The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
New evidence shows crucial dossier changes
By Glen Rangwala, The Independent, August 17, 2003

The Government changed the title of its September 2002 dossier on Iraq at the last minute, to portray a situation in Iraq that some of its most senior experts did not accept as valid.

Documents released by the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly show not only that the claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were strengthened in the two weeks before the dossier's release, but also that a crucial alteration was made to the title. The last draft of the dossier available to the inquiry from 19 September was entitled "Iraq's programme for weapons of mass destruction". But the title on both the Downing Street website and printed versions is simply "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

Referring to a weapons "programme" does not imply they exist or are being produced. The most it indicates is that production could begin in future. UN weapons inspectors in Iraq throughout the second half of the 1990s focused on uncovering the potential for Iraq to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as there was little evidence that actual weapons existed or that production was taking place.

Tony Blair claimed repeatedly that Iraq had these weapons and was producing more, and that this made Iraq a serious threat. [ complete article ]

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Dangerous brinksmanship heats up the Levant
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 2003

Diplomats and United Nations peacekeepers in south Lebanon fear fighting might soon resume unless a diplomatic solution is reached that will end the dangerous brinkmanship between Hizbullah and the Israeli military.

But Israel's staging of mass overflights by military jets in Lebanese airspace Wednesday has dampened hopes of an imminent breakthrough. The overflights are fueling suspicion that Israel is seeking to goad the Islamic party into an open conflict. Many Lebanese also suspect Israeli involvement in the recent assassination of a senior Hizbullah military commander in Beirut. [ complete article ]

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Advice from Baghdad: Coping with a blackout
By John Tierney, New York Times, August 16, 2003

Do not try to repair the Northeast grid yourselves. Entrusting the job to Americans, Iraqis warned, would only result in more blackouts and endless excuses about "sabotage" and "neglected infrastructure." Thamir Mahmoud, a retired clerk, said he was especially worried by President Bush's promise to fix the problem. "If the American government is involved," he said, "you must be prepared to be patient. They work very slowly."

Some Iraqis suggested inviting the United Nations to supervise the reconstruction, but others had a more radical idea. Put Saddam Hussein in charge of the grid. "Saddam had the electricity back two months after the last war," said Maythum Hatam, a computer-science student. "With his methods, you would have electricity right away, but you must expect to lose some workers." [ complete article ]

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U.S. troops provoke Afghan anger
By Saeed Ali Achakzai, Reuters, August 15, 2003

When U.S. forces entered a remote Afghan village recently to hunt Taliban and al Qaeda rebels, locals hurriedly hid their Korans in a sack.

Baffled soldiers who discovered the copies of Islam's holy book asked an elder what was happening. He told them that villagers feared they would be killed merely for being Muslims.

The misunderstanding underlines the depth of confusion and mistrust caused by foreign troops in Afghanistan, particularly in rural areas in the south and east where the coalition is most active in its hunt for "terrorists".

In many cases that mistrust has turned to hatred, as aggressive search tactics and a general sense among Muslims of being under siege plays into the hands of the very people the U.S. military is trying to wipe out. [ complete article ]

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Inside the resistance
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, August 16, 2003

The Pentagon, the US military and American analysts are reluctant to acknowledge popular support for the Iraqi resistance. But the chaos has tribal sheiks, Baghdad businessmen and many ordinary Iraqis speaking in such harsh anti-American terms that it is hard not to conclude there is a growing body of Palestinian or Belfast-style empathy with the resistance.

If the accounts of the resistance given to the Herald in interviews in the past 10 days are accurate, US intelligence is way behind understanding that what is emerging in Iraq is a centrally controlled movement, driven as much by nationalism as the mosque, a movement that has left Saddam and the Baath Party behind and already is getting foreign funds for its bid to drive out the US army. [ complete article ]

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Foreign investors take a pass on Karzai's Afghanistan
By Marc W. Herold, Cursor, August 14, 2003

Since the "end" of the war in Afghanistan, no major foreign equity investment in either the goods or the resources-producing sectors has been made, notwithstanding President Karzai's frantic travels abroad seeking to woo investors.

This contrasts sharply with Afghanistan under the Taliban [1996-2001], when both the giant U.S. oil firm UNOCAL, committed to building a trans-country gas pipeline and a private New Jersey-based enterprise, Telephone Systems International Inc., secured a license from the Taliban to set up an integrated, high-tech communications network costing $240 million.

The Taliban for all their faults, were able to put in place a degree of political stability and means to enforce contracts - after all, in one year they reduced poppy cultivation to next to nothing. [ complete article ]

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Lacking water and power, Iraqis run out of patience in the searing summer heat
By Jamie Wilson and Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, August 16, 2003

Millions of Iraqis are frustrated. They are deprived of fuel, electricity and water, the basics of life. These deprivations have sparked protests throughout the country, angry voices made louder by the searing summer heat. The chaos has sharpened demands for improvements in the crippled infrastructure. Coalition administrators say they recognise their failure to tell people what is being done to repair the economy. The World Bank and UN are completing a needs assessment which they will present to a conference on Iraq in October. It is hoped that the survey will establish a clearer timetable for the work to be done and build confidence in the future. Some aid workers in Britain believe reconstruction is proceeding at a faster pace than in Kosovo and Afghanistan. But their optimism is little comfort to exasperated Iraqis. [ complete article ]

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45-minute claim on Iraq was hearsay
By Vikram Dodd, Nicholas Watt and Richard Norton Taylor, The Guardian, August 16, 2003

Tony Blair's headline-grabbing claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so was based on hearsay information, the Guardian has learned.

The revelation that the controversial claim is even weaker than ministers and officials have been saying will embarrass No 10, already reeling after the first week of the Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly. [ complete article ]

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Baghdad clerics decry a U.S. 'war against Islam'
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2003

Shiite Muslim clerics in a poor neighborhood of northeast Baghdad said Friday that the U.S. military had declared war against Islam and warned American forces to stay out of the district, where U.S. troops opened fire on a crowd this week.

Tens of thousands of worshippers carrying religious banners thronged to Friday prayers in the center of the slum, sending a powerful signal about the level of anger in the community over Wednesday's shootout between protesters and troops, which happened after an American helicopter dislodged a religious banner from a tower.

"America and Zionism have declared war against Islam and its sanctuary. That is why one of their helicopters tried to remove the banner of righteousness," Sheik Abdul-Hadi Darraji told the crowd before prayers. [ complete article ]

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The making of an Iraqi guerrilla: one man's tale
By Cameron W. Barr, Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 2003

One night at the end of June, a young Iraqi man goes out to ambush an American convoy near the central Iraqi town of Fallujah.

He is wearing his favorite blue tracksuit. He is a small guy, solid and compact, with cropped dark hair and a chin that juts out slightly. He likes tough sports, especially handball. He can stub out a cigarette on the calluses of his left palm. It will be his first time in combat.

Although he has trained only fleetingly for what he is about to do, he is not afraid. "If I die for a reason, that's a nice thing," he says later.

Since President Bush declared major hostilities in Iraq over on May 1, a rising tide of ambushes, explosions, and small-arms attacks has killed 60 Americans.

The man's motivations for attacking the convoy are simple: to resist the American "insult to Iraqi and Arab tradition." [ complete article ]

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U.S. warned not to enter Baghdad slum
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 15, 2003

In a sermon to thousands of worshipers in Baghdad's largest slum, a militant Shiite Muslim cleric warned American forces today not to reenter the neighborhood and dismissed as insufficient an apology from U.S. officials for the toppling of a religious banner that set off a protest this week in which an Iraqi was killed.

The statement was the latest in a back-and-forth between U.S. officials and influential clerics in the neighborhood, whose numbers alone -- 3 million residents -- make it pivotal in the politics of Baghdad. U.S. officials have said gusts from a low-flying helicopter accidentally knocked over the black flag, which fluttered atop a transmission tower. Residents, already disenchanted with the lack of electricity and basic services, said they saw a soldier either kick or try to cut it down.

In the protest that ensued Wednesday, U.S. forces killed one Iraqi -- a boy of 10 or 11, residents said -- and wounded at least three. Both sides say the other fired first. U.S. officials have said they are investigating the incident, which marked some of the sharpest tension between U.S. forces and Iraq's Shiite majority since the overthrow of president Saddam Hussein's government on April 9. [ complete article ]

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Iraqis offer tips over U.S. blackout
By Niko Price, Associated Press, August 15, 2003

Iraqis who have suffered for months with little electricity gloated Friday over a blackout in the northeastern United States and southern Canada and offered some tips to help Americans beat the heat.

From frequent showers to rooftop slumber parties, Iraqis have developed advanced techniques to adapt to life without electricity.

Daily highs have soared above 120 degrees recently as Iraq's U.S. administrators have been unable to get power back to prewar levels. Some said it was poetic justice that some Americans should suffer the same fate, if only briefly. [ complete article ]

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The black turbans' 'counterrevolution'
By Mustafa El-Labbad, Al-Ahram Weekly, August 14, 2003

Hussein Khomeini has added fuel to an already fiery domestic situation in Iran, with his vehement attack on the "rule of the clerics", the underlying principle of government in Iran since shortly after that country's Islamic Revolution in 1979. Moreover, Hussein's words should be assessed with regard of the added weight of the lineage factor in a society and polity in which 90 per cent of the populace are Shi'ite Muslims. Lineage is of fundamental importance to the Shi'ite creed which holds that the nephew of the Prophet Mohamed, Ali, and his descendants had been usurped of their right to inherit the command of the faithful. The Shi'ites have elevated the family and descendants of the Prophet to a position of sacred authority, and, today, among the Shi'ite communities in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, the Ashraf (descendants of the family of the Prophet) are still distinguishable by their black turbans, as opposed to the white turbans worn by other members of the Shi'ite clergy. The charismatic leader of the Iranian Revolution Ayatollah Rohallah Khomeini, the Spiritual Guide of the Revolution Ali Khameini and the current President of Iran Mohamed Khatemi all wore black turbans. [ complete article ]

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Iraq's cleric who would be heard
By Nir Rosen, Asia Times, August 16, 2003

Unlike other Shi'ite leaders, whose education and age bestows on them a rich vocabulary and an eloquent fus-hah, or classical Arabic, Muqtada [al-Sadr, from Sadr City in Baghdad] speaks in a strong amia or colloquial Arabic, replete with slang and street expressions. His associates are all young like him, and have the same arrogance when dealing with others, as if acknowledging that they do not deserve all the attention they are receiving. [...]

He is the young upstart of the Shi'ite world, taking on the establishment, showing no respect for his elders, or his betters. In the eyes of the Shi'ite establishment embodied in the Hawza, or religious academy based in Najaf, Muqtada is just an arrogant street punk benefiting from his father's reputation and universal admiration. But he cannot be so easily ignored. [ complete article ]

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'It was punishment without trial'
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 15, 2003

After 24 days [11-year-old Sufian Abd al-Ghani]'s ordeal [-- being imprisoned without charge by coalition authorities --] was over, but he regularly has nightmares. However, his case is not the worst in the four months since the Americans occupied Iraq. Several children have been shot dead, some as passengers in cars which fell foul of American checkpoints, some mistaken at night for adults. But if those deaths were the result of accidents, how is it that an 11-year-old could be held for over three weeks without anyone in authority asking questions?

The answer is: easily. Sufian's detention highlights the problems faced by hundreds of Iraqis: arrests followed by incompetent interrogation, or none at all; the lack of an efficient trial-or-release system; shocking prison conditions; constant buck-passing; and sloppy paperwork by the coalition authorities. The result is that in almost every case families take weeks or months to find out where their loved ones are being detained. [ complete article ]

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Afghan security crisis deepens
By Pam O'Toole, BBC News, August 14, 2003

Two aid workers from the Afghan Red Crescent Society have been killed and three others injured in an ambush south-west of the capital, Kabul.

In a separate incident, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, announced that it was suspending operations in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan after a rocket was fired near one of its compounds.

The UN and a number of other aid agencies had already suspended activities in parts of southern Afghanistan following a flurry of attacks in those areas.

The latest incidents come amid a deteriorating security situation and followed one of the bloodiest days in Afghanistan in the past year.

Some 60 people were killed in violent incidents on Wednesday. [ complete article ]

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'Bring Them Home Now' speakers rip U.S. policy on Iraq
By Patrick J. Dickson, Stars and Stripes (the "hometown newspaper" for the U.S. military), August 14, 2003

They wanted their message to be clear: It's possible to support the troops and not support the war they're fighting.

Several family members of U.S. troops in Iraq spoke out Wednesday against what they see as shortsighted policy on the part of the Bush administration.

They said that the Bush camp lied about the reasons for going to war, has misled the media about what's happening on the ground and has kept troops in the dark about their mission and how long they'll be there. [ complete article ]

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No pay cut for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan - Pentagon
By Charles Aldinger, Reuters, August 14, 2003

Moving to quash a political firestorm, the Pentagon on Thursday denied that it will cut the pay of nearly 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by $225 on Sept. 30 when special military pay hikes approved by Congress are due to expire. [ complete article ]

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Stark message of the mutiny
By Naomi Klein, The Guardian, August 15, 2003

What does it take to become a major news story in the summer of Arnie and Kobe, Ben and Jen? A lot, as a group of young Philippine soldiers discovered recently. On July 27, 300 soldiers rigged a giant Manila shopping mall with C-4 explosives, accused one of Washington's closest allies of blowing up its own buildings to attract US military dollars - and still barely managed to make the international news.

That's our loss, because in the wake of the Marriott bombing in Jakarta and newly leaked intelligence reports claiming that the September 11 attacks were hatched in Manila, it looks like south-east Asia is about to become the next major front in Washington's war on terror.

The Philippines and Indonesia may have missed the cut for the axis of evil, but the two countries do offer Washington something Iran and North Korea do not: US-friendly governments willing to help the Pentagon secure an easy win. Both the Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri have embraced Bush's crusade as the perfect cover for their brutal cleansing of separatist movements from resource-rich regions - Mindanao in the Philippines, Aceh in Indonesia. [ complete article ]

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Rough justice
By Rod Nordland, Newsweek, August 18, 2003

As many as 8,000 people have disappeared since Saddam's regime collapsed, and many relatives are searching for answers about their fate. More than 5,000 are in U.S. custody; others may be among those killed by fellow Iraqis, and in some cases by American troops. Those who have been detained are nearly always held incommunicado, without access to lawyers or even the right to contact their families. In most cases their loved ones can't find out where they are. With Iraqi prisons looted and destroyed, captives are jailed in barbed-wire compounds, converted warehouses and vast tent camps. Conditions are primitive; at their worst they amount to what Amnesty International describes as "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

But the lack of a proper justice system is not just a human-rights issue. It also raises questions about whether the U.S. military, in its campaign to stamp out the Iraqi resistance, is creating new enemies. [ complete article ]

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Troops in Iraq face pay cut
Pentagon says tough duty bonuses are budget-buster

By Edward Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 2003

The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120- degree-plus heat.

Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."

The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken. [ complete article ]

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Hutton lifting the lid on Blair government
By Fraser Nelson, The Scotsman, August 14, 2003

Tony Blair has made a grave mistake. England's courts are lined with supine judges who could have heard the inquest into Dr David Kelly's death in a "helpful" way. Lord Hutton could not have been a worse choice.

This 72-year-old judge and James Dingemans, his QC, are breaking all the traditions of the political whitewash. They are moving at breakneck speed, ploughing through witnesses to leave a harvest of hard evidence.

In the space of three days, we know more about the doubts behind the Iraq dossier than the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee was able to establish in three months. The Hutton inquiry is so far surpassing all expectation. [ complete article ]

Complete transcripts of each day's hearings can be read at The Hutton Inquiry web site.

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Is Elliot Abrams evolving?
By Philip Weiss, New York Observer, August 14, 2003

[In his book, Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America, published in 1997, Elliot Abrams, President Bush's top advisor on Middle East affairs, writes:] "Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart -- except in Israel -- from the rest of the population."

Mr. Abrams adds, though, that such apartness means "no disloyalty" to the land in which he lives.

Mr. Abrams is a conservative, and one can't quarrel with the sincerity of his beliefs. His opposition to secularism is often persuasive; his vision of religious pluralism, in which Christians do their thing and Jews theirs (and presumably Muslims do their thing, too, though his only references to Muslims are to describe their involvement in anti-Semitism), is compelling.

The problem is when parochialists get political power. America can tolerate sects: Amish separatists are honored for their choice; black separatists and white separatists are allowed their often obnoxious views. Even when sects achieve economic power, they're tolerated, and maybe should be (the Mormons in Utah, say).

But Americans have been justly leery when parochial practices edge their way into national politics. [ complete article ]

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U.S. apologizes for sparking Baghdad protest
By Andrew Marshall, Reuters, August 14, 2003

The U.S. Army said Thursday it had apologized for provoking furious protests in a Baghdad slum neighborhood, but Shi'ite residents vowed more violence unless American troops withdrew from the district. [ complete article ]

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Eleana Benador: The Andean condor among the hawks
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, August 15, 2003

When historians look back on the United States war in Iraq, they will almost certainly be struck by how a small group of mainly neo-conservative analysts and activists outside the administration were able to shape the US media debate in ways that made the drive to war so much easier than it might have been. [...]

But historians would be negligent if they ignored the day-to-day work of one person who, as much as anyone outside the administration, made their media ubiquity possible.

Meet Eleana Benador, the Peruvian-born publicist for Perle, Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney and a dozen other prominent neo-conservatives whose hawkish opinions proved very hard to avoid for anyone who watched news talk shows or read the op-ed pages of major newspapers over the past 20 months. [ complete article ]

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Less than meets the eye?
By Brian Ross, ABC News, August 13, 2003

Administration officials are leaving out key facts and exaggerating the significance of the alleged plot to smuggle a shoulder-launched missile into the United States, law enforcement officials told ABCNEWS. They say there's a lot less than meets the eye.

The accused ringleader, British national Hemant Lakhani, appeared today in federal court in Newark, N.J., and was ordered held without bond on charges of attempting to provide material support and material resources to terrorists and acting as an arms broker without a license.

Outside the courtroom, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie called Lakhani an ally of terrorists who want to kill Americans.

"He, on many occasions, in recorded conversations, referred to Americans as 'bastards' [and] Osama bin Laden as a hero," said Christie.

But what he did not say was just how much of the alleged missile plot was a government setup from start to finish. [ complete article ]

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While the United States is currently spending over $125 million a day on the occupation of Iraq, the administration is not seeking wider U.N. support. Instead it will rely on support from countries such as Albania (whose total annual military spending is $56.5 million) and Latvia ($87 million) while seeking additional support from countries such as Moldova ($6.4 million) and Mongolia ($23 million). (Military expenditure figures come from the CIA Factbook.)

U.S. abandons idea of bigger U.N. role in Iraq occupation
By Steven R. Weisman and Felicity Barringer, New York Times, August 14, 2003

The Bush administration has abandoned the idea of giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq as sought by France, India and other countries as a condition for their participation in peacekeeping there, administration officials said today.

Instead, the officials said, the United States would widen its effort to enlist other countries to assist the occupation forces in Iraq, which are dominated by the 139,000 United States troops there.

In addition to American forces in Iraq, there are 21,000 troops representing 18 countries. At present, 11,000 of that number are from Britain. The United States plans to seek larger numbers to help, especially with relief supplies that are coming from another dozen countries. [ complete article ]

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Israel's new barrier cuts old ties
By Nicole Gaouette, Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 2003

It's no dream house, the cinderblock hut Sharif Omar now calls home, but he won't leave it anytime soon.

When the West Bank farmer and his wife married 36 years ago, they moved in with his brother. Mr. Omar promised one day to build her a house of her own. This year, he finished it, moved the family in and promptly left for this squat shed in his olive groves, not far from 31 other families camping on their own farms.

It's an exodus born of determination. Israel's separation barrier slices through Jayyus, neatly severing the town from its fields. Israel has taken local land in the past and farmers here worry the barrier's path is the first step toward the loss of their livelihood. They aim to hold on. [ complete article ]

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Flag is flash point in a Baghdad slum
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 14, 2003

The U.S. military helicopter flew low over Baghdad's largest slum today, about an hour before noon prayers. For a while, it hovered near a transmission tower. Then, Sheik Ahmed Zarjawi said, a U.S. soldier tried to kick the black flag that fluttered atop the tower, inscribed in white letters with the name of one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures.

"How can we sleep at night when we see this?" he recalled asking.

There followed a day of anger and fervor in a Shiite neighborhood already on edge. Protesters incensed at what they saw as a religious insult poured out of houses and shops. In some of the worst unrest since Baghdad fell to U.S.-led forces on April 9, clashes erupted with an American patrol, killing one Iraqi and wounding at least three others. [ complete article ]

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Democracy might be impossible, U.S. was told
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, August 14, 2003

US intelligence officials cautioned the National Security Council before the Iraq war that the American plan to build democracy on the ashes of Saddam Hussein's regime -- as a model for the rest of the region -- was so audacious that, in the words of one CIA report in March, it could ultimately prove "impossible."

That assessment ran counter to what the Bush administration was saying at the time as it sought to build support for the war. President Bush said a democratic Iraq would lead to more liberalized, representative governments, where terrorists would find less popular support, and the Muslim world would be friendlier to the United States. "A new regime in Iraq would serve as an inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region," he said on Feb. 26.

The question of how quickly, and easily, the United States could establish democracy in Iraq was the key to a larger concern about how long US troops would be required to stay there, and how many would be needed to maintain security. The administration offered few assessments of its own but dismissed predictions by the army chief of staff of a lengthy occupation by hundreds of thousands of troops. [ complete article ]

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Women's rights become a struggle in Iraq
By Pamela Hess, UPI, August 13, 2003

Like Saddam Hussein, Yanar Mohammed tries not to sleep every night in the same place.

"For a different cause," she notes dryly, in the run-down barebones office she borrows from the Worker's Communist Party of Iraq.

Yanar, 42, left the safety and comfort of her life as an architect, wife and mother in Toronto to return to Baghdad to fight for Iraqi women's rights.

This is not an equal pay for equal work debate, or a campaign for a child-care subsidy. Her platform is elemental: Women must not be abducted, sold and raped. Those that eventually return to their families must not be murdered to restore the family's honor. Women must not be forced to wear an opaque veil over their faces and bodies.

She will not say where she sleeps because her life has already been threatened. She does not move without her bodyguard. [ complete article ]

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U.S. military pioneers death ray bomb
By David Adam, The Guardian, August 14, 2003

American military scientists are developing a weapon which kills by delivering an enormous burst of high-energy gamma rays, it is claimed today.

The bomb, which produces little fallout, blurs the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons, and experts have already warned it could spark a new arms race. The science behind the gamma ray bomb is still in its infancy, and technical problems mean it could be decades before the devices are developed. But the Pentagon is taking the project seriously.

The plans are getting under way at a time when the Bush administration is seeking ways to expand its arsenal of unconventional weapons, and could well fuel charges that Washington risks triggering a new arms race. [ complete article ]

For more details see the New Scientist article, Gamma-ray weapons could trigger next arms race.

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Bus blast, clashes kill 58 in Afghanistan
By Noor Khan, Associated Press, August 13, 2003

An explosion ripped through a bus and heavy fighting erupted between government soldiers and Taliban remnants Wednesday, one of the bloodiest days in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the hard-line Islamic regime.

The bus bombing killed 15 civilians -- six of them children; the death toll for Wednesday -- including two explosions and gunbattles in two provinces -- was 58.

The deaths were part of a trend of stepped-up attacks and killings that are increasing the pressure on the fragile Afghan government and creating an atmosphere of constant fear in the country. [ complete article ]

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Pipes the propagandist
By Christopher Hitchens, Slate, August 11, 2003

When I read that Daniel Pipes had been nominated to the board of the United States Institute of Peace (a federally funded body whose members are proposed by the president and confirmed by the Senate), my first reaction was one of bafflement. Why did Pipes want the nomination? After all, USIP, a somewhat mild organization, is devoted to the peaceful resolution of conflict. For Pipes, this notion is a contradiction in terms. [ complete article ]

Bush to sidestep Muslim groups, Senate on scholar
By Adam Entous, Reuters, August 12, 2003

Over objections from some Muslim American groups, President Bush plans to sidestep Congress and appoint a Middle East scholar who has been derided by critics as anti-Muslim to a federally funded think tank, congressional sources said on Tuesday.

Bush's expected recess appointment of Daniel Pipes could spark a backlash from some Muslim Americans and Democrats in Congress, who oppose his nomination to serve on the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, which was created by Congress to promote peaceful solutions to world conflicts.

Bush has sought to improve relations with the Muslim American community since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Pipe's nomination has been stalled for months in the Senate, where key Democrats objected to his controversial statements and writings defending racial and religious profiling and suggestions that mosques in America should be targets of police surveillance. [ complete article ]

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Calling out Colin
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, August 12, 2003

[With virtually all the "evidence" presented by Colin Powell before the UN Security Council on February 5 now appearing highly questionable, t]his leaves one piece of Powell's briefing that remains, to this day, puzzling. It involved two intercepted phone conversations that Powell played and translated. One, recorded Nov. 26, the day before U.N. weapons inspections were to resume, was said to be between a colonel and a brigadier general in the Iraqi Republican Guard. The general says, "I'll come see you in the morning. I'm worried you all have something left." The colonel replies, "We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left." The implication is that the Iraqis have removed illegal materials from a site to be inspected to the next day.

The other conversation, which Powell said was recorded Jan. 30, was supposedly between two commanders of the 2nd Republican Guard Corps. One reads aloud an instruction, as the other writes it down, phrase by phrase: "Remove the expression 'nerve agent' wherever it comes up in wireless communications." [..]

It has been well known since last fall that the Bush administration was actively seeking intelligence that would show Iraq had two things: weapons of mass destruction and a connection with al-Qaida. When the CIA and DIA failed to come up with the goods, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and a handful of his top aides formed their own intelligence network to search more carefully. If the word had gone out, to friends far and wide, that Rumsfeld was looking for this sort of evidence, is it not conceivable that someone with an interest in seeing Saddam overthrown -- and there were many parties who had such an interest -- might have "staged" a phone conversation that they knew the National Security Agency would intercept?

Maybe this is far-fetched. If so, the administration should finally tell us who these officers were. Surely there is no point keeping this information classified; revealing their identities would not put them in any danger. These tapes form the last shred of possible evidence that Iraq might have had chemical or biological weapons in the past nine months -- that, in other words, the war had any legitimate cause. If the officers were real, name them. [ complete article ]

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Study of Bush's psyche touches a nerve
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 13, 2003

A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity".

As if that was not enough to get Republican blood boiling, the report's four authors linked Hitler, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and the rightwing talkshow host, Rush Limbaugh, arguing they all suffered from the same affliction.

All of them "preached a return to an idealised past and condoned inequality".

Republicans are demanding to know why the psychologists behind the report, Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition, received $1.2m in public funds for their research from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The authors also peer into the psyche of President George Bush, who turns out to be a textbook case. The telltale signs are his preference for moral certainty and frequently expressed dislike of nuance.

"This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes," the authors argue in the Psychological Bulletin. [ complete article ]

See also Political conservatism as motivated social cognition (37-page document in PDF format)

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Agencies unite against global threat
By Richard Norton-Taylor, Colin Blackstock and David Teather, The Guardian, August 13, 2003

The international sting operation which led to the arrest of a Briton who allegedly believed he was selling an anti-aircraft missile to a Muslim extremist in the US is a message to arms dealers and terrorists in a new era of cooperation among the world's intelligence agencies. It is highly significant that the operation was sanctioned by Russia's president, Vladmir Putin, who for years has told the west that whatever differences he may have with it, including Iraq, terrorism is a common enemy. [ complete article ]

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The Hudna on the cross road
By Sa'id Ghazali, The Independent, August 13, 2003

After the assassination of two of its leaders in the Askar Refugee Camp in Nablus, West Bank, last Friday Hamas' military wing began plotting its revenge.

And yesterday as two Palestinian suicide bombers, one a member in al Aqsa Martyrs brigades and the other a Hamas militant, took the lives of two Israelis, that revenge was furious and threatening.

But the failure of the Hudna, as Palestinians refer to the ceasefire - was not so surprising at all. [ complete article ]

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Kurds adapt to a new order in Iraq
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, August 12, 2003

The highway to this prosperous Kurdish city is lined with rolling, well-irrigated wheat fields. The first gas station is a designer fantasy of glittering blue glass. The main boulevard is a parade of Internet cafes, half-built mansions and a familiar-looking "Madonal" restaurant that features "Big Macks."

For the past 12 years, while the rest of Iraq struggled under dictatorship and foreign sanctions, the isolated north and its ethnic Kurdish population enjoyed a privileged period of political autonomy, international aid and rapid economic development under skies patrolled by Western warplanes enforcing a "no-fly" zone.

But with the toppling of President Saddam Hussein, that special status is no longer assured, and Kurdish leaders are scrambling to preserve benefits they fear will be lost in the ethnic, religious and political free-for-all of post-Hussein Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Rising tide of Islamic militants see Iraq as ultimate battlefield
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, August 13, 2003

In much the same way as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan stirred an earlier generation of young Muslims determined to fight the infidel, the American presence in Iraq is prompting a rising tide of Muslim militants to slip into the country to fight the foreign occupier, Iraqi officials and others say.

"Iraq is the nexus where many issues are coming together -- Islam versus democracy, the West versus the axis of evil, Arab nationalism versus some different types of political culture," said Barham Saleh, the prime minister of this Kurdish-controlled part of northern Iraq. "If the Americans succeed here, this will be a monumental blow to everything the terrorists stand for."

Recent intelligence suggests the militants are well organized. One returning group of fighters from the militant Ansar al-Islam organization captured in the Kurdish region two weeks ago consisted of five Iraqis, a Palestinian and a Tunisian.

Among their possessions were five forged Italian passports for a different group of militants they were apparently supposed to join, said Dana Ahmed Majid, the director of general security for the region.

Long gone are the bearded men in the short robes believed worn by the Prophet Muhammad that the Arabs who went to Afghanistan favored. Instead, the same practices that allowed the Sept. 11 attackers to blend into American society are evident. [ complete article ]

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$20,000 bonus to official
who agreed on nuke claim

By Paul Sperry, WorldNetDaily, August 12, 2003

A former Energy Department intelligence chief who agreed with the White House claim that Iraq had reconstituted its defunct nuclear-arms program was awarded a total of $20,500 in bonuses during the build-up to the war, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Thomas Rider, as acting director of Energy's intelligence office, overruled senior intelligence officers on his staff in voting for the position at a National Foreign Intelligence Board meeting at CIA headquarters last September.

His officers argued at a pre-briefing at Energy headquarters that there was no hard evidence to support the alarming Iraq nuclear charge, and asked to join State Department's dissenting opinion, Energy officials say.

Rider ordered them to "shut up and sit down," according to sources familiar with the meeting. [ complete article ]

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U.S. military families push to bring Iraq troops home
By Niala Boodhoo, Reuters, August 12, 2002

A group of about 600 U.S. military families, upset about the living conditions of soldiers in Iraq, are launching a campaign asking their relatives to urge members of Congress and President George W. Bush to bring the troops home.

"We're growing more and more disturbed about the conditions that are developing. Our concerns are both for our troops and the people in Iraq," said Nancy Lessin, a founder of Families Speak Out, formed last fall to oppose the war in Iraq. [ complete article ]

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Will Israel strike Iran?
By Jim Hoagland, New York Post, August 13, 2003

A grim warning from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to President Bush that Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than U. S. intelligence believes has triggered concern here that Israel is seriously considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Sharon dramatized his forecast by bringing Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, a three-star army officer who serves as his military secretary, to a meeting with Bush in the Oval Office two weeks ago, U.S. and Israeli sources tell me. Galant showered a worried-looking Bush with photographs and charts from a thick dossier on Iran's covert program. [ complete article ]

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Baghdad Blogger
The temperature is rising. And Baghdad, Basra and Nasiriyah have all erupted on the same day

By Salam Pax, The Guardian, August 13, 2003

As you go into Baghdad from the west there is graffiti on the walls that says "Welcome to the Republic of Darkness and Unemployment".

Baghdad had no electricity for a whole day. Call me the master of all whiners but do you have any idea what it feels like to sleep in 50C? I guess with the current heat wave [in Europe] you have a taste. Today's office stories: Muhammad, one of the drivers, decided the best place for his family to sleep was in the car with the engine running and the air-conditioning on. Shihab was up every couple of hours getting water for his kids because he was afraid they would totally dehydrate. Everyone who got into the office today had bags under their eyes and a bad headache. Haifa, the nice lady who makes sure we have coffee in the morning, was ranting about having to watch "this Paul something" give us lies on TV everyday. She actually described Paul Bremer as another Saddam; we see him every day on TV, and the news is all about what he says and what he does. Next we'll have statues of him in the streets. Somehow you feel like he lives in a bubble and has absolutely no idea what the people are saying. [ complete article ]

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In Basra, worst may be ahead
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 12, 2003

An uneasy calm returned to Basra today after two days of unrest -- some of the worst in Iraq since U.S.-led forces overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein on April 9. But no one in this weary southern city -- neither the British officials blamed for its plight, nor residents whose mounting frustration mirrors the spiraling temperatures -- seemed to think that the worst was behind them.

In interviews, residents of Iraq's second-largest city almost uniformly expressed anger and incredulity at the shortages of gasoline and electricity and the skyrocketing black-market prices that have accompanied them. British officials in Basra, openly frustrated themselves, questioned the priorities of the U.S.-led reconstruction. And many feared that remnants of Hussein's government or militant Shiite Muslim groups were prepared to capitalize on the disenchantment. [ complete article ]

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What is a neo-conservative anyway?
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, August 12, 2003

With all the attention paid to neo-conservatives in the global media today, one would think that a standard definition of the term would exist. Yet, despite their now being credited with a virtual takeover of U.S. foreign policy under President George W. Bush, a common understanding of 'neo-cons' remains elusive.

A brief description of their basic tenets and origin can help distinguish them from other parts of the ideological coalition behind the administration's neo-imperialist trajectory; namely, the traditional Republican Machtpolitikers (Might Makes Right), such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, and the Christian Rightists, such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, Gary Bauer, and Pat Robertson. [ complete article ]

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Basra: 'betrayed' and pushed to the brink
By Jamie Wilson, The Guardian, August 12, 2003

If Iraq has had it bad over the past three decades, then Basra has had it the worst. Parts of the Iran-Iraq war were fought virtually at the gates of the city. In 1991 an estimated 250,000 people died in the uprising against Saddam Hussein.

As a punishment the regime left the city to rot, and it shows. The buildings are crumbling, and the canals, which once led to the city being compared favourably to Venice, are filled with rubbish.

The city was due a bit of good luck, and most people thought the British and the Americans would bring it.

But four months on things are, many say, no better, and whether by political design or through pure frustration exaggerated by the intense heat, some citizens decided at the weekend that it was time to have a say. [ complete article ]

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The war's new front
By Brian Bennett, Time, August 10, 2003

When Fayek Kudayar Abbas quit his job translating for U.S. troops at the end of May, he thought the threats against him and his family would end. Abbas had worked for the Americans because the $40-a-week salary went a long way toward taking care of his wife and daughters. At first he tolerated harassment from some of his neighbors, who accused him of betraying his country by cooperating with the occupying forces. But as resistance to the U.S. intensified, Abbas found himself in even greater danger. A month after he stopped working with the Americans, his name showed up on a list of "traitors" being circulated among anti-U.S. insurgents. Then a grenade exploded in his garden, and someone scrawled abbas must be killed on the wall of his home.

Abbas, 58, was standing last week in an alley a block from his house in Samarra, 20 miles south of Tikrit, when two men with red scarves wrapped around their heads turned the corner on a black Jawa motorcycle. One of them shot Abbas in the leg and sped off. Abbas lay bleeding in the alley for an hour until an ambulance arrived. None of his neighbors went to his aid. "They were frightened," he said later from his hospital bed, his right leg bandaged up to his waist, "that maybe they would be the next on the list." [ complete article ]

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Postwar Iraq likely to cost more than war
By Alan Fram, Associated Press, August 11, 2003

The U.S. bill for rebuilding Iraq and maintaining security there is widely expected to far exceed the war's price tag, and some private analysts estimate it could reach as high as $600 billion.

The Bush administration is offering only hazy details so far, and that is upsetting Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers.

The closest the administration has come to estimating America's postwar burden was when L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of occupied Iraq, said last month that "getting the country up and running again" could cost $100 billion and take three years. [ complete article ]

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What North Korea wants: Rescue its economy
By Michael E. O'Hanlon, New York Times (via Brookings Institution), August 6, 2003

Now that the United States and North Korea have finally agreed to talk, the issue is what to talk about. A priority of the Bush administration, as well as its predecessors, has long been the dismantling of the North's nuclear-weapons program. This goal is realistic, but only if the United States is prepared to engage North Korea on a wide range of issues -- especially its failed economy. [ complete article ]

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Bottled water drains military
By David Wood, Newhouse News Service (via The Star Ledger), July 29, 2003

What began in 1990 as a generous but temporary expedient, handing out bottled water to troops gathering in Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm, has grown into a financial and logistics nightmare that runs counter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's drive to make the military lighter and more agile.

And while GIs consider bottled water an entitlement, some generals regard it as coddling.

"Spoon-feeding troops bottled water -- a mistake," Gen. John Keane, the Army's vice chief of staff, growled in an interview. "We want them to have mental toughness." [ complete article ]

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U.S. troops' newest foe in Iraq: the heat
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, August 11, 2003

Temperatures rose to a scorching 135 degrees across Iraq last week, causing a U.S. soldier's death Saturday and sending dozens more to seek emergency treatment for dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, military officials said.

All over Iraq, troops who sweat rivers underneath 30 pounds of body armor and equipment reluctantly rose from under palm trees to search people at checkpoints Sunday. Some sported blisters from the ever-present tubes that snake from their mouths to backpack water bottles. [ complete article ]

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Not all yearn to be free
By Joshua Mitchell, Washington Post, August 10, 2003

"Peoples always bear some marks of their origin. Circumstances of birth and growth affect their entire career." So Alexis de Tocqueville tells us. And in the United States our origin involves the tale -- somewhat fanciful but nevertheless salutary -- of local citizens and great leaders declaring their freedom from King George III in the late 18th century. Nearly 250 years later, American foreign policy in Afghanistan and in Iraq is driven by an idea so inscribed into the American psyche that it amounts to a syndrome: Cast off the tyrannical leader, then citizens and leaders alike will band together to bring about the freedom that a tyrant's presence alone precluded. It happened in America; surely it will happen everywhere else. Thus our war of liberation, to free Iraq of its King George III.

In both Afghanistan and in Iraq we have won the war, but we stand in danger of losing what we won because our foreign policy suffers from the King George Syndrome. Freedom is neither a spontaneous nor a universal aspiration. Other goods captivate the minds of peoples from other lands, order, honor and tribal loyalties being the most obvious. And because these other goods orient these people no less powerfully than freedom orients us, we are apt to be sorely surprised when peoples who are liberated turn to new tyrants who can ensure order; to terrorists who die for the honor of their country or of Islam; and to tribal warlords whose winner-take-all mentality is corrosive to the pluralism and toleration that are the very hallmarks of modern democracy. [ complete article ]

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Who will save Abu-Mazen?
The U.S. leaves him hanging

By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, August 11, 2003

Abu-Mazen will fall before the end of October--this conviction is gaining ground in leading Palestinian circles.

This forecast is based on the belief that Abu-Mazen will not get anything, neither from the Americans nor from Sharon. No release for most of the prisoners, no complete removal of the checkpoints inside the Palestinian territories, no stop to the building of the wall, no total withdrawal of the army from Palestinian towns, no lifting of the blockade on President Arafat, no freeze of the settlements, no dismantling of the settlement outposts that were put up in the last two and a half years (as stipulated by the Road Map).

If they had wanted to "help Abu-Mazen", to quote the formula current in Washington, they would have fulfilled at least some of these demands. But nothing of the sort has happened. The well publicized release of a handful of prisoners, most of whom where due to be released anyhow, only highlighted the absence of goodwill and increased the anger.

Abu-Mazen became Prime Minister because the Americans demanded it. The Palestinians hoped that the Americans would give him things that they were unwilling to grant Yasser Arafat. This would have meant the US exerting real pressure on Sharon in order to compel him to deliver the goods. This has not happened. The terrible conditions of life in the occupied territories have not improved. In some places they have even deteriorated. [ complete article ]

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Preventive war 'the supreme crime'
By Noam Chomsky, ZNet, August 11, 2003

September 2002 was marked by three events of considerable importance, closely related. The United States, the most powerful state in history, announced a new national security strategy asserting that it will maintain global hegemony permanently. Any challenge will be blocked by force, the dimension in which the US reigns supreme. At the same time, the war drums began to beat to mobilise the population for an invasion of Iraq. And the campaign opened for the mid-term congressional elections, which would determine whether the administration would be able to carry forward its radical international and domestic agenda. [ complete article ]

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What liberation?
By Kimberly Sevcik, Mother Jones, July/August, 2003

Walking the streets of Herat, Afghanistan's second-largest city, you would never guess that women here live in fear. Life in the city seems peaceful -- families ride, four to a bicycle, down wide, cypress-lined boulevards, and the bazaars are crowded with shoppers buying oranges and almonds and foil-wrapped toffees imported from Iran. "Life in Herat is better than life is for women in most parts of Afghanistan," says 40-year-old Aysha Jalili, who returned last year from Canada to help rebuild her native country. "Women once again have opportunities here."

Behind closed doors, however, women tell other stories -- stories of a place where daily life is still governed by restrictions that recall the morality policing of the Taliban. A gynecologist, who asks to be called Dr. Afzali for fear of retribution, tells me that she is called to Herat's hospital at least five times a week to perform "chastity tests" on women who have been arrested for talking to men who are not their husbands, brothers, or fathers. [ complete article ]

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Inside an enemy cell
By Scott Johnson, Newsweek, August 18, 2003

Inside one of the Soviet-style houses, up a flight of stairs, was a small family apartment where three Iraqi resistance fighters had agreed to be interviewed. They emerged from a back room, armed with AK-47s and grenades, their faces hidden by red-and-white kaffiyehs. Seating themselves on floor mats, they talked about the war against America. Their group, calling itself the Army of Mohammed, has claimed responsibility for the deaths of at least 15 U.S. soldiers since the fall of Saddam Hussein. "We did kill U.S. soldiers and we destroyed some of their vehicles and equipment," said the leader of the three, calling himself Mohammed al-Rawi. "We will do it again."

Such threats worry Bush officials more than they want to admit. "We've made good progress," the president said last week, marking the 100th day since he declared an end to major combat. "Iraq is more secure." Nevertheless, 56 Americans were killed in action during those 100 days, an additional 404 Coalition forces were wounded badly enough to be knocked out of duty, and there's no sign that the attacks are letting up. On the contrary, the resistance seems to be getting bigger, smarter and more organized. U.S. officials in Baghdad have estimated its total strength in the thousands, and recently acknowledged that its efforts may be coordinated at the regional level, if not nationally. [ complete article ]

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Iran-Contra, amplified
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, August 12, 2003

A specter of the Iran-Contra affair is haunting Washington. Even some of the people and countries are the same. And the methods - particularly the pursuit by a network of well-placed individuals of a covert, parallel foreign policy that is at odds with official policy - are definitely the same. [ complete article ]

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He saw it coming
The former Bushie who knew Iraq would go to pot

By Fred Kaplan, Slate, August 5, 2003

Among the many remarks that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz no doubt wishes he hadn't made, the following, from prewar congressional testimony last February, stands out:

"It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine."

It's one thing to be wrong. It's another to be incapable of imagining yourself wrong. Much of what has gone wrong in the Bush administration's postwar Iraq policy can be attributed to a failure of imagination. But there was no excuse for this particular failure. In the previous dozen years, U.S. armed forces had taken part in five major post-conflict nation-building exercises, four of them in predominantly Muslim nations. There is a record of what works and what doesn't. Had Wolfowitz studied the record, or talked with those who had, he wouldn't have made such a wrongheaded remark. [ complete article ]

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A call to arms, a troubled scientist and the unravelling of a mysterious death
By Paul Vallely, The Independent, August 11, 2003

Almost a year has passed since Tony Blair's Government issued its first fateful dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This was not what became known as the "dodgy dossier". That came later. But, as it happened, the controversy surrounding the first dossier on the threat from Saddam Hussein was far more grave.

Dr David Kelly, a former Porton Down scientist and UN weapons inspector in Iraq, was among those involved in compiling it. He had worked for the Ministry of Defence as an expert on biological warfare for the past four years. The dossier was published on 24 September 2002. It contained the portentous warning that Saddam Hussein had chemical or biological weapons ready to use within 45 minutes of the order being given.

We now know, that David Kelly was expressing reservations about this core claim. We know this - even before the Hutton Inquiry takes its first evidence today - because since Dr Kelly's body was found near his Oxfordshire home on 18 July a stream of intriguing new details have emerged. [ complete article ]

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A debate over U.S. 'empire' builds in unexpected circles
By Dan Morgan, Washington Post, August 10, 2003

At forums sponsored by policy think tanks, on radio talk shows and around Cleveland Park dinner tables, one topic has been hotter than the weather in Washington this summer: Has the United States become the very "empire" that the republic's founders heartily rejected?

Liberal scholars have been raising the question but, more strikingly, so have some Republicans with impeccable conservative credentials.

For example, C. Boyden Gray, former counsel to President George H.W. Bush, has joined a small group that is considering ways to "educate Americans about the dangers of empire and the need to return to our founding traditions and values," according to an early draft of a proposed mission statement.

"Rogue Nation," a new book by former Reagan administration official Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Washington-based Economic Strategy Institute, contains a chapter that dubs the United States "The Unacknowledged Empire." And at the Nixon Center in Washington, established in 1994 by former president Richard M. Nixon, President Dimitri K. Simes is preparing a magazine-length essay that will examine the "American imperial predicament." [ complete article ]

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A villager attacks U.S. troops, but why?
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, August 11, 2003

American officials contend that the vast majority of the attacks [against U.S. troops] are driven by remnants of former president Saddam Hussein's government and the Baath Party he used for 35 years to hold power. Men like Khalaf [who was killed on August 1, while trying to fire rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. convoy], they say, are the foot soldiers lured by bounties that run as high as $5,000, perhaps motivated by loyalty to the fallen government, or by fear from threats to their family if they refuse to fight.

But the portrait of Khalaf that emerged from interviews last week suggests a more complicated figure.

A 32-year-old father of six, he was an army deserter who, villagers say, had nothing to do with the Baath Party. He prayed at the mosque on Fridays, although he was not a fervently religious man. His hardscrabble life was shaped by the grinding poverty of his village, whose burdens have mounted since the government's fall on April 9. In the end, many here speculated he was changed irrevocably by the perceived day-to-day humiliations of occupation.

To some of his friends and family, he represents an Iraqi everyman, a recruit whose very commonality does not bode well for U.S. troops battling a four-month guerrilla campaign in northern and western Iraq that few in Albu Alwan seem to believe will end soon. [ complete article ]

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Family shot dead by panicking U.S. troops
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, August 10, 2003

The abd al-Kerim family didn't have a chance. American soldiers opened fire on their car with no warning and at close quarters. They killed the father and three of the children, one of them only eight years old. Now only the mother, Anwar, and a 13-year-old daughter are alive to tell how the bullets tore through the windscreen and how they screamed for the Americans to stop.

"We never did anything to the Americans and they just killed us," the heavily pregnant Ms abd al-Kerim said. "We were calling out to them 'Stop, stop, we are a family', but they kept on shooting."

The story of how Adel abd al-Kerim and three of his children were killed emerged yesterday, exactly 100 days after President George Bush declared the war in Iraq was over. In Washington yesterday, Mr Bush declared in a radio address: "Life is returning to normal for the Iraqi people ... All Americans can be proud of what our military and provisional authorities have achieved in Iraq."

But in this city Iraqi civilians still die needlessly almost every day at the hands of nervous, trigger-happy American soldiers. [ complete article ]

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Depiction of threat outgrew supporting evidence
By Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, August 10, 2003

His name was Joe, from the U.S. government. He carried 40 classified slides and a message from the Bush administration.

An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S. diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32 floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake.

At issue was Iraq's efforts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The U.S. government said those tubes were for centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. But the IAEA, the world's nuclear watchdog, had uncovered strong evidence that Iraq was using them for conventional rockets.

Joe described the rocket story as a transparent Iraqi lie. According to people familiar with his presentation, which circulated before and afterward among government and outside specialists, Joe said the specialized aluminum in the tubes was "overspecified," "inappropriate" and "excessively strong." No one, he told the inspectors, would waste the costly alloy on a rocket.

In fact, there was just such a rocket. According to knowledgeable U.S. and overseas sources, experts from U.S. national laboratories reported in December to the Energy Department and U.S. intelligence analysts that Iraq was manufacturing copies of the Italian-made Medusa 81. Not only the Medusa's alloy, but also its dimensions, to the fraction of a millimeter, matched the disputed aluminum tubes. [ complete article ]

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Meetings with Iran-Contra arms dealer confirmed
By Bradley Graham and Peter Slevin, Washington Post, August 9, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged yesterday that Pentagon officials met secretly with a discredited expatriate Iranian arms merchant who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal of the mid-1980s, characterizing the contact as an unexceptional effort to gain possibly useful information.

While Rumsfeld said that the contact occurred more than a year ago and that nothing came of it, his aides scrambled during the day to piece together more details amid other reports that Rumsfeld's account may have been incomplete.

Last night, a senior defense official disclosed that another meeting with the Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, occurred in June in Paris. The official said that, while the first contact, in late 2001, had been formally sanctioned by the U.S. government in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism, the second one resulted from "an unplanned, unscheduled encounter."

A senior administration official said, however, that Pentagon staff members held one or two other meetings with Ghorbanifar last year in Italy. The sessions so troubled Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the official said, that he complained to Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser. [ complete article ]

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Faith & Reason: Forget Osama bin Laden, the real brains behind al-Qa'ida is back
By Ian Linden, The Independent, August 9, 2003

In the Boy's Own paper prose reserved for such matters we were told that the "Number Two to Bin Laden at the top of the al-Qa'ida terror network" resurfaced last week. At least a recent tape of his did. "We tell America one thing: what you have seen so far is nothing but the first skirmishes," said Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a chilling warning for the United States if any of the al- Qa'ida prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are harmed. Given international concern over the legality of their detention, it was not a na´ve statement.

Everyone needs a name to flag up a news story and nobody likes things complicated. The point is not to understand but condemn and demonise or idolise. And the one and only name that instantly denotes "Islamic" international terrorism today is Osama bin Laden. But it's the wrong name. Or, at least, the spotlight is misdirected. For the privileged, rich young Saudi Osama brought mainly money and an eager activism to the formation of al-Qa'ida, while the Egyptian al-Zawahiri brought the ideas, the intellectual weight and behind-the-scenes leadership. Money talks of course. Ideas grab hold of people. You can freeze assets. But not ideas. [ complete article ]

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Pentagon official's clearance stripped
By Knut Royce, Newsday, August 3, 2003

A Pentagon official associated with a controversial Pentagon unit run by foreign policy hawks has been stripped of his security clearance after the FBI linked him to a Lebanese-American businessman under federal weapons investigation, according to administration officials and intelligence sources.

The official, F. Michael Maloof, came to the attention of the FBI and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) shortly after a .45-caliber handgun was seized from the businessman, Imad el Hage, at Washington's Dulles International Airport in January. It was the handgun that led the FBI to Maloof, the sources said. [ complete article ]

U.S. revokes security clearance for Pentagon employee
Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, August 1, 2003

A veteran Pentagon employee who was a key player in the effort to find links between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida has been stripped of his security clearance, according to senior U.S. officials.

The employee, F. Michael Maloof, is associated with a Lebanese-American businessman who is under federal investigation for possible involvement in a gun-running scheme to Liberia, the West African nation embroiled in civil war. The businessman, Imad El Haje, approached Maloof on behalf of Syria to seek help in arranging a communications channel between Syria and the Defense Department. [ Complete article ]

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U.S. admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq
By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, August 10, 2003

American pilots dropped the controversial incendiary agent napalm on Iraqi troops during the advance on Baghdad. The attacks caused massive fireballs that obliterated several Iraqi positions.

The Pentagon denied using napalm at the time, but Marine pilots and their commanders have confirmed that they used an upgraded version of the weapon against dug-in positions. They said napalm, which has a distinctive smell, was used because of its psychological effect on an enemy.

A 1980 UN convention banned the use against civilian targets of napalm, a terrifying mixture of jet fuel and polystyrene that sticks to skin as it burns. The US, which did not sign the treaty, is one of the few countries that makes use of the weapon. It was employed notoriously against both civilian and military targets in the Vietnam war. [ complete article ]

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On terrorism, Methodism, Saudi "Wahhabism" and the censored 9-11 report
By Gary Leupp, Counterpunch, August 8, 2003

Two scandals unfold simultaneously: the larger, centering on administration lies concerning the threat posed by Iraq, and concerning Baghdad's supposed connections to al-Qaeda; the smaller (which might be a tempest in a teapot) on alleged connections between al-Qaeda and Saudi officialdom. They may well impact one another as Congress resumes its investigations next month. While it seems implausible that Riyadh would deliberately promote terrorist attacks on the U.S., the neocons running the show in Washington have asserted propositions equally improbable, and (so far) gotten away with it; and they would very much like to see regime change in Saudi Arabia. Conceivably, as they feel the heat of investigations and mounting public concern about the results of the war on Iraq, they will feel the need to create a distraction. What better way to do that than to whip up fears about Saudi Arabia, which some of them consider the real "kernel of evil" in the Middle East? [ complete article ]

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