|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
'Bring us home': G.I.s flood U.S. with war-weary emails
By Paul Harris and Jonathan Franklin, The Observer, August 10, 2003
Susan Schuman is angry. Her GI son is serving in the Iraqi town of Samarra, at the heart of the 'Sunni triangle', where American troops are killed with grim regularity.
Breaking the traditional silence of military families during time of war, Schuman knows what she wants - and who she blames for the danger to her son, Justin. 'I want them to bring our troops home. I am appalled at Bush's policies. He has got us into a terrible mess,' she said.
Schuman may just be the tip of an iceberg. She lives in Shelburne Falls, a small town in Massachusetts, and says all her neighbours support her view. 'I don't know anyone around here who disagrees with me,' she said.
Schuman's views are part of a growing unease back home at the rising casualty rate in Iraq, a concern coupled with deep anger at President George W. Bush's plans to cut army benefits for many soldiers. Criticism is also coming directly from soldiers risking their lives under the guns of Saddam Hussein's fighters, and they are using a weapon not available to troops in previous wars: the internet. [ complete article ]
Point by point, a look back at a 'thick' file, a fateful six months later
By Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press (via San Diego Union-Tribune), August 9, 2003
On a Baghdad evening last February, in a stiflingly warm conference room high above the city's streets, Iraqi bureaucrats, European envoys and foreign reporters crowded before television screens to hear the reading of an indictment.
In a hushed U.N. Security Council chamber in New York, Secretary of State Colin Powell unleashed an 80-minute avalanche of allegations: The Iraqis were hiding chemical and biological weapons, were secretly working to make more banned arms, were reviving their nuclear bomb project. He spoke of "the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world."
It was the most comprehensive presentation of the U.S. case for war. Powell marshaled what were described as intercepted Iraqi conversations, reconnaissance photos of Iraqi sites, accounts of defectors, and other intelligence sources. Since 1998, he told fellow foreign ministers, "we have amassed much intelligence indicating that Iraq is continuing to make these weapons."
In the United States, Powell's "thick intelligence file" was galvanizing, swinging opinion toward war.
But in Baghdad, when the satellite broadcast ended, presidential science adviser Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi appeared before the audience and dismissed the U.S. case as "stunts" aimed at swaying the uninformed. [...]
How does Powell's pivotal indictment look from the vantage point of today? Powell has said several times since February that he stands by it, the State Department said Wednesday. Here is an Associated Press review of major elements, based on both what was known in February and what has been learned since: [ complete article ]
Shooting down Missile Defense
Even the Pentagon admits the program is in trouble
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, August 7, 2003
If the generals in charge of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency followed the wispiest trail of logic, they would have slashed the program and moved on to more promising pursuits long ago. This month brings yet another bit of news indicating not only that the program has scant chance of producing a workable missile-defense system, but that its managers know of its dim prospects.
The latest flash, from the Aug. 1 edition of the trade journal Defense News, is that the agency has suspended one of the program's most crucial components on the grounds that the technology it involves is "not mature enough" to fund.
The component is called the space-based kinetic-energy boost-phase interceptor, a name that sounds too esoteric to deserve notice (and, indeed, no mainstream paper seems to have picked up on the report of its suspension), but in fact the news is a bombshell. [ complete article ]
Shiite divisions give the U.S. breathing room
By Juan Cole, Daily Star, August 9, 2003
Most Shiite leaders in Iraq have made a tactical decision not to resist the Anglo-American occupation during the coming year. They hope the US, in recreating Iraq as a parliamentary democracy, will give them the political power they deserve by virtue of their numbers. If not, or if the Americans overstay their welcome, the Shiites might well turn against them. It is not, however, clear that the community is united enough yet to effectively close ranks against coalition forces.
As a result of their differences over the shape of a future Iraq, Shiite clerics have fallen to fighting an underground guerrilla war against one another. The chief prizes are the populous neighborhoods of eastern Baghdad and the revered shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. [ complete article ]
WHEN A NATION FORGETS ITS ROOT...
Not a terrorist, but still doing 9/11 time
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2003
Nearly two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, a time when most foreign detainees have been sent home, Ansar Mahmood is desperate to remain in America.
A hard worker who delivered pizzas in upstate New York, he saved his money and supported his family in Pakistan. Like many immigrants, he found promise in the American dream.
But then he became one of countless Muslim immigrants picked up in a sweeping government dragnet. His life fell apart three weeks after the attacks, when he was suspected of being a terrorist because he had wanted his picture taken on a scenic Hudson Valley overlook that happened to be near a local water plant.
He was cleared of any terrorist intentions. But like most of the detainees, the government found other reasons to hold him -- he was convicted on a felony charge of helping friends who came here illegally from Pakistan. For that, he was sentenced to six days in jail. So far, he has served nearly 19 months while authorities seek to deport him.
Mahmood's plight represents a post-Sept. 11 reality in America: Immigrants have always faced difficulties. But now it is all the harder to chase prosperity, even for people like Mahmood, who came here with his papers in order, worked 12- and 18-hour days to gain a foothold and still was able to send much of his money to his needy family back home. [ complete article ]
Sunnis find the back seat uncomfortable
By Ferry Biedermann, Inter Press Service, August 8, 2003
Historically, Iraq has always been dominated by Sunnis, whether under the Abbasid Caliphs, the Ottoman Turks or the Hashemite monarchs.
That Sunni dominance is under direct threat for the first time now under the Coalition Provisional Council (CPA) that rules Iraq in the name of the U.S. and British occupation.
The Governing Council of Iraqi politicians appointed by the CPA reflects the Shia Muslim numerical majority. There has never been a census dividing Iraq's population along sectarian lines, but most experts agree that Shias have a majority.
Of the 25 members on the new Council, only five can be described as Arab Sunni.
"It is asking for trouble", says Mudar Shawkat, a leader of the broad-based Iraqi National Congress (INC), whose chairman Ahmed Chalabi, nominally a Shia, is a member of the Governing Council. Shawkat, a Sunni, says it is unacceptable to suddenly change a balance that has existed for such a long time.
"Arab Sunnis have been involved in the Iraq establishment for hundreds of years," says Shawkat. "They will never accept that somebody puts them aside."
Political scientist Saad Jawad, a professor at Baghdad University, agrees with Shawkat. They both argue that it is folly to assign seats on the Governing Council along sectarian lines. [ complete article ]
Behind the barrier
By Nicole Gaouette, Christian Science Monitor, August 8, 2003
Yusif Josef Ramsi is still farming, if you can call it that. The West Bank farmer, never a major landowner, once tended his seven-acre plot of fig and olive trees with pride.
Now, what's left of his patrimony sits in a few dozen black plastic buckets.
"The rest is all over there," says Mr. Ramsi, pointing a gnarled hand beyond the sleek gray expanse of Israel's security barrier, just a few feet away.
At 26 feet high, the barrier around Qalqilya is the most striking example of Israel's attempt to physically separate itself from the Palestinians. [ complete article ]
The U.S. is starting a nuclear fight that will be hard to stop
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, August 9, 2003
The ambiguities clouding US policy towards North Korea date back to the early days of the administration, when George Bush put a damper on former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of detente with the North. Since 9/11 and Bush's "axis of evil" speech, matters have just gone from bad to worse.
The planned talks in China, also involving South Korea, Japan and Russia, are viewed in the region and beyond as a crucial opportunity to arrest this apparently inexorable downward spiral. The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, and others have suggested that North Korea might initially freeze its nuclear arms programmes in return for a sort of US non-aggression pact.
But such compromises may not suit the likes of Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Pentagon, and other hardliners, including perhaps Bush himself - who has professed personal loathing for Pyongyang's communist leader. For them, it seems, nothing less than Kim's overthrow will ultimately suffice, although it may have to wait until a second Bush term. [ complete article ]
"A JEWISH NATION-STATE WILL NOT TAKE HOLD HERE"
THE NATIVE STATE: A VISION OF ENDURING PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Meron Benvenisti and Haim Hanegbi have each arrived at the same conclusion: The creation of a Jewish sovereign state is a failed enterprise. Peace in the Middle East will depend on Jews and Arabs being able to live side by side, with equal rights in a land from which neither excludes the other.
Haim Hanegbi: In the past couple of years I realized that I made a mistake; that, like the Palestinians, I too was taken in. I took Israeli talk seriously and didn't pay attention to Israeli deeds. When I realized, one day, that the settlements had doubled themselves, I also realized that Israel had missed its one hour of grace, had rejected the rare opportunity it was given. Then I understood that Israel could not free itself of its expansionist pattern. It is bound hand and foot to its constituent ideology and to its constituent act, which was an act of dispossession.
I realized that the reason it is so tremendously difficult for Israel to dismantle settlements is that any recognition that the settlements in the West Bank exist on plundered Palestinian land will also cast a threatening shadow over the Jezreel Valley, and over the moral status of Beit Alfa and Ein Harod. I understood that a very deep pattern was at work here. That there is one historical continuum that runs from Kibbutz Beit Hashita to the illegal settler outposts; from Moshav Nahalal to the Gush Katif settlements in the Gaza Strip. And that continuity apparently cannot be broken. It's a continuity that takes us back to the very beginning, to the incipient moment. [...]
When I see not only the settlements and the occupation and the suppression, but now also the insane wall that the Israelis are trying to hide behind, I have to conclude that there is something very deep here in our attitude to the indigenous people of this land that drives us out of our minds.
There is something genetic here that doesn't allow us truly to recognize the Palestinians, that doesn't allow us to make peace with them. And that something has to do with the fact that even before the return of the land and the houses and the money, the settlers' first act of expiation toward the natives of this land must be to restore to them their dignity, their memory, their justness. [ complete article ]
Meron Benvenisti: I think the time has come to declare that the Zionist revolution is over. Maybe it should even be done officially, along with setting a date for the repeal of the Law of Return. We should start to think differently, talk differently. Not to seize on this ridiculous belief in a Palestinian state or in the fence. Because in the end we are going to be a Jewish minority here. And the problems that your children and my grandchildren are going to have to cope with are the same ones that de Klerk faced in South Africa. The paradigm, therefore, is the binational one. That's the direction. That's the conceptual universe we have to get used to. [ complete article ]
Bush administration paralyzed over Iran
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, August 9, 2003
Does the administration of US President George W Bush still consider al-Qaeda and its associates the main target in its almost three-year-old "war on terrorism", or has its military victory in Iraq whetted its appetite for bigger game?
That is in effect the question that the powers-that-be in Iran appear to be posing to Washington at a critical moment in the war's evolution. The administration appears deadlocked over an answer.
According to a series of leaks by US officials, Iran has offered to hand over, if not directly to Washington then to friendly allies, three senior al-Qaeda leaders and might provide another three top terrorist suspects that Washington believes are being held by Tehran.
But its price - for the US military to shut down permanently the operations of an Iraq-based Iranian rebel group that is on the State Department's official terrorism list - might be too high for some hardliners, centered in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, who led the charge for war in Iraq. [ complete article ]
Salt of the earth
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, August 8, 2003
Since we're stuck in Iraq indefinitely, we may as well try to learn something. But I suspect that our current leaders won't be receptive to the most important lesson of the land where cities and writing were invented: that manmade environmental damage can destroy a civilization.
When archaeologists excavated the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, they were amazed not just by what they found but by where they found it: in the middle of an unpopulated desert. In "Ur of the Chaldees," Leonard Woolley asked: "Why, if Ur was an empire's capital, if Sumer was once a vast granary, has the population dwindled to nothing, the very soil lost its virtue?" [ complete article ]
EUROPEAN-MIDEAST-AMERICAN BALANCE OF POWER
While the neocons still insist that the "liberation" of Iraq provides a beachhead for the democratization of the Middle East, when it comes to Turkey, Washington is more inclined to trust old generals -- the guarantors of strong Turkish-Israeli-U.S. ties -- than less predictable populist Islamic democrats.
Warning shot for Turkey's military
By K. Gajendra Singh, Asia Times, August 9, 2003
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a former head of the Constitutional Court, signed into law this week a harmonization package that was passed by Turkey's parliament last week. It will help bring the country closer to Europe Union (EU) norms in preparation for an EU decision towards the end of next year on Ankara being given an accession date to talk about joining the body. [...]
Leaders and the media in European capitals have praised the latest reforms, and the 15-nation EU welcomed the changes, but said that it would closely watch how they were implemented on the ground. Since last year, many senior EU officials have openly demanded that Turkish politics be freed from the military's influence, and its laws aligned to match European constitutions for it to qualify for entry into the union. [ complete article ]
Meanwhile, the neocons fear the consequences of Turkey losing the "steady hand" of a politically powerful military. See Daniel Pipes' The Islamic Republic of Turkey?
Hawks circle Sharon as scandals widen
Likud politicians seen preparing for battle of succession
By Chemi Shalev, Forward, August 8, 2003
Israeli politicians have begun gearing up for a battle of succession as Prime Minister Sharon struggles against a mounting wave of legal investigations and charges of corruption that could potentially drown his political career, perhaps in the coming months.
During the last two weeks, hardly a day has gone by without another serious blow to Sharon's image and standing. The prime minister is described by ministers, officials and close observers as increasingly preoccupied and short-tempered, as befits a man who, so goes the growing speculation among insiders, has begun to fear that the end is nigh. [ complete article ]
A call to violence
By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, August 7, 2003
As President Bush met with Palestinian premier Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon in Washington last week, one of Bush's closest allies in Congress was in Israel. Tom DeLay, the influential leader of the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives was accorded the privilege of addressing members of the Knesset on 30 July. His speech was so extreme it prompted Labour Party lawmaker Danny Yatom to comment, "Geez, Likud is nothing compared to him."
In his speech, DeLay, a representative from a suburban district near Houston, Texas, dismissed the unilateral cease-fire by Palestinian factions, which has resulted in a virtual cessation of violence against Israeli civilians and occupation forces, as nothing more than a "90-day vacation" for "terrorists" and "murderers". He urged Israel to ignore the truce and go on killing Palestinian activists. DeLay informed the Israeli lawmakers that he was an "Israeli at heart", and acknowledged that Palestinians "have been oppressed and abused", though only by their own leaders, never by Israel. DeLay's central point was that the entire burden of ending the decades-old conflict lay on the shoulders of the Palestinians. Knesset members gave DeLay a standing ovation. [ complete article ]
Battle-scarred Baghdad quarter wants U.S. troops out
By Joseph Logan, Reuters, August 8, 2003
If Iraq's occupiers truly want to restore order, say residents of a Baghdad neighborhood caught up in a deadly confrontation between gunmen and U.S. troops, their first step is simple -- leave.
In Karada, where U.S. forces killed an Iraqi bystander on Thursday during a firefight after a bomb rocked their vehicle, many Iraqis have had enough of soldiers they say are too quick to fire on people they are supposed to be protecting.
"They disgust me. They are ignorant and terrified, so they shoot at random, at anything, at a house with 14 people in it," said 43-year-old Sadeq, pointing to the bullet-riddled house where he and his family huddled during the two-hour gun battle. [ complete article ]
Iraq war's 20,000 wounded civilians ignored
By Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters, August 7, 2003
Around 20,000 civilians were wounded in the Iraq war and the U.S.-British occupiers are ignoring their suffering, a research group said on Thursday in what it termed the first study of the conflict's casualty toll.
"The maimed civilians of Iraq have been brushed under the carpet," the Iraq Body Count (IBC) said.
The Anglo-American group of academics and peace activists chided U.S. and British postwar administrators for failing to set up programs for the wounded or pay them compensation. [ complete article ]
Al Qaeda brand of terror wins Asian recruits
By Jane Macartney, Reuters, August 8, 2003
Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network has been described by experts as a terror chain with franchises worldwide.
But this week's Jakarta bombing, if it turns out to be the work of an al Qaeda affiliate, suggests that head office may not need a strong grip on its distant outposts.
Despite public revulsion at indiscriminate violence that kills people from the local community and designated targets alike, some analysts believe there will be no shortage of new recruits to the cause.
"Smiling bomber" Amrozi's broad grin and thumbs-up gesture after a court in Bali sentenced him to death on Thursday for last year's nightclub bombings on the island must have chilled victims, their relatives and moderate Muslims alike. [ complete article ]
As ordered, it's about oil
By Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle, August 8, 2003
President Bush has signed a slew of executive orders that have gone unreported for weeks or months -- most notably, changes to environmental regulations and restricted access to former presidential papers and Freedom of Information Act information.
Now, a potentially explosive executive order has just been discovered by SEEN, the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. Signed on May 22, it appears to give U.S. oil companies in Iraq blanket immunity from lawsuits and criminal prosecution. [ complete article ]
U.S. clamps secrecy on warnings before 9/11
By Marie Cocco, Newsday, August 7, 2003
It's not just the Saudi secret that's being kept.
The recent report of the joint congressional committee that probed intelligence failures before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon reveals what the Bush administration doesn't want Americans to know about the American government. [ complete article ]
Embassy blast raises specter of terrorism in Baghdad
By Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, August 7, 2003
The car bomb that ripped apart the Jordanian Embassy here has brought terrorism to the heart of Iraq's capital and presented the American-led coalition with a new and unpredictable threat.
American forces have repeatedly come under attack from small teams armed with rocket-propelled grenades and been attacked by an array of homemade mines and explosive devices.
But this attack was different. The blast was not directed against well-armed American forces but against what the military calls a "soft target," a vulnerable and undefended structure. The goal was not to alter the military equation but to produce a large number of civilian casualties.
This, experts said, was terrorism in its rawest form and a blow against the new order the American-led coalition is struggling to build. [ complete article ]
Taliban kill six soldiers in Afghanistan
By Noor Khan, Associated Press, August 7, 2003
In one of the most brazen and well-organized attacks in recent months, 40 suspected Taliban fighters armed with assault rifles shot up a government office in southern Afghanistan, killing six Afghan soldiers and a driver for a U.S. aid organization.
The violence followed a series of other attacks on foreign troops, government forces and aid workers, hampering agencies that are trying to rebuild the impoverished, war-shattered country. [ complete article ]
Birth of a free nation: Etats-Unis d'Amerique
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, August 7, 2003
Most of the time, I'm content to sit in the background on this blog, pointing readers in interesting directions, but sometimes I just can't keep quiet. First, we had Rummy with his, what's happening in Iraq is like the aftermath of the American Revolution, and "freedom is untidy." Now Condi Rice tells us is it's like the fight for civil rights.
Here's what it's like: It's like an American Revolution led by the French. Wouldn't that have been dandy?
Why Bush likes tall tales
By Yossi Sarid, Haaretz, August 7, 2003
The day is not far off when Abu Mazen and his government will fall. It's only a matter of time. Then, Ariel Sharon will get Yasser Arafat back, and he will be relieved to be rid of Abu Mazen's moderation. Sharon always had huge difficulties speaking to moderate Palestinians, while he swims like a fish in a sea of Palestinian extremism. There's a problem with moderates. You have to encourage and strengthen them, offer them real proposals and make a real start on the famous "painful concessions." Sharon doesn't have any such intentions. All he wanted to do is get home from Washington in one piece.
Sharon's behavior is not surprising to anyone who has known him for many years. The surprise is President Bush, who has evinced a strange passion for tall tales. It is completely unclear why the American president has decided to consume overflowing portions of complete lies served up to him by Ariel Sharon. Therefore, when Abu Mazen falls, and his government with him, the blame will fall on Sharon, but mainly on Bush, who maintains the pretension of an "honest broker." [ complete article ]
How Jordan became a target in Iraq
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News, August 7, 2003
The history and politics of Jordan have been intricately linked to those of its neighbour, Iraq, and the car bomb outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad indicates that this is still the case.
"As always, Jordan occupies an uneasy middle ground," said James Reeve, a Middle East analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London.
He told BBC News Online: "King Abdullah has been hedging his bets over Iraq. Jordan is financially and militarily dependent on the US, so it can't stray too far from the American line.
"But the King's domestic audience is fiercely critical of the American occupation and this cannot be ignored." [ complete article ]
Dealing with Al-Daawa and its controversial legacy
By Mahan Abedin, Daily Star, August 7, 2003
The recent co-option of the secretive Al-Daawa Party into the Iraqi governing council came as a surprise to observers of Iraqi politics. While Al-Daawa is Iraq’s oldest Shiite party and was ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s most serious enemy, in fighting the Baathist regime the party also struck at its then Arab and Western allies, particularly the US. Moreover, the party has the unenviable reputation of having pioneered the use of suicide bombings. [ complete article ]
How neo-cons influence the Pentagon ...
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, August 8, 2003
An ad hoc office under US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith appears to have acted as the key base for an informal network of mostly neo-conservative political appointees that circumvented normal inter-agency channels to lead the push for war against Iraq. [ complete article ]
An axis of junkies
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 6, 2003
Whoever had the bright idea of classifying [the 28 pages removed from the 9-11 congressional report] should have known that, just like Nixon's missing minutes [in the Watergate tapes], those pages would attract more attention than the other 800-plus put together.
Consequently, attention has been focused on a subject that the Bush administration would prefer to be ignored: the strange, dysfunctional and incestuous relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. The bond is far more relevant to the events of September 11 2001 than the absurdly-hyped connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida. [ complete article ]
By James Meek, The Guardian, August 7, 2003
Twenty-two years ago Mazzin al-Khazragi fled Iraq to escape Saddam Hussein and military service. He has been living in Cardiff [Wales] ever since. With the end of the regime it became safe to go back.
There is no grand entrance to Baghdad; it creeps up around you. The roads are busy, many shops are open, and the detritus of battle has been cleared. Traffic is often gridlocked none the less. Baghdadis seem to be spending half their time queuing for petrol and the other half stuck in jams caused by the queues.
It is mid-afternoon. There is a lot of weeping. Maz breaks down at Salam's house at the cries of Salam's family. Salam's father, wheelchair-bound, has not seen his son for 23 years and cannot speak a few words without sobbing.
Maz and I are to stay at the home of his aunt Sabihah, in a rougher part of town. Maz made three short visits to Iraq before the war but it is still an emotional moment when the metal gate of the tiny courtyard judders open and his cousin Fatin reaches out to embrace him.
Baghdad is a city in which the citizens have lost all the broader frames of reference; of truth, of reality, of the significance of memory, of law. All they have left is the narrower reference points of family, the Koran and survival. The future and, indeed, the past are unpredictable places. The reemergence of independent newspapers and the hungry dash for newly permitted satellite TV only adds to the simmering stew of legend, testimony and twisted polemic which makes up Iraqis' perception of what is going on. Few people can express the totality of Saddam's crimes, but everyone tells the story, apocryphal or true, of the executed boy whose body was recently excavated from a mass grave, his dead hand still clutching the marbles he was holding when he was shot. [ complete article ]
Operation Iranian freedom
By Tariq Ali, The Nation, July 31, 2003
In Washington, the hawks and vultures are beginning to gaze at Iran with greed-filled eyes. The British attack dog is barking and straining at the leash. And the Israeli ambassador to the United States has helpfully suggested that the onward march of the American Empire should not be brought to a premature halt in Baghdad. Teheran beckons, and then there is always Damascus. The only argument summoned by the blood-mottled "doves" is that the occupation of Iraq should be sufficient to bring the Iranian mullahs to heel. Naturally, this latter view does not satisfy the would-be Shah or his followers in Los Angeles. The Young Pretender is appearing regularly on the BBC and CNN these days, desperate to please and a bit too eager to mimic his father and grandfather. Might the empire put him back on the Peacock Throne? And, if so, how long would he last? [ complete article ]
Legal scholars call U.S. detention policy grave threat
By Tom Brune, Newsday, August 6, 2003
Accused "dirty bomb" terrorist suspect Jose Padilla has been isolated in a naval brig for more than a year, ever since President George W. Bush classified him as an "enemy combatant" and called him a "threat to the nation."
But last week, nine thick friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in Padilla's appellate case, arguing against what they see as just as serious a threat to the nation: Bush's assertion that he can, as commander-in-chief, order the military to detain an American citizen picked up on U.S. soil indefinitely without charges, a trial or access to a lawyer.
"The precedent the executive asks this court to set, represents one of the gravest threats to the rule of law, and to the liberty our Constitution enshrines, that the nation has ever faced," said one brief by 14 retired federal appellate judges and former government officials, including Abner Mikva, Harold Tyler and Philip Allen Lacovara. [ complete article ]
'Dr Strangeloves' meet to plan new nuclear era
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 7, 2003
US government scientists and Pentagon officials will gather today behind tight security at a Nebraska air force base to discuss the development of a modernised arsenal of small, specialised nuclear weapons which critics believe could mark the dawn of a new era in proliferation. [ complete article ]
For Iraqis, a struggle to recoup loss
By Brian MacQuarrie, Boston Globe, August 6, 2003
Jasin Abd Nabey leaned over a clerk's shoulder on the crowded sidewalk outside a Baghdad court, talking excitedly and gesturing as the man composed Nabey's petition in the best legal language he could muster.
''The Americans took my car for nothing,'' said Nabey, recalling on Saturday how US troops seized the automobile 10 days earlier when Nabey became embroiled in a roadside altercation. ''I will get permission from the judge to get it back.''
Nabey entered the front door of the hectic courthouse with hope, but he was destined to be disappointed. No one inside the fractured legal system that is the postwar Iraqi judiciary can retrieve his confiscated car, and American military officials who could compensate Nabey are doing little to spread the word that they can. [ complete article ]
Iraqis increasingly view U.S. troops as foreign occupiers
By Drew Brown, Knight Ridder, August 5, 2003
Nearly four months after the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime, the euphoria most Iraqis expressed over their leader's ouster largely has evaporated, replaced by growing resentment of the American presence.
The discontent suggests that, even as U.S. officials claim they are closing on in the deposed dictator with a $25 million bounty on his head, capturing or killing Saddam won't help restore order in the country the way some U.S. leaders have suggested.
Many Iraqis increasingly view American troops as foreign occupiers. And as attacks against U.S. troops continue, the low-level guerrilla war that American military officials say is being waged by former regime loyalists, foreign terrorists and criminals threatens to escalate into a wider nationalist struggle. [ complete article ]
Iraqis deny al-Qaida involved in attacks
By Scheherezade Faramarzi, Associated Press, August 5, 2003
Senior American officials are sending a message that violence against U.S. soldiers in Iraq is increasingly the work of foreign fighters-- by implication, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
But Iraqis and American officers on the ground say the evidence is stronger that Iraqis angry at American occupation and Saddam Hussein loyalists are behind most attacks.
The U.S. officers blamed the persistent resistance on disgruntled Iraqis or officials of Saddam's Baath Party who lost out when his regime crumbled. Iraqis say American heavy-handedness in conducting searches and making arrests were recruiting local people to the insurgency.
Still, a drumbeat of comments by Bush administration officials depict the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq as part of the larger war on terrorism and seek to turn the focus away from the threat of Saddam's still unfound weapons of mass destruction. [ complete article ]
In Iraq, every picture tells a story
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, August 6, 2003
The Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim emerged as a leading figure in the Shi'ite community through his untiring struggle against the Saddam Hussein regime. But now his position as the leader of the most organized Shi'ite grouping faces a challenge from sections opposed to his perceived pro-US stance.
Hakim, 63, returned to Iraq in early May after more than two decades of exile in neighboring Iran. There he had formed a movement advocating theocratic rule for Iraq and conducted a low-level, cross-border guerrilla war against the regime of Saddam. His movement, the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), was directly supported with funds by Tehran and with arms by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.
But now one of Hakim's SAIRI members, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, is a part of the 25-member Governing Council appointed by the United States to help the US civil administration run Iraq until the country is handed over to a democratically elected government, and to give the country's majority Shi'ites a voice after being largely denied by Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.
This willingness on the part of Baqir al-Hakim to participate in the US process presents many Shi'ites with an awkward dilemma. On the one hand his religious pedigree is excellent, while on the other his political judgment now appears flawed. [ complete article ]
Richard Perle libel watch, week 20
Jack Shafer, Slate, August 5, 2003
Almost five months ago, Richard Perle put Seymour Hersh on notice that a libel suit was coming his way in retaliation for his piece in The New Yorker. But rather than filing his suit in, say, a court of law, Perle picked a friendlier venue -- the news pages of the neoconservative New York Sun -- to air his first pleading.
Perle told the Sun he would sue Hersh in Britain because it's easier to win a case there, a legal strategy the Sun conveyed to its readers with all the art and subtlety of a press release. If the Sun were a court of law and Sun co-owner Conrad Black were its judge, Hersh would be pounding rocks on Devil's Island right now.
But the Sun isn't, nor is Black, and as a consequence, Hersh prowls the earth a free man, stirring up trouble for the Bush administration. And Perle? He still hasn't sued Hersh, and almost once a month the big fella steps in a gooey brown pile, after which the press and legislators pummel him with conflict-of-interest charges. [ complete article ]
Energy rep at Iraq meeting lacked intelligence savvy
Human resources manager not prepared to argue labs' case against nuclear claims
Paul Sperry, WorldNetDaily, August 6, 2003
The official who represented the Energy Department at a key prewar intelligence meeting on Iraq's alleged new nuclear-weapons program was a human resources manager with no intelligence experience, and was easily swayed by Bush administration hawks, say department insiders.
Though Energy disputed a critical piece of evidence – that Baghdad sought aluminum tubing to make nuclear materials – it nonetheless agreed with the White House's conclusion that Baghdad was reconstituting a nuclear-weapons program. The State Department, in contrast, dissented on both counts.
The conclusion formed the cornerstone of last fall's 90-page Top Secret intelligence report used to justify preemptive war on Iraq.
The Energy official who attended the September meeting at CIA headquarters to debate the draft of the report was ill-prepared to argue the technical merits of the case against the White House's position made by Energy's nuclear-weapons research labs, sources say.
It turns out the official, Thomas Rider, is a long-time human resources bureaucrat who lacks experience in the intelligence business. [ complete article ]
Hiroshima mayor lashes out at Bush on atomic bombing anniversary
Agence France-Presse, August 6, 2003
Hiroshima's mayor lashed out at the United States' nuclear weapons policy during ceremonies marking the 58th anniversary of the city's atomic bombing, which caused the deaths of over 230,000 people.
Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said the United States worshipped nuclear weapons as "God" and blamed it for jeopardising the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
"The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse," Akiba said in an address to some 40,000 people.
"The chief cause is US nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called 'useable nuclear weapons,' appears to worship nuclear weapons as God," he said. [ complete article ]
Kidnap gangs add to Iraqis' insecurity
Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2003
In the security vacuum that followed the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, looting came first, followed by carjackings. Now the appearance of highly organized kidnapping gangs sends a worrying message to U.S.-led occupation authorities, suggesting a level of criminal planning and commitment well beyond the spasm of thievery that followed the regime's fall.
The kidnappings have a dark, ruthless quality, often targeting children and teenagers, usually from Iraq's tiny Christian community where no tribal networks exist to fight back against the gangs.
In many cases, the only sons of large middle-income or wealthy families are seized. The abductions, which are often committed in broad daylight, add to Iraqis' sense that nowhere is safe, day or night. [ complete article ]
Iraqis flock to Mahdi's Shia army
Harry de Quetteville, The Telegraph, August 6, 2003
As evening falls in the poor Shia suburb of Baghdad once known as Saddam City, dozens of volunteers queue under the watchful gaze of a local imam to sign up for the army.
But this is not the new Iraqi army sponsored and approved by the American-led administration. These soldiers will receive no monthly salary of £40. Here, prospective warriors are ready to serve, and die, for nothing.
This is "Mahdi's army", a growing militia of mostly Shia men who have responded to the fiery call to arms made by a maverick young cleric, Muqtader al-Sadr, two weeks ago in the Shia holy city of Najaf.
Since then al-Sadr has led anti-US demonstrations and encouraged worshippers to resist the US "invaders" and Iraq's "Zionist" governing council, appointed by the coalition.
Now the ranks of this religious army, named after an ancient imam who Shias believe will return to save the world, have swollen into tens of thousands, perhaps more. [ complete article ]
The Pentagon has some explaining to do
Karen Kwiatkowski, Houston Chronicle, August 3, 2003
After eight years of Bill Clinton, many military officers breathed a sigh of relief when George W. Bush was named president. I was in that plurality. At one time, I would have believed the administration's accusations of anti-Americanism against anyone who questioned the integrity and good faith of President Bush, Vice President Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
However, while working from May 2002 through February 2003 in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Near East South Asia and Special Plans (USDP/NESA and SP) in the Pentagon, I observed the environment in which decisions about post-war Iraq were made.
Those observations changed everything.
What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of "intelligence" found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense. [ complete article ]
Let Iraqis decide what to privatize
Moshe Adler, Washington Post, August 5, 2003
The plan of L. Paul Bremer, chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, to sell government-owned companies to private investors assumes two things: that privatization is what free people anywhere prefer, and that it's what's good for them. Neither assumption is true.
In fact, when it comes to government ownership, highly developed democracies have made very different choices. Its 10 million American customers may be surprised to learn that the German government owns 44 percent of T-Mobile, the cellular phone service provider. In France the government owns 54 percent of Air France, 21 percent of the company that owns RCA and 27 percent of the car manufacturer Renault, which in turn owns 37 percent of Nissan and 70 percent of Samsung. The British government owns 100 percent of the BBC. In Finland the government is the owner of all the liquor stores and 60 percent of an energy company that owns retail gas stations. In Sweden the government is the owner of all pharmacies and several iron mines. It is clear that no assumption can be made regarding what the people of Iraq would want to do with the companies they own. The answer will be known only when Iraq has a fully functioning democracy. [ complete article ]
Treasury Dept. to refuse Senate a list of Saudi suspects
Timothy L. O'Brien, New York Times, August 5, 2003
The Treasury Department said yesterday that it would decline to provide the Senate with a list of Saudi individuals and organizations the federal government has investigated for possibly financing Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
The action was the second in two weeks to set the White House and Congress at odds about the Saudis and federal intelligence-gathering related to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Moreover, the move contradicted an assertion made on Thursday by a senior Treasury official, Richard Newcomb, who told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism that the list was not classified and that his agency would turn it over to the Senate within 24 hours. [ complete article ]
School days with a Qaeda suspect
Richard Wolffe, Newsweek, August 11, 2003
He stood out from the rest of our class for being so small and frail. Sure, he could run like the wind, which kept him out of trouble. And he won friends with his bright, wide smile. Yet he was also awkward, easily teased and slightly old-fashioned. Perhaps it was his pin-striped trousers and his platform shoes. Or his dark talk about his mother’s grave. But while most of us obsessed about "Starsky and Hutch" or "Star Wars," he could be deadly serious.
One close friend recalls his staging an intense debate about religion. Islam, he said, was superior to all other faiths because it valued charity so highly. It was a remarkable comment for any 10-year-old schoolboy. But Moazzam Begg stood out for another reason. He was a Muslim boy in a Jewish school.
Muslim charity carried Begg a long way from our middle-class neighborhood in Middle England, and the school that first shaped us. Begg now sits at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he is one of six detainees heading toward a military trial among 680 suspected foot soldiers of Al Qaeda held in Camp Delta. While some of my classmates grew up and immigrated to Israel or the United States, Begg packed up his wife and three young children in the summer before the 9/11 attacks and went to live under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. His family says he just wanted to help his impoverished fellow Muslims by opening a school there. The U.S. government believes he was a part of something far more sinister. [ complete article ]
Is Iran sick of being a nuclear 'have-not?'
Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, July 29, 2003
In terms of military might, the world is divided between those who have nuclear weapons and those who don't.
Due to the advances of nuclear science over the last half century, the eight or nine "haves" are an elite club of nations with almost 30,000 nuclear weapons and the ability to blow the Earth to bits many times over.
The "have-nots" are the rest of the world -- countries who either lack the technical capacity to make atomic weapons, do not want them or are staying true to a vow never to acquire them. Some have security agreements with members of the nuclear bomb club and do not need what is usually called "The Bomb."
Then there are the "have-nots" who envy the power and respect the "haves" enjoy and are working secretly to join the club. This is how the United States views Iran and North Korea. [ complete article ]
Israel suspends pullback from occupied areas
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, August 5, 2003
Israel's defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, called a halt to the military withdrawal from Palestinian cities yesterday following the wounding of a Jewish settler and her three children near Bethlehem on Sunday.
Mr Mofaz also said there would be no further prisoner releases in addition to the 342 Palestinian detainees to be freed tomorrow as a "goodwill gesture" towards the road map peace process.
After Israel published the names of those to be released on the internet, to give "victims of terror" the opportunity to raise legal objection, the Palestinian leadership accused the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, of betraying pledges to free more prisoners.
The list of 342 fell about 200 short of the number the Israelis said they would free. It included about 100 common criminals and large numbers of security detainees who were to have completed their sentences in weeks and months. Hundreds more have been arrested in the meantime. [ complete article ]
Lack of intelligence
Douglas Pasternak, US News and World Report (via Yahoo), August 3, 2003
The United States has invested $200 billion over the past four decades developing and operating its supersecret spy satellite programs. In this new age of terrorism, and as the nation faces bellicose regimes like North Korea (news - web sites) and Iran, these programs are more important than ever. But there's a problem. The agency that builds and operates the satellites, a little-known outfit called the National Reconnaissance Office, is in crisis. Despite its $7 billion annual budget, its satellites don't always work as promised. Its projects run billions in the red and years behind schedule. Some national security experts say the place just doesn't work. [ complete article ]
Shadowy Islamic group blamed for many Indonesia blasts
Reuters, August 5, 2003
No claims of responsibility have been made for the huge bomb blast on Tuesday at a luxury hotel in Jakarta but many in Indonesia immediately suspected a shadowy group with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Jemaah Islamiah (Islamic Community), once little known outside Southeast Asia, has become notorious around the world after it was named in connection with last October's Bali bomb blasts that killed 202 people and wounded hundreds.
Like in Bali, Tuesday's blast was also believed to have been caused by a car bomb, police said. At least 10 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the explosion at the Marriott Hotel in the centre of the city's business district.
Even before the latest attack, the spotlight had been on Jemaah Islamiah this week with the first verdict in the Bali trials, that of a mechanic called Amrozi, due on Thursday.
Following is a snapshot of Jemaah Islamiah based on information from Western and Asian intelligence officials and analysts. [ complete article ]
Only the UN can give Iraq security and sovereignty
Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 5, 2003
One out of every four Americans wants US forces to withdraw from Iraq now, according to a Gallup poll. Some worry over the mounting rate of casualties. Others sense they were duped over the need for war. Some are traditional isolationists who want no American part in foreign affairs. Others oppose the Bush administration's new imperialism with its doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes and its contempt for other nations' opinions - the two vices which led to the attack on Iraq.
Whatever their motives, American calls for "US troops out" raise the same questions that rack the minds of Iraqis as they enter the fourth month of the occupation. What would happen if the Americans indeed pulled out abruptly? Would there be a security "vacuum" and who would fill it? [ complete article ]
North Korea won't recognize State Dep't. ideologue
Jim Lobe, OneWorld (via Yahoo), August 4, 2003
To the North Koreans, he is "human scum" and a "bloodthirsty vampire."
To former ultra-right U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, he is "the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world."
His name is John Bolton; his title, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; and he is widely seen as the reliable fifth columnist within the State Department for the right-wing and neo-conservative hawks who led the drive to war in Iraq from their perches at the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office.
North Korea, which last week agreed to engage in multilateral talks with its Northeast Asian neighbors and the United States on its controversial nuclear program, announced Sunday that it will have nothing to do with Bolton and will not even recognize his status as a U.S. diplomat. [ complete article ]
How to sell a war
Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, In These Times, August 4, 2003
Public relations firms often do their work behind the scenes, and Rendon -- with whom the Pentagon signed a new agreement in February 2002 -- is usually reticent about his work. But [John Rendon's] description of himself as a "perception manager" echoes the language of Pentagon planners, who define "perception management" as "actions to convey and (or) deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning. … In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover, and deception, and psyops [psychological operations]."
The paradox of the American war in Iraq, however, is that perception management has been much more successful at "influencing the emotions, motives, and objective reasoning" of the American people than it has been at reaching "foreign audiences." When we see footage of Kuwaitis waving American flags, or of Iraqis cheering while U.S. Marines topple a statue of Saddam, it should be understood that those images target U.S. audiences as much, if not more, than the citizens of Kuwait or Iraq. [ complete article ]
Afghans on edge of chaos
Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2003
U.S. forces have their hands full trying to subdue attacks in Iraq. But with the slow buildup of a national Afghan army, an inadequate U.S. and coalition presence and poor progress on reconstruction projects, Afghanistan is spiraling out of control and risks becoming a "narco-mafia" state, some humanitarian agencies warn.
Already the signs are there -- a boom in opium production, rampant banditry and huge swaths of territory unsafe for Western aid workers. The central government has almost no power over regional warlords who control roads and extort money from truck drivers, choking commerce and trade.
If the country slips into anarchy, it risks becoming a haven for resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. And the point of U.S. military action here could be lost -- a major setback in the war against terrorism. [ complete article ]
Palestinians get thirstier under Israeli clampdown
Mark Heinrich, Reuters, August 3, 2003
Palestinians, especially in the arid southern West Bank, ration and improvise to offset water shortages aggravated by Israel's closure of their area, imposed after suicide bombings.
Arduous, roundabout routes inflate delivery prices for people already impoverished by the closure that, along with worsening drought, has highlighted a long unequal contest to control water that is central to Middle Eastern conflict.
Israel takes 80 percent of the West Bank's mountain aquifer, one of two major renewable water sources in the territory it seized in a 1967 war.
The other source, the Jordan River dividing the West Bank from Jordan, is dominated by Israel for nearby Jewish farms.
Water will be a thorny "final status" issue in a U.S.-backed peace "road map" aiming at an independent Palestinian state. [ complete article ]
With Iraqi courts gone, young clerics judge
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times (via Yahoo), August 4, 2003
When Saddam Hussein disappeared in the face of the American invasion, the entire Iraqi state disappeared with him. Those who want to establish an Islamic system of government in Iraq similar to the one in neighboring Iran stepped quickly into the vacuum, establishing courts in this holy city and in Baghdad to deal with a welter of legal problems.
Their docket covers all types of criminal and civil cases that normal courts would hear if they were functioning: murder, divorce, spouse abuse, property disputes. The religious courts have also asserted a special right to grant permission sought by people seeking revenge against the former ruling Baath Party of Mr. Hussein.
The Islamic court's decisions, which include permission to kill, could have dubious legality in the regular court system, assuming it is restored.
Nonetheless, many aggrieved Iraqis, feeling that they have no other place they can trust for legal rulings, have flocked to these courts. It does not seem to matter that the courts have no enforcement power and are not recognized by either the American occupation forces or Iraq's other Muslim religious authorities. [ complete article ]
Bitterness grows in Iraq over deaths of civilians
Vivienne Walt, Boston Globe, August 4, 2003
In numerous interviews, Iraqis said that more than factors like unemployment, fuel shortages, or electricity blackouts, civilian casualties since the war's end have raised the level of bitterness against US soldiers and could prolong or widen armed resistance.
''It has increased our hate against Americans,'' said Ali Hatem, 23, a computer science student at the University of Baghdad. ''It also increases the violence against them. In Iraq, we are tribal people. When someone loses their son, they want revenge.'' [ complete article ]
Taliban are killing clerics who dispute holy war call
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, August 4, 2003
The assassination, witnesses said, was trademark Taliban: two men on a motorbike, the passenger opening fire with a Kalashnikov rifle, the driver making a quick getaway.
But the choice of victim signaled a new turn for the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic movement that was ousted from power and has been running a campaign of attacks against foreign and Afghan government troops in southern Afghanistan for months. This time, the assassinated person was Maulavi Abdul Manan, known as Maulavi Jenab, a member of the local district religious council, shot as he left his mosque last week. He was the third senior Muslim cleric killed by Taliban assassins here in the last 40 days. [ complete article ]
Iran: Won't hand over Al Qaeda members to U.S.
Reuters, August 4, 2003
Iran publicly acknowledged for the first time last month that it was holding some senior al Qaeda figures and said it planned to extradite some of them to "friendly countries."
On Saturday the New York Times quoted a U.S. official as saying Washington had approached Tehran with a request to hand over al Qaeda men in Iranian custody, including Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian thought to be al Qaeda's security chief.
The paper said Iran wanted the United States to hand over members of the People's Mujahideen Iranian opposition group, currently under U.S. control in Iraq, in return.
But Iran's government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh told a news conference on Monday Tehran was not interested in such a deal.
"Iran has never asked for such a swap. We never make deals or act selectively regarding terrorism," he said.[ complete article ]
ANOTHER WAR? THE NEO-CONS ARE READY
The next Korean war
R. James Woolsey and Tomas G. McInerney, Wall Street Journal (via Frontpage Magazine), August 4, 2003
The key point is that the base infrastructure available in the region and the accessibility of North Korea from the sea should make it possible to generate around 4,000 sorties a day compared to the 800 a day that were so effective in Iraq. When one contemplates that the vast majority of these sorties would use precision munitions, and that surveillance aircraft would permit immediate targeting of artillery pieces and ballistic missile launch sites, we believe the use of air power in such a war would be swifter and more devastating than it was in Iraq. North Korea's geriatric air defenses--both fighter aircraft and missiles--would not last long. [ complete article ]
The unreported cost of war: at least 827 American wounded
Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 4, 2003
US military casualties from the occupation of Iraq have been more than twice the number most Americans have been led to believe because of an extraordinarily high number of accidents, suicides and other non-combat deaths in the ranks that have gone largely unreported in the media.
Since May 1, when President George Bush declared the end of major combat operations, 52 American soldiers have been killed by hostile fire, according to Pentagon figures quoted in almost all the war coverage. But the total number of US deaths from all causes is much higher: 112.
The other unreported cost of the war for the US is the number of American wounded, 827 since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. [ complete article ]
Bumbling Bush may have given Osama an open goal
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, August 4, 2003
Bush is accused of many things - but never of being imaginative. From the very start, and despite much spin and waffle about fighting a new kind of conflict by unconventional means, Bush has opted for the obvious.
In Afghanistan, nebulous al-Qaida networks posed a complex and subtle challenge. Bush's solution? Invade the country and overthrow its rulers. The Taliban may have had it coming; but that is hardly the point. This was the old-style "overwhelming force" approach long favoured by US presidents, Daddy Bush included.
The Iraq campaign was conducted, for whatever reason (and many were given), on much the same principle: kick the door down, then charge in - and to hell with the wider consequences. While such behaviour brings quick, short-term results and may be superficially gratifying, innovative or imaginative it definitely is not.
These tactics bear little relation to an effective defence against terrorism in the round, let alone to tackling its root causes. Many al-Qaida in Afghanistan were merely dispersed; now they are returning. As for Iraq, they were never there in the first place. [ complete article ]
The protean enemy
Jessica Stern, Foreign Affairs, July-August, 2003
Having suffered the destruction of its sanctuary in Afghanistan two years ago, al Qaeda's already decentralized organization has become more decentralized still. The group's leaders have largely dispersed to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world (only a few still remain in Afghanistan's lawless border regions). And with many of the planet's intelligence agencies now focusing on destroying its network, al Qaeda's ability to carry out large-scale attacks has been degraded.
Yet despite these setbacks, al Qaeda and its affiliates remain among the most significant threats to U.S. national security today. In fact, according to George Tenet, the CIA's director, they will continue to be this dangerous for the next two to five years. An alleged al Qaeda spokesperson has warned that the group is planning another strike similar to those of September 11. On May 12, simultaneous bombings of three housing complexes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed at least 29 people and injured over 200, many of them Westerners. Intelligence officials in the United States, Europe, and Africa report that al Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment drive in response to the war in Iraq. And the target audience for its recruitment has also changed. They are now younger, with an even more "menacing attitude," as France's top investigative judge on terrorism-related cases, Jean-Louis Brugui, describes them. More of them are converts to Islam. And more of them are women. [ complete article ]
Crime casts fear in Iraq
John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2003
Murder is stalking this city [Baghdad]. In the aftermath of the U.S. campaign to oust Saddam Hussein, residents who have no memory of violent street crime during his iron-fisted rule are now being terrorized by killers -- not to mention thieves and vandals -- whose motives range from retribution to rapaciousness. The crime wave poses a challenge for the U.S.-led occupation as it grapples with a multitude of problems -- electricity shortages, joblessness and a guerrilla campaign among them -- that have destabilized this shattered country. Iraqi police have started to work, but ineffectually. They defer to the U.S. soldiers, who often have no clue about what is going on in the streets and alleys around them. [ complete article ]
Questions grow over Iraq links to Qaeda
Peter S. Canellos and Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, August 3, 2003
Shortly after his now-discredited report that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy uranium in Africa, President Bush asserted in his State of the Union address that ''evidence from intelligence sources, secret conversations, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda.''
The link between Hussein and Al Qaeda was a component of Bush's larger assertion that Hussein was an imminent threat to the United States -- that ''secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists.''
But a review of the White House's statements and interviews with current and former intelligence officials indicate that the assertion was extrapolated from nuggets of intelligence, some tantalizing but unproven, some subsequently disproved, and some considered suspect even at the time the administration was making its case for war. [ complete article ]
Iraqis struggle to retrieve goods from G.I.'s
Shaila K. Dewan, New York Times, August 3, 2003
After the war, American soldiers referred to Iraqi looters as "Ali Babas." Now, the name is more commonly used by Iraqis to describe the soldiers.
This notion is flickering through the capital, propelled by word of mouth and amplified by anti-Western elements ready to exploit any hint of American misbehavior. Many Iraqis are convinced that the soldiers are here to rob them of money, jewelry and cars.
American military officials refused to discuss specific charges of theft by soldiers and disciplinary actions, but said that in most instances property believed stolen was more likely to have been confiscated during raids or at checkpoints.
That distinction matters little to Iraqis trying to recover their property.
Sgt. Thad Farlow, a civil affairs officer whose unit runs a civilian assistance center, said the complaints he heard stemmed from a mixture of negligence and actual misconduct. "It's kind of hard to win the hearts and minds when soldiers are taking $650 Thuraya phones," he said, referring to a type of satellite telephone. [ complete article ]
U.S. may lose chance to negotiate with Iran
Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, Knight Ridder, August 1, 2003
A terrorist group based in U.S.-controlled Iraq continues to broadcast propaganda into Iran, purchase equipment and move about the country without interference from American authorities, despite a White House order banning any U.S. support for the group, according to senior administration officials.
The officials said the continued operations of the Mujahedeen Khalq, or MEK, could cost the United States an opportunity to negotiate a deal with Iran's theocratic regime to turn over five senior leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist network who are being held by Iranian authorities in what one American official described as "some kind of preventive detention."
Iranian envoys have approached U.S. intermediaries and offered to turn over the terrorism suspects - including Osama bin Laden's son Saad and Saif al Adel, who's wanted in connection with attacks that killed Americans in East Africa and Saudi Arabia - in exchange for putting the MEK out of business, the officials said. [ complete article ]
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