as we go along."

It stuck with me because it is increasingly clear that Washington's postwar plans were at best ill-formed--and at worst uninformed. U.S. soldiers are trying their best. But America's military universities don't teach them peacekeeping or nation building. Quite the opposite: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has authorized the Oct. 1 closing of the Peacekeeping Institute at the Army War College--just as wars are taking less time to fight and their outcomes more time to manage. [ complete article ]

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Culture shock and awe
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, July 4, 2003

United Nations special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello has witnessed first-hand the impatience and anger of the all-powerful al-Hawza - the "Shi'ite Vatican" in the holy city of Najaf. On Saturday, Vieira de Mello had a long conversation (behind closed doors) with al-Sistani, and then with al-Hakim and al-Sadr.

No leaders in Najaf - or anywhere in Iraq for that matter - have forgotten the promise made in February by the American special envoy to deal with the Iraqi opposition. Zalmay Khalilzad promised then that the government of the country would be handed over to Iraqis once the war ended. Al-Hakim is now saying that an Iraqi government should be formed soon "to work to end the occupation by peaceful means".

Vieira de Mello is now fully aware of the balancing act that he will have to perform to bridge the gulf between not only the Sunni community, but between the dominant Shi'ites (62 percent of the population) and the "occuliberators" (as the Americans have been dubbed by observers). Even though Shi'ite religious leaders are still talking about cooperation with the Americans and a strategy of non-violence, there is now a completely different ball game.

The best indication is the fact that al-Sistani told Vieira de Mello to deliver "a message to Paul Bremer" - implying that direct contact was not welcomed any more. The UN special envoy did not - and certainly could not - elaborate, but the message was almost certainly news about the fatwa declaring that an Iraqi constitution written by the Americans or even by Iraqis appointed by the Americans would be "illegitimate". Al-Sistani is clear: a new constitution can only be written and approved by popularly-elected Iraqis. [ complete article ]

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Shia leaders feel heat of the people's anger
Charles Clover, Financial Times, July 2, 2003

With daily violence against coalition soldiers in the Sunni Muslim region in central Iraq, the country's majority Shia population, concentrated in the south, appears increasingly divided over whether to support or oppose US-led efforts to run Iraq.

Iraq's top-ranking Shia clergy, collectively referred to as the Hawza, report they are under growing pressure from extremist Shia religious groups and rural Shia tribesmen to take a stronger line against the coalition - and even to declare a jihad (holy war) against the foreign occupiers.

The Hawza, which keeps a strong spiritual hold on Iraq's Shia, has maintained an uneasy working relationship with coalition forces since the end of the war. But it appears increasingly "paralysed", in the words of Dr Wameedh al Nathmi, a political scientist at the University of Baghdad, and has been fighting to retain its authority in the face of direct challenges from radical clerics.

"The people are every day accusing the Hawza of being aloof from reality. We are under a lot of pressure," says Sheikh Ali al-Ruba'i, a representative of Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq Fayad, one of three clerics who lead the Hawza.

He says Iraq's Shia population is feeling increasingly hostile about how the coalition is managing Iraq, complaining not only of intrusive weapons searches and brutality by coalition soldiers, but also that basic services such as electricity and water have not returned to pre-war levels two months after the end of the fighting. [ complete article ]

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Blackouts return, deepening Iraq's dark days
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, July 3, 2003

The lack of steady electricity is regarded by several U.S. and Iraqi officials as the most significant obstacle in the reconstruction of this city and country.

"Power is the central issue," a senior U.S. official here said. "Without it, you don't have security. You don't have an economy. You don't have trust in what we're doing. What you do have is more anger, more frustration, more violence. We're not going to solve anything here until we first find a way to get more electricity to the people."

On Baghdad's streets, the blackouts are fueling a growing nostalgia for former president Saddam Hussein among people who only weeks ago cheered the fall of his government and welcomed the arrival of U.S. troops. "We figured the Americans, who are a superpower, would at least give us electricity," said Mehdi Abdulwahid, an unemployed oil engineer who now helps a friend sell drinks on a busy sidewalk. "Now we wish we had the old times back."

Hussein, Abdulwahid said with a sigh, "was a ruthless man, but at least we had the basics of life. How can we care about democracy now when we don't even have electricity?" [ complete article ]

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No end to the growing settlements insult
Amira Hass, Haaretz, July 2, 2003

Does anyone in Israel expect the Palestinians to be so grateful for having been permitted to leave their confined quarters that they won't see what is happening before their very eyes?

What is happening before their very eyes is the non-stop expansion of the settlements. Settlements are the unlawful transfer of an occupying population to occupied territory; they are the cynical theft of land reserves vital for the Palestinian cities and villages; they are the denial of territorial contiguity and the potential to develop; they are the wresting of control of irreplaceable water resources; they are control of roads. They are all that, and more.

The settlements embody all of the perceptions of Israeli lordliness that have developed over the years on both sides of the Green Line. It is an axiom now that "state lands" are only for Jews; that Palestinians need less land and water per head than Jews; that they do not deserve or require the same infrastructure or conveniences as Jews (see East Jerusalem and Galilee villages); that Palestinians live here because we allow them, not because it is their right. [ complete article ]

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'Bring them on' Bush says as Iraqi attackers prolong war
Michael Howard and Julian Borger, The Guardian, July 3, 2003

President George Bush yesterday taunted the Iraqi groups waging a guerrilla war against US and British troops, saying "bring them on" and vowing that the coalition would not be forced into an early departure.

The gesture of presidential bravado came amid declining public enthusiasm for military involvement in Iraq as American casualties continue to mount long after Mr Bush declared the war over. [ complete article ]

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Israel defies peace plan with land grab on West Bank
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 3, 2003

The Israeli government has confiscated hundreds of acres of Palestinian land on the West Bank this week - for the purpose, Palestinians allege, of building settlements - in flagrant breach of commitments under the US-led road map to peace.

Yesterday, an Israeli official and soldiers were marking out swaths of olive groves and other ground outside the villages of Beit Eksa and Beit Souriq, north of Jerusalem.

"State land. Entry prohibited," read a sign erected on village land in the name of the civil administration of Judea and Samaria, the Israeli body that oversees military rule in the West Bank.

The Palestinians say the Israelis plan to build settlements to link two Jewish towns constructed on land seized from the Arab villages in the 1980s. The accusation would fit with existing Israeli plans for a "greater Jerusalem". [ complete article ]

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The Shi'ites and the future of Iraq
Yitzhak Nakash, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2003

In late April, barely two weeks after the collapse of the Baath regime, elated Iraqi Shi'ites flocked to the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, renewing an annual ritual of lament and remembrance that had been banned by the Iraqi government since 1977. Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, died at the battle of Karbala in ad 680 while attempting to claim the caliphate from the Umayyads, having been betrayed by the people of Kufa in southern Iraq. His martyrdom has come to symbolize the quest of Shi'ites for justice, and their visitation of his shrine is both an act of protest and an expression of hope. Amid the power vacuum created by the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime and with foreign forces occupying Iraq, the procession this year assumed a concrete meaning relating to both the grievances and the aspirations of Iraqi Shi'ites. As one pilgrim put it to an American television network, "We just got rid of one tyrant ruler. We don't want a new tyrant instead. We want a just government, not one which is imposed on us."

In the wake of the war, important questions about Iraq remain. Will the newly energized Shi'ite majority seek an Islamic government modeled after Iran, or will its members agree to share power with other communities? Will the United States succeed in establishing itself as a credible broker, especially in Shi'ite eyes? The future of Iraq may well depend on the answers. [ complete article ]

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Afghanistan's future, lost in the shuffle
Sarah Cahyes, New York Times, July 1, 2003

Ten miles outside this dust-blown city, the historical capital of Afghanistan, gunmen belonging to the local warlord guard the airport, which American forces use as a base. The hefty fee the guards get from the United States has allowed them to build a marble-faced barracks nearby.

Kandaharis, baffled, keep asking me, "Why are the Americans helping President Hamid Karzai and helping his enemies, the warlords, too?" To them the problem with this practice is clear: United States policy is in danger of failing because America won't stop hedging its bets. At stake is not just the future of Afghanistan, but a whole region's hopes of escaping a 30-year nightmare. And ultimately, what happens in Afghanistan will shape relations between the Muslim world and the West.

The hedging of bets has taken many forms since the fall of the Taliban a year and a half ago: a dizzying succession of officers at the United State Embassy for the first six months; the lack of any reconstruction projects outside Kabul until after the grand council chose Mr. Karzai as transitional president; and later, international donors' obsession with quick-impact projects, known as quips, that didn't cost much and wouldn't be much of a loss if they failed. [ complete article ]

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Blast at mosque kills an outspoken cleric
Anthony Shadid and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, July 2, 2003

A powerful explosion that ripped through the compound of a Sunni Muslim mosque in this restive city killed its preacher and at least six students drawn by his calls for a religious war to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, U.S. officials, residents and the victims' relatives said today.

The cause of the blast at the Hassan mosque Monday night has not been determined. U.S. officials said an investigation was underway.

At least one Fallujah resident and some U.S. soldiers suggested that the victims of the blast were manufacturing explosives in a three-room cinder-block building next to the mosque. Hospital officials said that the extensive burns suffered by the victims and lack of shrapnel wounds suggested that explosive or incendiary material had detonated accidentally inside the building.

That explanation, if proved, would be the clearest indicator yet of involvement by Islamic activists in the simmering guerrilla war in Iraq, adding another dimension to a conflict that U.S. officials say has been driven almost entirely by remnants of ousted president Saddam Hussein's avowedly secular government. [ complete article ]

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'This is what the Iraqis think of us,' said the captain, cradling a charred helmet
Daniel McGrory, The Times, July 2, 2003

In a most audacious attack on American troops, an Iraqi fired a rocket-propelled grenade from the sunroof of a Chevrolet car at a passing patrol yesterday, incinerating one of the army vehicles and seriously wounding four of those travelling in the convoy.

Until now, the 22 Americans killed since President Bush declared the war over on May Day had mainly been victims of snipers or crude booby-trap bombs.

However, yesterday's attack in northern Baghdad was reckless and inventive, and is an alarming demonstration of how organised and determined the Iraqi resistance is becoming. [ complete article ]

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Did Bush say God told him to go to war?
Ira Chernus, Common Dreams, June 30, 2003

Did God tell George W. Bush to strike at Al-Qaeda and Iraq? God only knows. Did Bush SAY that God told him to strike? We don't know yet, for sure. But we damn well better find out. Because if George W. said it, he-and all of us-could be in for some big trouble.

Here is what we know for sure, so far. Journalist Arnon Regular wrote, in the June 28 edition of Ha'aretz (Israel's most reputable newspaper), that he has minutes of a meeting among top-level Palestinian leaders, including Prime Minister Mahmoud Abas. The minutes are apparently quite detailed, because Regular wrote a long article recounting very specific conversations. The last paragraph of the article reads:

"According to Abbas, Bush said: 'God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.'" [ complete article ]

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U.S. empire? Let's get real
Leon Hadar, Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2003

Click "American empire" on your Internet search engine and you'll be linked to hundreds of Web sites, newspaper columns, magazine articles and books that discuss and debate Washington's new imperial role around the globe. An influential group of American neoconservative intellectuals has been advancing the notion that America should and will enjoy a long "unipolar moment." Critics here and abroad have been challenging this unilateralist American approach. The war in Iraq is fodder for both sides.

But the talk about American empire in the first decade of the 21st century is probably going to sound a lot like the chatter about globalization we were hearing in the last decade of the 20th century -- an intellectual fad produced by pundits searching for catchy phrases and colorful metaphors to explain complex reality. [ complete article ]

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The long arm of resistance
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, July 2, 2003

For the first time in 100 years, Pakistan has sent regular troops to the sensitive border area of the virtually inaccessible Federally Administered Tribal Areas in a effort to trap Taliban and al-Qaeda elements being flushed out by US troops across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, President General Pervez Musharraf has suggested that Pakistan would be willing to send troops to Iraq.

Yet even as these sensitive, pro-US moves were taking place (coinciding with Musharraf's visit to Washington to meet President George W Bush), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Mohammed Aziz Khan, came out with an extraordinary comment at a public gathering, "America is the number one enemy of the Muslim world and is conspiring against Muslim nations all over the world." He also mentioned that politics should not be done in "uniform", a clear reference to Musharraf's position as Chief of the Army Staff, opposition to which has become a rallying point in anti-government quarters. Aziz Khan also stressed that even with a solution to the Kashmir dispute, India and Pakistan could never be friends. [ complete article ]

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Running the cease-fire from an Israeli jail
Bradley Burston, Haaretz, July 2, 2003

Working far behind the scenes over the past months, one group has proven the crucial force pressing for a halt in terror attacks on Israelis: Palestinians whom Israel has jailed for terrorism.

This week, as a tense, uneven but well-received moratorium on Palestinian attacks against Israelis - soldiers and settlers included - went into effect beginning in the Gaza Strip, Al Hayat al Jedidah, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, devoted its banner headline to the jailhouse diplomacy of the highest-profile Palestinian now being held behind Israeli bars:

"Marwan Barghouti: The engineer of the Intifada, is also the one who has brought forth the hudna [temporary cease-fire]." [ complete article ]

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Mistrust mixes with misery in heat of Baghdad police post
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 1, 2003

To Staff Sgt. Charles Pollard, the working-class suburb of Mashtal is a "very, very, very, very bad neighborhood." And he sees just one solution.

"U.S. officials need to get our [expletive] out of here," said the 43-year-old reservist from Pittsburgh, who arrived in Iraq with the 307th Military Police Company on May 24. "I say that seriously. We have no business being here. We will not change the culture they have in Iraq, in Baghdad. Baghdad is so corrupted. All we are here is potential people to be killed and sitting ducks."

To Sgt. Sami Jalil, a 14-year veteran of the local police force, the Americans are to blame. He and his colleagues have no badges, no uniforms. The soldiers don't trust them with weapons. In his eyes, his U.S. counterparts have already lost the people's trust.

"We're facing the danger. We're in the front lines. We're taking all the risks, only us," said the 33-year-old officer. "They're arrogant. They treat all the people as if they're criminals." [ complete article ]

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Iraqis practice resembles guerilla warfare
Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, June 30, 2003

Two months after President Bush declared major combat over in Iraq, stealthy enemies are still killing and wounding American and allied soldiers - five killed and 22 wounded in May, 20 killed and 39 wounded in June.

In response, American commanders have unleashed repeated military raids - Operation Peninsula north of Baghdad, Operation Desert Scorpion west of Baghdad and Operation Sidewinder in western and central Iraq - to root out those pockets of resistance. The raids have netted hundreds of arrests but have also created new waves of anger and hostility among the Iraqi people.

The pattern of attack and counterattack looks like classic guerrilla warfare, in which a weaker foe attacks in the place of his choosing, then melts into the population. The harder an occupying force pounds back, the more it alienates the populace, creating communities that accept, if not actively support, armed resistance.

The Americans learned it the hard way in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the British in Northern Ireland and now, it seems, the same scenario may be unfolding in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Palestinian factions aiming to control outcome of truce
James Bennet, New York Times, July 1, 2003

The agreement by the three main Palestinian factions to suspend attacks on Israelis is based on bad faith -- and that may give it a fragile chance of success.

The truce, which was announced Sunday, came about because of new international pressure after the war in Iraq. But its roots are deeper than that, in the complex politics of Palestinian violence, which fed the 33-month-old uprising against Israel and now might, haltingly, be bringing it to a close.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, has set a trap for Hamas and other militant groups. He is hoping to whipsaw any relative calm resulting from a cease-fire to extract concessions from Israel, like the opening of military checkpoints inside Gaza today. Then he wants to use the political support he hopes will follow to comply with the international peace plan known as the road map, collecting weapons and punishing whoever violates the truce, his advisers say. He has made no secret that his goal is to turn Hamas into just another political party, stopping it from conducting in effect its own foreign policy toward Israel. [ complete article ]

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More blood, sweat and tears to come
James P. Pinkerton, Newsday, July 1, 2003

Two American soldiers were kidnapped and found dead near Baghdad on Saturday - and some 60 Americans have been killed in the two months since President George W. Bush declared, on the deck of that photo-oppy aircraft carrier: "Mission Accomplished."

The story of those two missing Americans, Sgt. Gladimir Philippe and Pvt. Kevin Ott, might possibly have been another Jessica Lynch-type story of rescue. But, instead of a dramatic redemption, it ended in tragedy. So no book deal/made-for-TV movie for Philippe and Ott.

But their lonely deaths, lost in the wilds just north of Baghdad, struck home with me because of an incident I witnessed, on the mean streets of Al-Kut, Iraq, less than two weeks ago. [ complete article ]

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U.S. condemned over Iraq rights
BBC News, June 30, 2003

Amnesty International has warned that the "conditions of detention Iraqis are held under... may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, banned by international law".

The organisation says hundreds of people have been held without shelter or basic sanitation and denied access to lawyers. [ complete article ]

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Britain stirs, America sleeps
William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, June 30, 2003

The only member of the United States Senate who voted against granting war powers to President George W. Bush, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, holds that lies were told by the president to justify the Iraq war, and that eventually truth will out.

One would like to believe it true. But while Senator Byrd will be vindicated in the long run, the culture of lies that prevails in the Bush administration is an integral part of a larger culture of expedience and systematic dishonesty that dominates the present leadership of American political society and business. There is little reason to expect this soon to change. [ complete article ]

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Iranian opposition movement's many faces
Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, June 30, 2003

To true believers, the ones who are waging a hunger strike to protest her detention in a French jail, Maryam Rajavi is the smiling face of Iran's future, the woman destined to overthrow its clerical leaders and become president of a free and democratic country.

To detractors, she is a dangerous cult figure who, with her husband, Massoud Rajavi, has led a terrorist movement that sold out to Iran's enemy, Iraq, and accepted Saddam Hussein's sponsorship. They say the Rajavis brainwash followers, forcing them to abandon spouses and children, and imprison or kill those who resist.

What is not in dispute is that the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen, the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group the Rajavis lead, has been designated a terrorist organization by both the United States State Department and the 15-country European Union. Now, in an unintended consequence of the American-led war against Iraq, the United States and France are struggling to figure out just who these people are and what to do with them. [ complete article ]

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Top Iraqi Shiite cleric pours cold water on Bremer's political plans
Agence France-Presse, June 30, 2003

A top Iraqi Shiite religious authority perceived as a "moderate" has come out against the drafting of a new constitution by a US-named body, dealing a major blow to US civil administrator Paul Bremer's political plans.

The drawing-up of a constitution for post-Saddam Hussein Iraq must be preceded by general elections, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in a fatwa, or religious edict, a copy of which was obtained by AFP Monday.

"The (occupation) authorities are not entitled to name the members of the assembly charged with drafting the constitution," said Sistani's edict, terming the US plan "unacceptable." [ complete article ]

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Iraq: When can we go home?
Tony Karon, Time, June 26, 2003

President Bush faced a call this week from a senior member of his own party's foreign policy establishment to "level" with the American people about Iraq. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar was not harping on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction; he was urging the president to give the electorate a more realistic picture of the scale and duration of the U.S. occupation mission in Iraq, and to impress on them the importance of staying the course. Fresh from a visit to Baghdad, Lugar warned: "The idea that we will be in just as long as we need to and not a day more -- we've got to get over that rhetoric. It is rubbish! We're going to be there a long time." [ complete article ]

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And now for the really big guns
Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, June 29, 2003

After the war, the corporate invasion. Bechtel, the US construction giant, now leads the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure with the chutzpah of a twenty-first century East India Company. Yet other invasions are planned for Iraq over the coming months - in the shape of oil concessions, health privatisation plans and even mobile phone licences.

Despite the worsening security situation, the White House and Pentagon are marshalling these corporate battalions into Iraq - insurance companies, construction firms, commercial health managers and behemoth banks - in the name of free enterprise. The project: to privatise Iraq, a country where 30 per cent of the workforce is employed by the state, and the population is used to food rations and cheap petrol.

Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq, spent most of his time last week at theWorld Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan, talking economics. Bremer is a veteran of Reagan-era diplomacy. Critics wonder if he plans to bring Reaganomics to the Middle East. [ complete article ]

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A struggle for Iraqi clergy's soul
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, June 30, 2003

In the shadow of a mounting guerrilla war and deep, growing disenchantment, ... [Sayyid Riyadh Nouri, a 33-year-old Shiite Muslim cleric and the other followers of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr] stand at the center of a far-reaching contest to lay claim to legitimacy -- and the authority and power that it brings -- among the country's Shiite majority.

His movement brings with it a new style of politics, a grass-roots campaign for hearts and minds that, so far, has overshadowed any U.S.-inspired alternative. In its bitter rivalries, wrapped up in the community's symbols, history and ambitions, are the questions over where to draw the line between the religious and the secular. And at every turn is the issue of who in Iraq has power and the right to wield it -- a matter that embodies nothing less than a struggle over the soul of Iraq's fractured clergy.

Most clerics are deeply distrustful of American intentions, fearing the import of decadent Western consumerism as much as the dominance of U.S. power. Yet few clerics advocate an Iranian-style Islamic republic. The gray area in between remains an arena of fierce debate, a contest driven as much by personality as by ideology. [ complete article ]

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American empire: Conservatives ask, is this abuse of power?
Clyde Prestowitz, Knight Ridder, June 29, 2003

America was born in a revolt against empires and their trappings. Europeans, Chinese and Japanese do empires, not Americans. Just compare Washington to other capitals. It has no Forbidden City, no Buckingham Palace. It was not conceived as the center of an empire.

Yet a glance at America's power and reach, its relations with other countries, and the development of its strategic doctrine over the years shows a distinct move toward the pursuit of empire. Although many are attributing this to the recent strong influence of Republican neoconservatives, who preach the need to use U.S. power unilaterally, the truth is that this trend has been developing for some time and Sept. 11 merely accelerated the pace.

As a conservative and former high official of the Reagan administration, I find both the drift toward empire and its acceleration troubling. As the great conservative philosopher Edmund Burke said of imperial Britain: "I dread our being too much dreaded."

Indeed, as Burke suggests, empire is not conservatism. It is radicalism, egotism and adventurism cloaked in the stirring rhetoric of traditional patriotism. [ complete article ]

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Are U.S. journalists truly spineless?
David Hunter, KnoxNews, June 30, 2003

Justin Webb, a Washington correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation, recently posed this question to his audience: "Are American journalists simply spineless? Do they toe the line because they love the President? Or because their employers do?"

Webb raised the question after hearing Vice President Dick Cheney deliver the following statement in reference to the war in Iraq: "You did well - you have my thanks." This praise was not directed to our troops or members of the president's Cabinet; it was lavished upon members of the American Radio and Television Correspondents Association at their annual dinner.

Most of us whose bylines appear in the American media should be embarrassed to look our readers, viewers and listeners in the eye. We are being held up for ridicule by real journalists, such as Webb, from nations that once looked upon us as the epitome of truth and integrity. The ridicule is richly deserved. [ complete article ]

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Christians help Israelis in West Bank
Jason Keyser, Associated Press, June 28, 2003

Digging into the West Bank soil, Christians from suburban Denver plant seedlings in a vineyard as a blessing for the 18,000 Jews who have built a town here on land the Palestinians claim for their state.

The two dozen visitors are from a congregation that gives around $100,000 each year -- much of it raised from selling Christmas fruit baskets -- to this settlement, believing the Old Testament obliges them to support the Jewish people's return to lands from which they were exiled 2,000 years ago. [ complete article ]

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Israel's lethal weapon of choice
Molly Moore, Washington Post, June 29, 2003

Nazih Abu Sibaa, 35, died seconds after he opened the trunk of his booby-trapped car. Abdel Rahman Hamad, 33, was shot dead by a sniper as he sat on his roof reading the Koran. Mohammad Abayat, 27, was killed when he picked up the receiver of a pay phone that blew up outside a hospital where he was visiting his sick mother.

All three men, whose deaths were described by witnesses and Palestinian officials, were suspected Palestinian militants marked for assassination -- one of Israel's primary weapons in its effort to curb suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis. These "targeted killings," as they are known here, were described by Israeli officials two years ago as "rare and exceptional" measures. But now they are carried out with regularity, using missiles, bombs, tanks, booby traps and gunfire, and they are stirring increasing disapproval from the Israeli public. [ complete article ]

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U.S. finds war in Iraq is far from finished
Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2003

Facing a marked increase in the frequency and brazenness of attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq in the last two weeks, military officials are for the first time speaking more openly about the potential for a long-term fight to quell the resistance to the American presence.

Although the term is rarely used at the Pentagon, from every description by military officials, what U.S. troops face on the ground in Iraq has all the markings of a guerrilla war -- albeit one in which there are multiple opposition groups rather than a single movement. [ complete article ]

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In the land of Guantanamo
Ted Conover, New York Times, June 29, 2003

Guards -- selected for their experience in working with young people -- are here around the clock, but otherwise there is not much visible in the way of security. This seems a bit strange, given that Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that they [the three teenage "enemy combatants" being held in Guantanamo Bay] are very dangerous: ''Some have killed. Some have stated they're going to kill again. So they may be juveniles, but they're not on a Little League team anywhere. They're on a Major League team, and it's a terrorist team.''

But if they hate the United States, the juvenile enemy combatants do not seem to show it. For example, they respectfully rise to their feet whenever a soldier enters the room, says a Reserve sergeant from Michigan who has apparently never seen anything like it at the junior high where he teaches.

If anything, they seem more troubled than dangerous. [ complete article ]

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Who lost the WMD?
Massimo Calabresi and Timothy J. Burger, Time, June 29, 2003

Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, "Are you in charge of finding WMD?" Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. "Who?" Bush asked. [ complete article ]

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