|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Bush bets that the world will help him in Iraq
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, September 7, 2003
Now that President Bush is going back to the United Nations for troops and money to save his occupation strategy in Iraq, the question is whether he has burned too many bridges to get the help he needs.
More than a few countries have taken not-so-quiet satisfaction in watching Mr. Bush move, in four months, from triumphal declarations to a plea to the world to help an occupying army beset by troubles. Some are clearly tempted to think of this as payback time. [complete article]
CAMPAIGN TO WIN HEARTS AND MINDS OVER:
Rumsfeld to Iraqis - It's your fault
Iraqis to Rumsfeld - Go to hell!
Rumsfeld lashes out at Iraqi critics
By Matt Kelley, Assoicated Press, September 6, 2003
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld lashed out at Iraqi critics of the U.S.-led occupation Saturday, demanding that they give American forces more information about saboteurs and terrorists.
"Instead of pointing fingers at the security forces of the coalition, ... it's important for the Iraqi people to step up and provide information," Rumsfeld said at a news conference.
Many Iraqis, as well as some members of Congress, have said they are frustrated that security remains a problem in Iraq four months after President Bush (news - web sites) declared that major combat had ended. Rumsfeld acknowledged Iraq is not as safe as it should be but said the fault does not lie with American forces. [complete article]
From Baghdad, Riverbend writes:
Rumsfeld is in Iraq. It's awful to see him strutting all over the place. I hate the hard, smug look that seems plastered on his face… some people just have cruel features. The reaction to seeing him on tv differs from the reaction to seeing Bremer or one of the puppets. The latter are greeted with jeers and scorn. Seeing Rumsfeld is something else- there's resentment and disgust. It feels like he's here to add insult to injury… you know, just in case anyone forgets we're an occupied country.
Palestinian PM resigns, Israel wounds Hamas founder
By Wafa Amr and Mohammed Assadi, Reuters, September 6, 2003
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation on Saturday in a power struggle with Yasser Arafat, dealing a possibly fatal setback for a U.S.-backed plan for peace with Israel.
Underscoring peacemakers' plight, Israeli forces fired a missile into a house in Gaza City in an apparent bid to kill the spiritual leader of the biggest Palestinian militant movement Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was slightly wounded.
It was not known whether Abbas's resignation would be accepted by Arafat, who is wary of being blamed for a collapse of peacemaking and of Israeli threats to expel him. [complete article]
WAR ON TERRORISM - VACATION OPPORTUNITY!
"THE ULTIMATE MISSION TO ISRAEL"
While most people might prefer a vacation away from the war on terrorism, Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, is offering a luxury package this November for "English-speaking professionals" who want to get closer to the action. Participants will not only be able to enjoy "small airplanes flight over the Galilee, moonlight cruise on the Kinneret Lake, a cook-out barbecue and a traditional Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem's Old City," but also see an "exhibition by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) undercover soldiers who carry out targeted assassinations of Palestinian terrorists and deep penetration raids in Arab territory." On day three of this seven-day package, participants will be able to witness the "security trial of Hamas terrorists" in an Israeli military court. The complete package (excluding airfares) is $1,480 with an additional $500 to $5,000 donation to the Center to "aid in the fight against Arab terror."
Shiite militia deploys forces
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 6, 2003
Dozens of armed men belonging to a militia loyal to Iraq's best-organized Shiite Muslim party deployed today in this sacred city, posing a challenge to U.S. forces that have vowed to disband them.
The Badr Brigade, a force of lightly armed fighters once said to number 10,000, was supposed to have been disarmed early in the U.S. occupation. But in the wake of the assassination last week of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, killed with scores of others in a car bombing outside the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, the brigade has returned to the streets of this southern city.
Men in black uniforms with armbands that read "Badr" in Arabic were visible throughout Najaf today. About a dozen were posted atop the shrine, the most sacred to Shiites in Iraq, and others manned checkpoints on roads leading to its grounds. Several pickup trucks, carrying men with Kalashnikov rifles, roamed the city's streets and the perimeter of the shrine.
"We don't depend on the Americans, we depend on ourselves," said Montadhir Naim, a 23-year-old militiaman. [complete article]
Meanwhile, Associated Press reports that 'U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said Saturday the armed men were in Najaf "with the full cooperation of the Coalition Provisional Authority and in full cooperation with the coalition forces." ' Sounds like Bremer's busy sending out retroactive commands.
MICHAEL MEACHER AND THE 9-11 CONSPIRACY
Paul Woodward, The War in Context, September 6, 2003
This war on terrorism is bogus, an article by Michael Meacher appearing in today's Guardian is currently bouncing all over the Internet drawing gasps of shock and awe. Aren't these claims shocking, coming from one of Tony Blair's former ministers? Maybe not. Meacher is not the first ex-minister to discover that being out of office means lots more time for surfing the Web.
Michael Meacher is regurgitating claims that can be found on most of the web sites that promote conspiracy theories about 9-11. In fact, I suspect that that's where he drew most of his information from -- citations not withstanding. I don't think the Guardian would have published this article had it been written by any of the secondhand sources on whom Meacher clearly relied. The fact that it was written by a former government minister doesn't give it credibility as much as it provides the Guardian with a flimsy excuse. (When a newspaper makes headlines - Meacher sparks fury over claims on September 11 and Iraq war - from a controversy that they themselves have stirred up, it's best to conclude that there are idle hands in the newsroom.)
To see the war on terrorism as part of a political agenda whose goal is U.S. global hegemony does not require believing that the group of neoconservatives pushing that agenda had any foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks. They are, as far as I'm concerned, opportunists, not conspirators. Let's face it, their opportunity depended on hanging chads (Florida) -- perhaps the best evidence of their opportunistic as opposed to conspiratorial tendencies. (Isn't it strange that a group of people who, conspiracy theorists would have us believe, had the power to engineer a plot requiring the coordination of international terrorists, U.S. intelligence, military and civilian administrators, were nevertheless hamstrung when it came to securing a convincing election result?)
Conspiracy theories always involve reducing a hugely complex set of variables, to a rather narrow set of "facts" that with the benefit of hindsight provide "evidence" of a sinister plan. They provide, above all, a huge distraction from the serious and often tedious process of following current events and trying to understand what's going on in a world where chance is often as instrumental as design.
The story that most of the anti-war movement seems to be missing right now is that Iraq is already proving that the grand imperial ambition of the neoconservatives is the stuff of fantasy. Over the coming months I expect to see the much feared neocons gradually sidelined. That doesn't mean that they won't be looking for new opportunities to make a power grab, but at least for now they're losing their friends and supporters and in America, no one gets shunned faster than someone who is perceived as a loser -- especially in the run-up to an election.
Hussein link to 9/11 lingers in many minds
By Dana Milbank and Claudia Deane, Washington Post, September 6, 2003
Nearing the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks, even though the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence of this.
Sixty-nine percent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the latest Washington Post poll. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.
The main reason for the endurance of the apparently groundless belief, experts in public opinion say, is a deep and enduring distrust of Hussein that makes him a likely suspect in anything related to Middle East violence. "It's very easy to picture Saddam as a demon," said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University and an expert on public opinion and war. "You get a general fuzz going around: People know they don't like al Qaeda, they are horrified by September 11th, they know this guy is a bad guy, and it's not hard to put those things together." [complete article]
Envoys urge U.S. to cede more power to U.N.
By Felcity Barringer, New York Times, September 6, 2003
Despite swift opposition from France and Germany, diplomats here and around the world said today that the American draft of a Security Council resolution on Iraq could be a basis for consensus if Washington would cede more political power to the United Nations and speed up the timetable for transferring authority to Iraqis. [complete article]
British charity worker killed in Iraq gun attack
By Rebecca Allison, Richard Norton-Taylor and Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 6, 2003
Two civilians, a Briton and an American working in Iraq have been shot and killed in separate incidents, it emerged last night, fuelling concerns that guerrillas launching attacks on the military occupiers may be widening their targets. [complete article]
Cleric calls for resistance to U.S. occupation
By Tarek al-Issawi, Associated Press, September 5, 2003
A senior Shiite cleric called Friday for peaceful resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and warned his followers were running out of patience. In Baghdad, gunmen attacked worshippers after prayers at a Sunni mosque, wounding three people.
Imam Sadreddine al-Qobanji spoke to more than 15,000 people who jammed the Imam Ali mosque, Iraq's holiest Shiite Muslim shrine. He said last week's bombing outside the mosque -- which killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and dozens of other people -- was aimed at sowing discord in Iraq.
"Once we find that this road (peaceful resistance) has come to a dead end, we will adopt other means," said al-Qobanji, who had been al-Hakim's deputy. [complete article]
Iraqis threaten to go it alone
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, September 5, 2003
Close to five months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, frustration with the slow pace of rebuilding and the rapid decline in security is giving prominent Iraqis a platform to promote going it alone.
In two key spheres in which the US-led coalition is having a difficult time asserting its authority - security and governance - prominent Iraqis are threatening to ignore or upstage the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) plans for Iraq.
Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum, a highly respected Shiite cleric who withdrew from the interim Governing Council this week, says that he may set up militias around Iraq to address deteriorating security. [complete article]
Iraq foreign minister says no Turkish troops
By Joseph Logan, Reuters, September 5, 2003
Iraq's new foreign minister said on Thursday Turkish troops should not be let into Iraq as peacekeepers as their presence could undermine the security of the country rather than improve it.
Hoshiyar Zebari said all Iraq's neighbours should stay out in order to stabilise the country.
The appointment of a Kurd as foreign minister shows the growing political pull of Iraqi Kurds, whose influence Turkey fears could fire separatism among its own Kurdish community.
"It is far better for everybody to keep all of Iraq's neighbours from conducting any peacekeeping mission because each and every one of them when they come into the country are bringing their own political agenda," Zebari told Reuters in an interview. [complete article]
Under the blue flag
By Anthony Cordesman, ABC News, September 5, 2003
Asking the U.N.to play a military role in Iraq may or may not be part of the solution.
The basic problem is that the United Nations has no forces of its own, and each U.N. command and multinational force has to be built up in a different way and around a different mission.
The fact that a U.N. flag flies over the result does not mean that it represents anything other than a coalition operation with all of the military problems involved. [complete article]
Fire the neocons
By Paul Craig Roberts, Washington Times, September 5, 2003
Do you remember the ridicule neocons heaped on critics who predicted a quagmire in Iraq? Now neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagen are calling for more troops and more money -- two more Army divisions and an additional $60 billion, to be exact. "Next spring, if disaster looms," they write, "it may be too late."
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona -- who experienced, but has forgotten, the Vietnam quagmire -- has taken the bait and is urging President Bush to send more troops. But there are no troops to send. The Pentagon doesn't know where it is going to get the troops to carry on the occupation of Iraq at the present level of troop strength. [complete article]
(Editor's note: The neocon-friendly Washington Times obviously didn't have the stomach to title this piece "Fire the neocons" -- they chose instead the cryptic "The U.N. and Iraq." Nevertheless, columnist Paul Craig Roberts is single-minded and unequivocal in appealing to President Bush to get rid of his neoconservative advisors. He concludes, "It is time Mr. Bush replaced his delusional neocon advisers with wise people of integrity.")
General Zinni criticizes Bush's postwar policy
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, September 5, 2003
A former U.S. commander for the Middle East who still consults for the State Department yesterday blasted the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq, saying it lacked a coherent strategy, a serious plan and sufficient resources.
"There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, and so, he said, "we're in danger of failing."
In an impassioned speech to several hundred Marine and Navy officers and others, Zinni invoked the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s. "My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice," said Zinni, who was severely wounded while serving as an infantry officer in that conflict. "I ask you, is it happening again?" [complete article]
Iraq's fresh start may be another false dawn
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, September 5, 2003
Six times since the fall of Saddam Hussein British and US officials have summoned journalists to briefings on Iraq. Six times the story has been the same: there have been mistakes, but from now on it's going to be different.
Once again, amid plans for a UN-mandated peacekeeping force, there is talk of a fresh start. Or perhaps just another false start. [complete article]
Regardless of outcome, resolution poses risks
By Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2003
The Bush administration faces enormous risks in going back to the United Nations for help in Iraq -- with no guarantees that it will win passage of a new resolution or, even if it does, that it will be able to persuade skeptical, nervous and cranky allies to provide the infusion of foreign troops and funds it wants.
But the United States had little choice, according to U.S. officials and analysts as well as foreign envoys.
A confluence of factors -- including congressional pressure, public anxiety, the approaching presidential campaign, the impending new U.N. session, worsening violence in Iraq and growing impatience among Iraqis -- forced President Bush to return to the world body and put his Iraq policy on the line, the array of sources said.
Although the U.N. Security Council refused to endorse military action against Iraq earlier this year, going back to the arena of one of the administration's worst defeats appears to be the only way to address problems the world's mightiest military and strongest economy cannot resolve on its own, they added.
The biggest risk is being rejected -- again. [complete article]
US 'corporate invasion' brings no respite from war
By Justin Huggler and Seb Walker, The Independent, September 5, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad yesterday. Not to a skyline bristling with cranes but to a city where there is still no electricity for much of the day because less power is being generated than under Saddam Hussein.
Almost five months after the overthrow of Saddam, entire neighbourhoods are still without phone lines. The government offices bombed in the war are still blackened shells. Next to them stand the burnt-out ruins of ministries and shopping centres set on fire in the looting that followed.
But the US Defence Secretary was unlikely to see those, cocooned in security to keep him from the seething anger against the American occupation. Much of Baghdad is still an armed American camp. The country's infrastructure is in a worse state than it was under Saddam.
One of the accusations levelled at the US invasion was that it was simply paving the way for a subsequent American corporate invasion. But despite billions of dollars of contracts won by American companies, there are no visible signs of reconstruction at all. [complete article]
The nail in the wood: an interview with Ismail Abu Shanab
By Paul Hilder, Open Democracy, September 4, 2003
I met Ismail Abu Shanab in the summer of 2002, in Gaza. Everyone knew where he lived. My young friend Yusuf, who attended the Islamic University with his son, proudly led me to their home on the outskirts of Gaza City. We rang the bell. His daughter led us inside to a book-lined living room where Abu Shanab, a strong-jawed man in white robes, offered us lemonade. No bodyguards in sight.
Just three days before our meeting, Salah Shehadeh, leader of Hamas's military wing and formerly Abu Shanab's cellmate, had been assassinated with a one-ton bomb. It demolished a refugee-camp block and killed fourteen civilians. But I felt no fear. Abu Shanab was the most moderate leader of Hamas's political wing, not at that time a target. This was Hamas's ceasefire negotiator, a man who advocated engagement in parliamentary process, who was openly prepared to entertain the two-state solution.
On 21 August 2003, Ismail Abu Shanab was assassinated by an Israeli helicopter missile strike while travelling by car in Gaza. Government press releases termed him "terrorist", "operative".
But veering off-message, an Israeli security source told the Washington Post after his killing, "To what extent that person was involved [in terrorism] or not is not important. What is important is that this man... is one of the people who makes decisions about what kind of policies Hamas should adopt."
We talked for an hour. He was no liberal, and no innocent. But without him, Hamas will be very different. [complete article]
Surviving for what?
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram, September 4, 2003
History will judge what lessons Israel will take on board from the Or Commission's investigation into the killings of 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel during the "internal Intifada" of October 2000. There is no need for history concerning Israel's policies towards those other 3.2 million Palestinians under its charge in Gaza and the West Bank. These policies are current, military and openly declared as a "new and different chapter" by Israel's Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz.
They consist of severing all contacts with the Palestinian Authority (and therefore all obligations under the roadmap); round-the- clock arrest and search raids in West Bank Palestinian cities and villages; warnings that Yasser Arafat may "soon" have to be banished and Gaza invaded; and, above all, a relentless war against Hamas at "all levels of its leadership". [complete article]
'This is no good, sir!'
The Guardian, September 5, 2003
The distinguished Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa reports from Iraq
The only authority [in Baghdad] is represented by the tanks, the armoured cars, trucks and jeeps, and by foot patrols of US soldiers who cross and re-cross streets all over, armed with rifles and submachine guns, making the buildings shake with the power of their war vehicles. Soldiers who, on a closer look, seem as helpless and frightened as the citizens of Baghdad themselves. Since I arrived the attacks against them have been increasing systematically, and have already killed 30 and injured around 300. It is not surprising that they seem suspicious and in bad spirits, with fingers on triggers, patrolling streets full of people with whom they cannot communicate, amidst a hellish heat, which for them, dressed in helmets, bullet-proof jackets and other war paraphernalia, must be even worse than for the average local. I tried to talk to them - many being adolescents not yet capable of growing a beard - on four occasions, but I got only very concise replies. They were all pouring sweat, eyeballs perpetually moving, like distrustful grasshoppers.
But Morgana, my daughter, succeeded in conversing on a more personal level with a soldier of Mexican origin who suddenly opened his heart from atop his tank: "I've had it! I've been here for three months and I cannot stand it any longer! I ask myself what the hell I'm doing here every day! This morning they killed two buddies. I can't wait to go back to my wife and child, damn it!" [complete article]
New Iraq coalition troops face Tower of Babel woes
By Orly Halpern, Globe and Mail, September 4, 2003
At the gate to Camp Babylon, the new face of occupation looked strained.
Despite their shiny NATO-type weapons and new uniforms bearing the Arabic translation of "Poland," four fresh arrivals to the Iraq front came across as visitors in a very foreign land.
The new troops were unable to talk with local citizens, with their fellow members of the occupying coalition, or with their U.S. commanders, even though they were supposed to keep track of everyone coming and going at Camp Babylon. [...]
While English-Arabic translators are plentiful among Karbala's one million citizens, there is a distinct lack of Bulgarian-Arabic and Polish-Arabic speakers.
Ironically, few local officials are complaining.
"We feel more relaxed with the Polish and the Bulgarians," said deputy mayor Abdul Aziz Nasrawi. "I think they are calmer because they also came from a dictatorship and they are used to a low standard of living." [complete article]
Does the U.N. U-turn signal a comeback for Colin Powell?
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, September 4, 2003
The whiff of a battle royal comes wafting up the Potomac. It has all the markings of a bureaucratic stink bomb of a fight, with fisticuffs, body blows, and incessant acts of treachery. The gong for the first round sounded in today's Washington Post, which reports that President George W. Bush agreed to offer more authority to a U.N. peacekeeping force in Iraq after Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has long favored a more multilateral approach, came into the Oval Office last Tuesday -- Bush's first day back from the ranch -- and announced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were on his side. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, "whose office had been slow to embrace the U.N. resolution," the Post notes, "quickly agreed." As, of course, did Bush.
Talk about "coalition forces"! Powell, whose political demise has been forecast practically since he joined this administration, may -- once again -- be back in action, possibly just aft of the helm. And, if that proves true, his route to regained power will have been through his foe's own backdoor. [complete article]
See also Powell and Joint Chiefs nudged Bush toward U.N.
Full command or no involvement
By Amin Saikal, Sydney Morning Herald, September 5, 2003
After lambasting the United Nations for months as an ineffective and irrelevant organisation, the US President, George Bush, has turned to it for help.
In proposing a new UN resolution recognising "that international support for restoration of conditions of stability and security is essential to the well-being of the people of Iraq" he wants the UN to share the burden and blame in Iraq.
It would be erroneous of the UN Security Council to authorise the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping and peace-enforcing force without a full commitment from the US to allow it to play a determining role in administering and rebuilding Iraq, and stabilising the region, with a clear set of objectives within a specific timeline. [complete article]
Just fix it
By Molly Ivins, WorkingForChange, September 4, 2003
It is insufficient to stand around saying, "I told you Iraq would be a disaster." Believe me, saying, "I told you so" is a satisfaction so sour it will gag you when people, including Americans, are dying every day.
I think our greatest strength is still pragmatism. OK, this isn't working, now what? In an effort to be constructive, even in the face of a developing catastrophe, I have been combing the public prints in an effort to find something positive to suggest. [complete article]
By Richard Norton-Taylor and Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, September 4, 2003
A senior [British] government intelligence official who was deeply involved in the production of the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction yesterday accused the government of "over-egging" the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and of ignoring concerns about central claims made in the document.
Brian Jones, a top analyst in the defence intelligence staff, described how the "shutters came down", preventing experts on chemical and biological weapons from expressing widespread disquiet about the language and assumptions in the dossier.
He told the Hutton inquiry that he and fellow intelligence officials regarded as "nebulous" the hotly disputed claim that Iraqi forces could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes - the assertion at the centre of the row between Downing Street and the BBC.
The claim, he said, came from a single but "secondary" source whose purpose might have been to "influence rather than inform" British intelligence agencies. [complete article]
Iraq move points to U.S. limit
By Stephen J. Glain, Boston Globe, September 4, 2003
By allowing the United Nations a significant role in postwar Iraq, the Bush administration is ceding authority over what it regards as an important asset in its war on terrorism: a platform from which it can extinguish radical Islam and cultivate a democratic Middle East.
The decision to seek UN help, while not unexpected, validated concerns among security specialists that US forces alone will not be enough to stabilize the country. But it also exposes the limits of President Bush's doctrine to use force -- preemptive and unilateral when necessary -- to subdue dictators and extremists on the front lines of the war on terrorism.
"For the militants, now is their golden moment," said Isam Al-Khafaji, a former Iraqi dissident and a scholar-in-residence at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. "America's credibility in the region is at worrisome low levels. The situation could go either way." [complete article]
MORE TROOPS NEEDED IN IRAQ?
Apparently Donald Rumsfeld thinks that's a trick question - that's why his answer is "no" and "yes."
Push for multinational force in Iraq
Agence France-Presse (via News.com.au), September 4, 2003
[Rumsfeld, speaking while en route to the Middle East today,] insisted US commanders believe that the estimated 140,000 US troops now in the country were sufficient.
"Should the total number go up for security? Yes, I think so, but I think it's going to be on the Iraqi side and on the international side more than the US side," he said. [complete article]
Iraqis' struggle for peace
By Paul Wood, BBC News, September 4, 2003
Outside a Baghdad television shop, two men argue fiercely. One of the sets atop a stack still in boxes crashes to the ground. An American soldier in a passing Humvee jerks around and opens fire. One of the men is shot dead. The Humvee does not stop.
This is typical of the many stories you hear in Baghdad these days. A foreign cameraman was there, so the details can largely be confirmed. It shows how this whole city is wracked with tension. [...]
You often hear about the British or American soldiers who die in the daily guerrilla or "terrorist" attacks, but for ordinary civilians here, Baghdad also has the highest murder rate in the world. On a typical day, the city's mortuary may get 40 bodies with gunshot wounds. [complete article]
'They deal in danger'
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 4, 2003
Dayikh's life and, perhaps more telling, his death provide a glimpse into the obscure world of the campaign against U.S. troops occupying Iraq -- of the interplay between crime and resistance, of the fear that still prevails in the parts of Baghdad where the U.S. presence and police are rarely seen, and of the anger that the lawlessness breeds.
A known criminal, suspected guerrilla and most likely both, Dayikh lived on the fringes of Baghdad's underworld, where residents say U.S. officials and their Iraqi allies are unprepared and ill-equipped to face resistance that has persisted for months. [complete article]
'Targeted killings' strengthen Hamas as innocents die
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, September 4, 2003
Sana Al-Daour, 10, was sitting in the back seat with her father, mother and sister on the way to buy books for the new school year when the missile hit their Mercedes taxi.
She died this week from the injuries she suffered six days earlier because the taxi happened to be overtaking a car containing two Hamas militants when it was hit by the first of three missiles from an Israeli helicopter.
As his family handed out dates and coffee in his daughter's mourning tent, Jamil al-Daour, a carpenter, was quietly caustic when asked who he blamed for her death. As if the source of the missile made the question redundant, he said: "I blame my daughter for getting into the car." [complete article]
Thrust onto the throne of an Iraqi district
By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 2003
U.S. Army Capt. Joe Ewers came to Iraq expecting to chase down Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, but it didn't work out that way. He's been thrust into the role of civil administrator and is finding it a tougher, more complex and thankless job than he ever imagined. [...]
His most daunting task is promoting and forming Baghdad's embryonic democracy. He recruits and directs two neighborhood advisory councils that are viewed by the U.S.-led administration of Iraq as the building blocks of the country's future elected government.
Ewers has found democracy to be a hard sell in a country accustomed to repression and state-sponsored mayhem. That and the difficulties he has had meeting residents' expectations in administering his densely populated patch of Baghdad say much about the obstacles ahead as Iraq lurches from dictatorship to democracy. [complete article]
Nice war. Here's the bill
By Donald Hepburn, New York Times, September 3, 2003
In 1991, America's so-called Operation Tin Cup got enough money from its allies to cover the costs of the first Persian Gulf war. In contrast, what could be called "Operation Begging Bowl" after the latest war in Iraq has come up empty, leaving us stuck with the bill for the invasion and occupation -- the full extent of which is only now becoming apparent.
The Bush administration's recent willingness to consider a greater United Nations role on the ground is the first sign that it is aware of how vastly mistaken its assertions about the occupation were. Contrary to the prewar view that Iraq's oil revenues would greatly offset American costs, we now know that Iraq -- with its shattered economy, devastated oil industry and plundered national wealth -- is incapable of making any significant reimbursement of the invasion and occupation costs. And the military expense is only a fraction of the total expense of making Iraq into a functioning country. [complete article]
Europeans' doubt over U.S. policy rises
By Thomas Crampton, International Herald Tribune, September 4, 2003
The yawning political divide between Europe and the United States that was opened by the war in Iraq has continued to widen, according to a new survey of trans-Atlantic attitudes.
The survey of 8,000 Americans and Europeans, conducted by the German Marshall Fund, found citizens on both sides of the Atlantic raising similar concerns about global security, but expressing increasingly divergent views on how to respond.
"It is clear that the trans-Atlantic rift has deepened over the last year," said William Drozdiak, executive director of the Brussels- based Transatlantic Center of the fund. "Europeans are increasingly dismayed by U.S. leadership and the use of U.S. force." [complete article]
Afghan military tied to drug trade
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, September 4, 2003
Opium, and the money it generates, is the engine for the Taliban's resurgence, as evidenced in the growing number of attacks across southern provinces of Afghanistan in recent months. And Afghan warlords who traffic drugs, even if they were useful to America in the past, now pose a dire threat to the future of the country. [complete article]
Israel and Hezbollah trade fire on northern border
By Uri Ash, Haaretz, September 3, 2003
Israel Air Force fighter jets attacked a Hezbollah base in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, destroying the artillery position which hours earlier had fired anti-aircraft shells in the western section of Israel's northern border.
In the wake of Wednesday's strikes and counter-strikes, IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] sources said that Syria, which backs Hezbollah and has a military presence in Lebanon, has not taken the hint, and suggested that more expansive and aggressive action against Syria is now called for. [complete article]
Indonesian VP: United States is 'terrorist king'
Reuters, September 3, 2003
Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz branded America the "terrorist king" Wednesday in remarks at odds with Jakarta's support for the war on terror.
"Actually, who is the terrorist, who is against human rights? The answer is the United States because they attacked Iraq. Moreover, it is the terrorist king, waging war," the official Antara news agency quoted Haz as saying.
It was unclear what prompted Haz to make his remarks in a speech to heads of Muslim boarding schools in Central Java. [complete article]
AND THE JOKERS IN THE PENTAGON THINK THEY DESERVE APPLAUSE FOR BEING "BRUTALLY HONEST"!
The war in Iraq was waged on the pretext that its purpose was to disarm Saddam. In a secret report, the Pentagon now excuses their failed efforts to find weapons of mass destruction on the grounds that "insufficient U.S. government assets existed to accomplish the mission." This begs the question, if on August 29, 2002, President Bush approved "Iraq goals, objectives and strategy," did the plan he was approving actually have as one of its central goals disarmament? Are we to believe that a defense department driven by a sense of urgency to disarm a ruthless dictator, would overlook the need for an effective plan to locate and disarm the weapons that supposedly threatened the world?
"It is a brutally honest report," one of the Pentagon officials, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. "It shows that the military is self-critical -- not just satisfied with 93 percent effectiveness in combat."
U.S. rushed post-Saddam planning
By Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, September 3, 2003
A secret report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff lays the blame for setbacks in Iraq on a flawed and rushed war-planning process that "limited the focus" for preparing for post-Saddam Hussein operations.
The report, prepared last month, said the search for weapons of mass destruction was planned so late in the game that it was impossible for U.S. Central Command to carry out the mission effectively. "Insufficient U.S. government assets existed to accomplish the mission," the classified briefing said.
The report is titled "Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned" and is stamped "secret." A copy was obtained by The Washington Times.
The report also shows that President Bush approved the overall war strategy for Iraq in August last year. That was eight months before the first bomb was dropped and six months before he asked the U.N. Security Council for a war mandate that he never received. [complete article]
For the president, the least painful alternative
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, September 3, 2003
President Bush, in his decision to seek broader help in Iraq from the United Nations, has concluded that blue helmets are better than a black eye.
For months, the president and his administration have resisted the notion of sharing power in Iraq with the U.N. "blue helmets" -- part of officials' longstanding suspicion of the international body and particularly the notion that U.S. troops might answer to foreign generals.
But as more and more U.S. troops are killed in Iraq, and the number of car bombings and anti-America demonstrations there grow, the Bush administration concluded that principle alone will not suffice: The United States needs more help in Iraq. [complete article]
Israeli report is welcomed, dismissed
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, September 3, 2003
After 34 months of investigation and 377 interviews, an inquiry panel Monday issued the most searing government-sponsored assessment ever of the country's relations with its Arab minority. While advocates viewed the blunt findings as a historic call for change, other Israelis seemed unwilling to recognize or confront the issue.
The report not only criticized Israeli police for using excessive force against Israeli Arab demonstrators in October 2000. Twelve Arabs, one Jew and one Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip were killed in the riots. It accused generations of Israeli leaders of "neglectful and discriminatory" treatment of the Arabs who make up nearly one-fifth of the country's population. [complete article]
THE LIMITS OF POWER
U.S. 'offers U.N. greater Iraq role'
BBC News, September 3, 2003
The United States is to ask the United Nations to approve the creation of a multinational force in Iraq in return for ceding some political authority, US officials say.
No exact details have been released of the draft resolution, approved by President George W Bush, but it could be put before the Security Council as early as this week.
Unnamed US officials have said it redefines the role of the UN in the process of transferring power to the Iraqi people - and opens the way for more troop and financial contributions to help Iraq's reconstruction.
The US proposals come amid ongoing attacks on coalition troops - as well as domestic criticism over the costs of the occupation.
They also coincide with a threat from an Iraqi member of the Iraqi Governing Council to set up armed militias because of the lack of security. [complete article]
Why Bush now wants the U.N.
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News, September 3, 2003
In accepting that the UN should have a security role in Iraq, President Bush has accepted reality.
Despite a recent claim by chief US administrator Paul Bremer that Iraq is "not a country in chaos and Baghdad is not a city in chaos", events suggest otherwise. Mr Bush does not want to get bogged down there.
The presidential election next year is a powerful incentive for the Bush team to consider any proposal that prevents Iraq from becoming a determining campaign issue.
And the influential Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which carries out independent policy studies, has provided a practical reason for Mr Bush to change his policy.
It says basically that the United States does not have enough troops to do the job, especially if it needs to keep a substantial force free for potential action elsewhere. And the Korean peninsula is on everyone's mind these days. [complete article]
See also the CBO's report, "An Analysis of the U.S. Military's Ability
to Sustain an Occupation of Iraq," contained in a Letter to the Honorable Robert Byrd. (Follow the link 09-03-Iraq.pdf.)
Shia mourners demand end to U.S. occupation
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 3, 2003
Mindful of the increase in violence, the US administrator, Paul Bremer, said yesterday that the coalition was looking to devolve authority quickly to a new Iraqi cabinet appointed on Monday.
"We should find ways quickly to give Iraq and Iraqis more responsibility for security," he said, adding that as the new ministers settled into their positions, "the advisers from the coalition will not only yield authority, we will thrust authority".
Yet that may not be enough for the people who thronged in Najaf yesterday for Ayatollah Hakim's funeral.
His brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who sits on Iraq's US-appointed governing council, laid the blame for Friday's atrocity at the feet of the American-led force. "The occupation force is primarily responsible for the pure blood that was spilt in holy Najaf," he said.
"Iraq must not remain occupied and the occupation must end so that we can build Iraq as God wants us to do." [complete article]
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, September 3, 2003
Baqa al-Sharqia's plight is much the same as that of a string of Palestinian villages severed from their lands or caged behind barbed wire under a large red sign in Hebrew and Arabic: "Mortal danger. Military zone. Any person who passes or damages this fence endangers his life." But the mayor dwells on a single, telling distinction. When Moayad Hussain faces Israel's vast new "security fence" toward the beginning of its meandering journey through the occupied territories - which the Israeli government envisages will end nearly 400 miles later with almost the entire Palestinian population encircled - he is not looking out from the West Bank but into it. The fence carving through Baqa al-Sharqia's olive groves places the village and its 4,000 Palestinian residents on the Israeli side of the wire.
"We have asked ourselves the same question many times," says Hussain. "If the fence is for security, if the fence is to keep us out, then why aren't we on the other side? With every kilometre of fence [prime minister Ariel] Sharon builds we are sure there is only one answer. This is not about security, it's about land and resources."
There are two ways to travel the 123 kilometres (76 miles) of the newly completed first section of what the Israelis used to call the "separation obstacle" - until they realised that smacked too much of apartheid and so renamed it the "security fence". You can drive its length on the Israeli side along a new motorway, straining to spot the fence on distant hilltops deep inside the West Bank. Or you can pursue a more tortuous route in the Palestinian territories along rutted tracks, tracing the barrier as it cages villages, slices through olive groves and brings once busy roads to a jarring halt in front of the ominous warning signs. [complete article]
The blind prophet
By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, September 3, 2003
With astonishing speed, the United States and Britain are making their nightmares come true. Iraq is fast becoming the land that they warned about: a throbbing hub of terror. Islamists bent on murder, all but non-existent in Saddam's Iraq, are now flocking to the country, from Syria, Iran and across the Arab world. In the way that hippies used to head for San Francisco, jihadists are surging towards Baghdad. For those eager to strike at the US infidel, Iraq is the place to be: a shooting gallery, with Americans in easy firing range. Afghanistan is perilous terrain, but Iraq is open country. For the Islamist hungry for action, there are rich pickings. [complete article]
Militant cleric sentenced in Indonesia
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, September 3, 2003
The four-year sentence given Tuesday to Abu Bakar Bashir, the man Indonesia and the United States allege is the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group that in recent years has murdered more than 300 people in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, satisfied no one.
The sentence didn't satisfy Mr. Bashir's supporters, who chanted "God is Great" outside the courthouse and claimed their leader had been framed by the CIA. And it didn't satisfy the victims of JI violence, or the foreign governments who believe Bashir is at the center of a terrorist network that may number as many as 1,000. [complete article]
Taliban said teaming with al-Qaida again
By Kathy Gannon, Assoicated Press, September 2, 2003
The Taliban are no longer on the run and have teamed up with al-Qaida once again, according to officials and former Taliban who say the religious militia has reorganized and strengthened since their defeat at the hands of the U.S.-led coalition nearly two years ago.
The militia, which ruled Afghanistan espousing a strict brand of Islam, are now getting help from some Pakistani authorities as well as a disgruntled Afghan population fed up with lawlessness under the U.S.-backed interim administration, according to a former Taliban corps commander.
"Now the situation is very good for us. It is improving every day. We can move everywhere," said Gul Rahman Faruqi, a corps commander of the Gardez No. 3 garrison during the Taliban's rule.
"Now if the Taliban go to any village, people give them shelter and food. Now the people are tired of the looters and killers," Faruqi told The Associated Press, referring to regional warlords aligned with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government. [complete article]
After Ayatollah Hakim's assassination, fears for the future
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, September 2, 2003
Ayatollah Hakim's death eliminated one of the few leaders of any stature who counseled against fighting the Americans, for now.
While a critic of what he saw as the Americans' bungling administration, he helped temper those seeking to wage a holy war against them, and the presence of his political group on the Iraqi Governing Council lent it a legitimacy that no other Shiite could. Perhaps most important, the very combination of politician and senior religious scholar made him the voice of Shiite aspirations.
In his absence, his political movement and the Coalition Provisional Authority both fear what lies ahead -- whether the strength of his legacy will hold the Shiites together, accepting the occupation, or whether the Shiites will splinter into murderous factions that could sink Iraq's reconstruction. [complete article]
Resistance in Iraq is home grown
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2003
The men attempting to recruit a former soldier in the Fedayeen Saddam militia for today's war against the Americans took him to a bearded sheik seated in a pickup truck.
They appealed to the mortar expert's sense of nationalism and then to his religious conviction. The Americans have done nothing for Iraqis. They defile the homeland. Attacking the American occupiers is the only way to make them leave, the recruiters argued.
In their shadowy guerrilla war to drive American forces out of Iraq, hundreds of insurgents have organized into cells, especially in Al Anbar province west of Baghdad and Diyala province to the northeast, both strongholds for Saddam Hussein, the Sunni tribes that supported him and Wahhabi and other Islamic fundamentalists.
Despite the U.S. government's insistence that Iraq has become the new battlefield of global terrorism, most of the resistance is home grown. The guerrillas are militants from the deposed regime, but they are also ordinary Iraqis opposed to occupation. They are ex-intelligence officers and farmers, militiamen and merchants, bombers and fishermen, according to more than a dozen interviews with Americans and Iraqis. [complete article]
Facing the truth about Iraq
By James Carroll, Boston Globe, September 2, 2003
The war is lost. By most measures of what the Bush administration forecast for its adventure in Iraq, it is already a failure. The war was going to make the Middle East a more peaceful place. It was going to undercut terrorism. It was going to show the evil dictators of the world that American power is not to be resisted. It was going to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. It was going to stabilize oil markets. The American army was going to be greeted with flowers. None of that happened. The most radical elements of various fascist movements in the Arab world have been energized by the invasion of Iraq. The American occupation is a rallying point for terrorists. Instead of undermining extremism, Washington has sponsored its next phase, and now moderates in every Arab society are more on the defensive than ever. [complete article]
Wesley Clark might still end up like Colin Powell in 2000 - the most popular could-be-a-candidate who chose not to enter the race. If however he decides to run, then voters currently uncommitted but trying to decide whether they feel more inclined to back Clark or Howard Dean might ask themselves, which is likely to become the more numerous breed? Clark-Republicans or Dean-Republicans?
Draft Clark contingent hopes candidacy is near
By Joanna Weiss, Boston Globe, September 2, 2003
What's best known about Clark are his statements on foreign policy: He has blasted the Bush administration for alienating allies and fixating on Iraq at the expense of other trouble spots. Administration leaders have struck back, saying Clark and other retired-military critics are jeopardizing soldiers' morale. Clark makes no apologies: "I've been outspoken, but I've been moderate in what I've said . . . I've just called it like I've seen it."
Lately, Clark hasn't shied from staking out domestic positions, either.
His social views run liberal: He supports abortion rights, affirmative action, and Vermont-style civil unions for gay couples. On questions about health care and education issues, he points to his career in the military, where "we treat people well and we look after them as individuals." [complete article]
U.S.-North Korea war seems 'strong possibility'
By Jimmy Carter, USA Today, September 2, 2003
We face the strong possibility of another Korean war, with potentially devastating consequences, so the endangered multilateral talks in Beijing are of paramount importance. It is vital that some accommodation be reached between Pyongyang and Washington.
North Korea is an isolated country, poverty stricken, paranoid, apparently self-sacrificial and amazingly persistent in international confrontations, as is now being demonstrated. It is a cultural and almost sacred commitment for its leaders not to back down, even in the face of international condemnation and the most severe political and economic pressure. [complete article]
Number of wounded in action on rise
By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, September 2, 2003
U.S. battlefield casualties in Iraq are increasing dramatically in the face of continued attacks by remnants of Saddam Hussein's military and other forces, with almost 10 American troops a day now being officially declared "wounded in action."
The number of those wounded in action, which totals 1,124 since the war began in March, has grown so large, and attacks have become so commonplace, that U.S. Central Command usually issues news releases listing injuries only when the attacks kill one or more troops. The result is that many injuries go unreported.
The rising number and quickening pace of soldiers being wounded on the battlefield have been overshadowed by the number of troops killed since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1. But alongside those Americans killed in action, an even greater toll of battlefield wounded continues unabated, with an increasing number being injured through small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, remote-controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers to as "improvised explosive devices."
Indeed, the number of troops wounded in action in Iraq is now more than twice that of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The total increased more than 35 percent in August -- with an average of almost 10 troops a day injured last month. [complete article]
Countries resist aid to Iraq
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, September 2, 2003
The Bush administration's effort to secure significant pledges of money to help rebuild Iraq is meeting stiff resistance from many foreign governments because of continued concerns over security and the predominant role played by the United States, according to diplomats and aid officials.
The concerns, which were fueled by the Aug. 19 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and continuing doubts about the politics of the U.S. occupation, have dramatically lowered expectations for a donors conference scheduled for October. Some U.N. officials are asking whether the meeting in Madrid should be postponed until the United Nations can reinforce its team in Iraq and reach a more solid understanding with the Bush administration over the world body's role in the battered country.
The implications for U.S. taxpayers could prove significant. With postwar Iraqi revenue running lower than the administration anticipated and expenses running much higher, the administration is seeking significant help from outside. L. Paul Bremer, the coordinator of the U.S.-led occupation, said in an interview last week that "several tens of billions of dollars" will be needed in the coming year alone. [complete article]
Israeli Arabs decry inquiry report
By Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 2003
In an already poisoned atmosphere, the findings of an official Israeli inquiry into the death of 13 Arab citizens at the hands of Israeli police in 2000 seems to have no chance of bringing about catharsis, or even much relief.
Arab reactions to the findings of the three-member commission yesterday were generally negative, stressing that it did not find any of the police criminally culpable or make operative recommendations against the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak.
The deaths of the 13 Arabs deepened wounds and distrust between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority, which accounts for 19 percent of Israel's population. The killings are considered by Israel's Arab citizens clear proof that their lives are cheap and they are seen as enemies, while Jewish memories tend to focus on the images of Arab citizens throwing stones and blocking roads, similar to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. [complete article]
Israeli assassins kill hopes of peace for Palestinians
By Conal Urquhart, The Observer, August 31, 2003
The death of Abu Shenab [the Hamas leader who was assassinated by Israelis on August 21] has radicalised Hamas, ironically suppressing the ideas for which he stood, and put Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas - known as Abu Mazen and recently regarded as the man to carry forward the US-backed road map - in a position described yesterday as 'clinically dead'.
Imad Falouji, an independent member of the Palestinian parliament who left Hamas in the 1990s when it refused to take part in elections, said that Israeli violence would only make Hamas stronger and more extreme. 'People have greater sympathy for them and the movement is growing all the time,' he said.
'There are two wings in Hamas. The first believes the only language the Israelis understand is the language of blood. The second was led by Abu Shenab and it believed in the possibilities of dialogue and negotiation. Now the second group is silenced and the extreme line has been vindicated by Israel's actions.' [complete article]
Taliban finds new strength in Pakistan
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2003
A revitalized Taliban army is drawing recruits from militant groups in Pakistan, including Al Qaeda loyalists, as it fights an escalating guerrilla war against U.S. forces and their allies across the border in Afghanistan.
These fighters are answering the call from Muslim clerics to wage jihad, or holy war, against U.S.-led forces, according to Taliban members and supporters as well as Pakistani militants interviewed on both sides of the border. The Taliban is also exploiting the alienation felt by ethnic Pushtuns in Afghanistan because of continued insecurity, a scarcity of development projects and ongoing U.S. military operations. [complete article]
U.S. raid herds Iraqi old and young in barbed wire
By Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters, September 1, 2003
Iraqi sheep farmer Thani Mushlah was asleep on his roof when the American soldiers arrived before dawn.
"They banged open my door, came for me and made me lie face down on the floor in front of my wife and children," he said.
Two hours later, as the heat rose with the morning sun, Mushlah, 33, was sitting handcuffed on the desert floor inside a ring of barbed wire used as a temporary prison during the U.S. military raid on the village of Hamreen.
"The Americans said they came to free us, so why do they humiliate and insult us?" Mushlah muttered to a reporter out of hearing of his guards. "They say my crime is to have a gun, but we all need a weapon here for security."
The scene, commonplace since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, illustrated the dilemma the occupiers face: how to stop alienating the population they said they came to liberate while flushing out guerrillas who attack U.S. forces daily. [complete article]
Confessions of a terrorist
By Johanna McGeary, Time, August 31, 2003
By March 2002, the terrorist called Abu Zubaydah was one of the most wanted men on earth. A leading member of Osama bin Laden's brain trust, he is thought to have been in operational control of al-Qaeda's millennium bomb plots as well as the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000. After the spectacular success of the airliner assaults on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, he continued to devise terrorist plans.
Seventeen months ago, the U.S. finally grabbed Zubaydah in Pakistan and has kept him locked up in a secret location ever since. His name has probably faded from most memories. It's about to get back in the news. A new book by Gerald Posner says Zubaydah has made startling revelations about secret connections linking Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and bin Laden. [...]
Zubaydah's capture and interrogation, told in a gripping narrative that reads like a techno-thriller, did not just take down one of al-Qaeda's most wanted operatives but also unexpectedly provided what one U.S. investigator told Posner was "the Rosetta stone of 9/11 ... the details of what (Zubaydah) claimed was his 'work' for senior Saudi and Pakistani officials." [complete article]
The Ayatollah: Iraq's archduke?
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, September 1, 2003
...a few years from now we may look back on the bombing that killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, along with more than 90 other Shia Muslims, as a pivotal event that tipped the balance towards civil war and the disintegration of Iraq.
The killing of Ayatollah Hakim, the country's most prominent Shia cleric, has been likened to murdering the Pope, but it's more serious than that because popes these days have little real influence.
Ayatollah Hakim was also head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), the leading Shia political organisation. A better comparison would be the murder of the Austrian archduke that sparked the first world war. [complete article]
Understanding Iraqi Shiites:
By Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, The Daily Star, August 30/September 1, 2003
No story has been more confusing for the Western news media to cover in post-war Iraq than the politics of the country’s Shiite majority. That they would be a central story was expected. They had suffered systematic repression under Saddam Hussein, especially after the 1991 Gulf War, when they staged a revolt in the south. If anyone required liberation in Iraq, it was the Shiites.
After they failed to welcome their liberators with rapturous joy, and one of their religious leaders was murdered by followers of another one of their religious leaders, the rosy storyline of liberation collapsed amid a many unanswered questions.
Were the Shiites pro-American or anti-American? Why did they have so many leaders? Did they look for direction to the Shiite religious leaders in neighboring Iran? What did they want?
Driving half-blind in Washington
By Julian Borger, The Daily Star, August 29, 2003
The Pentagon policy unit that helped steer America into war in Iraq has changed its name. The infamous Office of Special Plans (OSP) is now known as the Northern Gulf Affairs office, its title before it embarked on a covert buildup to the conflict.
But old habits die hard. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, who oversaw the OSP’s work gathering useful intelligence on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, has shifted his attention to Iran. Despite State Department protests, his office has continued to promote as potential “freedom fighters” the Mujahideen Khalq organization, the bizarre cult-like movement dedicated to overthrowing the Tehran government. The MKO, as the group is known in Washington, has been designated a terrorist group by the State Department. [complete article]
White House likens Iraq to postwar Germany to retain support
By Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2003
With violence escalating and the death toll mounting, the Bush administration insists it will stay the course in Iraq. But only in the last few weeks has it said how long that might take: a generation or more.
"We and our allies must make a generational commitment to helping the people of the Middle East transform their region," national security advisor Condoleezza Rice said last month.
Administration officials describe Iraq as the linchpin in their ambitious plans to transform the entire Mideast from autocracy and conflict to democracy and peace. But while they express no doubts about the course they have chosen, they are increasingly concerned about keeping the country on board. As a result, top officials have adopted a new communications strategy: comparing the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq to the occupation and rebuilding of West Germany after World War II. [complete article]
A LANDMARK STATEMENT BY ONE OF ISRAEL'S POLITICAL LEADERS
A failed Israeli society collapses while its leaders remain silent
By Avraham Burg, Forward, August 29, 2003
It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Traveling on the fast highway that takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem's northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it's hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.
This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger forever, it won't work. A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism's superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.
We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder we don't hear the cries of the abused woman living next door or the single mother struggling to support her children in dignity. We don't even bother to count the women murdered by their husbands.
Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.
We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below -- from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures" of injustice and moral corruption.
If all this were inevitable, divinely ordained and immutable, I would be silent. But things could be different, and so crying out is a moral imperative. [complete article]
(Note - The author of this article was Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, from 1999 until 2003, and from 1995 until 1999 was Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization.)
New terror army fulfils prophecy
By Jason Burke, The Observer, August 31, 2003
First, it was Afghanistan, then Bosnia and Chechnya, then, briefly, Afghanistan again. Now it is Iraq.
Islamic militants talk of 'theatres of jihad'. The phrase, with its dual military and dramatic senses, connotations of combat and of audience, is significant. Iraq is the latest stage on which militants can demonstrate their faith to fellow Muslims and unbelievers. It is the latest zone of battle where, in the militants' twisted world view, the aggressive West, supposedly set on subordinating and humiliating the lands of Islam, can be resisted.
Yesterday Iraqi police sources said they had seized four men whom they believed were behind the bombing of the Najaf shrine which killed 75 people on Friday. They said they were linked to 'al-Qaeda'.
Police always say this, and any claims of direct links to Osama bin Laden or those of his aides still at large should be treated with some scepticism. Al-Qaeda is a useful scapegoat. Any one with any knowledge of the practicalities of modern Islamic militancy knows that the chances of bin Laden ordering last week's attack are slim.
But, whatever the actual identity of the bombers or their commanders, the growing resistance networks in Iraq include a component made up of Islamic militants. If al-Qaeda is conceived of as the phenomenon of contemporary Sunni Muslim jihadi militancy, then al-Qaeda is indeed in Iraq. [complete article]
Policy lobotomy needed
By Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, August 31, 2003
If you think we don't have enough troops in Iraq now -- which we don't -- wait and see if the [Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish] factions there start going at each other. America would have to bring back the draft to deploy enough troops to separate the parties. In short, we are at a dangerous moment in Iraq. We cannot let sectarian violence explode. We cannot go on trying to do this on the cheap. And we cannot succeed without more Iraqi and allied input. [complete article]
Iraqis' rage at boiling point
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2003
More at ease with the gentle voice she uses to teach elementary school students, Khawla Ahmed struggled Saturday to find diplomatic language to express her outrage at what life has become in Iraq.
But as she rattled off the mounting horrors of thieves prowling in daylight, sabotage knocking out lights in schools and water in the kitchen, and now terrorist strikes killing scores of Iraqis, her anger escalated into a venomous tirade at the country's U.S.-led administration.
"America considers itself the superpower of the world, but here it is powerless to keep any semblance of order," she said. "The Americans fired our police and our army. Now there is no security and foreign terrorists are coming across our borders." [complete article]
Bombing at Iraqi shrine appears carefully planned
By Anthony Shadid and Daniel Williams, Washington Post, August 31, 2003
Investigators suspect the devastating bomb that tore through a crowded street along Iraq's most sacred Shiite Muslim shrine, killing a prominent religious leader and scores of others, was packed in a car parked for as long as 24 hours along a curbside and probably detonated by remote control, a senior U.S. official said today.
In an attempt to forestall another car bombing -- Friday's was the third in less than a month -- U.S. forces will begin patrolling the grounds of the Imam Ali shrine within days, a task they have so far avoided given religious sensitivities and the prospect of another flashpoint in a city already on edge, said Maj. Rick Hall, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.
The recent blasts have sent a deep shudder through Iraq and badly undermined faith in officials of the U.S.-led occupation. [complete article]
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