The War in Context  
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North Korea calls Rumsfeld illiterate psychopath
Reuters, September 27, 2003

North Korea described Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a dictatorial psychopath and a politically illiterate old man for criticizing Pyongyang and predicting its system would collapse.

Rumsfeld told U.S. and South Korean business leaders on Tuesday he had a night-time satellite picture of the divided peninsula in his office that showed the North almost entirely in darkness and the South aglow.

"While the situation in North Korea sometimes looks bleak, I'm convinced that one day freedom will come to the people and light up that oppressed land with hope and promise," he said in a speech mostly about the U.S.-South Korean military alliance. The response from the North's official KCNA news agency was harsh even by its own rich rhetorical standards.

"His remarks only go to prove that he is just an old man politically illiterate as he cannot measure up the present reality when all the countries are promoting peaceful co-existence, reconciliation and cooperation irrespective of ideologies and beliefs," it said in a long commentary.

"It is not likely at all that he would speak truth as he is obsessed with wantonly harassing peace and security in different parts of the world and igniting wars. His outbursts, therefore, cannot be construed otherwise than a desperate shrill cry of a psychopath on his death bed."

It said Rumsfeld was cursed and hated worldwide. [complete article]

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'Who the heck is Moussaoui?'
By Juliette Kayyem, MSNBC, September 26, 2003

The U.S. government is expressing confidence that the prosecution of Zacharias Moussaoui, the alleged "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 plot, will continue apace in spite of serious troubles in the initial effort to make charges stick. Behind this confidence, however, is a troubling fact: Senior members of al-Qaida captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere, including some providing credible information to their American captors, are telling U.S. interrogators they have never heard of Moussaoui. [complete article]

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Iraqi family ties complicate American efforts for change
By John Tierney, New York Times, September 28, 2003

Iqbal Muhammad does not recall her first glimpse of her future husband, because they were both newborns at the time, but she remembers precisely when she knew he was the one. It was the afternoon her uncle walked over from his house next door and proposed that she marry his son Muhammad.

"I was a little surprised, but I knew right away it was a wise choice," she said, recalling that afternoon nine years ago, when she and Muhammad were 22. "It is safer to marry a cousin than a stranger."

Her reaction was typical in a country where nearly half of marriages are between first or second cousins, a statistic that is one of the more important and least understood differences between Iraq and America. The extraordinarily strong family bonds complicate virtually everything Americans are trying to do here, from finding Saddam Hussein to changing women's status to creating a liberal democracy.

"Americans just don't understand what a different world Iraq is because of these highly unusual cousin marriages," said Robin Fox of Rutgers University, the author of "Kinship and Marriage," a widely used anthropology textbook. "Liberal democracy is based on the Western idea of autonomous individuals committed to a public good, but that's not how members of these tight and bounded kin groups see the world. Their world is divided into two groups: kin and strangers." [complete article]

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Iraq leaders seek greater role now in running nation
By Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, September 27, 2003

With an advanced degree in engineering and a high technology career behind him in Britain, Hayder Awad Aabadi, Iraq's new minister of communications, smiles when asked whether Iraqis are ready to run their country again.

He will get the telephones working in Baghdad by the end of November, he says. He will build a state-owned mobile telephone network by piggybacking on existing infrastructure. He will thwart saboteurs who have been cutting the fiber optic lines around the capital.

"Iraqis are a very proud people," Mr. Aabadi said in an interview in his spare office, which is situated away from the front of the building to protect him from car bombs. "They will not be motivated in a situation where things are run by a foreign occupying power."

Impatience is beginning to grow here as Iraqi officials chafe at the strictures of an American occupation, which, they say, has in some cases slowed reconstruction because power is centralized in the hands of the military commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and the civilian occupation administrator, L. Paul Bremer III. [complete article]

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Debate rises where Bush and Marshall plans diverge
By David Firestone, New York Times, September 27, 2003

The Bush administration says its plan to rebuild Iraq is modeled on the farsighted spirit of the Marshall Plan. But lawmakers and historians are increasingly finding flaws in the postwar analogy, many of which are at the heart of the debate over the administration's $87 billion spending request, which includes a modest amount for Afghanistan.

The Marshall Plan, they say, required a much larger contribution from its European beneficiaries after World War II than the administration is asking of Iraq.

European countries were required by the Truman administration to match every dollar of American aid, and 10 percent of the Marshall Plan's $13 billion was made up of loans. By contrast, the $20.3 billion reconstruction grant for Iraq is not contingent on any contribution from that country's future revenues. [complete article]

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Suggestion to American forces in Iraq: If you want to win more hearts and minds, don't teach Iraqi orphans how to play American football; let the Iraqis teach you how to play soccer.

American football is pitched to Iraqi orphans
By Ian Simpson, Reuters, September 27, 2003

U.S. soldiers sought to put "offense" and "defense" to good use in Iraq on Saturday when they introduced Iraqi orphans to the game of American football.

Colonel Ted Cox, a 55-year-old reserve officer who helped organize the event, said it was part of a U.S. effort to win elusive popular support after the war.

"These are our future leaders and we want to show that the United States is their strong ally," said Cox, a senior adviser to Iraq's Justice Ministry and a Vietnam War veteran from Shreveport in Louisiana.

"Basically, we want to show them that freedom is great." [complete article]

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Bruce Willis offers $1m Saddam bounty
BBC News, September 27, 2003

Actor Bruce Willis has performed before US soldiers in Telafar, northern Iraq, and offered $1m (£603,000) to the man who captures Saddam Hussein. [...]

"It's awesome," said commander Col Michael Linnington. "It's great for morale. "He's a macho actor. Soldiers identify with action movies and action actors. He's a guy's guy."

During an interview Willis said: "Peculiar thing back home is that the liberal media was trying to portray it as a bad war.

"But being over here just a couple of days, seeing how well our troops and the allied troops are being received here, (I) think the Iraqi people are happy we're here," the Hollywood star said.

"Children are being taken care of, starting being inoculated, starting being looked after. Wherever these guys go they get thumbs up. They no longer have to contend with the terrorist leader," Willis said.

But the star later admitted he had not met many Iraqis because he had been travelling the country by helicopter. [complete article]

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Bush jeopardizing chances for U.N. help in Iraq
By Ron Hutcheson and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, September 27, 2003

President Bush has dug in his heels against giving the United Nations a central role in Iraq because of concerns that ceding power would throw the rebuilding effort off-track, delay the pullout of U.S. troops and undermine American goals in the region, administration officials say.

"The president of the United States made a decision that what we need to do in Iraq we need to do as quickly as possible, so we can get the Iraqis on their feet and we can leave," said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

But in refusing to budge from his U.S.-in-command policy, Bush is jeopardizing his chances for a U.N. resolution encouraging international help in Iraq, not to mention his hope for re-election next year. His public-approval rating hit an all-time low in two polls published this past week, driven down largely by concern over Iraq and the economy.

A U.N. resolution is a crucial first step in Bush's efforts to get contributions of cash, foreign troops and expertise for Iraq. To much of the world - including a majority of Americans, polls indicate - turning over Iraq's reconstruction to the United Nations is a no-brainer. [complete article]

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The distinction between pilot and soldier refuseniks
By Moshe Gorali, Haaretz, September 27, 2003

A[n Israeli] High Court petition against assassinations is pending. The plaintiffs - attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfarad - claim that "the consistent assassination policy borders on a crime against humanity, and the state of Israel has turned its pilots into war criminals." If the High Court accepts this claim, the position of the pilots refusing to carry out assassinations would be accepted. [complete article]

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With each attack, U.S. image in Iraq erodes
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2003

The attack came not long after darkness fell, a time when the air is balmy after the heat of the day and people linger to exchange news, gossip and run a last errand before curfew.

In this peaceful scene, a mortar shell exploded with extraordinary force, its shrapnel flying for hundreds of feet and leaving nine Iraqi civilians dead and at least 18 wounded Thursday at a busy market in this turbulent town northeast of Baghdad.

On Friday, all that was left was a broad, shallow crater in the road, suspicions about who was responsible and disdain for the Americans' ability to stop such acts.

"These were innocent people who were killed," said Dhamid Salih, 47, who owns a small kebab restaurant a few feet from where the shell hit. "There are a lot of people who don't like the idea that Iraq is stabilizing. They are doing this to create chaos. The Americans should do something." [complete article]

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Patriots and invaders
By Sami Ramadani, The Guardian, September 27, 2003

It was my first and brutally abrupt realisation that Baghdad, the city of my childhood, is now occupied territory. It was also my first encounter with a potent symbol of Iraqi hostility to the occupation forces. Sitting in the front seat of the taxi that brought us from Amman, I suddenly realised that a heavy machine gun was pointing at us from only a few metres away. It was an American soldier aboard an armoured vehicle in front of us, stuck in a traffic jam on the outskirts of Baghdad. He gestured disapprovingly towards our driver for approaching with some speed, then looked to his left and angrily stuck out a middle finger. I followed his gaze and there was a child of no more than eight or nine sitting in a chair in front of the open gates leading to the garden of his house. He was shouting angrily, with a clenched fist of defiance, cutting the air with swift and furious right hooks. [complete article]

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Iran defends nuclear plans
By Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2003

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Thursday that Tehran would never consider ending its nuclear program.

And Iran would agree to surprise inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency only if Iran receives guarantees that the United States will not make further demands, he told journalists at a breakfast gathering.

Backed by the U.S., the International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded that Iran agree to surprise inspections by Oct. 31. Kharrazi called the request "untimely and immature" as well as politically motivated.

The issue of appearing to accede to U.S. demands is now so controversial in Iran that Kharrazi said his government is under pressure from "some powerful people" not only to reject new inspections but to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

For now, he said, Iran is resisting walking away from the agreement.

U.S. officials have said that if Iran pulls out of the treaty, it could trigger a confrontation with the United States and possibly U.N. sanctions. [complete article]

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Sale of Iraq suspended
By Naseer Al-Nahr, Asharq Al-Awsat (via Arab News), September 25, 2003

Iraq's Governing Council backed off yesterday from a controversial pledge by its finance minister to allow 100 percent foreign ownership in most economic sectors here, saying the matter needed more study.

A council statement distanced the US-installed body from a key part of a sweeping economic package presented by interim Finance Minister Kamel Al-Kilani at the International Monetary Fund meeting in Dubai on Sunday. [complete article]

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Orientalism 25 years later
Worldly humanism v. the empire-builders

By Edward Said, Counterpunch, August 4, 2003

I wish I could say that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the United States has improved somewhat [since the publication of Orientalism in 1978], but alas, it really hasn't. For all kinds of reasons, the situation in Europe seems to be considerably better. In the US, the hardening of attitudes, the tightening of the grip of demeaning generalization and triumphalist cliché, the dominance of crude power allied with simplistic contempt for dissenters and "others" has found a fitting correlative in the looting and destruction of Iraq's libraries and museums. What our leaders and their intellectual lackeys seem incapable of understanding is that history cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, clean so that "we" might inscribe our own future there and impose our own forms of life for these lesser people to follow. It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar. But this has often happened with the "Orient," that semi-mythical construct which since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the late eighteenth century has been made and re-made countless times. In the process the uncountable sediments of history, that include innumerable histories and a dizzying variety of peoples, languages, experiences, and cultures, all these are swept aside or ignored, relegated to the sand heap along with the treasures ground into meaningless fragments that were taken out of Baghdad. [complete article]

See also Setting the record straight, Edward Said interviewed in 1999 in Atlantic Monthly after the publication of his memoir, Out of place.

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E.U. commission to offer $230M for Iraq
By Raf Casert, Associated Press, September 26, 2003

The European Union's executive office said Friday it will offer $230 million next month to rebuild Iraq, with contributions from the 15 members expected to further boost that total.

The commission countered criticism that its offer, to be made at an Oct. 23-24 donor conference in Spain, was puny, compared with what Iraq needs. The Bush administration is asking Congress for more than $20.3 billion in Iraqi reconstruction aid.

"You also have to judge what you can spend" because of the ongoing violence after last month's bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and other attacks on foreign targets, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said. "The security situation in the country will weigh heavily on the conference."

The EU said that of the $80 million already allocated in humanitarian aid, only half could be properly put to use because of the tenuous security situation in Iraq. [complete article]

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"A miserable failure"
By Jack Beatty, Atlantic Monthly, September 24, 2003

With one phrase Dick Gephardt has defined the issue to be decided next November. Can a "miserable failure" of a president win re-election? Bush's victory would testify to a civic failure more dangerous to the American future than any policies implemented or continued during a second Bush term. A majority would have demonstrated that democratic accountability is finished. That you can fail in everything and still be re-elected president. [complete article]

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Powell gives Iraq 6 months to write new constitution
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, September 26, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, responding to demands from France and others for a rapid timetable for self-rule in Iraq, said yesterday that the United States would set a deadline of six months for Iraqi leaders working under the American-led occupation to produce a new constitution for their country.

The constitution, which would spell out whether Iraq should be governed by a presidential or parliamentary system, would clear the way for elections and the installation of a new leadership next year, Mr. Powell said. Not until then, he added, would the United States transfer authority from the American-led occupation to Iraq itself.

"We would like to put a deadline on them," he said in an interview with editorial writers, editors and reporters for The Times, referring to the Iraqi task of writing a constitution. "They've got six months. It'll be a difficult deadline to meet, but we've got to get them going." [complete article]

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The cost of the settlements
Haaretz, September 26, 2003

One of the most closely guarded secrets in Israel is the amount of funding that is channeled to the settlements. Budget items were built to conceal this information and no government report has ever been published on the subject. Now, for the first time, Haaretz is presenting a nearly complete picture of the additional cost of the settlements, which totals more than NIS 45 billion [US$10 billion] since 1967.

...there is still no clear answer to the question of how many extra billions the State of Israel spends in the territories each year. Is it NIS 1 billion? NIS 2 billion? NIS 5 billion? More? In other words, the question is how much less the state would spend if the 231,000 settlers resided within the Green Line. And how much money has Israel allocated for Jewish settlement in the territories since they were conquered over 36 years ago: NIS 20 billion? NIS 30 billion? NIS 50 billion - or more? The Haaretz investigation, conducted during the past three months, attempts to answer these questions for the first time.

No prime minister or finance minister, from either the Likud or Labor parties, has ever answered these questions. Most, or all, of them do not know the answers. There is a story at the treasury about a new finance minister, a friend of the settlements, who received the portfolio not that many years ago and invited the head of the Budgets Division for a confidential talk. When the door was closed, the minister implored, "Now tell me, finally, how many billions is the government spending in the territories each year?" The head of the division responded by giving the minister a two-hour lecture on government spending in the territories. During the entire lecture, he did not mention even a single number. [complete article]

See also Haaretz's extensive supplement, The price of the settlements - maps, statistics, and analysis (24 articles).

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Fallujah: A multilayered picture emerges
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, September 26, 2003

This is the heart of the Iraqi resistance. Fallujah, with a population of almost 500,000 people, traditionally "the city of mosques", is now called "the city of heroes" as it is at the core of the Sunni triangle (Baghdad-Ramadi-Tikrit) where most of the resistance to the US occupation is taking place.

President George W Bush told the United Nations on Tuesday that he is not willing to give back full sovereignty to Iraq any time soon. US Proconsul L Paul Bremer said last week that Iraqis are not yet capable of ruling themselves. The citizens of Fallujah have other ideas. [complete article]

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Terrorism as regressive globalisation
By Mary Kaldor, Open Democracy, September 25, 2003

Terrorism is a technique increasingly used by extreme religious and/or nationalist political movements as part of an array of forms of violence mainly directed against civilians. Many of these movements were quiescent during the immediate post second world war period. But in the last two decades we have seen a marked increase in their political presence, not only through their involvement in violent episodes, but also in electoral terms. Typical recruits to these movements are restless young men, often educated for roles that no longer exist because of the decline of the state or of the industrial sector, unable to marry because they lack income, and sometimes needing to legitimate the semi-criminal activities in which they can find their only source of income. Membership in such groups offers meaning, a sense of historical relevance, and also adventure. [complete article]

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Cursed by crime and numbers
The Economist, September 25, 2003

Arab Sunni resistance to Shia force majeure is fierce. Since the fall of Baghdad, Shias have obtained a majority on the Governing Council and in many ministries. This month, they seemed poised to overrun the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is probably Iraq's second-richest ministry (oil is already in Shia hands). Its huge network includes Sunni (but not Shia) religious trusts, or Awqaf, which after 1,400 years of Islamic bequests number 10,000 properties in Baghdad alone.

In an attempt to defuse the battle for the Awqaf, Iraq's American administrator, Paul Bremer, dissolved the Ministry of Religious Affairs with the ruthlessness of Henry VIII. But he still managed to infuriate Sunni Islamists by putting a Shia official in charge pending abolition, and he left unanswered the question of what to do with the Awqaf's fantastic resources. [complete article]

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The hunt for weapons of mass destruction yields - nothing
By Julian Borger, Ewen MacAskill and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, September 25, 2003

An intensive six-month search of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction has failed to discover a single trace of an illegal arsenal, according to accounts of a report circulating in Washington and London.

The interim report, compiled by the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG) of 1,400 weapons experts and support staff, will instead focus on Saddam Hussein's capacity and intentions to build banned weapons.

A draft of the report has been sent to the White House, the Pentagon and Downing Street, a US intelligence source said. It has caused such disappointment that there is now a debate over whether it should be released to Congress over the next fortnight, as had been widely expected.

"It will mainly be an accounting of programmes and dual-use technologies," said one US intelligence source. "It demonstrates that the main judgments of the national intelligence estimate (NIE) in October 2002, that Saddam had hundreds of tonnes of chemical and biological agents ready, are false." [complete article]

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Hostile in public, Iran seeks quiet discourse with U.S.
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, September 25, 2003

As a half-dozen of Iran's most advanced ballistic missiles roll by, at the climax of a military parade this week, the anti-US rhetoric appears unchanged.

"We will crush America under our feet," the painted lettering reads, on the Shahab-3 missile - a rocket with a 1,000-mile range that the Islamic Republic vows can "hit the heart of the enemy" US-ally Israel.

But behind the scenes, analysts say that the US occupation of Iraq - and continued instability there - is prompting both Tehran and Washington to reappraise their archenemy status, and find a number of pragmatic reasons not to antagonize each other. [complete article]

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Edward Said, leading advocate of Palestinians, dies at 67
By Richard Bernstein, New York Times, September 25, 2003

Edward Said, a polymath scholar and literary critic at Columbia University who was the most prominent advocate in the United States of the cause of Palestinian independence, died in New York City today. He was 67.

The cause of death was leukemia, which Mr. Said had been battling for several years.

Mr. Said, who was born in Jerusalem during the British mandate in Palestine and emigrated to the United States when he was a teenager, spent a long and productive career as a professor of comparative literature at Columbia and was the author of several widely discussed books.

He was an exemplar of American multiculturalism, at home both in Arabic and English, but, as he once put it, "a man who lived two quite separate lives," one as an American university professor, the other as a fierce critic of American and Israeli policies and an equally fierce proponent of the Palestinian cause. [complete article]

See also A monument of justice and human rights -- A tribute to Edward Said, by Mustafa Barghouthi and Remembering Edward Said, Electronic Intifada.

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Below the Beltway
By John B. Judis, The American Prospect, October 1, 2003

Last February I had lunch with a friend who was teaching at one of the military war colleges. He told me that the officers he knew were uniformly skeptical about a war with Iraq. "I don't think they are worried about fighting Iraq but about garrisoning it afterward," he said. I heard similar doubts about the wisdom of the war from foreign-policy experts, oil-industry consultants and Middle East historians, but the Bush White House was not interested in these opinions. It was listening to the echo chamber set up by the Pentagon, The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute. A few months after George W. Bush declared victory, however, it is clear that the skeptics were right on every important count. [complete article]

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Bush fails to gain pledges on troops or funds for Iraq
By Dana Milbank and Colum Lynch, Washington Post, September 25, 2003

Bush's empty-handed departure after two days at the United Nations, combined with warnings from the military that it will soon need fresh U.S. troops to relieve those in Iraq, makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. military will have to rely on its own reservists to do the job -- a politically dicey move for Bush, whose domestic support already has declined because of the continuing instability in Iraq.

Compounding the pressure, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is considering ordering the total withdrawal of U.N. personnel from Iraq, a step recommended by his top political and security advisers after two bombing attacks against the world body in Baghdad over the past month, according to U.N. and U.S. officials. A U.N. pullout would seriously undercut efforts to assign the United Nations a broader role in overseeing Iraq's political transition.

The White House, when it decided earlier this month to seek a new U.N. resolution, was hoping to quickly pass a measure that would encourage countries such as India, Pakistan and Turkey to send troops and others to provide money to support Iraq's reconstruction. But the administration discovered that other countries are not willing to commit the needed military power and funding unless the United States relinquishes more control than it is willing to give to the United Nations or the Iraqis. [complete article]

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Megawati hits out at U.S. war on terrorism
By Marian Wilkinson, Sydney Morning Herald, September 25, 2003

Indonesia's President Megawati Soekarnoputri has called on the West to re-examine its "war on terrorism" strategies and criticised US policy in the Middle East and Iraq. [...]

Backing French criticism of Mr Bush's Iraq policy, Ms Megawati said [in her address to the U.N. General Assembly] that the US-led invasion "has created far many more problems than those it intended to solve", adding: "I do believe that a great many lessons can be learned from the Iraq war."

Ms Megawati's unusually strong public comments come as Washington is trying to press forward on closer military and intelligence co-operation with Indonesia against terrorism. [complete article]

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Blast at NBC's Baghdad hotel leaves one dead
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2003

A bomb exploded early today in the Iraqi capital at a hotel housing American journalists, killing a hotel employee and slightly injuring a soundman working for NBC television news. It was the first attack in Baghdad apparently targeting foreign media workers.

The 7 a.m. blast at the Al Aike Hotel, used by NBC as its Baghdad bureau, seemed to have been caused by a homemade bomb placed on the sidewalk near the generator, NBC employees said. The blast shattered windows on the hotel's first floor. [complete article]

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Shot Iraq council member dies
BBC News, September 25, 2003

A female member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has died five days after being shot, the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority has said.

Aqila al-Hashimi was ambushed near her home on Saturday by gunmen, who attacked her convoy with machine guns and a bomb. She was being treated for gunshot wounds to the stomach. [complete article]

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Iran: Damned if they do, damned if they don't
By Safa Haeri, Asia Times, September 26, 2003

A resolution passed on September 12 by the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has produced intense debate in Iran that could determine the fate of the country's theocratic system. The stark choice facing the Iranian ruling authorities is to consider whether to turn the country into a North Korea of the Middle East, or to open up more to the West. [complete article]

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Israeli pilots rebel against strikes
BBC News, September 24, 2003

A group of Israeli air force pilots are refusing to carry out strikes against targets in the Palestinian territories. The declaration by 27 pilots, some of whom regularly carry out combat missions, has been condemned by Israeli military leaders.

Israel frequently launches air strikes designed to kill Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Government describes the operations as "targeted killings", but Palestinians and human rights groups condemn them as assassinations - and note that innocent civilians are often killed as well.

In their statement, released on Wednesday, the pilots say: "We, veteran and active pilots... are opposed to carrying out the illegal and immoral attack orders of the sort that Israel carries out in the territories."

They add: "We are refusing to continue to attack innocent civilians." [complete article]

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Why America still needs the United Nations
By Shashi Tharoor, Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2003

In September 2002, a radical new document declared that "no nation can build a safer, better world alone." These words came not from some utopian internationalist or ivory-tower academic, but from the new National Security Strategy of the United States. For all its underpinnings in realpolitik, the strategy committed the United States to multilateralism.

This statement should not have been surprising, for multilateralism, of course, is not only a means but an end. And for good reason: in international affairs, the choice of method can serve to advertise a country's good faith or disinterestedness. Most states act both unilaterally and multilaterally at times: the former in defense of their national security or in their immediate backyard, the latter in pursuit of global causes. The larger a country's backyard, however, the greater the temptation to act unilaterally across it -- a problem most acute in the case of the United States. But the more far-reaching the issue and the greater the number of countries affected, the less sufficient unilateralism proves, and the less viable it becomes. Hence the ongoing need for multilateralism -- which the U.S. National Security Strategy seemed to recognize. [complete article]

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Bush to world: Drop dead!
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, September 23, 2003

Has an American president ever delivered such a bafflingly impertinent speech before the General Assembly as the one George W. Bush gave this morning?

Here were the world's foreign ministers and heads of state, anxiously awaiting some sign of an American concession to realism -- even the sketchiest outline of a plan to share not just the burden but the power of postwar occupation in Iraq. And Bush gave them nothing, in some ways less than nothing. [complete article]

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Testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (PDF format)
By J. Brian Atwood, September 23, 2003

... there is no clearly understood plan that is embraced by the Iraqi people and by the organizations working there. The constant shifts in position by the Coalition Provisional Authority are confusing to Iraqis. No one knows whether we are building the nation from the top down or from the bottom up. Is the United States really interested in creating an Iraqi democracy, or are we fearful that giving power to the Iraqi people will produce policies counter to our interests? Perhaps the worst manifestation of this confusion is a growing belief on the part of ordinary Iraqis that the chaos they are experiencing must be what we Americans really want. [...]

Iraq today is reminiscent of the situation the Clinton Administration faced in Somalia in 1993-94. We did not have a clear mission there and we did not have enough troops to protect ourselves. When we suffered through incidents such as "Black Hawk Down", the inadequacy of our force size became obvious. Our departure from Somalia followed, a Secretary of Defense resigned and the "Somalia syndrome" inhibited decision makers for several years.

We do not have the option of leaving Iraq in this era of terrorism. Yet, we owe it to our military to give them the force structure to protect themselves. To date, the young men and women of our military services have not been well served by the civilian leadership of the Pentagon. [complete article (PDF format)]

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Clark's balancing act
By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, September 24, 2003

In the presidential candidacy of Wesley Clark, the Athenian party in American politics may just have found its Spartan.

The meteoric ascent of the former NATO commander is scrambling all the normal alignments within the Democratic Party and some of those without.

Whether Clark can sustain his initial momentum is anybody's guess; his first week as a candidate was a triumphal parade interrupted by the occasional self-inflicted wound. But for now, many of the longstanding battlements that have divided the Democrats for decades seem to have crumbled before him.

Clark's legions include Democrats more accustomed to attacking one another than joining in common cause. Satirist and anti-Iraqi war activist Michael Moore has written a testimonial to Clark; so has Iraqi war proponent Jonathan Chait of the New Republic. Naderites of '00 have told me they're going Clark in '04; so have some Democrats who want to save the party from the specter of Howard Dean. [complete article]

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U.K. recalls MI6 link to Palestinian militants
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, September 24, 2003

Britain has ordered the MI6 agent at the heart of its Middle East strategy to leave Jerusalem, claiming that it fears for his safety.

Alistair Crooke provided Britain with its only direct contact with Hamas and other organisations officially shunned by the UK. But his associates say he is being forced out by the Foreign Office, which they claim is increasingly reluctant to challenge Israel's pledge to "obliterate terrorist groups".

Officially, Mr Crooke, 54, was assigned as a security adviser to the EU's special envoy to the Middle East six years ago because of his experience during the peace talks in Northern Ireland.

But the intelligence officer was at the forefront of the British attempts to draw Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups into the political process.

Mr Crooke, who was reported in the Israeli press as the spy who rejected the CIA's armoured vehicles in favour of Palestinian taxis, played a central role in putting together a ceasefire by Hamas a year ago which he believed would put an end to suicide bombings. [complete article]

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Bush vs. Chirac: The sequel
By Tony Karon, Time, September 24, 2003

The reason the French and other European and Arab allies are so apparently obsessed with issues of sovereignty and UN control is precisely that they see the current occupation as lacking legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis, and therefore inherently unstable. While President Bush may cast the U.S. as liberators promoting freedom in the face of resistance by terrorists and "holdouts of the former regime," those on the other side of the debate fear that hostility to the U.S.-led occupation is drawing even ordinary Iraqis with no ties either to the Baath party or the Islamist movement to support the insurgency. And those concerns are likely to be exacerbated by this week's decision by Bremer and the Iraqi Governing Council to privatize all of Iraq's economy except for the oil industry -- the idea that decisions that will have a profound impact on Iraq's future are being taken by an occupation authority and a body of Iraqis of its own choosing will further alarm many UN member states.

In the American narrative presented by President Bush, the U.S. acted decisively while others dithered in the face of danger, and now it is nurturing an exemplary democracy in a region mired in autocracy and economic stasis. But for many other UN member states Iraq is not free but occupied without international consent. And the President's suggestion in passing that the Palestinians ought to learn from what the U.S. is doing and jettison their elected leader, Yasser Arafat, won't have helped him persuade the skeptics. At the UN, after all, Bush is even more isolated on the question of Arafat than he is on Iraq -- last week's General Assembly resolution demanding that Israel refrain from acting against the Palestinian leader saw only four countries voting against: the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. And, if anything, many UN member states may be more inclined to the link Iraq and the Palestinians on the grounds that both are under occupation. [complete article]

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The Clark critique:
An excerpt from Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire

By Wesley K. Clark, Newsweek, September 29, 2003

In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, many in the Bush administration seemed most focused on a prospective move against Iraq. This was the old idea of "state sponsorship" -- even though there was no evidence of Iraqi sponsorship of 9/11 whatsoever -- and the opportunity to "roll it all up." I could imagine the arguments. War to unseat Saddam Hussein promised concrete, visible action.

I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, and one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. So, I thought, this is what they mean when they talk about "draining the swamp." It was evidence of the Cold War approach: Terrorism must have a "state sponsor," and it would be much more effective to attack a state than to chase after individuals, nebulous organizations, and shadowy associations. [complete article]

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Cracks appear in America's conservative consensus
By Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, September 23, 2003

"My problem with the Bush doctrine is that it has never been backed up with sufficient resources or a well-thought through strategy." -- William Kristol

The spectacle of pro-war "neo-conservatives" savaging Donald Rumsfeld - the United States defence secretary they had hailed as the architect of military victory in Iraq - has set chat-shows buzzing and delighted opponents of the Bush administration.

Recriminations over the Pentagon's failure to plan for the complexities of post-war Iraq, combined with the public's shock at the cost, have also led to questions over the future direction of US foreign policy. [complete article]

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Iraq: the reality and rhetoric
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, September 24, 2003

It was the middle of the night when the crack paratroopers from America's 82nd Airborne Division arrived outside Ali Khalaf's farmhouse in the parched fields of central Iraq.

Some of the family were asleep on mattresses in the dirt yard outside the single-storey house. Ali's brother Ahmad lay there with his wife, Hudood, 25, and their two young sons and so they were the first to hear the soldiers as they approached the house at around 2am yesterday.

"We heard voices and so my husband went out to check what was happening. We thought they were thieves," said Hudood. "My husband shouted at them and then immediately they started shooting."

By the family's account, the troops of the 82nd Airborne - known proudly as the "All American" - opened up a devastating barrage of gunfire lasting for at least an hour. When the shooting stopped, three farmers were dead and three others were injured, including Hudood's two sons, Tassin, 12, and Hussein, 10. [complete article]

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The crucible
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 2003

A three-part series that examines initial US efforts to transfer power at the grass-roots to Iraqis. US commanders, virtually alone in overseeing vast regions of Iraq, have pushed for at least superficial local empowerment as vital to stability. They have often forged ahead of civilian occupation authorities in Baghdad, resisting top-down mandates in favor of pragmatic problem solving from below. Yet so far steps toward Iraqi self-defense and self-rule remain fitful and tentative, hampered by mutual misunderstanding, resentment, and mistrust.

The series is based on scores of interviews conducted in July and August in three distinct regions: the Shiite-dominated south; the ethnically mixed crossroads of northern Iraq; and the Sunni strongholds of central Iraq. In each, the Monitor focuses on different problems: In the south, searching for common ground between conservative Shiite factions, Iraqi civil authorities, and US-led military forces. In the north, forging a new Iraqi defense force out of Iraq's broken, demoralized Army, and laying the building blocks for representative government. In central Iraq, sorting out the influential groups from the old regime - as well as establishing effective police and court systems.

One: Iraq's simmering south

Two: In Iraq's northwest, an emerging model

Three: Iraq's restive 'Sunni Triangle'

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Antiterrorism creed
By James Carroll, Boston Globe, September 23, 2003

Everyone knows what threatens the United States -- "terrorism." But what exactly is terrorism? The suffix "ism" is a clue. The dictionary defines it as "a distinctive doctrine, system, or theory." Thus, what we fear are not merely uncoordinated and unrelated acts of nihilist violence -- mailed anthrax, airliners-turned-into-missiles, malicious computer hackers -- but a coherent "system of principles" that sponsors such acts. Terrorism so conceived can threaten even a powerful nation like the United States because it is understood to possess global reach, apocalyptic ambition, an entangled network of hostile alliances abroad, and capacity to exploit vulnerabilities of our democracy at home. Thus the American response is the "war on terrorism," as if the enemy were one thing.

But is this way of evaluating the danger a mistake? The suffix "ism" was key to defining a mortal threat once before, and in that case the result was a disastrous misreading of what the United States confronted -- both abroad and at home. To evaluate the present danger, it can help to cast the mind back to another time, another danger. [complete article]

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The real obstacle to peace is Sharon, not Arafat
By Avi Shlaim, International Herald Tribune, September 24, 2003

The Israeli cabinet's decision to exile Yasser Arafat, and the threats to assassinate him, have provoked a storm of international protest. A Security Council resolution demanding that Israel desist from deporting Arafat or threatening his safety was only defeated by a United States veto.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio that killing Arafat "is definitely one of the options" under consideration by the government. So the debate in the government is not whether Arafat should be deported or not, but whether he should be deported or killed. There is thus a real risk that the American veto at the Security Council may be interpreted by the Israeli ministers as a tacit approval of their plan to move against the embattled Palestinian leader.

To the historian of the Arab-Israeli conflict, outrageous behavior by Israel's leaders, and American complicity in such behavior, are nothing new. British resentment toward the United States still smolders in the files of the Public Record Office. In a memorandum to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin dated June 2, 1948, Sir John Troutbeck held the Americans responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders. [complete article]

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Musharraf criticizes terror war
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, September 23, 2003

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said today that the U.S.-led war against terrorism, including the occupation of Iraq, have helped fuel the perception of Muslims that "Islam, as a religion, is being targeted and pilloried."

The remarks by Musharraf, one of the Bush administration's closest Muslim allies in the war on terrorism, come as Pakistan is resisting U.S. appeals to send troops to Iraq to help U.S. forces stabilize the country. Musharraf's government has cited the need for greater political support in the Muslim world for the U.S.-led occupation. [complete article]

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Patriot Act used in 16-year-old deportation case
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, September 23, 2003

The Bush administration has decided to pursue a 16-year-old effort to deport two Palestinian activists who as students distributed magazines and raised funds for a group the government now considers a terrorist organization, despite several court rulings that the deportations are unconstitutional because the men were not involved in terrorist activity.

The case, which has long had a high profile among Palestinian Americans, could pose a new judicial test of a controversial provision in the Patriot Act, passed in 2001. The provision prohibits supplying material support for organizations the government deems "terrorist," even without evidence of a link to specific terrorist acts. [complete article]

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Iran parades new missiles daubed with threats to wipe Israel off map
By Dan De Luce, The Guardian, September 23, 2003

Iran yesterday defiantly showed off six of its new ballistic missiles daubed with anti-US and anti-Israel slogans in a move sure to reinforce international concern over the nature of its nuclear programme.

At the climax of a military parade marking the outbreak of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the enormous Shehab-3 missiles were rolled out painted with the messages, "We will crush America under our feet' and "Israel must be wiped off the map."

Iran later announced that it would scale down cooperation with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency. Ali Akbar Salehim, Tehran's envoy to the IAEA, said on state television that Iran had been allowing the agency more oversight than required under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty "to show our goodwill and transparency."

The IAEA has imposed a strict deadline, saying Iran must prove it has no nuclear weapons programme by October 31. Its governing board has also demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment ac tivity and open its doors to unfettered inspections. If Tehran fails to comply, the UN security council could decide to impose sanctions. [complete article]

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Who’ll flinch first: Iran … or the world?
By Dan De Luce, Sunday Herald, September 21, 2003

State television had a clear explanation why Iran was in a bind over its nuclear programme: America.

The UN’s nuclear agency had been transformed “from a neutral supervisor to an organisation under the influence of America’s political wishes”, said the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting service. It was a puzzling message as the state media had always portrayed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a trusted extension of the United Nations.

What state television failed to mention was that Iran had managed to frustrate the IAEA’s patient inspectors as well as European governments that have argued against Washington’s efforts to isolate the country. The result was a unanimous decision by the governing board of the IAEA requiring Iran prove it has no nuclear programme by the end of October or face possible sanctions. [complete article]

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Search for WMD slows to crawl
Associated Press (via, September 23, 2003

Before 2nd Lt. Ben Shumaker arrived in Iraq in late April, he expected to be protecting soldiers against chemical and biological weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein's army.

There were no such attacks, so Shumaker and his team were put to work looking for hidden weapons of mass destruction - the primary reason given by the Bush administration for the war in Iraq.

When no such weapons were found, Shumaker, a 23-year-old chemical officer with the 101st Airborne Division, found himself with no mission.

Then he was offered a job he had never imagined - assistant to the division commander's accountant.

"I was supposed to find weapons of mass destruction," said Shumaker, of Clarksville, Tenn. Instead, they made him an accountant, "because I was doing nothing." [complete article]

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U.S. soldiers in Iraq shrug at Bush's U.N. speech
By Rosalind Russell, Reuters, September 23, 2003

"We've been out here for six months, and it looks like we're going to be here for another six months more," said one soldier as he ate dinner in a huge tented "chow hall" at a U.S. base in one of Saddam's former palaces in Tikrit.

"That's it. It's a done deal, so nothing he (Bush) says makes a blind bit of difference to us."

The speech was broadcast on two television sets on one side of the air-conditioned tent, but the majority of soldiers chose instead to watch American football on the other side, or focus on their beef casserole and ice cream. [complete article]

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Wesley Clark's patriot act
By Chris Suellentrop, Slate, September 22, 2003

Clark's twin campaign themes are patriotism and public service, and he has to find a way to resolve those themes with his frontal assault on a sitting president during a time of war. He does it by appropriating the word "patriotism" and redefining it for himself. On a campus [-- The Citadel military college in Charleston, South Carolina --] where students march and chant in lines, not in puppet-brandishing crowds, Clark declares that dissenters are the true patriots: "Patriotism doesn't consist of following orders—not when you're not in the chain of command. For the American people, for citizens in a democracy, patriotism's highest calling isn't simply following what the administration says. It's not blind obedience. It's not unquestioned adherence. The highest form of patriotism is asking questions. Because democracies run on dialogue. Democracies run on discussion. No administration has the right to tell Americans that to dissent is disloyal, and to disagree is unpatriotic. …

"We need a new spirit, a new kind of, a new American patriotism in this country. … [T]his new spirit of patriotism should be dedicated to the protection of our rights and liberties. … In times of war or peace, democracy requires dialogue, disagreement, and the courage to speak out. And those who do it should not be condemned but be praised."

No other Democratic candidate, not even John Kerry, could stand in front of two 75 mm howitzers on the quad of a nearly all-male military college and defend the antiwar left without looking faintly ridiculous. Wesley Clark is Howard Dean with flags. [complete article]

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U.S. bosses, West Bank fictions, E.U. mediators
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, September 23, 2003

The White House has mixed feelings about reports coming out of Israel in which right-wing ministers complain that U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has turned into Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's boss.

On the one hand, it's not all that bad if the American voting public gets the impression that President George W. Bush is able to move a fence or two in the Middle East. He certainly has no interest in his political rivals and opponents in the press adding the road map to his list of failures. On the other hand, the president's political advisors are afraid that if their boss doesn't find a way to remain on the fence, and tries to twist Sharon's arm, the prime minister won't hesitate to show the American voter who's the real boss in Washington. [complete article]

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Open investment policy looks like 'world occupation' to Iraq merchants
By Mark Fineman, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2003

In the marble-floored corporate offices of Al Hafidh General Trading Co., Waleed and Hani Hafidh vented the rage of many Iraqi businessmen Monday over the country's new wide-open foreign investment policy.

Puffing furiously on imported cigarettes, the brothers asserted that the economic reform package unveiled by Iraq's recently appointed finance minister in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday will destroy the country's small yet burgeoning private sector, create a permanent "world occupation" of its economy and render the Iraqi people "immigrants in their own land." [complete article]

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Starved for power in Baghdad
By David Streitfeld, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2003

Ihsan Dhabit has the power to bring sleep and keep food from rotting, to open shops and light streets. But all too often during this miserable summer, he has found himself doing the opposite -- for an hour, for an afternoon, for a day.

Dhabit, the manager of an electricity substation in the middle-class neighborhood of Qadissiya, is a lean young fellow who sits at a wooden desk and punctiliously records his duties in a primitive ledger.

He punches a button on Outgoing Feeder No. 11. Somewhere nearby, it gets darker and hotter.

"We're supposed to give them three hours on, three hours off," Dhabit said. "But when there's not enough power, it's four off and two on." [complete article]

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At U.N., Bush is cast in the unfamiliar role of playing defense
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, September 23, 2003

Without any more major tax cuts or international conflicts anticipated before next year's election, Bush is without a major policy offensive as he waits, amid domestic and international criticism, to see if the economy and the situation in Iraq improve. Transforming Iraq and the Middle East, while lofty goals, are amorphous, long-term projects.

"It's much more difficult to define victory," Republican strategist Scott Reed said. "You're faced with a point where the goal has been moved months down the calendar. You can't just wave a political magic wand and fix it. Things on the ground need to improve."

Events on the eve of Bush's address to the U.N. General Assembly underscored the trouble. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's spokesman decried the "deteriorating security situation in Iraq" after a suicide bomber struck the U.N. compound in Baghdad for the second time in as many months. Meanwhile, Pakistani and French leaders made it clear that they are unlikely to send troops to Iraq, the latest evidence that the Bush administration will not be getting significant help in Iraq.

The administration's critics say the problem is Bush's failure to drop a hard-charging approach in favor of more nuance. "The smart thing to do is be less muscular and more diplomatic, but they're not going to do that," said Ivo Daalder, a Brookings Institution scholar who worked in the Clinton administration. "Their underlying principle is the way you achieve your objectives is through the use of power, and because we have more power than anybody else we should get our way. Negotiating with allies and international institutions is alien to their view of the world." [complete article]

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Iraq council head shifts to position at odds with U.S.
By Patrick E. Tyler and Felicity Barringer, New York Times, September 23, 2003

Ahmad Chalabi, the president of Iraq's interim government, is in New York this week to press alternatives to the Bush administration's occupation policy in postwar Iraq, he and his aides say. In the process, he may complete a personal transformation from protégé of Pentagon conservatives to Iraqi nationalist with a loud, independent voice.

In an interview today in New York, Mr. Chalabi professed gratitude to the Bush administration for toppling Saddam Hussein's government, but his specific proposals were directly at odds with the policies Washington is pursuing in Baghdad and at the United Nations. He demanded that the Iraqi Governing Council be given at least partial control of the powerful finance and security ministries, and rejected the idea of more foreign troops coming to Iraq. [complete article]

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Israel's fence mixes security and politics
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, September 23, 2003

Hussein Yousef Salman, a Palestinian schoolteacher and farmer, surveyed the massive fence that has gobbled up his land, destroyed his greenhouses, isolated his well and surrounded his town, cutting off his family from the schools, hospitals and markets in the nearby city of Qalqilyah.

The fence is being built by the Israeli government to separate Israel from the West Bank and to curb attacks by Palestinians. In Habla, the fence runs one mile into the West Bank. "It makes hatred between us and them," said Salman, 43, as he tended his remaining greenhouses on the Palestinian side of the fence. [complete article]

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Vision of the neocons stays fixed on making hard choices
By Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, September 23, 2003

Every Tuesday morning during the Iraq war Washington's opinion-makers and journalists knew there was only one place to be: at the "black-coffee briefings" held at the American Enterprise Institute, a fortress-like building on M and 17th streets, opposite the main offices of the National Geographic magazine.

Technically, AEI is a thinktank. More than that, though, it is the headquarters of the intellectual movement known as neoconservatism. Its staff includes famous names such as Richard Perle, Irving Kristol and Newt Gingrich. The magazine Weekly Standard, the neocon bible, is published at the same address.

Black coffee was not strictly compulsory at the briefings - adding milk was allowed - but it did seem a particularly apt metaphor. The neocons felt they were delivering stern, sobering truths, wake-up calls with all the kick of a strong espresso: that liberating Iraq and making an awesome show of American power was vital for the US and the world, that democracy would spread through the region as dictators fell like dominoes. [complete article]

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Clark's entry is reshaping the 2004 race
By Liz Marlantes, Christian Science Monitor, September 23, 2003

In the short week since jumping into the race for president, former Gen. Wesley Clark has raised three-quarters of a million dollars and vaulted to the front of the Democratic field in at least one national poll. More significant, however, is the effect he's had on the focus of the race: By virtue of his background and early positioning, General Clark has effectively established the war in Iraq as the campaign's predominant issue - even while inadvertently highlighting the pitfalls it continues to present for Democratic contenders. [complete article]

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World order & Mr. Bush
By Brian Urquhart, New York Review of Books, October 9, 2003

The United States is by far the richest and most powerful country in history, so its policies and actions are naturally of worldwide concern. Its newly proclaimed unilateralist doctrine of preventive or preemptive war, with no tolerance for potential military rivals, would have seized the world's attention even if Washington was not already acting on it. The occupation of Iraq, a vast increase in US military spending, Washington's rejection of important international treaties, and its unconcealed contempt for international organizations and conventions have created uproar and foreboding in many parts of the world. Words like imperialism and hegemony, however inappropriate, have regained their old currency; worldwide demonstrations have been organized, and jihads have intensified. Whether the Bush doctrines are likely, in the long run, to become more, or less, dangerous both to the United States and to other nations is as yet unclear. Experience in Iraq and elsewhere may already be diluting some of the enthusiasm of the Bush administration's ideologues and modifying US policy on Iraq and North Korea; but the image of a unilateralist superpower that is both defensive and aggressive remains an obsession in the world at large. [complete article]

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Is Pakistan America's friend or foe?
By Tim McGirk and Massimo Calabresi, Time, September 21, 2003

Pakistani generals routinely deny that their army retains any sympathy for the Taliban. But here is a secret they managed to keep quiet for several months. In early summer U.S. soldiers scrambling after Taliban remnants along the craggy mountains of southeastern Afghanistan made a surprising discovery. Among the gang of suspected Taliban agents they nabbed were three men who, it emerged in interrogations, were Pakistani army officers. Authorities in Pakistan clapped the three in a military brig; an official from military intelligence called them "mavericks." But the news of their capture alongside enemy fighters underscored a persistent issue in Washington and Kabul: Whose side, exactly, is Pakistan on? [complete article]

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Iraq off limit to Israeli investments: officials
Agence France-Presse, September 22, 2003

Israel will not be allowed to take advantage of the liberalisation of the Iraqi economy to penetrate the market, Iraqi officials said.

"This is out of the question," interim Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafez told journalists on the sidelines of a conference held at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in this Gulf emirate.

"There is no intention to recognise Israel," added Adel Abdul Mahdi, a member of the US-appointed Iraqi transitional Governing Council who is leading the Iraqi delegation to the meetings. [complete article]

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Syria offers troops to help police Iraq
But only if UN runs the show

By Nicholas Blanford, Daily Star, September 22, 2003

Syria says it is willing to send peacekeeping troops to Iraq if the United Nations assumes control of the reconstruction effort and Washington gives a deadline for the withdrawal of American forces.

The boldest commitment yet by Damascus to the reconstruction of its war-torn neighbor is likely to add further pressure on the administration of US President George W. Bush to allow the UN a greater say in Iraq's future.

"Syria would be willing (to send troops) and all Arab countries would be willing, including all Iraq's neighbors," Bouthaina Shaaban told The Daily Star in her last interview as spokeswoman at the Syrian Foreign Ministry. [complete article]

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Donor delay spells doom for Afghanistan
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, September 20, 2003

By completing just 1 percent of the reconstruction required in Afghanistan to date, the United States and other donors are risking renewed conflict, if not disintegration, in the devastated country, says an unusually frank report released this week by the US relief organization CARE.

The eight-page policy brief, co-authored by the Center on International Cooperation (CIC), finds that Afghanistan's stability and reconstruction are increasingly threatened by violence, especially that directed against aid workers; the rise of a "neo-Taliban" movement, particularly in Pashtun parts of the country; and narco-trafficking by regional warlords and others. [complete article]

See CARE's full report Good intentions will not pave the road to peace (PDF format).

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Dying to kill us
By Robert A. Pape, New York Times, September 22, 2003

Suicide terrorism has been on the rise around the world for two decades, but there is great confusion as to why. Since many such attacks -- including, of course, those of Sept. 11, 2001 -- have been perpetrated by Muslim terrorists professing religious motives, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause. This presumption has fueled the belief that future 9/11's can be avoided only by a wholesale transformation of Muslim societies, which in turn was a core reason for broad public support of the invasion of Iraq.

However, this presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is wrongheaded, and it may be encouraging domestic and foreign policies that are likely to worsen America's situation. [complete article]

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Wolfowitz stands fast amid the antiwarriors
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, September 22, 2003

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz plunged into a bastion of antiwar liberalism -- Greenwich Village -- yesterday to voice a vigorous defense of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

In an often raucous 90-minute forum at the New School University, Mr. Wolfowitz alternately chided the audience for not giving the administration enough credit for toppling Saddam Hussein's brutal government, and took pains to explain the rationale for the war and the costly, difficult future in rebuilding Iraq. [complete article]

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Stuck in Iraq? "A touch of home" is on the way.

American Forces Network to hit Iraqi airwaves by end of October
By Ward Sanderson, Stars and Stripes, September 22, 2003

In letters to Stripes that ran in July and August, several troops complained of receiving only the BBC.

"Where's AFN radio in Iraq?" wrote Staff Sgt. Darren Dinger, from Baghdad. "What gives? I'm sure the soldiers would like to hear an American radio program, get our news from America and be able to listen to a variety of music. And we'd definitely like to hear one or two sports programs."

Another soldier accused the BBC of anti-American coverage.

"I'm tired of this radio station bad-mouthing my country, my commander in chief, and our mission here in Iraq," wrote Staff Sgt. J. Critasi, also in Baghdad. "I sincerely hope AFN can get a radio station set up soon so we can listen to some unbiased news that isn't clouded with righteous arrogance." [complete article]

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America puts Iraq up for sale
By Philip Thornton and Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, September 22, 2003

Iraq was in effect put up for sale yesterday when the American-appointed administration announced it was opening up all sectors of the economy to foreign investors in a desperate attempt to deliver much-needed reconstruction against a daily backdrop of kidnappings, looting and violent death.

In an unexpected move unveiled at the meeting in Dubai of the Group of Seven rich nations, the Iraqi Governing Council announced sweeping reforms to allow total foreign ownership without the need for prior approval.

The initiative bore all the hallmarks of Washington's ascendant neoconservative lobby, complete with tax cuts and trade tariff rollbacks. It will apply to everything from industry to health and water, although not oil. [complete article]

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9/11 mastermind: Attack was pared down
By John Solomon, Associated Press, September 21, 2003

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, has told American interrogators that he first discussed the plot with Osama bin Laden in 1996 and that the original plan called for hijacking five commercial jets on each U.S. coast before it was modified several times, according to interrogation reports reviewed by The Associated Press. [complete article]

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The war game
By David Hirst, The Observer, September 21, 2003

With the assault on Iraq, the US was not merely adopting Israel's long-established methods - of initiative, offence and pre-emption - it was also adopting Israel's adversaries as its own. Iraq had always ranked high among those; it was one of its so-called 'faraway' enemies. These had come to be seen as more menacing than the 'near' ones, and especially since they had begun developing weapons of mass destruction.

So excited was Israeli premier Ariel Sharon about this whole new Middle East order in the making that he told the Times, 'the day after' Iraq, the US and Britain should turn to that other 'faraway' enemy - Iran. For Israel, the ayatollahs' Iran had always seemed the greater menace of the two, by virtue of its intrinsic weight, its fundamentalist, theologically anti-Zionist leadership, its more serious, diversified and supposedly Russian-assisted nuclear armaments programme, its ideological affinity with, or direct sponsorship of, such Islamist organisations as Hamas or Hizbollah.

Nothing, in fact, better illustrated the ascendancy which Israel and the American 'friends of Israel' have acquired over American policy-making than did Iran. Quite simply, said Iran expert James Bill, the 'US views Iran through spectacles manufactured in Israel'. Impressing on the US the gravity of the Iranian threat has long been a foremost Israeli preoccupation. [complete article]

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White House is ambushed by criticism from America's military community
By Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, September 21, 2003

George Bush probably owes his presidency to the absentee military voters who nudged his tally in Florida decisively past Al Gore's. But now, with Iraq in chaos and the reasons for going to war there mired in controversy, an increasingly disgruntled military poses perhaps the gravest immediate threat to his political future, just one year before the presidential elections.

From Vietnam veterans to fresh young recruits, from seasoned officers to anxious mothers worried about their sons' safety on the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah, the military community is growing ever more vocal in its opposition to the White House. [complete article]

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Attackers united by piety in plot to strike troops
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 21, 2003

In an austere room with concrete floors and walls adorned with two renderings of Islam's holiest shrine in Mecca, two brothers of Adnan Fahdawi pulled out a creased and torn green folder stuffed with the memorabilia of martyrdom.

There was a tag from the black body bag in which the 31-year-old Fahdawi's body had been delivered to the police station. "Multiple GSW," read the bloodstained card, using a shorthand label for gunshot wounds. Cause of death: "extrusion of brain matter." Next, a picture of Fahdawi's hard, bearded face. Smoldering eyes, hinting at determination, stared out over a caption that declared him a martyred hero. After that was a letter he and several others had written before they attacked U.S. forces under a full moon on July 15 near this Euphrates River town. [complete article]

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What good friends left behind
By John Pilger, The Guardian, September 20, 2003

At the Labour party conference following the September 11 attacks, Tony Blair said memorably: "To the Afghan people, we make this commitment. We will not walk away... If the Taliban regime changes, we will work with you to make sure its successor is one that is broadbased, that unites all ethnic groups and offers some way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence." He was echoing George Bush, who had said a few days earlier: "The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and its allies. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan. The US is a friend of the Afghan people."

Almost every word they spoke was false. Their declarations of concern were cruel illusions that prepared the way for the conquest of both Afghanistan and Iraq. As the illegal Anglo-American occupation of Iraq now unravels, the forgotten disaster in Afghanistan, the first "victory" in the "war on terror", is perhaps an even more shocking testament to power. [complete article]

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Fear as human shield faces jail
By Fergal Parkinson, BBC News, September 21, 2003

Sitting in her modest two-bedroom home on the west Florida coast, Faith Fippinger begins to cry as she talks about the prospect of going to jail.

This spring, the 62-year-old retired schoolteacher decided to travel to Iraq as a human shield.

To many she is a humanitarian, but in the eyes of the US Government she is a criminal. [complete article]

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Kurds step forward as unlikely winners of the war against Saddam
By John Simpson, The Telegraph, September 21, 2003

Coming back here after five months is like re-starting a paused video. When I was in Arbil last, during the war, Kurdistan was silent, nervous and waiting. Now it is thriving: the traffic noisy and snarled up, the shops full, the pavements crowded. The Kurds are the greatest winners after this war. So far, they are the only real winners. [complete article]

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