The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
America silences Niger leaders in Iraq nuclear row
David Harrison, The Telegraph, August 3, 2003

America has warned the Niger government to keep out of the row over claims that Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium for his nuclear weapons programme from the impoverished West African state.

Herman Cohen, a former assistant secretary of state for Africa and one of America's most experienced Africa hands, called on Mamadou Tandja, Niger's president, in the capital Niamey last week to relay the message from Washington, according to senior Niger government officials.

One said: "Let's say Mr Cohen put a friendly arm around the president to say sorry about the forged documents, but then squeezed his shoulder hard enough to convey the message, 'Let's hear no more about this affair from your government'. Basically he was telling Niger to shut up." [ complete article ]

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U.S. anti-war activists hit by secret airport ban
Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, August 3, 2003

After more than a year of complaints by some US anti-war activists that they were being unfairly targeted by airport security, Washington has admitted the existence of a list, possibly hundreds or even thousands of names long, of people it deems worthy of special scrutiny at airports.

The list had been kept secret until its disclosure last week by the new US agency in charge of aviation safety, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And it is entirely separate from the relatively well-publicised "no-fly" list, which covers about 1,000 people believed to have criminal or terrorist ties that could endanger the safety of their fellow passengers.

The strong suspicion of such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is suing the government to try to learn more, is that the second list has been used to target political activists who challenge the government in entirely legal ways. The TSA acknowledged the existence of the list in response to a Freedom of Information Act request concerning two anti-war activists from San Francisco who were stopped and briefly detained at the airport last autumn and told they were on an FBI no-fly list. [ complete article ]

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The honeymoon continues for George
Robert Reich, The Observer, August 3, 2003

Since his election in 1997, Tony Blair has based much of his appeal on claims of integrity and sincerity, coupled with promises to improve domestic services. Now two-thirds of the British public doesn't trust him, and he's compelled to show how well he's done on domestic issues apart from the attention he's given to foreign affairs. But in an America that is still reeling from the terrorist attack of 11 September, Bush's appeal has been based largely on his determination to fight back. Americans haven't cared very much about the details of Bush's strategy, as long as it's sufficiently bold. In fact, a large portion of the American public continues to believe that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the 9/11 attack. As long as the administration seems to be making 'progress' by tracking down or killing his key assistants, including his sons, and fighting the remnants of his forces, most Americans are satisfied.

The American public would have preferred that we go into Iraq with more of our allies, of course. And there's lingering concern that neither Saddam Hussein nor Osama bin Laden has yet been captured or killed. But Bush needs only to demonstrate resolve against the forces of evil - or, as he did last Wednesday, merely to mention that terrorists might be planning another attack similar to 9/11 - and questions about the quality of the intelligence underlying his decision to go into Iraq don't seem to register on the public's mind. [ complete article ]

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Defying peace plan, Israel approves new Gaza construction
Gavin Rabinowitz, Associated Press, July 31, 2003

Israel on Thursday published building tenders to expand a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip -- defying a stipulation in the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan that says construction in Jewish settlements must stop.

The tender, published in a newspaper by the Israel Lands Authority, offers rights to build 22 new housing units in the Neveh Dekalim settlement and fulfills a key bureaucratic step in the expansion of settlements. It is the first such tender for a Gaza settlement in about two years.

Palestinians and Israeli peace activists blasted the move -- which follows meetings in recent days by both sides' leaders with President Bush -- as a blow to the nascent peace efforts. [ complete article ]

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Report on 9/11 suggests a role by Saudi spies
James Risen and David Johnson, New York Times, August 2, 2003

The classified part of a Congressional report on the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, says that two Saudi citizens who had at least indirect links with two hijackers were probably Saudi intelligence agents and may have reported to Saudi government officials, according to people who have seen the report.

These findings, according to several people who have read the report, help to explain why the classified part of the report has become so politically charged, causing strains between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Senior Saudi officials have denied any links between their government and the attacks and have asked that the section be declassified, but President Bush has refused. [ complete article ]

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Report from the ruins: Gaza during the ceasefire
Gideon Levy, Haaretz, August 1, 2003

It's difficult to understand why dozens of houses were demolished in Beit Hanun. According to the IDF [Israeli Defense Force], "We didn't enter with the purpose of demolishing houses," and "every building from which there was shooting, the definition was to demolish it, and that also meets the definitions of international law." But so many houses? And why the cars along the side of the road? And why the cinder block factories that provided a bare living in hungry Gaza? And the packing house for fruits and vegetables? And why the brick-making machines? To ensure that the houses will not be rebuilt? Or did they think the machines were lathes for making Qassam rockets and that the packing houses were headquarters of Hamas? The results seem to be due to the caprices of the bulldozer drivers here, or of their commanding officers.

"The commander in the field was the driver of the bulldozer," says Rami Zaanun, from the devastated house. The IDF denies this and says everything was done under the supervision of senior commanders, and that the bulldozer drivers did nothing without authorization. Well said: it's not the grunt who's to blame this time.

As far as is known, the well-to-do Zaanun family, owners of orchards, 14 people in their ruined house, did not hurt anyone. There are no wanted individuals or detainees in the family, only acres of orchards on the land across the way. Now the house is in ruins and only stumps remain of the orchards. The family lost 300 trees. The house of Ahmed Zaanun, a neighbor and uncle, was also demolished and its pink walls transformed into heaps of rubble. [ complete article ]

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U.S. strategy: Isolate Kim Jong Il
Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2003

Ten months into a nuclear standoff with North Korea that has consumed the energies of Northeast Asia, influential US hawks in the Bush administration feel the time is ripe to focus steadily on Kim Jong Il, leader of the isolated North, as Asia's main antagonist.

Ironically, the strategy of isolating Mr. Kim as the principal culprit comes amid a multinational effort to get that same Kim to the negotiating table. [ complete article ]

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U.S. soldiers pray for safety on Baghdad streets
Cynthia Johnston, Reuters, August 1, 2003

Every time Private Kyle Jason leaves his Baghdad barracks, he asks God to protect him from attacks that have killed 19 U.S. soldiers in the past two weeks.

"I just say a little prayer to myself. I just ask him to watch over me and keep me safe, to let me see my family again," said the U.S. soldier from Detroit who has just turned 19.

"I feel there is danger... I feel a threat every time I walk out the gates, and I ask God to watch over me."

The streets of the capital have grown deadlier for U.S. soldiers as shadowy attackers try to drive out the forces occupying Iraq since the invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein.

Fear also stalks Iraqi civilians who never know when they might be caught in the crossfire -- the U.S. military has admitted killing up to five innocent people who strayed into the path of troops hunting for Saddam in a Baghdad house this week. [ complete article ]

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Wolfowitz the censor
Robert Fisk, The Independent (via Counterpunch), July 30, 2003

Only a day after US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz claimed that the Arabic Al-Jazeera television channel was "inciting violence" and "endangering the lives of American troops" in Iraq, the station's Baghdad bureau chief has written a scathing reply to the American administration, complaining that in the past month the station's offices and staff in Iraq "have been subject to strafing by gunfire, death threats, confiscation of news material, and multiple detentions and arrests, all carried out by US soldiers..." [ complete article ]

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Two Iranian journalists arrested, other foreign media harassed
Reporters Without Borders, July 31, 2003

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the worsening attitude of US troops towards journalists in Iraq and called for US Administrator Paul Bremer to explain exactly why two Iranian newsmen, Said Aboutaleb and Soheil Karimi, of the public TV station IRIB, have been held since 1 July for alleged "security violations."

It said confiscations of equipment, arrests of journalists and incidents between the media and US soldiers had increased in recent days.

"The US-British forces must provide convincing evidence that the Iranians have violated security or else release them at once," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. He expressed concern at worsening conditions for journalists and recent statements by US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz accusing pan-Arab satellite TV stations Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya of putting out reports encouraging violence against US troops. [ complete article ]

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U.S. admits killing civilians in Baghdad raid. No apology
Reuters, July 31, 2003

Four days after U.S. troops killed several passers-by in Baghdad during the hunt for Saddam Hussein, the U.S. commander in Iraq admitted Thursday that innocent people had died, but stopped short of accepting blame.

"On the issue of the innocent civilians that were killed and injured in that raid, we established some...traffic control points to isolate the area that we were operating in," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told a news conference in answer to questions about the bloody raid.

Angry neighbors accused the Task Force 20 special unit hunting Saddam's inner circle of failing to block all the side roads leading to a house they were raiding Sunday in Baghdad's upscale Mansour neighborhood. When a car strayed into the fire zone, soldiers blasted it with machineguns.

U.S. soldiers and medical staff at a nearby hospital told Reuters five men, including a teen-ager, were killed. [ complete article ]

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Grabbing the nettle
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, August 1, 2003

The Pentagon held an all-day meeting a couple of weeks ago seeking ways to restrain North Korea. At the end of it, one expert turned to another and summed it up: "In other words, we're" doomed -- except he used a pungent phrase I can't.

It was a fair judgment. North Korea was always more terrifying than Iraq, and now the situation is getting worse.

It's true, as the administration enthusiastically announced yesterday, that we seem to be moving toward a new round of multiparty talks with North Korea, and that's great. But it's very unclear what North Korea is demanding and when the talks will take place. In any case, no one thinks that this round of talks will produce much more than possible photo-ops.

Meanwhile, the North seems to be proceeding steadily, perhaps as fast as its rusty technology will allow, to build nuclear weapons, using both plutonium and uranium methods. [ complete article ]

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Radical Sunni Islam rears its head in Iraq
Agence France Presse, August 1, 2003

A radicalised current of Sunni Islam is emerging in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq , as the community which ruled for decades watches the long-oppressed Shiites asserting their will by virtue of sheer numbers.

Most fight the Americans in the name of Saddam Hussein, but some have picked up arms as an assertion of their Sunni identity, in anger over the US designs to radically alter their world with plans for Western-style democracy. [ complete article ]

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Soaring costs of 'rescuing' Iraq
Martin Sieff, UPI, July 31, 2003

The liberation of Iraq was to have been the war that paid for itself in spades, and gave U.S. corporations the inside track on the greatest energy bonanza of the 21st century. Instead, it has become a fiscal nightmare, a monetary Vietnam that already accounts for around 15 percent of the U.S. annual budget deficit, a figure likely to only grow remorselessly into the unforeseeable future.

The unforeseen cost of the war is already attracting powerful and influential critics, most worryingly to U.S. President George W. Bush, from within the GOP itself. [ complete article ]

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U.S. fostering sinister sort of democracy
Robert Fisk, The Independent (via NZ Herald), August 1, 2003

Paul Bremer's taste in clothes symbolises "the new Iraq" well. He wears a business suit and combat boots. As the pro-consul of Iraq, you might have thought he'd have more taste.

But he is a famous "antiterrorism" expert who is supposed to be rebuilding the country with a vast army of international companies - most of them American, of course - and creating the first democracy in the Arab world.

Since he seems to be a total failure at the "anti-terrorist" game - 50 American soldiers killed in Iraq since President George W. Bush declared the war over is not exactly a blazing success - it is only fair to record that he is making a mess of the "reconstruction" bit as well. [ complete article ]

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Conflict 'may have driven Muslims into arms of al-Qa'ida'
Ben Russell, The Independent, August 1, 2003

The war to topple Saddam Hussein may have damaged the campaign against international terrorism by driving Muslims into the arms of al-Qa'ida, an all-party committee of [British] MPs said yesterday.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee said al-Qa'ida remained a "significant threat" to Britain, after hearing that the terrorist network may still have the loyalty of more than 17,000 militants in up to 60 countries.

In a report that raises questions about an important part of the justification for war, MPs said the campaign in Iraq might have "enhanced the appeal of al-Qa'ida to Muslims living in the Gulf region and elsewhere". [ complete article ]

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Family forced by neighbors to execute family member suspected as U.S. informant
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 1, 2003

In the simmering guerrilla war fought along the Tigris, U.S. officials say they have received a deluge of tips from informants, the intelligence growing since U.S. forces killed former president Saddam Hussein's two sons last week. Acting on the intelligence, soldiers have uncovered surface-to-air missiles, 45,000 sticks of dynamite and caches of small arms and explosives. They have shut down safe houses that sheltered senior Baath Party operatives in the Sunni Muslim region north of Baghdad and ferreted out lieutenants and bodyguards of the fallen Iraqi president, who has eluded a relentless, four-month manhunt.

But a shadowy response has followed, a less-publicized but no less deadly theater of violence in the U.S. occupation. U.S. officials and residents say informers have been killed, shot and attacked with grenades. U.S. officials say they have no numbers on deaths, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the campaign is widespread in a region long a source of support for Hussein's government. [ complete article ]

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Payments for Perle
Ari Berman, The Nation, July 31, 2003

An odd thing happened in February when a European television station approached Richard Perle for an interview. Millions of antiwar protesters had rocked the globe a week prior, and the station badly wanted Perle, as chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board, to articulate the Pentagon's Iraq policy. But Perle, as he continues to do today, demanded a fee. Though startled by the request, the news station violated its strict no-pay policy for interviews and obliged the chairman. [ complete article ]

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Let Iraqis rebuild their own country
Ghazi Sabir-Ali, The Guardian, August 1, 2003

Iraq, which was, until the first Gulf war, the second-largest oil-exporting country, is now importing petrol for the first time in 60 years. Iraqis are now paying exorbitant prices for a commodity that only a few months ago was cheaper than bottled water.

This is, of course, far from being the only cause of distress to an already mentally and physically battered population. Nearly four months after the war ended, services are appalling. The electricity supply is intermittent, and there is a serious water shortage. With temperatures up to 50C, this is an intolerable situation.

In 1991, after the first Gulf war, although electricity generating stations, water purification plants and telecommunications were almost totally destroyed, the Iraqis - despite sanctions - worked hard to rebuild them. [ complete article ]

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Poindexter to go amid terror market flap
Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press, July 31, 2003

Retired Adm. John Poindexter will resign his position at the Pentagon after the uproar over a research project he was overseeing that included a kind of futures market on political violence in the Middle East.

A senior defense official said Thursday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Poindexter realized it would be difficult for Poindexter to continue in his job after the controversy. [ complete article ]

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Israel imposes 'racist' marriage law
Justin Huggler, The Independent, August 1, 2003

Israel's Parliament has passed a law preventing Palestinians who marry Israelis from living in Israel. The move was denounced by human rights organisations as racist, undemocratic and discriminatory.

Under the new law, rushed through yesterday, Palestinians alone will be excluded from obtaining citizenship or residency. Anyone else who marries an Israeli will be entitled to Israeli citizenship.

Now Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip will either have to move to the occupied territories, or live apart from their husband or wife. Their children will be affected too: from the age of 12 they will be denied citizenship or residency and forced to move out of Israel. [ complete article ]

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Hizbullah chief offers carrot, stick
Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 2003

The leader of Lebanon's Hizbullah has a warning for the United States: Any attempt to destroy the militant group could mean American interests being attacked around the world. But Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also hinted that Hizbullah's military wing, which is poised along Lebanon's southern border with Israel, could be dismantled in the event of a comprehensive Middle East peace.

In an interview with the Monitor in his heavily protected, sealed-off compound in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Sheikh Nasrallah claimed the Bush administration has no evidence linking Hizbullah to acts of anti-American terrorism. He accused President Bush of exploiting the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to pursue a military agenda that benefits US economic and strategic interests.

The US ranks the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah high, if not at the top, of its list of terrorist groups, perceiving the Lebanese radicals as a genuine threat to US interests. But from where Sheikh Nasrallah sits, it is the Bush administration that is the real terrorist organization. [ complete article ]

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U.S. bartering arms for soldiers for Iraq
Thalif Deen, Asia Times, August 1, 2003

The administration of President George W Bush has intensified efforts to seek troops from India, Pakistan and Turkey in order to bolster a multinational force that now includes troops mostly from former Soviet republics and Latin American nations.

The Indian government, which withdrew its offer of 17,000 troops under heavy domestic political pressure, is being lobbied once again with an offer of sophisticated military equipment. The quid pro quo, according to diplomatic sources, is approval of the proposed sale of the state-of-the-art Arrow-2 missile defense system by Israel. Since the US$100 million system includes US components and funding, Israel needs US approval to close the deal.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is now in New Delhi to try to persuade the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to change its stance on troops for Iraq. The London Financial Times said on Tuesday that the Bush administration has also pledged to relax the sale of dual-use technology to India in return for that country sending troops to Iraq. [ complete article ]

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House's DeLay bonds with Israeli hawks
Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2003

He delivered his words with the rolling cadence of a tent revival. He slipped the West Bank's Ramallah into a string of cities that included Auschwitz, Pyongyang and Damascus. He invoked Moses and Anne Frank. He mixed Old Testament language into the American civics class lexicon of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"I come to you with a very simple message: Do not be afraid," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told a rapt crowd of Israeli lawmakers, yeshiva students and academics here Wednesday.

"We hear your voice call out in the desert, and we will never, ever leave your side."

They may be talking peace and Palestinian statehood in Washington, but DeLay is touring the Holy Land with a message for Israeli hawks: The war is not over, and the United States is Israel's brother in arms in a pitched battle against evil. [ complete article ]

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In Najaf, justice can be blind but not female
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 31, 2003

The United States Marine colonel supervising the reconstruction of this Shiite holy city's government indefinitely postponed the swearing in of its first-ever female judge today after her appointment provoked a wave of resentment, including fatwas from senior Islamic clerics and heated protests by the city's lawyers.

The sudden firestorm was emblematic of the tension between the American desire to leave an imprint on the levers of government in Iraq versus a conservative religious establishment determined to fight what its sees as a military invasion dragging Western cultural norms in behind the tanks.

Some of the Iraqis protesting the appointment were women, leaving the Americans even more surprised and confounded. [ complete article ]

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Bush just doesn't get it
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, July 31, 2003

Mr Bush put a characteristically optimistic spin on his discussions with Mr Sharon and, last week, with the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. "I think we're making pretty good progress in a short period of time," he said.

He might think that is the case. He might wish it to be so. But there are three basic grounds for challenging Mr Bush's rosy judgment.

The first cause for concern arises from the sight of Mr Sharon, standing alongside the US leader, reiterating in uncompromising terms his preconditions for negotiations on the fundamental issues that separate the two peoples.

If anything, Mr Sharon hardened his position. He made no mention, as he has in the past, of Israel's acceptance of a future Palestinian state; he made no reference, as before, to the unsustainability of the occupation of Palestinian land; and perhaps most ominously of all, he omitted all direct reference to the "road map". [ complete article ]

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The usual mangled speech but Bush is let off the hook in rare press conference
Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, July 31, 2003

It didn't reveal much, but the White House press corps were grateful for anything. George Bush's press conference yesterday was only the ninth he has held in 30 months of office and a offered rare chance for reporters to get to grips with the most disciplined, and arguably the most secretive, White House of modern times. Except that they didn't.

This ought to have been a tricky occasion for the President. His poll ratings are sagging, budget deficits are ballooning, jobs are vanishing and American soldiers are dying almost daily in Iraq. And not one of Saddam's alleged weapons has turned up. But in the end it was a breeze.

The main lesson to emerge from the 50-minute session, the first since the invasion of Iraq four months ago, was how easily the chief executive evaded any serious damage - and how the reporters made it easy for him to do so. [ complete article ]

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Scientists still deny Iraqi arms programs
Walter Pincus and Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, July 31, 2003

Despite vigorous efforts, the U.S. government has been unsuccessful so far in finding key senior Iraqi scientists to support its prewar claims that former president Saddam Hussein was pursuing an aggressive program to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, according to senior administration officials and members of Congress who have been briefed recently on the subject.

The sources said four senior scientists and more than a dozen at lower levels who worked for the Iraqi government have been interviewed by U.S. officials under the direction of the CIA. Some scientists have been arrested and held for months, others have made deals in return for information and at least one has agreed to be interviewed outside Iraq.

No matter the circumstances, all of the scientists interviewed have denied that Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program or developed and hidden chemical or biological weapons since United Nations inspectors left in 1998. [ complete article ]

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Randomness of attacks takes a toll on troops
Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, July 31, 2003

Sgt. Joey Torkildson recalled the day a grenade bounced off his friend's helmet. It was a dud. "It's crazy, but you just get used to stuff like that," he said.

Sgt. Michael O'Neill told of another grenade that rolled across the hood of his Humvee and exploded right next to him. Luckily, his hapless attacker had bought a concussion grenade, all noise and no explosives, so O'Neill lost his hearing instead of his life.

Days earlier, O'Neill said, he had watched a rocket-propelled grenade blast the fuel tanks of an armored personnel carrier directly in front of him in a convoy. He threw his Humvee into reverse to escape the flames, and a second RPG screamed across his hood, a few feet from his face, right where he had been a moment earlier.

"It's tough mentally," O'Neill said. "You never know where it's coming from. You could walk into the market and somebody could walk up to you and shoot you, and you'd never see it coming."

Practically every soldier here has a story, and the tales have a common theme. Life for U.S. troops in Iraq these days is permeated by a lethal uncertainty. Attackers can be anyone, anywhere, anytime, perpetrating guerrilla-style violence on a scale not encountered by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War. [ complete article ]

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King's ransom
How vulnerable are the Saudi royals?

Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, October 16, 2001

Since 1994 or earlier, the National Security Agency has been collecting electronic intercepts of conversations between members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, which is headed by King Fahd. The intercepts depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channelling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it.

The intercepts have demonstrated to analysts that by 1996 Saudi money was supporting Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Central Asia, and throughout the Persian Gulf region. "Ninety-six is the key year," one American intelligence official told me. "Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys -- it's like the Grand Alliance -- and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations." The Saudi regime, he said, had "gone to the dark side."

In interviews last week, current and former intelligence and military officials portrayed the growing instability of the Saudi regime -- and the vulnerability of its oil reserves to terrorist attack -- as the most immediate threat to American economic and political interests in the Middle East. The officials also said that the Bush Administration, like the Clinton Administration, is refusing to confront this reality, even in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. [ complete article ]

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Saudis to let CIA interview 9/11 suspect
Julian Borger, The Guardian, July 31, 2003

The Saudi government has bowed to US pressure to let the FBI and CIA interrogate a mysterious figure at the heart of the September 11 investigation: a suspected Saudi intelligence agent who befriended and helped two of the hijackers in America.

Omar al-Bayoumi's role in the events leading up to September 11 plot was highlighted by a congressional report on the attacks released last week. [ complete article ]

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Hope out of quagmire: Iraq and peace movement opportunities
Paul Rogat Loeb, Foreign Policy in Focus, July 28, 2003

In the glow of the Iraq war's initial military success, most American peace activists felt profoundly demoralized. Between the war being portrayed as a glamorous spectacle and Bush's seemingly overwhelming popular support, many who'd recently marched by the millions felt isolated, defensive, and powerless, fearing their voices no longer mattered.

Now, as Bush's occupation faces a deepening quagmire, shifting public sentiment opens up major new opportunities for activism. Just two months ago, the national mood felt so resistant that it was hard to raise the most cautious dissenting questions. But polls now suggest the beginning of a very different national mood, where large numbers of Americans are having significant doubts. This gives us a chance to challenge the core fallacies of Bush's foreign policy, revitalize peace movement activism, and perhaps change some of our national directions. We can do this by launching a grassroots campaign to replace the U.S. control over Iraq with an international transitional authority under United Nations command--an authority that would control not only military operations, but also Iraq's political and economic affairs, including its oil-fields. We can work to transform a beachhead for American empire into an interim government that would actually have a shot at bringing democracy. [ complete article ]

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Anti-U.S. cleric rallies recruits for Islamic army
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 31, 2003

Around 10,000 young men have come forward to join an "Islamic army" in the holy city of Najaf, according to Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery cleric who is trying to become the unchallengeable leader of Shia opposition.

Mr Sadr has denounced the country's US-appointed governing council as a puppet. Opposition to the Americans in the Shia south remains largely peaceful, although volatile, but hints of potential trouble are growing. [ complete article ]

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Now we pay the warlords to tyrannise the Afghan people
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian, July 31, 2003

Diehard defenders of military intervention in Iraq argue that it's too soon to carp, that time is required to restore order and prosperity to a country ravaged by every type of misfortune. Time, certainly, is needed, but is time enough? If the example of Afghanistan is anything to go by, time makes things worse rather than better. More than 18 months after the collapse of the Taliban regime, there is a remarkable consensus among aid workers, NGOs and UN officials that the situation is deteriorating.

There is a further point of consensus: that the deterioration is a direct consequence of "coalition" policy. Some 60 aid agencies have issued a joint statement pleading with the international community to deploy forces across Afghanistan to bring some order. While waiting for the elusive international cavalry, they have been forced to reduce operations in the north, where the warlords fight each other, and in the south, where the "coalition" forces try to fight the Taliban. Privately, many aid workers fear that it is too late. Even if the political will existed, foreign troops may no longer be in a position to restore order. To do so would require going to war with the warlords themselves.

The warlords, of course, as friends of the "coalition", are also part of the government. They have private armies, raise private funds, pursue private interests and control private treasuries. None of these do they wish to give up. All of them threaten the long-term future of Afghanistan, the short-term prospects of holding elections, the immediate possibilities of reconstruction and the threadbare credibility of Hamid Karzai's government. [ complete article ]

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How to slide into a third Gulf war
Anthony Cordesman, Financial Times, July 30, 2003

It is far too soon to talk about prolonged guerrilla warfare in Iraq. So far, the threat has come largely from small cadres of Ba'ath party followers and Saddam Hussein loyalists in central Iraq. They can operate more because Sunnis still fear the old regime, and resent the US occupation for its initial failures in providing security and nation-building, than because they have popular support. The US and its allies can defeat this kind of opposition if the nation-building effort gathers momentum and the US combines focused military action and suitable concern for Iraqi civilians. However, if the US blunders, it not only may lose the peace but also could create a third Gulf war.

This could occur as the result of some combination of the following mistakes:

Rather than progress towards an Iraq for the Iraqis on their terms, the Americans muddle through. It starts to look as if they will be there for five to 10 years, rather than 12-24 months. Rather than set goals to attract genuine Iraqi support, the US appears to be rebuilding Iraq in its own image. [ complete article ]

See also Iraq and Conflict Termination: The Road to Guerilla War? (PDF document), Anthony Cordesman's CSIS report.

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Cut off for un-American activities: the mobile phone firm that connected Iraqis
Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, July 30, 2003

America's desire to rebuild Iraq in its own image even extends to setting up a mobile phone network that only works for US phones.

A Bahraini company that established a network accessible to those without American phones has been forced to scrap its plans after a week.

Batelco had started placing more than $5m (£3m) of aerials and other equipment for GSM mobiles across Baghdad. Foreign businessmen and journalists were able to abandon expensive satellite phones for the first time. But mindful of its desire to set up a tender for the country's mobile network, the US authorities apparently started to put pressure on Batelco, threatening to confiscate its equipment.

"They applied enough pressure for us to push the button," said Rashid al-Snan, the company's regional operations manager. "I feel really sorry - sorry for the Iraqis and sorry for the foreigners who were using the network. It's a pity we had to stop. We really put in an effort and felt a cheer coming towards us from all over the world." [ complete article ]

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Lawmakers grill Wolfowitz on Iraq
Esther Schrader, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2003

Senate Republicans and Democrats scolded Bush administration officials Tuesday for refusing to provide cost estimates for rebuilding Iraq and ignoring other threats while insisting that Saddam Hussein's regime played a central role in fomenting worldwide terrorism.

In aggressive, sometimes hostile, questioning of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also accused the administration of misleading Americans in its justifications for going to war in Iraq and on how long U.S. troops will be needed in the country. [...]

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the committee, twice got into heated exchanges with Wolfowitz over the question of how much the Iraq operation is costing.

"I think you're going to lose the American people if you don't come forward now and tell them what you know, that [the reconstruction effort is] going to cost tens of billions of American taxpayers' dollars and tens of thousands of American troops for an extended period of time," Biden said, his voice just below a shout.

Referring to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's penchant for saying certain things are "unknowable," Biden admonished Wolfowitz: "Please don't waste our time or yours by saying the future is simply unknowable. Pick a number. Pick an idea." [ complete article ]

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Militants: U.S., Israel want Palestinian civil war
Shahdi al-Kashif, Reuters, July 30, 2003

Islamic militants accused the United States and Israel Wednesday of trying to spark a Palestinian civil war by building a new "Berlin Wall" in the West Bank and threatened to reassess a shaky truce.

Their anger highlighted Palestinian resentment that President Bush did not persuade Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at talks Tuesday to stop building what Israel calls a security fence and demanded a crackdown on militants.

"There is a conspiracy between the aggressive minds of Israel and the United States against Palestinian hopes and independence," said Abdel-Aziz Rantissi, a leader of the militant Islamic movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"The Americans need what the Israelis need -- a civil war in the Palestinian territories." [ complete article ]

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Cheney chicanery
Ray McGovern (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity), Veterans for Common Sense, July 29, 2003

When Vice President Dick Cheney comes out of seclusion to brand critics 'irresponsible,' you know the administration is in trouble.

Cheney was enlisted to do so in the spring of 2002 amid reports that warning given to President Bush before 9/11 should have prompted preventive action. Cheney branded such commentary 'irresponsible,' and critics in the press and elsewhere were duly intimidated. It will be interesting to see what happens this time. [ complete article ]

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The things that you don't get to know
Amira Hass, Haaretz, July 30, 2003

There is a school of thought which contends that if only Israelis went to where Palestinians live, if only they met them as flesh-and-blood human beings, their political and security opinions would be transformed. They would no longer automatically support the government's policies of recent years toward the Palestinians, nor would they continue to have a priori faith in every official Israeli explanation for some political or military action. [ complete article ]

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Pakistan accused of toying with the Taliban
Simon Denyer, Reuters, July 30, 2003

Two years ago, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf won a new standing in the West for abandoning Afghanistan's Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Now his country stands accused of going back on its word and flirting with remnants of the fundamentalist regime it helped bring to power.

Washington and Kabul say Musharraf's government is not doing enough to stop Taliban remnants regrouping in Pakistan and crossing the border to launch guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan.

More seriously, some critics accuse elements in Pakistan of actively encouraging the Taliban. [ complete article ]

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Operation oil immunity
Steve Kretzmann and Jim Vallette,, July 28, 2003

During the initial assault on Baghdad, soldiers set up forward bases named Camp Shell and Camp Exxon. Those soldiers knew the score, even if the Pentagon's talking points dismissed any ties between Iraqi oil and their blood.

The Bush/Cheney administration has moved quickly to ensure U.S. corporate control over Iraqi resources, at least through the year 2007. The first part of the plan, created by the United Nations under U.S. pressure, is the Development Fund for Iraq, which is being controlled by the United States and advised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The second is a recent Bush executive order that provides absolute legal protection for U.S. interests in Iraqi oil. [ complete article ]

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Who made George W. Bush our king?
Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, July 25, 2003

"Courts have no higher duty than protection of the individual freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. This is especially true in time of war, when our carefully crafted system of checks and balances must accommodate the vital needs of national security while guarding the liberties the Constitution promises all citizens."
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals judge Diana Gribbon Motz, dissenting, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, July 9

Some of the most glorious illuminations of the Bill of Rights in American history have been contained in Supreme Court dissents by, among others, Louis Brandeis, William Brennan, Hugo Black, and Thurgood Marshall. Equal to those was the stinging dissent by judge Diana Gribbon Motz when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (8 to 4) gave George W. Bush a fearsome power that can be found nowhere in the Constitution -- the sole authority to imprison an American citizen indefinitely without charges or access to a lawyer. [ complete article ]

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Death zone puts family life in limbo
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 30, 2003

Before Ariel Sharon arrived for talks at the White House yesterday, President George Bush described the "security fence" as "a problem" in the search for peace.

The 200 mile barrier is part fence, part wall, and is being built at a cost of £1m a mile. The Israelis say it is needed to reduce terrorist attacks.

It is widely assumed by the Palestinians to be more about grabbing land, given that it runs deep into the West Bank in places and separates thousands of Palestinian farmers from their property.

The Israeli government says it will cause "minimum disruption" to the daily life of the people living on both sides, but in places whole villages have lost their primary access to water and cropland. Others are entirely caged by it. [ complete article ]

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The wrath of the conquered
Gerhard Sporl and Bernhard Zand, Der Spiegel, July 21, 2003

America's GIs feel like living targets on Baghdad's streets, while the subjects of the accursed dictator Saddam Hussein complain more and more vocally about the arrogance and incompetence of their conquerors. The star of Gulf war champion George W. Bush is also beginning to fall at home.

56-year-old Chamis Sami al-Abid, a tomato, squash and cucumber farmer, construction machinery and beverage importer, owner of a shipping company, and the richest man in the small city of Faludja on the Euphrates River, has many good reasons to look forward to the arrival of American soldiers.

The small commercial empire he and his two brothers once took over from their father - about 100 employees, many millions of dollars in annual sales, two subsidiaries, one in Amman and the other in Dubai - suffered for years under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. "Baghdad caused us nothing but trouble," says Abid. "We were just waiting for the end of Saddam."

Now Faludja has been liberated for the past three months, 13,000 US soldiers are camped on the grounds of a former Iraqi army base a few kilometers north of the city, the cadres of the formerly ruling Baath party have been driven away, corrupt officials have been sent home, and all trade restrictions have been lifted. Nevertheless, Abid sits in his city villa and waits bitterly for the first of the nightly US patrols.

"Just as the heat begins to let up, the first tank comes roaring along the street. The entire house vibrates. And this continues hourly until five in the morning." He says that Ahmed Husseini, the son of a neighbor, protested at the garden gate in early June. "The Americans simply shot him. These people don't know what they're doing." [ complete article ]

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Pentagon scraps terror betting plans
Mark Tran, The Guardian, July 29, 2003

The Pentagon today said it would abandon plans to create a futures trading market to help predict terrorist attacks and assassinations in the Middle East, after fierce criticism by politicians.

The initiative, called the Policy Analysis Market (Pam), was to allow traders to place money on an online market to back their hunches on, for example, a coup in Jordan or a biological attack on Israel.

After details of the plan were disclosed yesterday, Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle condemned the scheme as "an incentive actually to commit acts of terrorism".

Today, the chairman of the Senate armed services committee, Republican Senator John Warner, said he spoke by phone with the programme's director, "and we mutually agreed that this thing should be stopped". [ complete article ]

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Japanese reporters in Iraq say U.S. troops roughed them up
Japan Today, July 28, 2003

A Japanese reporter was manhandled and temporarily detained by U.S. soldiers Sunday for filming without their permission in an area of Baghdad where they were conducting raids, another reporter who accompanied him said.

Japan Press reporter Kazutaka Sato, 47, was put in a hold, thrown to the ground and kicked, sustaining injuries to his face and hands, according to Mika Yamamoto, 36, a Japan Press reporter who was with Sato at the time of the incident.

She said the two had been in the Mansur district of Baghdad filming the damage caused to civilians by the U.S. military when they had their cameras confiscated. [ complete article ]

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Senators say Pentagon plan would allow betting on terrorism, assassinations
Ken Guggenheim, Associated Press, July 28, 2003

The Pentagon is setting up a stock-market style system in which investors would bet on terror attacks, assassinations and other events in the Middle East. Defense officials hope to gain intelligence and useful predictions while investors who guessed right would win profits.

Two Democratic senators demanded Monday the project be stopped before investors begin registering this week. "The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it's grotesque," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.

The Pentagon office overseeing the program, called the Policy Analysis Market, said it was part of a research effort "to investigate the broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks." It said there would be a re-evaluation before more money was committed. [ complete article ]

Ready to place your bets? Go here.

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Report claims Afghanistan rife with abuse, fear
April Witt, Washington Post, July 29, 2003

Afghans are being terrorized routinely by gunmen working for faction leaders, local authorities and high-ranking officials whom the United States helped bring to power, an international human rights group said in a report to be released Tuesday.

The 101-page report by Human Rights Watch was based on hundreds of interviews conducted between January and June in Afghanistan's southeastern provinces, the most densely populated region of the country. Quoting alleged victims who were not fully identified, the report charges that police, intelligence agents and soldiers working for some of the nation's more powerful military and political figures have helped silence critics and intimidate the ordinary Afghans they are supposed to serve. It said the victims were robbed, beaten, kidnapped and imprisoned.

Gen. Mohammad Fahim, the defense minister, Yonis Qanooni, the education minister, and Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf, a powerful former Islamic guerrilla leader, were criticized in the report. [ complete article ]

See also "Killing you is a very easy thing for us," the complete Human Rights Watch report.

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Victims of trigger-happy Task Force 20
Jamie Wilson, The Guardian, July 29, 2003

The first hint that something might be up came at 1.30pm on Sunday afternoon. A car full of westerners in civilian clothes with cropped military-style haircuts pulled up outside the Al Sa'ah restaurant, two blocks from Prince Rabiah Muhamed al-Habib's house in the wealthy Mansur district of Baghdad.

The people going about their business in the sweltering afternoon sun did not know it at the time, but the men sitting in the car watching the street were the best the coalition forces had to offer: members of Task Force 20, the unit responsible for hunting down Saddam Hussein and other key members of the regime.

Within two hours soldiers attached to this so-called elite unit had shot and killed at least five people. Their actions have provoked anger towards the coalition in this previously peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood that is likely to simmer for some time to come. [ complete article ]

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America is a religion
George Monbiot, The Guardian, July 29, 2003

The Roman Catholic church claimed that it had supplanted the Jews as the elect, as the Jews had been repudiated by God. The English Protestants accused the Catholics of breaking faith, and claimed that they had become the beloved of God. The American revolutionaries believed that the English, in turn, had broken their covenant: the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion. Six weeks ago, as if to show that this belief persists, George Bush recalled a remark of Woodrow Wilson's. "America," he quoted, "has a spiritual energy in her which no other nation can contribute to the liberation of mankind." [ complete article ]

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Insurgency is no monolith
Ahmed S. Hashim, Daily Star, July 28, 2003

The insurgency in Iraq that is killing American soldiers daily has been incorrectly and simplistically characterized by US President George W. Bush's administration as acts of violence against American troops by supporters of toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime. While some ex-supporters of the Baath regime are involved, the opposition is not a monolith. At least a dozen groups are carrying out attacks for a complex variety of reasons.

The attacks constitute a situation that is anomalous for the American military. The engagement presently lies somewhere between a gut-level resistance to the occupation and a classic guerrila war. Since it is a situation in flux, the US must become politically and logistically prepared for the prospect of Iraq sliding into a full-fledged Vietnam-like guerrila conflict. Fighting this type of war is messy – as T.E. Lawrence put it: "It is like trying to eat soup with a fork." [ complete article ]

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Is Syria next?
Charles Glass, London Review of Books, July 24, 2003

For the men who came to rule the United States with the inauguration of George W. Bush, the Syrian menace was nothing new. Some of them had long wanted to wage war against Iraq as a way of containing Syria. 'Israel can shape its strategic environment, in co-operation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria,' a Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy advised Benjamin Netanyahu when he assumed office in 1996. This group's paper, 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm', suggested that efforts should 'focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq - an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right - as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions'. Did the United States invade Iraq with this objective in mind? The leader of the study group was Richard Perle, who became head - now, after press disclosure of a conflict of interest, he is a mere member - of the Defense Policy Board under Donald Rumsfeld. Another member of the study group was Douglas Feith, now the Pentagon's Under Secretary for Policy. The advice that Perle, Feith and other American friends of Israel's Likud irredentists gave Netanyahu in 1996 became the Bush Administration's policy in 2003. The reasons stated in public for invading Iraq - sometimes Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, occasionally his mythical collusion with Osama bin Laden, often his brutality - never included 'foiling Syria'. However desirable to the Likud Government, this would not have struck American public opinion as a plausible casus belli. (Did anyone tell Tony Blair about the Syrian objective?) After the toppling of Saddam's statues in Baghdad in April, however, the Bush Administration turned its attention to perhaps the real objective of the war: Syria. [ complete article ]

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Cleric risks a backlash with anti-U.S. rhetoric
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 28, 2003

With militant sermons drawing tens of thousands of followers, the young scion of one of Iraq's most revered ayatollahs has laid claim to leadership of the Shiite Muslim opposition to the U.S. occupation. But in seeking to rally the most disenfranchised and alienated of the Shiite majority, Moqtada Sadr has embarked on a strategy that his supporters acknowledge risks creating a dangerous backlash. [ complete article ]

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The reservist's unexpected war
Reilly Capps, Washington Post, July 28, 2003

Reservists have served in every conflict, but since 9/11, more have been called up for longer periods than at any other point in the nation's history, according to military experts. More than 200,000 reservists are on active duty in all branches of the service. Fully a quarter of all Army reservists are serving on active duty.

"It's really turning into an awful situation," says Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington. "The reserves are expected to deploy relatively infrequently, to be away from their family relatively infrequently. Because there have been so many deployments in recent years -- the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq -- we are depending on the reserves far more than was originally anticipated.

"I think there's a growing feeling that an unspoken contract with the reservists has been broken, that many of them would not have signed up if they had known what kind of a burden would be imposed on them. When the time comes for them to sign on again, many of them won't." [ complete article ]

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Will Sunnis fight Shiites in Iraq?
Juan Cole, Daily Star, July 22, 2003

Some 15,000 angry Iraqi Sunnis marched in Basra Friday [July 18] and several thousand more rallied at the Umm al-Qura Mosque in west Baghdad. Another 10,000 came out in Najaf Saturday, when Shiite protests spread to Baghdad and Basra. These rallies signaled both the growing strength of Muslim fundamentalism and a troubling potential for a Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq. Either way, they form a black cloud on the horizon of the American project in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Iraqi civilians caught in crossfire of U.S. operations
Agence France Presse, July 28, 2003

At the checkpoint, the Americans found a handgun, ordered the 56-year-old man out of his car and proceeded to bash his head with a rifle butt.

Rahim Nasser Mohammed points to his right temple, the side of his mouth and lifts his shirt, to show the spots where the soldier cudgeled him again and again nearly a month ago.

His story -- that of a government employee pulled over in his car by the US army -- seems one in a thousand as reports mount of beatings and sometimes deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of US soldiers. [ complete article ]

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U.S. troops turn botched Saddam raid into a massacre
Robert Fisk, The Independent (via ZNet), July 28, 2003

Obsessed with capturing Saddam Hussein, American soldiers turned a botched raid on a house in the Mansur district of Baghdad yesterday into a bloodbath, opening fire on scores of Iraqi civilians in a crowded street and killing up to 11, including two children, their mother and crippled father. At least one civilian car caught fire, cremating its occupants. [ complete article ]

(This is the complete article that appeared earlier today in edited form, "Political advantages gained by Saddam sons' killing squandered.")

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The search for Osama
Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, July 28, 2003

Soon after this episode [-- a failed attempt to capture Osama bin Laden in March 2003 --], I visited the office of Cofer Black, a veteran of the C.I.A. whom President Bush appointed last year to be the State Department's coordinator for counter-terrorism. If Black was disappointed about the failure to find bin Laden, he did not betray it. He leaned forward across the coffee table separating us and said emphatically, "The guy's a goner. The only question is whether he'll be arrested in cuffs or taken dead. He deserves to die."

If bin Laden was killed, Black continued, the world would demand proof. "You'd need some DNA," he said. "There's a good way to do it. Take a machete, and whack off his head, and you'll get a bucketful of DNA, so you can see it and test it. It beats lugging the whole body back!"

Tough talk and aggressive military action have been hallmarks of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism. In the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, President Bush made it clear that he was targeting bin Laden; in one speech, he declared that the terrorist was "wanted, dead or alive." In another speech, Bush said, "If he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and our allies, he will be sorely mistaken." However, as months went by without a successful capture -- "point" targets, as individuals are called by military tacticians, are notoriously elusive -- Bush rarely mentioned bin Laden's name in public. The Administration's attention shifted to building support for the war in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein seemed to replace bin Laden in the role of the world's most notorious "evildoer." Indeed, Bush's reticence on the subject of bin Laden grew so conspicuous that critics, such as the Democratic Presidential candidate Bob Graham, began referring to the terrorist as "Osama bin Forgotten." [ complete article ]

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Just when it seemed that Liberia might fall outside the scope of the neocon agenda...

Enlightened imperialism could save Liberia
Max Boot, USA Today, July 28, 2003

The Bush administration is understandably loath to intervene in Liberia. The U.S. military is overstretched and there doesn't appear to be much of a national security stake there. But that doesn't mean we have to sit by and watch another Rwanda-style massacre unfold. There's an alternative to either large-scale intervention or inaction: Follow the example of the British Empire.

During the 19th century, the British were constantly intervening, from Africa to Tibet, where their national security interest was fairly minimal. With a small army garrisoned around the world, Britain didn't have many troops to spare. Its solution: Use non-British enlisted men led by British officers. [ complete article ]

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Palestinians losing land to the fence
Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2003

The red signs appeared one morning on the barbed wire. "Mortal danger; military zone," they read. "Any person who passes or damages the fence endangers his life."

And just like that, Mohammed Habbas was forbidden to reach the acres of fields and olive groves that have been in the family for as long as anyone here can remember. The people of this tiny hillside village were left behind when Israeli military walls chopped away more than half of their property, snaking all the way to the edges of houses to swallow the land — but exclude the people.

"We can see our land, but we can't reach it," Habbas said. "We are like birds now, stuck in a cage."

In the year since construction began, Israel's West Bank wall has evolved into a political quandary. Settlers think that it's perilous; Palestinians think that it's poisonous. Some of the Israeli security experts who originally pressed for its construction have forsworn the project in disgust. And the United States has warned that the miles of coiled barbed wire and electronic currents could spell the subversion of fragile peace talks. [ complete article ]

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'I can't imagine anyone who considers himself a human being can do this'
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 28, 2003

Britain's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, recently praised the Israeli military as the most humanitarian in the world because it claims to risk its soldiers' lives to avoid killing innocent Palestinians. It is a belief echoed by most Israelis, who revere the army as an institution of national salvation. Yet among the most shocking aspects of the past three years of intifada that has no shortage of horrors - not least the teenage suicide bombers revelling in mass murder - has been the killing of children by the Israeli army.

The numbers are staggering; one in five Palestinian dead is a child. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) says at least 408 Palestinian children have been killed since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000. Nearly half were killed in the Gaza strip, and most of those died in two refugee camps in the south, Khan Yunis and Rafah. The PCHR says they were victims of "indiscriminate shooting, excessive force, a shoot-to-kill policy and the deliberate targeting of children".

And children continue to die, even after the ceasefire declared by Hamas and other groups at the end of June. On Friday, a soldier at a West Bank checkpoint shot dead a four-year-old boy, Ghassan Kabaha, and wounded his two young sisters after "accidentally" letting loose at a car with a burst of machinegun fire from his armoured vehicle. The rate of killing since the beginning of the ceasefire has dropped sharply, but almost every day the army has continued to fire heavy machineguns into Khan Yunis or Rafah. Among the latest victims of apparently indiscriminate shooting were three teenagers and an eight-year-old, Yousef Abu Jaza, hit in the knee when soldiers shot at a group of children playing football in Khan Yunis. [ complete article ]

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Political advantages gained by Saddam sons' killing squandered
Robert Fisk, Independent Foreign Service (via The Star), July 28, 2003

Obsessed with capturing Saddam Hussein, American soldiers have turned a botched raid on a house in the Mansur district of the Iraqi capital into a bloodbath.

They opened fire on scores of Iraqi civilians in a crowded street last night, killing up to 11, including two children, their mother and crippled father. At least one civilian car caught fire, cremating its occupants.

The vehicle carrying the two children and their mother and father was riddled by bullets as it approached a razor-wired checkpoint in the street outside the house.

Amid the fury generated among the largely middle-class residents of Mansur - by coincidence, the killings were hardly 40 metres from the houses in which 16 civilians died when the Americans tried to kill Saddam at the end of April - any political advantages gained by the killing of Saddam's sons were squandered. [ complete article ]

(This is a syndicated version of Robert Fisk's article. The complete article should appear shortly.)

Reuters adds:
As the quest goes on for [Saddam], however, the U.S. forces seem to be stumbling at times in their efforts to win friends among the vast majority of Iraqis who detested the old regime.

In Mansur, an upscale district in western Baghdad, troops from Task Force 20, the special unit hunting Saddam and his inner circle, raided a house Sunday evening. But they came away empty-handed, leaving the shattered wrecks of cars that were shot up apparently in error -- and seething neighbors.

U.S. military spokesmen declined even to discuss the incident beyond confirming Task Force 20 was involved. Soldiers told Reuters five men died, one of them a teen-ager.

Several local residents, interviewed by Reuters Monday, said the Americans had erected a single roadblock leading to the house but failed to prevent innocent motorists straying into the fire zone from quiet side streets. They accused the troops of machine-gunning two cars, killing the occupants.

"In the beginning all the Iraqi people welcomed the Americans," said one middle-aged neighbor, who gave his name only as Mohammed. "But now the Americans have built a wall between themselves and the Iraqis."

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Guardsmen adapt to the Mideast's
Wild West

John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2003

In the moonlit sky around the base [currently housing the 115th Military Police Company of the Rhode Island National Guard in Fallouja], one can see sporadic flares, a well-known method the guerrillas use to communicate the whereabouts of troops. Red flares are for armored vehicles, green for light vehicles. White flares track American troops from one spot to the next, and a series of red flares designates a kill zone, where guerrillas have drawn blood.

Attackers also use whistles and enlist confederates at local power stations, soldiers say. As the guardsmen slow down to set up a checkpoint a few miles east of Fallouja, a neighborhood just off the highway suddenly goes dark, then lights up again.

"See how fast that grid went down?" Hayden asks. "That's pretty common. As soon as they see coalition forces in the area, they shut the grid down." [ complete article ]

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Bit by bit, the real Dr Kelly emerges from the shadows
Raymond Whitaker, Paul Lashmar and Severin Carrell, The Independent, July 27, 2003

It has become clear that Dr Kelly was not quite the narrowly focused specialist, with little connection to the world of spying, that he seemed when he gave evidence to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) during its investigation of the decision to go to war in Iraq. He himself sought to create that impression before the committee, and his reasons for doing so may be significant.

It was public knowledge that Dr Kelly had a distinguished career as a leading UN weapons inspector in Iraq and had been nominated to lead the British contingent in the Iraq Survey Group, formed to take the UN inspectors' place. But we now know that not only was he probably the Government's most knowledgeable adviser on the history of Iraq's weapons programmes, but he also had a high security clearance, sat in on MI6 interrogations of Iraqi defectors and was a member of a high-level committee reviewing all the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. His value was such that he had been appointed a "special deputy chief scientific officer", a rarely used civil service grade that allowed him to move in senior circles without having administrative responsibilities.

When it came to the contents of the dossier, in short, David Kelly was certainly in a position to know what he was talking about. And it emerged that he had talked, not only to Mr Gilligan, not only to two other BBC journalists whose names were put to him by the FAC (one of whom, it turned out, had recorded the interview), but to several more reporters. The picture is of a man who had suppressed his doubts last September, only to feel growing disquiet in the aftermath of war as it became clear how wrong the Government's claims on Iraqi WMD had been. [ complete article ]

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Ghost of al-Qaeda left out of story
Jason Burke, The Observer, July 27, 2003

On 5 February Tony Blair told Parliament there were - 'unquestionably' - 'links' between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group and Saddam Hussein. 'It is a matter of speculation,obviously, how far those links go,' the Prime Minister said. The answer, we know now, is not very far.

At the time, with war weeks away, the debate was focused on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It still is. But while that debate continues loudly and publicly, no one is saying much any more about Saddam's alleged links to al-Qaeda. [ complete article ]

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Reversals of fortune
Mark MacKinnon, The Globe and Mail, July 26, 2003

[On April 9] most of the Iraqis who hadn't fled Baghdad stayed in their homes, peering nervously out the windows as if unsure what to make of their new rulers. The Americans who rolled into the centre of the city seemed supremely confident, sure their job in Iraq was all but finished.

Since then, the roles have reversed. The average Iraqi is no longer in awe of the American military machine. They walk right up to soldiers, sometimes to chat, more often to complain. Occasionally to shoot or lob a grenade. There have been 44 recorded American deaths in Iraq since U.S. President George W. Bush declared the war here over on May 1, including five since the Hussein brothers were killed. The Americans are now the nervous ones.

They are gambling that their victories over the Husseins will help quell the attacks. But they are unclear on the actual origins of the hostilities, or if there is any central command at all. Most important, they haven't yet figured out how to simultaneously make friends and occupy people. [ complete article ]

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America needs the world's best and brightest
M. Granger Morgan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 27, 2003

Call it collateral damage in the domestic war on terrorism: Harsher visa policies are preventing legitimate students from coming to America and the long-term damage is immense.

For years, the best and brightest of the world's ambitious young people have flocked to America to do Ph.D.s in science and engineering. Once they graduated, about half of them have chosen to stay, thus assuring this nation's continued technical leadership, and the economic prosperity that leadership makes possible.

Just look at the rosters of top experts in any U.S. industrial research laboratory, the faculty in science or engineering of any of the country's leading research universities or the membership of the National Academies of Science or of Engineering. They are full of patriotic Americans who were not born in the United States, but who got their education here, and since then, have made enormous contributions to our national strength.

The Bush administration's new shortsighted visa policies have begun to seriously disrupt the flow of first-rate students from abroad. [ complete article ]

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