The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
What happened to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction?
By Frank Ronald Cleminson (a former UNSCOM inspector), Arms Control Today, September, 2003

"It's sort of puzzling that you can have 100 percent confidence about WMD existence, but zero certainty about where they are." -- Hans Blix to the Council on Foreign Relations June 23, 2003

With a new and perhaps final phase of the U.S. and British search throughout Iraq for Saddam Hussein's delinquent nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons now well underway, it might be too early to reach a final verdict on the existence of such weapons. But as each day passes with no evidence of a "smoking gun," the carefully worded series of analytical assessments by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) increase dramatically in credibility. Despite pressure from the Bush administration to declare that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), UNMOVIC concluded that, after only a few months of investigations and little practical help from either Iraq or U.S. intelligence officials, they had insufficient evidence to prove the case either way. At the time, those conclusions rankled some in Washington certain that Saddam Hussein possessed a WMD arsenal, that continued UNMOVIC inspections would be unable either to locate them or prove they were destroyed, and that possession of those weapons by Saddam posed an unacceptable and immediate threat to U.S. national security interests. [complete article]

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Iran's nuclear deadline
By Ian Traynor, Dan De Luce and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, September 13, 2003

The worsening international crisis over Iran's suspected nuclear bomb programme escalated last night when the UN set Tehran a deadline of 45 days to come clean on its nuclear activities.

Failure to comply by Iran, whose diplomats walked out of a meeting in Vienna yesterday in protest at the deadline, could lead to the imposition of UN sanctions. [complete article]

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Iraq: The new war
By Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, August 28, 2003

We see the world through the stories we tell, and until recently the story most Americans told themselves about the war in Iraq was a simple and dramatic narrative of imminent threat, daring triumph, and heroic liberation -- a story neatly embodied in images of a dictator's toppling statue and a president in full flight gear swaggering across a carrier deck. Those pictures, once so bright and clear, have now faded, giving place to a second, darker story beneath: the story of an unfinished war, undertaken for murky reasons, that has left young Americans ruling indefinitely over people who do not welcome them and who are killing more and more of them each day. As long as Saddam Hussein remains at large, as long as the weapons our leaders said were threatening us are not found, and as long as Iraqis go on killing Americans, this second, darker story may come to blot out and finally to mock the memory of the first. [complete article]

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Buried between the rivers
By Timothy Potts, New York Review of Books, September 25, 2003

After much initial confusion, the scale and significance of the looting are gradually becoming clearer. Initial estimates of 170,000 missing objects were hasty extrapolations from reports that "everything" was gone. It soon turned out that many of the showcases were empty because the museum's staff had removed the important objects to more secure locations, and that most of the collection was still intact (more or less) in the storerooms. This created something of a backlash. Having initially denounced the scandal of troops being stationed at the oil ministry while one of the world's great museums was looted -- "protecting Iraq's oil but not its cultural motherlode" -- much of the press has since played down the disaster as overblown. This is not the case. The quantities of works stolen were substantial and, more to the point, their cultural significance immense. [complete article]

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Taliban officials tell of plans to grind down the Americans
By David Rohde, New York Times, September 12, 2003

The resurgent Taliban has embarked on a strategy of small guerrilla attacks intended to frustrate and steadily bleed American forces in Afghanistan and to force the United States to expend billions of dollars in military costs, according to two Taliban officials interviewed recently.

Hajji Ibrahim, who identified himself as a Taliban commander, said the group's goal was to tie down the United States in Afghanistan and force it to spend huge sums responding to limited attacks that draw American forces "here to there, here to there." He confidently predicted that the United States, sapped by a slow, costly and grinding conflict, would abandon Afghanistan after two to three years, and repeatedly compared the current situation to the defeat of Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980's.

"How is it possible that America will continue to do these things for many years?" he asked, pointing out that it cost virtually nothing for a single Taliban fighter to plant a land mine. "Just think -- one plane -- how much is it to take off and land?" [complete article]

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Michael Moore to Wesley Clark: Run!
By Michael Moore, September 12, 2003

... right now, for the sake and survival of our very country, we need someone who is going to get The Job done, period. And that job, no matter whom I speak to across America -- be they leftie Green or conservative Democrat, and even many disgusted Republicans -- EVERYONE is of one mind as to what that job is:

Bush Must Go.

This is war, General, and it's Bush & Co.'s war on us. It's their war on the middle class, the poor, the environment, their war on women and their war against anyone around the world who doesn't accept total American domination. Yes, it's a war -- and we, the people, need a general to beat back those who have abused our Constitution and our basic sense of decency.

The General vs. the Texas Air National Guard deserter! I want to see that debate, and I know who the winner is going to be. [complete article]

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Freedom on the line
By Christopher Kremmer, Sydney Morning Herald, September 13, 2003

The Philippines on alert for new coup attempts ... the Indonesian army on the rampage in Aceh ... civil rights threatened by new draconian laws in Thailand. Asia's democratic renaissance has hit rough water. Once on the run, spooks and generals are making a comeback. Their main weapon: the war on terrorism.

"Security trumps all other issues these days. Because of that you're seeing a re-emergence of the influence of the military in the Philippines, Indonesia and to a lesser extent Thailand," says Roland Rich, director of the Centre for Democratic Institutions in Canberra, an Australian-funded training centre that encourages good governance and democracy in the region.

While the police operation to round up terrorist leaders linked to the Bali bombings and other plots has progressed well, the US desire to re-engage with "friendly" governments and armed forces is encouraging a resurgence of authoritarian policies that have failed in the past, and will probably fail again. [complete article]

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Republicans seek State Dept. control in Iraq
By Sonni Efron and Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2003

Frustrated by the slow pace of reconstruction in Iraq, an increasingly vocal group of Republicans on Capitol Hill is urging the White House to shift control of the effort from the Pentagon to the State Department.

The State Department, with its ability to muster civilian technocrats, is better equipped than the Pentagon to undertake the massive task of rebuilding Iraq, some argue. Others suggest that putting more of a civilian face on the U.S. presence in Iraq would defuse anti-American sentiment. [complete article]

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U.S. killing of eight Iraqi police fuels anger in troubled town
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 13, 2003

The US military reignited tension in one of Iraq's most troubled towns yesterday when its troops mistakenly shot dead eight policemen who were chasing a car full of suspected bandits.

American military officials were at a loss last night to explain why their soldiers opened fire with heavy machines guns on the officers, who were in two clearly marked Iraqi police cars in the town of Falluja.

As well as the eight who died, four other policemen were injured. Their patrol cars had their sirens on and their warning lights flashing as they chased the suspects through the centre of town early yesterday. As the vehicles passed in front of a US military base American tanks opened fire without warning. [complete article]

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Israeli threat of exile strengthens Arafat's hand
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, September 13, 2003

"Palestinian governments are legitimised by Arafat. He may undermine them but they derive their authority, and therefore their acceptance by the Palestinian people, from Arafat," said one diplomat.

"If the Israelis take that away by removing him entirely, then no Palestinian government can function. It will be seen as collaborationist; it will have no legitimacy. I wouldn't be surprised if its members weren't killed by Arafat's supporters. Certainly it would not be in any position to negotiate any kind of concessions as part of a peace deal with Israel." [complete article]

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While Salam Pax, Baghdad's most famous blogger is just about to release his first book, his American counterpart, Sergeant Sean, creator of the weblog, Turningtables, is just about to head home. The War in Context caught up with Sean while he was still in Baghdad and is pleased to bring you the following exclusive interview.

Escape from Baghdad
By U.S. Army Sergeant Sean ----, author of Turningtables, interviewed by Paul Woodward, editor of The War in Context, September 13, 2003

Sergeant Sean is one of the lucky soldiers deployed to Baghdad. By the time you read this, he will be on his way home. In mid-summer though, before he had any idea when he might get out, I spoke to him via email and I tried to find out more about life in Iraq for an American soldier. In particular, I wanted to learn why a sergeant in the US Army would chose to express publicly his personal perspective, as Sean had eloquently been doing through his now widely read weblog, Turningtables.

Back in January 2002, when I started The War in Context, I was hoping to reach an audience whose hunger for inquiry ran deeper than its ideological presuppositions. The nascent anti-war movement had assumed its position but it struck me that the individuals who had most at stake as the Bush administration flexed it muscles were those men and women whose lives actually constitute those muscles -- the members of the United States armed services.

At the end of June, out of the blue came an email from a Sergeant Sean ----, a member of the signals corps in Baghdad. He had recently started his weblog, Turningtables and hoped I might add a link from my site to his. I initially treated his inquiry with due skepticism -- this voice from Baghdad might turn out to be a trickster in Fort Worth. So, I questioned Sean with some insistence and studied his journal, but it didn't take long to establish that he really was an American soldier and he truly was stuck in Baghdad.

Turningtables speaks for itself. Through the eyes of an unusually reflective and observant soldier we get to see some of the many challenges now facing American forces. Nevertheless, since I imagine that, like me, quite a few readers might want to know more about what led Sean to voice his thoughts, I recently interviewed him by email and this is what he had to say. [complete interview]

See also the transcript of a live webchat with Salam Pax at the BBC.

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10 years after Oslo, question of single state unavoidable
By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, September 12, 2003

If Israel's colonization of the occupied territories, which within a few years will make the creation of a Palestinian state a practical impossibility, cannot be stopped, the alternative cannot be interminable bloodshed. We must not allow despair over the dismal prospects for a negotiated solution to make continued conflict appear either desirable or inevitable.

Rather, we will have to embrace a "South African solution"--bringing Palestinians and Israelis together in one political entity where they enjoy equal rights and freedom. This is decidedly a fringe idea among Israelis and Palestinians alike, although it is advocated by prominent people in both societies, such as Edward W. Said, prominent spokesperson for the Palestinian cause in the U.S., and Meron Benvenisti, an Israeli historian and longtime critic of Israel's policies in the occupied areas.

If South Africans, after generations of white supremacy, could adopt a system of "one person, one vote," why can't Israelis and Palestinians?

One crucial difference thus far is that unlike Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, Palestinian leaders have never offered Israelis such a vision of reconciliation. Whatever its rhetoric, the Palestinian national movement has been an expression of ethno-nationalism, almost as strongly as Zionism has been. [complete article]

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Moussaoui myths
By James Bovard, Washington Times, September 7, 2003

As the Bush administration and Congress focus anew upon the Patriot Act, few issues are more controversial than the issue of the failure to search the computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, prior to September 11.

According to supporters of the Patriot Act, the FBI was fatally prevented by excessive concerns about civil liberties from securing a search warrant for Moussaoui's belongings -- thereby thwarting the feds from gaining key data on a possible hijacking conspiracy.

In reality, as two bipartisan congressional reports concluded, Moussaoui's computer was not searched prior to September 11 because of the FBI's gross incompetence. [complete article]

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Neocons vs. supply-siders
By Timothy Noah, Slate, September 9, 2003

The neocons are the party of war, which is the favored path to what Bill Kristol and David Brooks have termed "national greatness." The supply-siders are the party of tax cuts, which is the favored path to prosperity and, for some, limited government. Thus far, the two camps have coexisted more or less peacefully because the two goals have not come into conflict. Or rather, the two goals have come into conflict, but both camps have refused to recognize that. [complete article]

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Arafat comes back to haunt Bush
By Tony Karon, Time, September 12, 2003

We've seen this movie before: Israel surrounds what's left of Yasser Arafat's battered compound and assumes a menacing posture, vowing to act against him for failing to end terror attacks; masses of Palestinians, regardless of what they may think of Arafat's stewardship, rally to their elected president and national icon; moderate Arab leaders warn of a regional cataclysm if the Israelis carry out their threat; and U.S. officials suggest politely but firmly that Arafat's physical ouster would be "unhelpful." But each rerun of the "Rumble in Ramallah" appears to simply confirm the aging Palestinian leader's centrality to the fate of his people -- and that of their neighbors. And also that, three years into a Palestinian uprising that has killed 818 Israelis and 2,595 Palestinians, neither side is able to break the strategic stalemate by imposing its will on the other. [complete article]

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Architects of Iraq war put on the defensive
By Howard LaFranchi and Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 2003

The neoconservative policymakers who helped spur George W. Bush toward war in Iraq may not be on the way out, but their influence is undergoing its greatest test since Sept. 11.

This week, Congress has grilled key promoters of the idea of transforming the Middle East, and spreading American values, through regime change in Iraq. Gone is the self-assuredness - some say arrogance - that typified Bush administration testimony through the end of "major hostilities." Gone, too, are claims that Americans would be greeted as liberators and then soon leave, or that Iraqi oil would quickly defray reconstruction costs. [complete article]

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Returning from Iraq war not so simple for soldiers
By Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, September 12, 2003

For all the questions that have been raised about the president's rationale for the war and the Pentagon's strategy for winning it, most of the brigade's troops said they felt a sense of purpose and of mission, though as Captain Lockridge put it, it is "a mission still being accomplished."

What lasting effects the war had on the First Brigade's soldiers -- on re-enlistment rates, which have slumped, on broken bodies and on battered psyches -- remains to be seen.

Sergeant Bortz said fighting in Iraq made him rethink a career in the Army.

"I feel good for what I did, but out there, that's when you really think about what you want," he said on Friday. "And in Baghdad, I knew the Army wasn't for me."

Sgt. Jamie A. Betancourt, also in the Second Battalion, plans to get out when his enlistment is up in May for a simple reason. "There's nowhere else I can go in the Army," he said, "that's not going back over there."

Others have no choice. [complete article]

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In Jerusalem, memories of Nazi Germany

The glittering edge of the boot
By Batya Gur, Haaretz, September 12, 2003

The three women soldiers who detained an old Palestinian on the main street of the German Colony in West Jerusalem didn't hit him; they didn't spit at him or kick him or shove him against a wall with the butt of a rifle, but there was something in the behavior of these three girls, border policewomen in uniform, detaining an old Palestinian on a narrow stretch of a main street in Jerusalem that made me pause, look at them for a moment, go on walking, then retrace my steps. There was something I couldn't overlook and then go about my business. [complete article]

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Blair's war: PM ignored intelligence advice on Iraq
By Paul Waugh and Kim Sengupta, The Independent, September 12, 2003

As MPs prepared to vote on the war on 18 March, [Blair] even said that links between Iraq and al-Qa'ida were hardening. "The possibility of the two coming together, of terrorists groups in possession of a weapon of mass destruction or even a so-called dirty radiological bomb - is now in my judgement a real and present danger to Britain and its national security," he said.

Yet just over five weeks before the American-led invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair was told secretly by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) that there was no evidence of any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Crucially, the JIC "assessed that al-Qa'ida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests and that threat would be heightened by military action". [complete article]

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Cornered: but will he end up as exiled martyr or deal maker?
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, September 12, 2003

Most of Ariel Sharon's ministers went into last night's emergency cabinet meeting, called in the wake of the suicide bombers' latest carnage, clear about who they blame and what they want to do with him.

Almost all said they would have Israeli troops snatch Yasser Arafat from the Ramallah compound that has been his de facto prison for more than a year and put him on a plane to anywhere that will have him. [complete article]

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de Mello's delight
By Don Kraus, Foreign Policy in Focus, September 10, 2003

Sergio de Mello's death might accomplish something the dynamic and debonair UN special representative in Iraq would have loved to have seen--a U.S. request for the United Nations to take a leadership role in marshaling the international force and legitimacy needed to end the growing guerrilla war in Iraq. Now that Secretary of State Powell has initiated negotiations on a new UN resolution, United Nations officials and Security Council members should do more than pull the Bush administration's fat out of the fire in Iraq. They should, with the support of U.S. internationalists, use it as an opportunity to permanently repair tattered UN-U.S. relationships. And they should demand a deal that will permanently fix the United Nations' capacity to mount credible peace operations. [complete article]

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Tribes, traditions and two tragedies
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, September 12, 2003

Opposition to the US-led military presence in Afghanistan comes mainly from a rapidly-regrouping Taliban, ousted from government at the end of 2001, mujahideen veteran Gulbuddin Hekmatyr's Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), and fighters of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front, all grouped under the banner of the Saiful Muslemeen (the Sword of Muslims).

Operationally though, different area commanders have been controlling combat operations in their respective areas. As a result, the resistance movement has not been as effective as it could have been as it has lacked central direction. Recent reports, however, indicate that Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, has personally taken over overall command.

The resistance movement has been aided by a break down of law and order in the Pashtun belt, as the writ of Kabul does not reach that far. In this environment of lawlessness approaching anarchy, the Taliban guerrillas have found perfect hiding places.

At the heart of the US problems in Afghanistan is that it has failed completely in winning any allegiance among the local population, apart from the north of the country. [complete article]

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The height of myth-making
By Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, September 11, 2003

This time, it's a pastoral, a dreamscape with terrorists.

And as if to prove that dreams are prompted by anxieties, the new video of Osama bin Laden arrived right on schedule, just as the country was preparing to mark the second anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. The fact that there was nothing particularly threatening in the images, just a walk in the woods, makes it, by the perverse logic of dreams, all the more threatening. [complete article]

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Jewish settlers insist on living in doubt-free zone
By Harvey Morris, Financial Times, September 11, 2003

Kedumim was the first Jewish community founded in the northern West Bank after the territory was captured by Israel in 1967. Since the first 30 families arrived in 1975, the settlement has spread out from its original site into the valleys and hills of Samaria.

The predominantly religious Zionist settlers live in chalet-style homes and red-roofed bungalows set amid closely cropped lawns that contrast with the square, stone houses and rutted roads of neighbouring Palestinian villages.

It is a doubt-free zone, whose inhabitants do not question the Zionist doctrine that they have an inalienable right to settle anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel. [complete article]

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Two years later, a thousand years ago
By Robert Wright, New York Times, September 11, 2003

When transmitting information gets cheaper, groups that lack power can gain it. Within weeks of Martin Luther's unveiling his 95 Theses in 1517, German printers in several cities took it upon themselves to sell copies. An amorphous and largely silent interest group -- people disenchanted with the Roman Catholic Church -- crystallized and found its voice. Protest was now feasible. (Hence the term Protestant.)

The ensuing erosion of central authority went beyond the church. The "wars of religion" that ravaged Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries were about politics, too, and by their end the Hapsburgs, not just the pope, had lost possessions. If Europe's powers had adjusted more gracefully to the decentralizing force of print, much bloodshed might have been averted.

Today, similarly, new information technologies allow previously amorphous or powerless groups to coalesce and orchestrate activities, from peaceful lobbying to terrorist slaughter. And the revolution is young. As the Internet goes broadband, Osama bin Laden's potent recruiting videos will get more accessible -- viewable on demand from more and more parts of the world. Other terrorist televangelists may spring up, too. As in the age of print, far-flung discontent will grow more powerful -- often through peaceful means, but sometimes not.

Paradoxically, the increasing volatility of intense discontent puts Americans in a more nonzero-sum relationship with the world's discontented peoples. If, for example, unhappy Muslims overseas grow more unhappy and resentful, that's good for Osama bin Laden and hence bad for America. If they grow more secure and satisfied, that's good for America. This is history's drift: technology correlating the fortunes of ever-more-distant people, enmeshing humanity in a web of shared fate.

The architects of America's national security policy at once grasp this crosscultural interdependence and don't. They see that prosperous and free Muslim nations are good for America. But they don't see that the very logic behind this goal counsels against pursuing it crudely, with primary reliance on force and intimidation. They don't appreciate how easily, amid modern technology, resentment and hatred metastasize. Witness their planning for postwar Iraq, with spectacular inattention to keeping Iraqis safe, content and well informed.

Nor do they seem aware, as they focus tightly on state sponsors of terrorism, that technology lets terrorists operate with less and less state support. Anarchic states -- like the ones that may now be emerging in Iraq and Afghanistan -- could soon be as big a problem as hostile states. [complete article]

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Still being fooled by Osama
By Michael Young, Daily Star, September 11, 2003

Two years after the mass homicides in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, it is remarkable to see how little the Arab world truly understood what Sept. 11 meant to the US. And it is no less extraordinary how little the US grasped this.

Since 2001, the Middle East has been caught between these two misunderstandings, between the observer who refuses to give the victim his due; and the victim who cannot see that his predicament elicits indifference. There are plenty of stock explanations Arabs have for their cognitive dissonance with the US when it comes to Sept. 11: The US is arrogant and overbearing; it has enhanced Palestinian suffering by siding with Israel; it has waged war on Islam; it seeks to dominate the Middle East.

Yet what is interesting is how these explanations, thrown out in sundry permutations, tend to refer to a perception of US behavior after Sept. 11, 2001. Caught in a bizarre time warp, those who now see reason in the attacks do so by claiming they were defensible in light of American actions after the attacks actually happened.
[complete article]

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Terror doesn't need Hamas leaders
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz, September 11, 2003

The killing of leaders and top field operatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad will probably
damage these movements' organizational ability. There will be less rallies featuring masked, rifle-toting men in Palestinian cities. The number of conferences and other types of demonstrations will decrease. The financial network which delivers money to families of suicide terrorists will be hurt, as will be the social-educational functions carried out by the extreme Islamic movements.

On the other hand, the liquidation of these leaders will significantly heighten the motivation harbored by militants in Hamas' military wing to seek revenge. Thirst for revenge and the desire to retaliate after assassinations are themselves highly important factors in what is called the terror infrastructure. Even without Hamas' political leaders, terror wrought by suicide strikers is liable to continue - and it might even accelerate. [complete article]

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Amateurs and zealots
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, September 11, 2003

Bush's foreign policy is a shambles -- a war against the wrong enemy (Iraq and not worldwide terrorism), for the wrong reasons (where are those weapons of mass destruction?), a debacle in postwar Iraq (who are those terrorists?), a Middle Eastern road map to nowhere (wasn't Iraq going to make it all so easy?) and a string of statements about nearly everything (the cost of rebuilding Iraq, for instance) that have proved either untrue or just plain dumb. To make matters worse, truth-tellers have been punished while liars and fog merchants have remained in office.

Who in the administration paid a price for having the president tell the nation about nonexistent yellowcake uranium? No one. Who got whacked for preposterous manpower numbers for the occupation of Iraq? Funny you should ask. The guy who told the truth, Gen. Eric Shinseki. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz remain. In the Pentagon, the truth will really make you free.

For Bush, the danger is that this sorry record will revive the cartoon persona of a dummy -- not the steady custodian of our national security, as he seemed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, but a man without judgment, a naif who was manipulated by a cadre of hawks. For the rest of us, the danger is that the caricature was spot on, so obvious it was disregarded. [complete article]

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A healer of terror victims becomes one
By Greg Myre, New York Times, September 11, 2003

In this tormented city [Jerusalem], responding to terror attacks has become a grim medical specialty, and Dr. David Applebaum was known as "the first man on the scene."

Dr. Applebaum spent years dashing to bomb sites to treat the wounded, and he was an innovator in emergency medical services that are called into action all too often here.

Dr. Applebaum, 50, was present at the bombing of a cafe on Tuesday night -- this time as a victim. He was killed with his daughter Nava, 20, as they ventured several blocks from home for a late night snack and a father-daughter talk on the eve of her wedding.

Instead of giving his daughter away today at a large celebration set for a Jerusalem kibbutz, Dr. Applebaum was buried alongside Nava in an even larger funeral at the stony, hilltop cemetery of Givat Shaul on the western edge of the city. [complete article]

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Foreign views of U.S. darken since Sept. 11
By Richard Bernstein, New York Times, September 11, 2003

In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force.

"A lot of people had sympathy for Americans around the time of 9/11, but that's changed," said Cathy Hearn, 31, a flight attendant from South Africa, expressing a view commonly heard in many countries. "They act like the big guy riding roughshod over everyone else."

In interviews by Times correspondents from Africa to Europe to Southeast Asia, one point emerged clearly: The war in Iraq has had a major impact on public opinion, which has moved generally from post-9/11 sympathy to post-Iraq antipathy, or at least to disappointment over what is seen as the sole superpower's inclination to act pre-emptively, without either persuasive reasons or United Nations approval.

To some degree, the resentment is centered on the person of President Bush, who is seen by many of those interviewed, at best, as an ineffective spokesman for American interests and, at worst, as a gunslinging cowboy knocking over international treaties and bent on controlling the world's oil, if not the entire world. [complete article]

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Justice Dept. defies judge on Moussaoui
By Larry Margasak, Associated Press, September 10, 2003

The Justice Department on Wednesday defied a federal judge for the second time, refusing to allow Zacarias Moussaoui to question senior al-Qaida captives in preparation for his criminal trial.

Judicial punishment that could damage the prosecution is likely to follow.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has a range of options, including exclusion of government evidence, barring the death penalty and dismissing charges in the only case to arise from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. [complete article]

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In Afghanistan, the war on terror is anything but over
By Phil Reeves, The Independent, September 11, 2003

Afghans are not easily shocked. Repeated invasion, decades of civil war and centuries of poverty harden a place. Yet the latest atrocity to hit this nation was stunningly brutal, even by their dismal standards.

It happened early on Monday afternoon, a multiple execution by men determined to render it impossible for the international community to reconstruct or stabilise the country under the control of a US- supported government. [complete article]

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Pentagon targets Latinos and Mexicans to man the front lines in war on terror
By Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, September 10, 2003

With the casualty rate in Iraq growing by the day and President George Bush's worldwide "war on terrorism" showing no signs of abating, a stretched United States military is turning increasingly to Latinos - including tens of thousands of non-citizen immigrants - to do the fighting and dying on its behalf.

Senior Pentagon officials have identified Latinos as by far the most promising ethnic group for recruitment, because their numbers are growing rapidly in the US and they include a plentiful supply of low-income men of military age with few other job or educational prospects. [complete article]

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More troops will destabilize Iraq, says Rumsfeld
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, September 10, 2003

In comments after a speech at the National Press Club, Mr. Rumsfeld repeatedly said that it was Iraqis, not necessarily the United States or other countries, that bore the responsibility to quickly assume responsibility for the country's political, economic and security levers of power.

"I don't believe it's our job to reconstruct the country," said Mr. Rumsfeld, who just returned from a six-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Iraqi people will have to reconstruct that country over time."

He noted that Iraq could not rely on its oil revenue alone to rebuild its decrepit infrastructure, but must plan on developing industries like tourism that would showcase national and historic treasures like the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon.

"They have to create an environment that's hospitable to investment and enterprise," Mr. Rumsfeld said. [complete article]

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Bush's many miscalculations
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, September 10, 2003

Painful as it is to recall those planes smashing into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon two years ago this week, it's nearly as heartbreaking to think back on the moment of nascent harmony that ticked in the wake of the attack -- until President Bush decided to reject the opportunity that History thrust before him.

Remember? The French newspaper Le Monde, never one for trans-Atlantic sentimentalism, proclaimed, "We are all Americans." The band outside Buckingham Palace played "The Star-Spangled Banner" during a changing of the guard, as thousands of Londoners tearfully waved American flags. Most significant, the European leaders of NATO, for the first time in the organization's history, invoked Article 5 of its charter, calling on its 19 member-nations to treat the attack on America as an attack on them all -- a particularly moving gesture, as Article 5 had been intended to guarantee American retaliation against an attack on Europe.

But the Bush administration brushed aside these supportive gestures -- and that may loom as the greatest tragedy of Sept. 11, apart from the tolls taken by the attack itself. [complete article]

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Bush's conceptual blunders
By Tim Llewellyn, Counterpunch, September 10, 2003

Of all the United States' conceptual blunders in the Middle East, this failure to understand how deeply the Palestinian tragedy is engraved in the Arab psyche, and how it has become the starkest model of how the US grades the peoples of the Middle East (Israelis good, Arabs and Moslems bad), has been the greatest of them. It is even greater than the expectation that with Saddam Hussein's regime toppled the Iraqis would crawl out of their rubble, bereavement and misery and stand to, smiling and cheering, to join enthusiastically and without delay the American plan for free-market democracy (including Iraq's recognition of Israel). [complete article]

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The Twin Towers and the Tower of Babel
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, September 10, 2003

Part 1: Sleeping with the enemy

Two years after September 11, 2001, the Washington neo-conservative dream of a rainbow of democracy shining from Israel to Afghanistan and traversing Iraq has vanished into thin air. From Kabul to Baghdad, the vision is being wiped out by the truth of hard facts. 1) The American army does not have the resources to play by itself the role of global sheriff. 2) America is not prepared for or interested in nation-building. 3) Military "victories", like Afghanistan and Iraq, mean nothing when they are not complemented by moral and political legitimacy. The lack of legitimacy creates a political void, immediately exploited by radical Islam. [complete article]

Part 2 : The roadmap of human folly

"I wonder whether there can be a future for the UN in Iraq," asks an European diplomat. Some Iraqis recognize that the United Nations' humanitarian aid, in the shape of the oil for food program, may have saved lives during the embargo. But many hate the UN exactly because of the embargo: for them, the UN just enforces what Washington decides. The undisputable fact is that the UN supervised the harsh sanctions that, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and an explosion in the mortality rate. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, two senior, respected UN officials, resigned in disgust against the way in which the oil for food worked (or not) - for them, the UN had betrayed the people of Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraq's Shiites under occupation
International Crisis Group Report, September 9, 2003

The massive car bomb in Najaf on 29 August 2003, which took the lives of over 90 Iraqis, including the prominent cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, has put renewed focus on the fate of the country's Shiites. The attack comes in the wake of the attempted killing of other prominent clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Saed Al-Tabatab'i al-Hakim, al-Hakim's uncle. Although it is too soon to assign blame, it is not too soon to assess potential consequences: a heightened sense of insecurity; anger, directed both at the former regime and at the current occupiers; intensified intra-Shiite rivalry; and a growing risk of sectarian conflict as militias loyal to different groups vie for control. [complete article]

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Will press roll over again on new WMD report?
By Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, September 9, 2003

Some time in the next two weeks, David Kay, head of the Iraqi Survey Group, is expected to finally release a crucial report on his findings so far in his search for weapons of destruction.

"I am confident that when people see what David Kay puts forward they will see that there was no question that such weapons exist, existed, and so did the programs to develop more," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday. "We did not try to hype it or blow it out of proportion."

Since no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) have been found in Iraq, close observers now report that Kay is likely to drop on the media a massive weapon of his own: hundreds or thousands of pages of summaries and documents purporting to prove that Saddam Hussein had WMDs recently (and hid them) and/or had numerous WMD programs underway that we succeeded in pre-empting.

In the parlance once used by Howell Raines, Kay thereby will "flood the zone" and hope the press portrays what may be largely assertion -- not fact -- as compelling proof. Would the media possibly fall for this? There are disturbing indications that they would. [complete article]

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Stuck like Lyndon
By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, September 10, 2003

So much for American unilateralism.

As our strategic doctrine of choice, unilateralism had a one-year run, from one Labor Day to the next. A year ago the administration announced we had both the right and the might to run the world free from the constraints of entangling alliances or multinational accords.

George W. Bush didn't repudiate that right in his speech to the nation on Sunday, but he did allow how we didn't have the might. [complete article]

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Homecoming bittersweet for troops
By Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press (via Washington Times), September 9, 2003

The men of A Company, code-named Attack, took part in some of the most dramatic battles of the war. The young infantrymen had staged a courageous feint to lure Iraqi troops into the open, captured two of Saddam Hussein's palaces on the first day of the Battle of Baghdad and spent two months patrolling and clashing with Iraqi insurgents.

They had spent three months longer in Iraq than they expected, and when they finally were replaced, they and their Bradley Fighting Vehicles looked ragged from the beating they had taken.

Once in the Kuwaiti barracks, they could kid around at last. Would their wives pitch tents for them in the front yard so they would feel at home? Would they still know how to flush the toilet?

A few, though, were returning to divorce papers or delayed heartbreaks.

"I'm not sure if she's going to be there or not," Spc. Choice Kinchen of Friendswood, Texas, said of his wife. [complete article]

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Understanding Iraq's resistance
By Fawaz A. Gerges, Christian Science Monitor, September 10, 2003

With increased bombing of soft targets and daily killings of US troops, the Bush administration characterizes the Iraqi armed resistance as a terrorist phenomenon. Although this has emerged as a major obstacle to reconstruction in Iraq, the reality is too much more complex and dangerous to simply broad-brush it all as "terrorism."

Armed resistance in Iraq represents a broad spectrum of political and ideological forces that need to be understood individually before they swell, coalesce, and become a major threat. The perception in Washington that attacks against US forces and other targets are conducted mainly by hardened elements of the old Saddam Hussein regime - along with Ansar al-Islam, a small fundamentalist Kurdish group with no proven ties to Hussein - is dangerously myopic. [complete article]

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Senators want answers after $87-billion request
By John Hendren and Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2003

Before the war, [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D] Wolfowitz said the cost of rebuilding Iraq could "range from $10 billion to $100 billion." Total proposed spending on the Iraq campaign and aftermath is so far $166 billion. Although administration officials have blamed Iraq's poor infrastructure for some of the unanticipated costs, $65.5 billion of the $87-billion request is earmarked for military operations -- including in Afghanistan -- not rebuilding.

Administration officials and their allies have suggested that an appearance of division among Americans could aid the enemy. When Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) asked if such debate encouraged Saddam Hussein loyalists and their allies who "are watching closely what we do and say here today in Washington," Wolfowitz picked up the theme.

"Well, the stakes are enormous, and they do have a lot of access to what goes on here," he said. While the debate is healthy, he added, "I do think it is important that we be able to project confidence."

Even among Republicans, however, there seems to be no hurry to close ranks behind the key architects of the administration's Iraq policy.

Sen. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.), who has criticized the administration's postwar planning, on Tuesday raised the prospect that the Bush administration might have to consider sacking high-profile war planners. Among those mentioned on Capitol Hill, though not by Hagel, were Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

"This business is all about accountability," Hagel said. "Cabinet members are accountable." [complete article]

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Feith-based initiative
By Al Kamen, Washington Post, September 10, 2003

With a great chunk of President Bush's proposed $87 billion scheduled to flow to Iraqi reconstruction "big time," as they say, we've come across a most timely announcement from the highly regarded international corporate and commercial law firm of Zell, Goldberg & Co.

The firm "has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq," its Web site announced. With offices in Israel and Washington, the firm says it "is assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq. Through its Washington, D.C., office, ZGC is also assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."

Interested parties can reach the law firm through its Web site, at Hmmm. Rings a bell. Oh, yes, that was the Web site of the Washington law firm of Feith & Zell, P.C., as in Douglas J. Feith, former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and now undersecretary of defense for policy and head of -- what else? -- reconstruction matters in Iraq.

It would be impossible indeed to overestimate how perfect ZGC would be in "assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects." [complete article]

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Who aided hijackers is still mystery
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, September 10, 2003

Two years after al Qaeda terrorists slammed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, FBI and congressional investigators remain deeply divided over whether the 19 hijackers received help from other al Qaeda operatives inside the United States and still are unable to answer some of the central questions in the case.

The uncertainties persist despite the largest FBI investigation in U.S. history -- which has included 180,000 interviews and 7,000 agents -- and raise the possibility that Americans will never know precisely how the conspirators were able to pull off the most devastating terrorist attacks in U.S. history. [complete article]

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Bombers hit back at Israel
By Chris McGreal and Assaf Ha Rofeh, The Guardian, September 10, 2003

Two Hamas suicide bombers killed at least 15 people in attacks yesterday on a busy Jerusalem cafe and on soldiers at a crowded bus stop near Tel Aviv. The blasts came just days after the Islamic organisation had said that the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, had "opened the gates of hell" by targeting its leaders for assassination. [complete article]

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You can't make a deal with the dead
By Kevin Toolis, The Guardian, September 10, 2003

[Hamas leader Ismail Abu] Shanab met his predicted end under a hail of Israeli rocket fire two weeks ago in Gaza City. His death was the 138th "targeted killing" of Palestinian militants by the Israeli military since 2000. Since Shanab's immolation, Israel has stepped up the killing game against Hamas, culminating in the failed strike against the paraplegic spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, last weekend. The total is now around 150 and rising.

But then so is the overall casualty count: 2,600 Palestinians and 840 Israelis. Hamas appears undeterred by the attrition campaign against its leadership. The materials for suicide vest bombs come cheap, around £30, and there is an endless army of Palestinian volunteers to wear them. In classic counter-insurgency warfare terms, the Israeli level of casualties, one in four, remains unsustainably high. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld is muted on weapons hunt
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, September 9, 2003

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld took time during his five-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan to highlight the accomplishments of the United States and its allies, he did not include on his list progress in the search for Iraq's suspected arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Rumsfeld, who often acted as the Bush administration's pit bull this spring in arguing that such weapons existed and justified going to war, said he had not even asked about the subject during his 30-minute meeting Saturday with David Kay, the CIA representative in Iraq who is coordinating the search for weapons of mass destruction.

"I have so many things to do at the Department of Defense," Rumsfeld said during an interview aboard his plane, which stopped in Ireland to refuel on the way back to Washington. "I made a conscious decision that I didn't need to stay current every 15 minutes on the issue. I literally did not ask. . . . I'm assuming he'll tell me if he'd gotten something we should know." [complete article]

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What Bush hopes to buy for $87-billion
By Paul Knox, Globe And Mail, September 9, 2003

The desert is chewing up the treads on his army's vehicles. His soldiers are grumbling about the length of deployment. His allies are hedging on support.

What's a U.S. President to do? Ask Congress for $87-billion.

That, in U.S. funds, is what George W. Bush says he needs to keep American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and continue reconstruction efforts.

The amount, for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would more than double the cost to date of what Mr. Bush calls a war on terrorism abroad. It is greater than the world's annual official foreign-aid total for all countries. [complete article]

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'Trust me' is still the message from Bush
By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe, September 9, 2003

If only more Americans could chew gum and think like Britney Spears. In a recent CNN interview, the gum-snapping pop star said that we should "trust our president in every decision he makes" and "be faithful in what happens." Then again the country is already fairly trusting. According to a recent Washington Post poll, seven in 10 Americans believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even though there is no proof of that connection.

Not surprisingly, President Bush is doing nothing to dissuade his fellow Americans of that so-far unproven notion. For over a year, Bush built up support for war with Iraq by repeatedly hinting of such a link. And the president's Sunday night speech to the American people continued the classic Bush pattern of juxtaposing Iraq and Al Qaeda in ways that establishes the perception of a pre-9/11 link. [complete article]

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As noted here last month (neocons change their tune) Donald Rumsfeld's loyal supporters at the Weekly Standard no longer agree with the Defense Secretary on fundamental issues. Now it looks like the Standard senses that Rumsfeld is turning into a liability. They might not be about to join the chorus calling for his resignation, but they'd probably be relieved to see him go.

The neocon crackup
By Timothy Noah, Slate, September 8, 2003

The smoothly oiled neoconservative message machine is showing signs of breakdown. Having argued for five months that things were basically fine in Iraq -- and that any suggestion otherwise was liberal cant -- the Weekly Standard last week broke with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about whether additional troops were needed to restore order in Iraq. Rumsfeld says no; the Standard said yes in a lead editorial by publisher William Kristol and contributing editor Robert Kagan. [complete article]

Secretary of stubbornness
By Tom Donnelly, Weekly Standard, September 15, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld can claim, as much as any man, to be the architect of victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom. History might also tag him as the architect of defeat in the larger war for Iraq. [complete article]

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Spy agencies warned of Iraq resistance
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, September 9, 2003

U.S. intelligence agencies warned Bush administration policymakers before the war in Iraq that there would be significant armed opposition to a U.S.-led occupation, according to administration and congressional sources familiar with the reports.

Although general in nature, the sources said, the intelligence agencies' concerns about the degree of resistance U.S. forces would encounter have proved broadly accurate in the months since the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his inner circle. [complete article]

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What is $87 billion worth?
Washington Post, September 9, 2003

If George Bush wants to call on Americans to make a sacrifice to pay for Iraq, at the risk of upsetting some of his most generous campaign contributors, it would be quite easy: Drop the proposed $108 billion tax cut.

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Gen. Clark's critique
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, September 9, 2003

The Democrats' larger problem is that Iraq is now their war, too, since they mostly agree it would be disastrous for the United States to cut and run. Their critique of Bush doesn't answer the question of how to exit Iraq in a way that protects U.S. national interests and keeps faith with the Iraqi people.

It is in these delicate areas that Clark may have a special advantage if he decides to run. Indeed, but for the Iraq factor, the politically inexperienced Clark wouldn't merit serious attention.

On the big issue, Clark has the right stuff. He has commanded troops in battle and he won a decisive victory in his war -- the 1999 NATO campaign in Kosovo. He also stuck his neck out in criticizing planning for the Iraq invasion at a time when many Democrats were running for cover. [complete article]

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Iraq-terrorism link continues to be problematic
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2003

In describing Iraq as the "central front" in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, President Bush was sounding a theme that continues to resonate powerfully with the American people -- even as some in the counter-terrorism community increasingly wonder whether the assertion is true mainly because the American invasion made it so.

The president invoked the terrorism theme repeatedly in his speech to the nation Sunday night, portraying the invasion of Iraq as part of the U.S. response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. [...]

Tying Iraq to the war on terrorism has become crucial to the Bush administration's appeal for continued public support, particularly with the failure so far to find banned weapons and the ongoing turmoil that is undercutting visions of a swift transition to democracy that might spread across the Middle East.

But the terrorism link is problematic. The administration has yet to prove that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had any complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, or even any significant relationship with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. For that reason, some counter- terrorism experts challenge Bush's characterization. [complete article]

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4 bombing suspects released
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2003

U.S.-led occupation forces in this holy city have released four of seven suspects arrested in the car bombing here last month that killed more than 100 people, and they have yet to find any direct evidence linking the blast to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist groups, officials said Monday. [complete article]

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The post-modern president
By Joshua Micah Marshall, Washington Monthly, September, 2003

When Reagan said he didn't trade arms for hostages, or Clinton insisted he didn't have sex with "that woman," the falsity of the claims was readily provable--by an Oliver North memo or a stained blue dress. Bush and his administration, however, specialize in a particular form of deception: The confidently expressed, but currently undisprovable assertion. In his State of the Union address last January, the president claimed that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and a robust nuclear weapons program, and that therefore we needed to invade Iraq. Even at the time, many military and intelligence experts said that the president's assertions probably weren't true and were based on at best fragmentary evidence. But there was no way to know for sure unless we did what Bush wanted. When the president said on numerous occasions that his tax cuts--which were essentially long-term rate reductions for the wealthy--would spur growth without causing structural deficits, most experts, again, cried foul, pointing out that both past experience and accepted economic theory said otherwise. But in point of fact nobody could say for sure that maybe this time the cuts might not work.

This summer, when it became clear that Iraq had no active nuclear weapons program--indeed showed no apparent evidence of any weapons of mass destruction at all--that the economy was still losing jobs, and that the administration's own budget office predicted deficits as far as it dared project, Bush's reputation for honesty took a turn for the worse. By the middle of July, only 47 percent of adults surveyed by Time/CNN said they felt they could trust the president, down from 56 percent in March. The president's response to all this was to make yet more confidently expressed, undisprovable assertions. [complete article]

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Former U.S. envoy challenges Bush approach on N. Korea
By Carol Giacomo, Reuters, September 8, 2003

Prospects are "grim" for a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis unless the United States engages in a sustained bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang, recently resigned U.S. negotiator Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard said on Monday.

In his first public comments since resigning from the Bush administration three weeks ago on the eve of six-party talks in Beijing, Pritchard challenged the administration's steadfast refusal to have one-on-one negotiations with North Korea. [complete article]

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Deadly diplomacy
By Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian, September 9, 2003

Ariel Sharon arrived yesterday in New Delhi bearing arms - or more precisely, $1bn worth of Israeli spy planes. In doing so, the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to the subcontinent threatens not only to accelerate the arms race between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, but also marks the emergence of a new US-backed coalition of the willing in a region whose influence stretches from the Bay of Bengal to the Dead Sea.

The 150-strong Israeli delegation underlines how far both countries have travelled since they established full diplomatic relations with each other in 1992. But it was the reordering of the world since 9/11 that has seen both nations' interests converge to such an extent that the Delhi government's national security adviser speaks of America, Israel and India being part of an "alliance [which] would have the political will and moral authority to take bold decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation". [complete article]

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Is the neocon agenda for Pax Americana losing steam?
By Jim Lobe, Foreign Policy in Focus, September 8, 2003

President George W. Bush's speech to the nation last night was notable in many ways, most critically for marking what appears to be a weakening of the steep unilateralist trajectory on which neoconservative and right-wing hawks set U.S. foreign policy two years ago. Who would have thought it would lose momentum so quickly after Washington's stunning military victory in Iraq in early April and plummet back to earth?

Now, just a week before the second anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Bush administration appears to have decided that Washington really cannot run Iraq, let alone the entire Middle East, by itself and must rely on others--even the much-despised United Nations--to help out. [complete article]

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Under the palm leaves
By Riverbend, Baghdad Burning, September 8, 2003

Abu Ra'ad (meaning 'father of Ra'ad') was a lawyer with his own private practice… if it could be called that. It was an office in a crowded, mercantile area in Baghdad large enough for three desks: one secretary and a partner.

On April 10, in the middle of the chaos, Abu Ra'ad left his house, his wife and three children to go check on his parents, whom he had lost contact with a week earlier. At 10 am, he got into an old Toyota, said a prayer and headed out to seek his family. He never came back.

For 3 days, Umm Ra'ad (mother of 'Ra'ad') thought he was held up at his parents' house for some reason. Perhaps her husband had found his family hurt? Maybe he had found a parent dead- after all, his father was very sick and old… Maybe the fighting was so heavy, he couldn't make it out of their area? The possibilities were endless. Finally, one of the other neighbors delivered a note to Umm Ra'ad's brother asking him to please visit Abu Ra'ad's family and find out if he was okay. After a long day, Umm Ra'ad's brother visited her home, grim- Abu Ra'ad wasn't at his parents' home. He never made it and no one knew where he was.

For 7 days, everyone thought he was being detained by the Americans. We heard that hundreds of civilians were taken prisoner simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Abu Ra'ad's younger brother, and his brother-in-law, visited authorities every day. They went to the various hotels, they visited the two or three remaining hospitals, and went over endless lists of detainees and POWs in search of Abu Ra'ad.

By the end of April, his family had resigned themselves to Abu Ra'ad's death. His 35-year-old wife was wearing black from head-to-toe in anticipation of the news she knew she was bound, sooner or later, to receive. [complete article]

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Iraq proposes to buy electricity from Iran, Syria
By Stephen J. Glain, Boston Globe, September 8, 2003

The US-appointed Iraqi interim government said late last month in a little-noticed statement that it would buy electricity from Syria and Iran, a deal that would probably enrich with US funds two countries that top the White House list of states that support terrorism. [...]

An official at the Department of Treasury, which monitors countries under US embargo, said he was unaware of Iraqi efforts to buy electricity from its neighbors, but doubted the United States would veto such a transaction. "It could be we regard Iraq as a sovereign state that can purchase electricity from any country it likes," the treasury official said.

A spokesman for the Pentagon, which has authority over the US occupation of Iraq, referred questions to a counterpart in Baghdad, who could not be reached. [complete article]

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Congressman to Bush: Fire the "raving romantics", Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz

Obey tells why he wrote the president
By John Nichols, Capital Times, September 6, 2003

Wisconsin's usually blunt U.S. Rep. David Obey chose his words carefully Friday when he told President Bush that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz have so mishandled the war with Iraq that they should quit.

"I recommend that you allow the secretary of defense and deputy secretary of defense to return to the private sector," the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee wrote at the start of a three-page letter to the president. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld finds no easy answers in Iraq
Agence France-Presse (via Arab Times), September 9, 2003

He came in talking more troops and left blaming the Iraqi people. Either way, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld found no easy answers on a three-day inspection of Iraq's worsening security woes. Rumsfeld flew in unannounced Thursday for a first-hand look at the US-occupied country that has become bogged down in violence, lawlessness and rising tensions among heavily armed communal groups. But by the time he headed off for Kuwait and Afghanistan, another troubled front in the US war against terrorism, Rumsfeld appeared no closer to a solution to instability and daily attacks on US-led forces here.

At a pre-departure news conference Saturday, the US defence chief even chided the Iraqi people to "stand up and take responsibility" for their own security by providing more alerts on potential threats. While Washington was making a big push at the United Nations for more international troops to support the 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq, Rumsfeld expressed misgivings about adding more outsiders. "I have always believed that foreign forces in a country are unnatural, they are an anomaly," Rumsfeld said. "To the extent that you flood the zone and bury this country in security forces ... you create this heavy unnatural presence." [complete article]

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For Bush, rosy scenarios meet reality in Iraq
By Adam Entous, Reuters, September 8, 2003

President Bush's budget director predicted Iraq would be "an affordable endeavor" and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once declared: "I don't know that there is much reconstruction to do."

Five months and tens of billions of dollars later, Bush and his top aides are acknowledging for the first time the magnitude of occupying and rebuilding the battered country by asking Congress for an extra $87 billion for next year, on top of the $79 billion already approved for this year. [complete article]

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Amnesty condemns Israel's W.Bank security barrier
By Corinne Heller, Reuters, September 8, 2003

Israel's construction of a West Bank security barrier is deepening the crippling economic impact of its tough travel restrictions on Palestinians, Amnesty International said on Monday.

In a new report, "Israel and the Occupied Territories: Surviving under Siege," the London-based human rights group said some 60 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line of $2 per day and unemployment is close to 50 percent. [complete article]

See Amnesty's complete report Israel and the Occupied Territories: Surviving under siege

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George Bush, Ariel Sharon, and terrorism
Who is the teacher, who the student, and what is the lesson?

Paul Woodward, The War in Context, September 8, 2003

"We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness." President George W. Bush, address to the nation, September 7, 2003

When George Bush declared a war on terrorism, Ariel Sharon didn't simply applaud. Within days, Israeli tanks and troops were pouring into the West Bank, placing Palestinian cities under siege and engaging in a relentless and ruthless campaign to destroy the Palestinian "terrorist infrastructure." During the first 12 months of the second intifada, prior to September 11, 2001, 177 Israelis had died as a result of Palestinian violence and terrorism. In the following 12 months, a period during which it would be hard to argue that Palestinians must have seen the operations of the Israeli military as a sign of Israel's weakness, another 443 Israelis were killed.

Over the course of the intifada, from September 29, 2000 up to September 1, 2003, in acts of violence committed by Palestinians against Israelis, 743 Israelis have been killed, 504 severely injured, 710 moderately and 3837 lightly injured (source - Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs). During the same period in the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli "counterterrorist operations" have resulted in 2,446 Palestinian deaths and 23,419 injuries (source - Palestine Red Crescent Society). Who in either Israel or America can draw the conclusion that through the use of force, Israel is winning its "war on terrorism"?

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U.S.-led occupation brings frontline against al-Qaeda to Iraq: analysts
By Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo), September 7, 2003

The United States struggled before the war to convince the world there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda network, but five months of US-led occupation of Iraq may have created precisely such an unholy alliance.

Stripped of their privileged positions under the ousted dictator's brutal regime, Saddam's henchmen may finally have thrown in their lot with their ideological adversaries in Osama bin Laden's terror network to wage war on their common foe two years after the suicide hijackings in the United States, analysts say. [complete article]

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Ridiculed and betrayed: why Abbas blames Arafat
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, September 8, 2003

Mahmoud Abbas threatened to quit so often during his four months as Palestinian prime minister that when he finally dispatched a resignation letter to Yasser Arafat at the weekend it was widely assumed to be a tactical move to strengthen his hand and hang on to power.

Yesterday, Mr Abbas, who is more popularly known as Abu Mazen, offered contradictory signals by insisting his resignation is final while keeping open the possibility of return by saying any such talk is "premature".

But the prime minister's allies privately say that while they believe the decision is not set in stone, his critics have misjudged his motivation for quitting. They describe Mr Abbas as embittered, believing he has been lied to by Ariel Sharon, betrayed by the Americans and been the victim of a scurrilous campaign by Mr Arafat to demonise him among the Palestinian public as a collaborator. [complete article]

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Settling differences
By Ian Black, The Guardian, September 8, 2003

Europeans may be forgiven a touch of what Germans call "schadenfreude" as they contemplate how the United States is now seeking their help in sorting out the bloody mess that is postwar Iraq.

With George Bush proposing a new UN resolution to spread the military and financial burden of rebuilding the country, the moment has come for Washington's bitterest critics to do their bit - but without crowing "I told you so." It isn't going to be easy. [complete article]

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Let Israelis and Palestinians vote on a final settlement
By Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, The Guardian, September 8, 2003

The current Israeli-Palestinian peace process relies on a step-by-step approach, which is destined to fail. Moreover, its goal is final status negotiations, which are unlikely to succeed.

Enough with the small steps. Years of intermittent talks between Israelis and Palestinians have produced a good notion of what a settlement acceptable to both sides must look like. The challenge is to get there before a catastrophic chain of events takes place. The weekend resignation of the Palestinian government, together with Israel's attempt to kill the top leaders of Hamas, could be the first links in that chain. It is time for a fresh approach that leaps directly to a final deal, without further negotiations, backed by a US-led international mandate and submitted for approval via popular referendums among the Israeli and Palestinian people. This is the best and most realistic way forward. [complete article]

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Iraq: Heading for showdown
By Agence France-Presse (via News24), September 7, 2003

The US-led coalition appeared Sunday headed for a showdown with Iraqi militias after giving them an ultimatum to lay down their arms that was immediately rejected by a leading anti-US firebrand.

Captain Edward Lofland, spokesperson for the US Marines in this holy Shiite city, said coalition forces had given unauthorised militias until Saturday to disarm or have their weapons confiscated and face possible arrest.

A leading Shi'ite group, whose head was among 83 people killed in a massive car bombing nine days ago, gave qualified backing to the disarmament drive. But an aide to the militant cleric Moqtada Sadr dismissed it categorically. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda plans a front in Iraq
By Peter Finn and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, September 7, 2003

The occupation of Iraq -- once the home of the caliph, or universal leader, of Muslims -- is a galvanizing symbol for radical Islamic groups. On Internet sites and in mosques across the Islamic world, thousands of potential fighters are hearing -- and heeding -- calls to go to Iraq to fight the infidel, according to European and Arab intelligence sources who have tracked some of the movements of the recruits. [complete article]

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Baghdad's mean streets stretch new police force
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 8, 2003

It is the first stop of the afternoon patrol for the newly retrained Iraqi police officers of al-Saddoun, Baghdad's toughest neighbourhood. A man stands by the road with blood streaming down his face and his hand clamped over a gash in his head. He has just emerged from a brawl with a handful of drunken men.

Walid Khalid, 30, one of the non-commissioned officers in the police van, switches off the Arabic pop playing on the stereo and jumps down. He walks up to a drunken Sudanese man in the crowd and kicks him to the ground. He shouts at the others and the street empties, while the wounded man wanders off alone to hitch a lift home.

There is no more than the briefest questioning, no arrest and no further investigation. "Pretend you didn't see any of that," the police officer says. [complete article]

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Farah tried to plead with the U.S. troops but she was killed anyway
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, September 7, 2003

Farah Fadhil was only 18 when she was killed. An American soldier threw a grenade through the window of her apartment. Her death, early last Monday, was slow and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting that the bright high-school student had covered her face to shield it from the explosion.

She had been walking to the window to try to calm an escalating situation; to use her smattering of English to plead with the soldiers who were spraying her apartment building with bullets.

But then a grenade was thrown and Farah died. So did Marwan Hassan who, according to neighbours, was caught in the crossfire as he went looking for his brother when the shooting began.

What is perhaps most shocking about their deaths is that the coalition troops who killed them did not even bother to record details of the raid with the coalition military press office. The killings were that unremarkable. What happened in Mahmudiya last week should not be forgotten, for the story of this raid is also the story of the dark side of the US-led occupation of Iraq, of the violent and sometimes lethal raids carried out apparently beyond any accountability. [complete article]

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Iraq's militias complicate security picture
By Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe, September 7, 2003

The US occupation authority here is scrambling to put Iraqis in charge of security, but the task is even more complicated than it was just a few months ago, when criminal gangs and Fedayeen fighters terrorized the streets.

Now, impatient with rampant lawlessness, militias have sprung up all over the country, as ubiquitous as machine guns and grenade launchers. In many quarters they're winning more popular support than either the new Iraqi police or US military, even though military officials insist they will disarm militias, including the Badr Brigade.

The paramilitaries may prove difficult to control. In Najaf on Friday, for example, Iraqi police officers deferred to Badr gunmen, who decided which cars would be allowed past checkpoints into the city's holy center.

"For every hundred of us carrying guns here, only five have permission," said Abu Montazar Al-Abudi, the Badr commander directing the fighters who cordoned off Najaf for the busy Friday prayers, searched cars, and prowled with sniper rifles on the mosque's 30-foot-high perimeter walls. "We won't let the Americans take away our guns and stop us from protecting our religious scholars and our people." [complete article]

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Aggressive U.S. foreign policy generates distrust
By John Hassell, NJ Star Ledger, September 7, 2003

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly two years ago, America became a mailbox, receiving letters of condolence from all corners of the globe. Even Moammar Gadhafi and Mullah Mohammed Omar of the Taliban, no friends of the United States, sent their sympathies.

Today, after U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the launching of an ambitious enterprise to reshape the politics of the Middle East, things are very different. Polls show a deepening resentment of U.S. power worldwide, even among traditional allies. America's mailbox is again full, this time with hate mail. [complete article]

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Shiites humiliate Bush
By Gary Leupp, Counterpunch, September 5, 2003

"The occupation force is primarily responsible for the pure blood that was spilt in holy Al-Najaf, the blood of al-Hakim and the faithful group that was present near the mosque. This force is primarily responsible for all this blood and the blood that is shed all over Iraq every day. Iraq must not remain occupied and the occupation must leave so that we can build Iraq as God wants us to do."

The remarkable funeral oration by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, brother of Iraq's most prominent Shiite cleric and political figure, the slain Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, might just prove the death-knell of the occupation and even the neocons' whole world-changing project. [complete article]

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'Liberated' but not free
By Ellen Goodman, Washington Post, September 6, 2003

There is a moment in Azar Nafisi's memoir of life in Iran when she describes what it was like to be a captive in someone else's dream. "A stern ayatollah," she writes, "a blind and improbable philosopher-king, had decided to impose his dream on a country and a people and to re-create us in his own myopic vision."

Nafisi's book, whose very title -- "Reading Lolita in Tehran" -- was to set all the ayatollahs on edge, chronicles her resistance to this "myopic vision." She created an air pocket in the suffocating atmosphere of the Islamic revolution, a private classroom where a handful of students could come and talk about literature and life.

The subject of her book is not only freedom but what it was like for a woman to lose it. "Now that I could not call myself a teacher, a writer, now that I could not wear what I would normally wear, walk in the streets to the beat of my own body, shout if I wanted to or pat a male colleague on the back on the spur of the moment, now that all this was illegal," she recalls, "I felt light and fictional, as if I were walking on air, as if I had been written into being and then erased in one quick swipe."

This "memoir in books" is a remarkable blend of imagination and politics. But it's a way to think about Iraq and Afghanistan as well. You see, things are not going so well for the women in the countries that we have "liberated." There is a struggle there too with "stern ayatollahs." [complete article]

More about Reading Lolita in Tehran

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