The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Israel: The alternative
By Tony Judt, New York Review of Books, October 23, 2003

The problem with Israel, in short, is not -- as is sometimes suggested -- that it is a European "enclave" in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. It has imported a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a "Jewish state" -- a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded -- is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.

In one vital attribute, however, Israel is quite different from previous insecure, defensive microstates born of imperial collapse: it is a democracy. Hence its present dilemma. Thanks to its occupation of the lands conquered in 1967, Israel today faces three unattractive choices. It can dismantle the Jewish settlements in the territories, return to the 1967 state borders within which Jews constitute a clear majority, and thus remain both a Jewish state and a democracy, albeit one with a constitutionally anomalous community of second-class Arab citizens.

Alternatively, Israel can continue to occupy "Samaria," "Judea," and Gaza, whose Arab population -- added to that of present-day Israel -- will become the demographic majority within five to eight years: in which case Israel will be either a Jewish state (with an ever-larger majority of unenfranchised non-Jews) or it will be a democracy. But logically it cannot be both. [complete article]

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When William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and one of George Bush's staunchest supporters, says that "the civil war in the Bush administration has become crippling," we should have little doubt that the neoconservative movement is in crisis. When Kristol calls for heads to roll, not once but twice, it's clear that he recognizes that a bad situation has great potential to become a lot worse. He has never hesitated to describe George Bush as a strong leader, but as he now urgently appeals to Bush to be presidential we have to wonder whether Kristol or any of the other neocons truly believe that this president has the capacity to deliver.

There is disarray in George W. Bush's administration
By William Kristol, The Weekly Standard, October 13, 2003

Revealing the identity of covert CIA agents is a crime under certain circumstances. But given the strict stipulations of the relevant statute, it seems unlikely that the Justice Department investigation will ever lead to a successful prosecution of the leaker or leakers. That doesn't make the political reality or the moral responsibility any less urgent. Surely the president has, as the Washington Times suggested last week, taken "too passive a stance" toward this misdeed by one or more of his employees. Surely he should do his utmost to restore the White House's reputation for honor and integrity by calling together the dozens of more-or-less "senior" administration officials and asking whoever spoke with Novak to come forward and explain themselves. Presumably the relevant officials--absent some remarkable explanation that's hard to conceive--should be fired, and their names given to the Justice Department. The president might also want to call Mrs. Wilson, who is after all a government official serving her country, and apologize for the damage done to her by his subordinate's action. [complete article]

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Iran may assist with reconstruction in Iraq
By Robin Wright, Los Angeles Times, October 4, 2003

Despite a quarter-century of tension with Iran, the United States has reached out to the Islamic Republic for help in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq -- and is getting it, according to U.S. and Iranian officials.

Iran will participate in an international donors conference this month in Madrid, and may end up as one of the few aid contributors. It is already offering to provide water, electricity and technical assistance to Iraq, a top Iranian diplomat said Friday. He said his government was prepared to pledge additional aid, although probably not cash. [complete article]

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Several children among dead in attack, at least 45 injured
By David Ratner and Yuval Dror, Haaretz, October 4, 2003

At least 19 people were killed and 45 wounded when a woman suicide bomber blew herself up in a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa at around 2:15 P.M. on Saturday.

A number of children are among the dead, and six of the wounded are in serious condition. The suicide bomber was also killed in the attack.

The blast took place in the "Maxim" restaurant, which was packed at the time. The restaurant is located on Ha'Haganah Boulevard at the southern entrance to the coastal city and is owned by Israeli Arabs.

Security sources said they believed Islamic Jihad was behind the attack, and that the bomber came from the West Bank city of Jenin. She apparently entered Israel between the towns of Baka al-Garbiyeh, which is inside Israel, and Baka al-Sharkiyeh, in the West Bank, in an area in which the separation fence has not yet been completed. [complete article]

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Powell criticizes Israel on fence
By Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin, Washington Post, October 4, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that Israel's attempt to calm U.S. criticism by leaving large gaps in a fence project that extends into Palestinian lands was not satisfactory and that U.S. officials are having "intense discussions" about their response.

The Israeli cabinet this week approved new construction on the project, designed to keep Palestinians out of Israel, in several areas deep in the West Bank. "The gaps in and of themselves do not satisfy me," Powell said in an interview yesterday. "The question is what becomes of the gaps in due course." [complete article]

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White House is told to hand over records
By Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, October 4, 2003

The Justice Department is demanding that the White House turn over "all documents that relate in any way" to the unauthorized disclosure of a C.I.A. officer's identity, and the White House on Friday gave its employees until next Tuesday to comply.

The demand signals that the F.B.I.'s investigation into the question of who leaked the identity of the C.I.A. officer is focusing squarely on the White House and is moving into a critical early phase, as investigators seek a paper trail of all relevant documents.

The Justice Department has also directed the C.I.A., the State Department and the Pentagon to retain all records that might be relevant to the investigation. But only the White House is known to have been directed to turn over records.

Investigators want access to all electronic records, phone logs, documents, diaries or other items related to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, his trip to Niger in 2002 in a search for Iraqi nuclear intelligence, his wife's relationship with the C.I.A., or any contact with the syndicated columnist Robert Novak and two other reporters who wrote about the Wilson case. [complete article]

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Washington's sour sales pitch
By Michael Holtzman, New York Times, October 4, 2003

It is no surprise that a federal panel investigating American "public diplomacy" in the Arab world reported this week that despite our efforts to win hearts and minds, "hostility toward America has reached shocking levels." However, I doubt that recommendations like spending millions more on public relations and naming "a special White House coordinator for public relations efforts abroad" will be of much help.

Rather, the entire operation needs rethinking. United States public diplomacy is neither public nor diplomatic. First, the government -- not the broader American public -- has been the main messenger to a world that is mightily suspicious of it. Further, the State Department, which oversees most efforts, seems to view public diplomacy not as a dialogue but as a one-sided exercise. The result is America speaking at the world, usually with simplistic and often offensive propaganda. [complete article]

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A land ruled by chaos
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, October 4, 2003

The void created by the defeat of Saddam's highly centralised one-party regime has empowered religious extremists, political gangs, tribal chieftains, criminals and speculators, the venal and the corrupt. These are the men profiting in the new Iraq. The knock at the door at night is no longer a member of Saddam's secret police, but it could very well be an armed robber, an enforcer from a political faction, or an enemy intent on revenge. [complete article]

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Briton held as terror suspect says CIA threatened torture
By Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, October 4, 2003

A British businessman arrested as a suspected terrorist has told the Guardian that US agents threatened him with beatings and rape in an attempt to break him.

Wahab al-Rawi, 38, was denied a lawyer, held incommunicado for four weeks in Gambia, and repeatedly questioned by CIA agents before being released without charge. His account is the first from any Briton about their treatment by the US while held as a suspect in the two year "war on terror".

The account also challenges US denials of the use of torture or the threat of torture on terrorist suspects, thousands of whom have been detained and interrogated across the world. [complete article]

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The war on al-Jazeera
By Dima Tareq Tahboub, The Guardian, October 4, 2003

When my husband decided to go to Baghdad, he knew that I would protest. He told me that I was exaggerating the risks; that there was nothing to be afraid of because he was a reporter, an objective witness, neither on this nor that side, and because of that was protected by world protocol. He bid us farewell, apologising for having been so busy. He promised to make it up to me and our daughter, Fatimah, when he returned.

Tareq left for al-Jazeera's Baghdad office on April 5. He called me when he arrived - the journey was hellish, he said. He sounded exhausted, because he was sleeping only three hours a day, between shifts. Back home in Jordan, our life wasn't any better; we could hardly sleep and sat mesmerised in front of the TV waiting for Tareq to appear in a live report so we'd know he was OK.

On the early morning of April 8, I was still awake at 6am and saw his last live report, in which he described the situation in Baghdad as being very calm and quiet. I was relieved and went to sleep, only to wake up one hour later to the sound of my mother crying and yelling. [complete article]

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WMD: 'You have got to be kidding'
By Nir Rosen, Asia Times, October 4, 2003

To the surprise of few, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency-led survey group hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has admitted in his latest report released on Thursday that none have yet been unearthed.

But the Iraq Survey Group's leader, David Kay, did say that Saddam Hussein "remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons". However, they have not found any, nor any evidence of any.

The report will come as more bad news for President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are under increasing pressure from their American and British constituencies for allegedly "cooking" or exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam as a pretext for going to war against him.

And now Asia Times Online can confirm reports from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which says that information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) about Iraq's weapon's programs was exaggerated and false.

Two DIA agents currently serving in Iraq, who also voiced bitterness about other aspects of US Iraq policy, spoke on condition of anonymity to Asia Times Online. The first, a 30-year veteran of the agency, complained that "the fixation on weapons is alienating intelligence staff", calling it an "obsession". [complete article]

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U.S. tries to stop Chalabi from embarrassing Bush
By Robin Wright and Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2003

After supporting Ahmad Chalabi for years, the United States has grown disenchanted and made a serious effort during the past two weeks to rein in the former Iraqi exile leader, pressing him specifically to stop embarrassing President Bush with calls for a speedy handover of power in Baghdad, according to senior U.S. officials.

Administration officials are questioning his credibility and growing increasingly concerned about the positions he is taking on Iraq's future. [complete article]

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In secular Syria, an Islamic revival
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, October 3, 2003

Turmoil in the Middle East and the sluggish pace of domestic political reform is fuelling an Islamic resurgence here.

Although the regime is deeply hostile to extremist Islam, analysts and diplomats believe that Islamic groups could play an increasingly influential role if the state's hold on the country weakens.

Young Syrians are filling mosques, many women have taken to wearing the head scarf known as the hijab, and underground women's religious discussion groups are increasingly popular despite being banned. The austere Wahhabi brand of Islam practiced by Osama bin Laden is preached in some small towns in northern Syria. Even longtime Baath partisans are embracing religion. [complete article]

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Pakistan: FBI rules the roost
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, October 4, 2003

Pakistani forces have killed at least 12 and arrested 12 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters over the past two days in a major operation at Angoor Adda, a small town on the border with Afghanistan.

The operation is being widely hailed in Pakistan as a demonstration of the country's commitment to the US-led "war on terrorism".

However, this is only a part of the story. The clash was orchestrated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a direct result of its deep penetration - and even control - of the Pakistani intelligence establishment. [complete article]

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Israel to build 600 homes in 3 settlements; U.S. officials are critical
By Greg Myre and Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, October 3, 2003

Israel indicated on Thursday that it intended to build about 600 new homes in three large West Bank settlements, a move that Bush administration officials in Washington said would undercut the Middle East peace plan and could bring a reduction in American assistance to Israel.

The Housing Ministry placed an advertisement seeking bids to build the homes one day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government took another step that American officials said the administration opposed: approval of the construction of barriers deep inside the West Bank to guard Jewish settlements.

Palestinians expressed anger at both decisions, with the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, calling the barrier a "wall of racism." [complete article]

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Don't be fooled. The Iraqi maelstrom won't save Iran
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, October 3, 2003

The cloud is still no larger than George Bush's hand but the storm of concern which the US is orchestrating over Iran is beginning to show uncomfortable similarities with the row over Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

A deadline has been set for Iran to make a full declaration of its nuclear energy programme by the end of this month. There is a demand for international inspectors to go in and examine any site to check for a possible hidden weapons project. Punitive measures are threatened in the case of non-compliance.

Many British and American critics of the last war take comfort in the view that the mess the United States and Britain have got into in post-war Iraq has the benefit that Bush and Blair will not repeat their adventure. Do not be fooled. That, increasingly, looks complacent. [complete article]

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U.S. Jews renounce right of return
Agence France-Presse (via News Interactive), October 3, 2003

100 San Francisco Jews today renounced on their right to immigrate to Israel to protest the country's refusal to extend the same right to Palestinians expelled from their land.

"Palestine will be free," protesters handed in a petition to the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco declaring their renunciation of Israeli citizenship rights, know as Aliyah.
The group, which included 30 marchers carrying a petition of 100 names, called the act a ritual atonement in honour of the looming Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur on October 5.

The protesters claim that Israel's offering automatic citizenship to overseas Jews while denying the same right to Palestinians forced off their homeland in Israel and the occupied territories amounted to "apartheid". [complete article]

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'Slime and defend'
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, October 3, 2003

Before we get bogged down in the details -- which is what the administration hopes will happen -- let's be clear: we already know what the president knew, and when he knew it. Mr. Bush knew, 11 weeks ago, that some of his senior aides had done something utterly inexcusable [by exposing Valerie Plame]. But as long as the media were willing to let the story lie -- which, with a few honorable exceptions, like David Corn at The Nation and Knut Royce and Timothy Phelps at Newsday, they were -- he didn't think this outrage required any action.

And now that the C.I.A. has demanded a Justice Department inquiry, the White House's strategy isn't just to stonewall, Nixon-style; as one Republican Congressional aide told The New York Times, it will "slime and defend." [complete article]

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A reckoning: Iraqi arms report poses political test for Bush
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 3, 2003

The preliminary report delivered on Thursday by the chief arms inspector in Iraq forces the Bush administration to come face to face with this reality: that Saddam Hussein's armory appears to have been stuffed with precursors, potential weapons and bluffs, but that nothing found so far backs up administration claims that Mr. Hussein posed an imminent threat to the world. [complete article]

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More military funds scrutinized
By Paul de la Garza, St. Petersburg Times, October 2, 2003

Pentagon officials are investigating allegations of a second case of the Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base hiding millions of dollars from Congress in its budget.

The latest allegation, Pentagon officials confirmed Wednesday, involves $25-million that Special Operations listed in its fiscal year 2004 budget, which took effect Wednesday. [complete article]

See also Military stashes covert millions, the article in which the St. Pertersburg Times first revealed allegations of inflated budget proposals.

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Suspicion centers on Lewis Libby
By Eric Boehlert, Salon (via Fairuse), October 3, 2003

Criminal leak investigations are notoriously futile, and the identity of the administration officials who illegally blew the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame may never be known. But one name keeps coming up, and so far it hasn't provoked a specific, emphatic White House denial: Lewis "Scooter" Libby, assistant to the president and Vice President Dick Cheney's powerful chief of staff.

On Wednesday the New York Daily News reported that "Democratic congressional sources said they would like to hear from Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby." On MSNBC's "Buchanan and Press" on Wednesday, Pat Buchanan asked an administration critic who claims to know the leaker's name point blank if "Scooter Libby" was the culprit (the critic wouldn't answer). And Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska made a veiled reference on CNBC this week, suggesting that President Bush could better manage the current crisis by "sitting down with [his] vice president and asking what he knows about it."

But below the surface there's even more chatter. Says one former senior CIA officer who served under President Bush's father, "Libby is certainly suspect No. 1." [complete article]

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Richard Perle to receive 'Scoop' Jackson Award at Jerusalem summit
Jerusalem Summit press release, October 2, 2003

Richard Perle, a leading US strategist and past assistant Secretary of Defense under the Reagan Administration will receive the Annual Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Award at the Inaugural Jerusalem Summit (Oct. 12-14), which will take place in Jerusalem.

"Our conference is all about strengthening the role of values and vision in global politics," said Dmitry Radyshevsky, Summit Director, "There is no better model to base such an award on than the legendary Scoop Jackson, and no more fitting recipient of the first annual award than Scoop's close friend and colleague, Richard Perle. We find the traditions and principles of both of these men to be firmly entrenched amongst many decision-makers in both Jerusalem and Washington, DC." [complete article]

The goals of the Jerusalem Summit are summarized thus:

Israel is the moral alternative to Totalitarianism of the East and Moral Relativism of the West.

Israel is the "Ground Zero" for the crucial battle of our civilization for its survival.

Israel can be saved - and the rest of the West with it.

Joining Perle at the Jerusalem Summit will be Daniel Pipes, Alan Keyes, Cal Thomas, Frank Gaffney, Mike Evans, John Batchelor, Benyamin Netanyahu, Beni Elon, Efraim Eitam, Ehud Olmert, Uzi Landau, and Uri Lupoliansky. Learn more about the Jerusalem Summit here.

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Let them eat war
By Arlie Hochschild, TomDispatch, October 2, 2003

George W. Bush is sinking in the polls, but a few beats on the war drum could reverse that trend and re-elect him in 2004. Ironically, the sector of American society now poised to keep him in the White House is the one which stands to lose the most from virtually all of his policies -- blue-collar men. A full 49% of them and 38% percent of blue-collar women told a January 2003 Roper poll they would vote for Bush in 2004.

In fact, blue-collar workers were more pro-Bush than professionals and managers among whom only 40% of men and 32% of women, when polled, favor him; that is, people who reported to Roper such occupations as painter, furniture mover, waitress, and sewer repairman were more likely to be for our pro-big business president than people with occupations like doctor, attorney, CPA or property manager. High-school graduates and dropouts were more pro-Bush (41%) than people with graduate degrees (36%). And people with family incomes of $30,000 or less were no more opposed to Bush than those with incomes of $75,000 or more.

We should think about this. The blue-collar vote is huge. Skilled and semi-skilled manual jobs are on the decline, of course, but if we count as blue-collar those workers without a college degree, as Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers do in their book Why the White Working Class Still Matters, then blue-collar voters represent 55% of all voters. They are, the authors note, the real swing vote in America. "Their loyalties shift the most from election to election and in so doing determine the winners in American politics." [complete article]

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Special Iraqi court 'is needed to rule on religious trusts'
By Nicolas Pelham, Financial Times, October 2, 2003

Iraq's acting minister of religious affairs has called for a special court to be set up to adjudicate claims to religious endowments, amid growing tension over Shia control of the formerly Sunni-run ministry for religious affairs.

As well as overseeing the thousands of mosques in Iraq, the ministry administers some 18,000 endowments donated to religious institutions in Iraq. Ministry officials say their value makes the ministry Iraq's second most valuable asset after oil. [complete article]

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Iraq's pioneers of democracy listen - but can't do much
By Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, October 2, 2003

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell have trumpeted local councils as one of the most important and underreported democratic fruits of US-led reconstruction in Iraq. But in the southern province of Diq Ar, at least, such councils are broke and powerless, according to their members and coalition officials. [complete article]

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Israel, Palestinians on the road to nowhere
By Tony Karon, Time, October 2, 2003

The only Israeli-Palestinian dialogue underway on the third anniversary of the current intifada last Monday took place in a Tel Aviv courtroom. There, the 43-year-old West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti delivered closing arguments in his own defense on charges of murder and terrorism arising out of the three-year uprising that has claimed the lives of 800 Israelis and 2,600 Palestinians.

Barghouti, whose "Tanzim" militia, and their al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade offshoot, have been at the heart of Palestinian armed actions against Israel over the past three years, is a leading candidate to eventually succeed Yasser Arafat as national leader of the Palestinians. He did not bother to answer the charges against him, dismissing the court's right to even try a non-citizen such as himself. Instead, he delivered his own indictment of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, reiterated his pride in the intifada, and warned that if Israel was not prepared to move quickly to a two-state solution it would have to find a way to live with a Palestinian majority in a single state. [complete article]

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Cousins and veils...
By Riverbend, Baghdad Burning, October 2, 2003

This is some further commentary on John Tierney's article "Iraq Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change", printed in the New York Times. [complete article]

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Attorney General is closely linked to inquiry figures
By Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, October 2, 2003

Deep political ties between top White House aides and Attorney General John Ashcroft have put him into a delicate position as the Justice Department begins a full investigation into whether administration officials illegally disclosed the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer.

Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, whose possible role in the case has raised questions, was a paid consultant to three of Mr. Ashcroft's campaigns in Missouri, twice for governor and for United States senator, in the 1980's and 1990's, an associate of Mr. Rove said on Wednesday.

Jack Oliver, the deputy finance chairman of Mr. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, was the director of Mr. Ashcroft's 1994 Senate campaign, and later worked as Mr. Ashcroft's deputy chief of staff.

Those connections led Democrats on Wednesday to assert that Mr. Rove's connections to Mr. Ashcroft amounted to a clear conflict of interest and undermined the integrity of the investigation. The disclosures have also emboldened Democrats who have called for the appointment of an outside counsel. [complete article]

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Fenced in, locked out: a people in the shadow of fortress Israel
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, October 2, 2003

Walls are going up all over the West Bank, slicing through suburbs of Jerusalem. The Israeli Cabinet voted yesterday to go ahead with a particularly controversial section of its "security fence", which Palestinians call Israel's Berlin Wall. The Cabinet approved a new stretch of the fence east of the Jewish settlements of Ariel and Kedumim deep inside the West Bank, that will have to cut 17 miles into the West Bank to keep the settlements on the "Israeli" side. It is a decision that some observers are warning could mean the death of President George Bush's "two-state solution". [complete article]

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Outing a CIA operative: Simply outrageous
By Jim Marcinkowski, Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2003

The exposure of Valerie Plame -- who I have reason to believe operated undercover -- apparently by a senior administration official, is nothing less than a despicable act for which someone should be held accountable. This case is especially upsetting to me because she was my agency classmate as well as my friend. [complete article]

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Saddam's Niger point-man speaks
By Hassan Fattah, Time, October 1, 2003

Wissam al-Zahawie stopped in his tracks when he heard President Bush's State of the Union speech last January. Iraq, the President announced, had attempted to purchase "yellowcake" -- milled uranium oxide, the building block of nuclear-reactor fuel -- from an African country. And for a country that had no nuclear energy program and a track record of seeking weapons of mass destruction, such a claim could mean only one thing: that Saddam Hussein had revived his clandestine nuclear weapons program. In the buildup to the war, that sounded like a smoking gun. If only it were true. [complete article]

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The sharks are circling in Washington
By Jim Lobe, Asia Times, October 2, 203

To say that there's blood in the water and the sharks are circling around the Bush administration's Iraq policy would be understatement at this point.

It's more like a blood bank that's been dropped into the water, the sharks have taken the first bites, and Amazonian piranhas are clamoring for visas on an expedited basis.

The administration of US President George W Bush - including virtually all of its top officials, from Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice - is on the defensive. Not only have the president's approval ratings plunged to the lowest level in his term, but his administration has opened a potentially lethal credibility gap on so many different fronts that reporters hardly know which to write about. [complete article]

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The truth behind the MI6 facade
Governments should realise that intelligence is often simply self-serving gossip - or just plain wrong
By Peter Heap, The Guardian, October 2, 2003

As a diplomat who worked in nine overseas posts over 36 years, I saw quite a lot of MI6 at work. They were represented in almost all of those diplomatic missions. They presented themselves as normal career diplomats, but often, indeed usually, they were a breed apart. And it normally only took the local British community a few weeks to spot them. "That's one of your spies," they would say at an embassy social function. "Spies, what spies?" we would reply. "You've been watching too much television." But they were usually spot on.

In one capital, the MI6 officers rarely wore suits to the office while the rest of us did. "Why?" we asked. "Because we would stand out when we go outside the capital to meet our contacts," they would reply. Maybe they scarcely noticed that they already stood out pretty distinctly in the city. If the local expatriates could identify them in weeks, it presumably only took hours for a hostile intelligence service to spot them, even if they did not know them by name already. [complete article]

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Iraqi groups badly divided over how to draft a charter
By Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times, September 30, 2003

As the Iraqi Governing Council presses for a more rapid end to the occupation and a transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, a new dispute over who will control the drafting of an Iraqi constitution is bringing to the surface deep divisions between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

Iraqi officials who have been deliberating for two months as a 25-member committee to recommend a procedure for drafting the constitution said they were deadlocked.

Their report, expected out by Tuesday, is likely to kick the complex questions of who should draft a new founding document back to the Governing Council and the occupation powers. Last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell challenged Iraqis to complete a new constitution within six months, but committee members said that goal would be all but impossible to achieve. [complete article]

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Coalition losing war for Iraqi arms
By P. Mitchell Prothero, UPI, September 29, 2003

The U.S.-led coalition forces are losing a bidding war for sophisticated weapons still widely available in Iraq, nearly six months after the fall of Baghdad. Anti-occupation groups and supporters of the old regime are financially able and willing to spend more for weapons, a series of interviews with underground arms dealers by United Press International has determined.

Adding to the concern, private contractors involved in security consulting to companies operating in Iraq say the street prices for some weapons appear to be increasing, indicating weapons are being bought at a higher rate than previously during the occupation. [complete article]

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Iraq, 9/11 still linked by Cheney
By Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, September 29, 2003

In making the case for war against Iraq, Vice President Cheney has continued to suggest that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks, even as the story was falling apart under scrutiny by the FBI, CIA and the foreign government that first made the allegation. [complete article]

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Ethnic and religious fissures deepen in Iraqi society
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, September 29, 2003

The Kurds who descended upon this hardscrabble Arab village in northern Iraq 11 days ago were so confident they would be able to evict everyone and seize the surrounding farmland that they brought along three tractors.

But instead of responding by fleeing, as thousands of other Arab villagers in northern Iraq have done when confronted with similar Kurdish demands, the residents of Haifa refused to budge. "Our people went to them and said, 'What the hell are you doing here? This area doesn't belong to you,' " recalled Kadhim Hani Jubbouri, the village sheik.

Words were exchanged. Threats were hurled. When the Kurds began tilling a field lined with golden flecks of harvested hay, gunfire erupted. [complete article]

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There's a time when anonymity is called for this is it!
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, October 1, 2003

The big mystery in Washington could easily be unraveled not in months weeks or days but in just a few hours. It wouldn't require a mea culpa from a senior administration official, nor the journalistic suicide of Robert Novak, nor a lucky break for the FBI. All it would take is for one of the other journalists who was told Joseph Wilson's wife's name to tell their story - anonymously.

The press corps (in the interests of news gathering and career preservation) jealously guard their right to maintain the confidentiality of sources. But in the Wilson scandal we already know that Novak wasn't the only journalist to whom the leak was made. A handful of other journalists were provided with the same information that they chose not to publish. Any one of them could now reveal the identity of their sources yet maintain their own anonymity. Is there among them a journalist with the courage to tell a great story yet glory not in the telling?

The Washington Post, Newseek, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times who would not gladly publish, "Karl Rove [or whoever it turns out to be] revealed the identity of a CIA operative," by Anonymous? After all, half the stories coming out of Washington come from "anonymous." And this would be one whose identity we truly don't need to know.

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Iraq: What went wrong
By General Wesley K. Clark, New York Review of Books, October 23, 2003

Victory requires backward planning, beginning with a definition of postwar success and then determining both the nature of the operations required and the necessary forces. Here the administration's focus and determination on winning the war in military terms undermined the prospects for success once the country was occupied.

The Bush administration has explained the situation in postwar Iraq as a matter of assumptions that hadn't quite worked out, "that tended to underestimate the problem." It apparently believed that removing Saddam would remove the Baath threat, that large numbers of military and police would rally to the Americans, and that Iraqi bureaucrats would stay on the job.

In fact, the lack of preparations was partly a consequence of the leadership and decision-making within the Bush administration and partly the result of deeper forces and tendencies at work within the US government and the US military. [complete article]

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Who's sordid now?
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, September 30, 2003

It's official: the administration that once scorned nation-building now says that it's engaged in a modern version of the Marshall Plan. But Iraq isn't postwar Europe, and George W. Bush definitely isn't Harry Truman. Indeed, while Truman led this country in what Churchill called the "most unsordid act in history," the stories about Iraqi reconstruction keep getting more sordid. And the sordidness isn't, as some would have you believe, a minor blemish on an otherwise noble enterprise.

Cronyism is an important factor in our Iraqi debacle. It's not just that reconstruction is much more expensive than it should be. The really important thing is that cronyism is warping policy: by treating contracts as prizes to be handed to their friends, administration officials are delaying Iraq's recovery, with potentially catastrophic consequences. [complete article]

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Washington insiders' new firm consults on contracts in Iraq
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, September 30, 2003

A group of businessmen linked by their close ties to President Bush, his family and his administration have set up a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects.

The firm, New Bridge Strategies, is headed by Joe M. Allbaugh, Mr. Bush's campaign manager in 2000 and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency until March. Other directors include Edward M. Rogers Jr., vice chairman, and Lanny Griffith, lobbyists who were assistants to the first President George Bush and now have close ties to the White House.

At a time when the administration seeks Congressional approval for $20.3 billion to rebuild Iraq, part of an $87 billion package for military and other spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, the company's Web site,, says, "The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq." [complete article]

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Credibility gap
By Richard Wolffe, Newsweek, September 30, 2003

It started out as just 16 words in the president's State of the Union address. But like all good examples of political chaos theory, it's the smallest details that can cause the biggest dislocations. If only the White House had dropped the brief line about Saddam's nuclear program and the link with Africa. That, at least, was the sentiment inside the Bush administration back in July, when it first got a taste of the kind of trial by fire that Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has been enduring for months. [complete article]

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Sheikhs and tribes...
By Riverbend, Baghdad Burning, September 29, 2003

A few people pointed out an article to me titled Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change, by John Tierney. ... I could comment for days on the article but I'll have to make it as brief as possible, and I'll also have to make it in two parts. Today I'll blog about tribes and sheikhs and tomorrow I'll blog about cousins and veils. [complete article]

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Militant warns of one-state solution
By Ed O'Loughlin, Sydney Morning Herald, October 1, 2003

A Palestinian leader on trial on terrorism charges has warned that Palestinians will seek democratic rights within Israel if they do not get their own independent state.

Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as Yasser Arafat's likely successor as head of the dominant Fatah party, told an Israeli court that "if an occupation does not end unilaterally or through negotiations then there is only one solution: one state for two people".

This so-called one state solution to the Middle East crisis is seen as a serious threat by many Israelis, since demographic trends predict that soon there will be an overall Arab majority in the combined Israeli and Arab territories. [complete article]

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Settlers 'threaten Israel as a Jewish state'
By David Blair, The Telegraph, October 1, 2003

The expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land threatens the country's future as a Jewish democracy, a senior American diplomat said yesterday.

William Burns, the assistant secretary of state, said the policy pre-empted the creation of a viable Palestinian state in accordance with the US "road map" to peace.

"As Israeli settlements expand and their populations increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to see how two peoples will be separated into two states," he said. [complete article]

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Arabs say world ignores Israel's nuclear program
By Carol Giacomo, Reuters, September 29, 2003

With the world pressing Iran and North Korea to give up nuclear programs, Arab states on Monday criticized the West for allowing Israel to remain outside global nonproliferation regimes.

Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons capability but has not signed on to major agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear arms.

"What surprises us is that at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency is intensifying its efforts and monitoring (NPT) members countries ... we see that it continues to ignore the rejection of Israel in not joining the treaty," Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

"This constitutes a serious threat to the security and stability of the whole region," he said. [complete article]

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Why must Americans in Iraq face death because of outmoded body armor?
By Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2003

Suzanne Werfelman is a mother and a teacher who has been shopping for individual body armor. This is not in response to threats from her elementary-class students in Sciota, Pa.; it's a desperate attempt to protect her son in Iraq.

Like many other U.S. service members in Iraq, her son was given a Vietnam-era flak jacket that cannot stop the type of weapons used today. It appears that parents across the country are now purchasers of body armor because of the failure of the military to supply soldiers with modern vests. [complete article]

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Iraqis torn by both hope and fear
By Charels J. Hanley, Assoicated Press, September 30, 2003

The black smoke of Baghdad, the burning Baghdad of May, has drifted away. City traffic is back, crawling along on cheap gasoline. Schools reopen this week, Iraqi couples are marrying again, and painters over at the Victory Theater are freshening up the lobby for opening night -- whenever that may be.

Night these days, for the people of Baghdad, is a time to hurry home -- to rooms darkened by blackouts, to the crackling of gunfire somewhere, staying out of the way of criminals, out of the gunsights of nervous American soldiers.

To a visitor returning after four months, Baghdad is a different place, a city of day-and-night contrasts and of people of many minds, all uncertain. [complete article]

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Iraqi police open fire on demonstrators
By Sameer N. Yacoub, Associated Press, October 1, 2003

Iraqi police opened fire in downtown Baghdad Wednesday after demonstrators demanding jobs stormed a police station and threw stones at officers, police said. At least one demonstrator was injured in the shooting.

In the northern city of Mosul, police also fired warning shots in the air to disperse hundreds of unemployed Iraqis who marched to an employment office and the city hall to demand jobs. There were no reports of injuries in the protests in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city.

Elsewhere, a roadside bomb exploded Wednesday afternoon as a U.S. convoy was driving by in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit. Three soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division were wounded, U.S. officials said.

When the gunfire in Baghdad stopped after about 30 minutes, fights broke out between some demonstrators and police. The protesters said they had been promised police jobs in July, but the positions had not been given out. They claimed police were demanding bribes in return for hiring them. [complete article]

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Hussein's weapons may have been bluff
By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest, Washington Post, October 1, 2003

With no chemical or biological weapons yet found in Iraq, the U.S. official in charge of the search for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction is pursuing the possibility that the Iraqi leader was bluffing, pretending he had distributed them to his most loyal commanders to deter the United States from invading.

Such a possibility is one element in the interim report that David Kay, who heads the 1,200-person, CIA-led team in Iraq, will describe before the House and Senate intelligence committees on Thursday, according to people familiar with his planned testimony. [complete article]

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Pax Americana
By Mark Mazzetti, US News & World Report, October 6, 2003

The burned shell of an American battle tank lies just to the side of a poorly maintained dirt track 30 miles outside of Dire Dawa. Its rusted turret points to the sky, aimed at nothing in particular. It is the wreckage of an African war long past, when the United States shipped arms to the Ethiopian Army during its conflict against Soviet-backed Somali forces in the 1970s, just one of the countless proxy battles fought by the great powers during the Cold War.

A quarter century later, the United States has sent not just its machines but its men to Ethiopia, to wage a more protracted war against an enemy without tanks or uniforms. At Hurso military compound outside Dire Dawa, soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain Division have built a makeshift camp on the African plains, where camels, hyenas, and baboons roam freely. Their mission is counterterrorism, training the Ethiopian military to begin rolling up the human networks that for years have roamed just as freely in the loosely governed expanses of East Africa.

The soldiers are part of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a unit based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti--a sweltering 88-acre outpost by the Gulf of Aden once inhabited by the French Foreign Legion. Sitting at the end of a garbage-strewn dirt road leading out of the capital, the camp is where 1,800 U.S. troops, including hundreds of special operations forces, have since May based their missions covering seven countries in Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. And according to the plans being drawn up in unadorned cubicles back at the Pentagon, it is the U.S. military mission in the Horn of Africa--even more than the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq--that is a window into the next decade in the war on terrorism. [complete article]

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Washington takes 10 weeks to catch up on the news

As readers of the Nation (and The War in Context) may remember, the big scandal that now captivates Washington was first reported back on July 16. David Corn noted that for two senior administration officials to tell Robert Novak that Joseph Wilson's wife is a CIA operative, is not only "a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison." David Corn's comments at that time were apparently of little concern to either the White House or the Justice Department.

CIA leak is big trouble for Bush
By David Corn, The Nation, September 29, 2003

Regular readers of this column will remember that back in July conservative columnist Bob Novak wrote a piece in which he reported that two "senior administration officials" had told him that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson (who had publicly challenged the White House's claim that Iraq had been shopping for uranium in Niger), was employed by the CIA and worked on counter-proliferation matters. Novak printed her name. The leakers apparently were trying to suggest that Wilson--who had been sent by the CIA to check out the Niger allegations and who concluded that there was nothing to them--had not been chosen for the job on merit. Wilson said that he considered the leak--which blew his wife's cover and perhaps undermined national security--was a message from the White House to others who might speak out against it: don't cross us, or we'll come after you and your family.

To brag a bit, I was the first journalist to report that the Novak leak was evidence of a possible White House crime. [complete article]

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White House press secretary, Scott McClellan: If anyone in this administration was involved in it [ -- the leak to Robert Novak -- ], they would no longer be in this administration.
September 29, 2003

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Bush administration is focus of inquiry
By Mike Allen and Dana Priest, Washington Post, September 28, 2003

At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.

The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law. [complete article]

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A one-state solution
By Ahmad Samih Khalidi, The Guardian, September 29, 2003

Palestinians cannot confer legitimacy on the Zionist narrative and should not be asked to do so, or vice versa. But if the two-state solution is no longer physically possible, and demography is creating its own inexorable facts, what are we left with that can serve as a framework for a settlement?

A move from the dominance of the territorial struggle to a redefinition of the national struggle, from the discourse of self-determination to that of freedom and democracy, provides one way out. If history cannot serve as a common basis for legitimisation, let us consider doing so on the basis of mutuality and equality. In other words, on the basis of equal political and civic rights in one state, with one-man, one-vote. [complete article]

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3,000 dead yet peace remains elusive
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, September 29, 2003

It is three years since Ariel Sharon took a fateful walk on the Temple Mount and the Palestinian intifada reignited. Few would have predicted the result: 3,000 Israelis and Palestinians dead, cities wrecked and reoccupied, the prospects for peace seeming to retreat by the day. Amidst the carnage and suffering on both sides, the suicide bombing of the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv by a young man from Qalqilya stands out as symbol of the horror and desperation that mark the conflict. Chris McGreal reports from both cities on how those touched by the attack view the intifada after three years, and on a desire among both Israelis and Palestinians to see the other side suffer.
[complete article]

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Nukes endanger Asia's future
By Joseph Cirincione and Husain Haqqani, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2003

A nuclear crisis is forming in the most volatile region on Earth.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded that Iran give a full and final accounting of its nuclear activities by Oct. 31, or risk action by the U.N. Security Council. Iran's eastern neighbor, Pakistan, and Pakistan's traditional rival, India, have already tested nuclear weapons. India's neighbor and rival, China, has been a nuclear power for many years. Next door to China, the insular, unpredictable and even maniacal regime in North Korea is reportedly assembling components for nuclear bombs. If Tehran pursues nuclear arms, then, for the first time since the advent of nuclear weapons, several volatile, contiguous states would possess them. Unless Iran and North Korea are stopped, and Pakistan and India engage in nuclear arms-control negotiations, we could be headed for a nuclear showdown. [complete article]

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With Clark on fire, calls of liar, liar
By Joshua Micah Marshall, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2003

Is retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander, an erratic liar? He is if you believe the spin coming out of the conservative hit machines that cranked into action as soon as Clark announced his intention to run for president as a Democrat.

Success in politics sometimes comes down to which side can tell the most compelling story -- and, even more important, which side can tell it first.

That simple truth has triggered a manic, win-at-all-costs drive to "define" Clark in the worst terms possible so that he won't be able to knock the president out of the White House next November. In his newsletter last week, Washington's highly respected political handicapper Charlie Cook correctly noted that "for the White House, it is particularly important that Clark's credibility be impeached as soon as possible." The White House and its media allies clearly agree. [complete article]

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Chasing a mirage
By Nancy Gibbs and Michael Ware, Time, September 28, 2003

Over the past three months, TIME has interviewed Iraqi weapons scientists, middlemen and former government officials. Saddam's henchmen all make essentially the same claim: that Iraq's once massive unconventional-weapons program was destroyed or dismantled in the 1990s and never rebuilt; that officials destroyed or never kept the documents that would prove it; that the shell games Saddam played with U.N. inspectors were designed to conceal his progress on conventional weapons systems -- missiles, air defenses, radar -- not biological or chemical programs; and that even Saddam, a sucker for a new gadget or invention or toxin, may not have known what he actually had or, more to the point, didn't have. It would be an irony almost too much to bear to consider that he doomed his country to war because he was intent on protecting weapons systems that didn't exist in the first place. [complete article]

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The unbuilding of Iraq
By John Barry and Evan Thomas, Newsweek, October 6, 2003

The Iraq war had yet to begin, but some nasty fighting was already going on back in Washington between the Department of Defense and the Department of State.

Last February, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner was trying to put together a team of experts to rebuild Iraq after the war was over, and his list included 20 State Department officials. The day before he was supposed to leave for the region, Garner got a call from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who ordered him to cut 16 of the 20 State officials from his roster. It seems that the State Department people were deemed to be Arabist apologists, or squishy about the United Nations, or in some way politically incorrect to the right-wing ideologues at the White House or the neocons in the office of the Secretary of Defense. The vetting process "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion," recalled one of Garner's team. Finally, Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to stand up for his troops and stop Rumsfeld's meddling. "I can take hostages, too," Powell warned the secretary of Defense. "How hard do you want to play this thing?"

Pretty hard. Powell lost, as he often does in the councils of the Bush war cabinet, and Rumsfeld had his way. Only one of the 16 State officials was restored to Garner's reconstruction team. It was a petty triumph, but emblematic of Rumsfeld's dominating, sometimes overbearing style. Rumsfeld was not a rogue elephant. In much of what he did, Rumsfeld himself was following orders. The hidden hand of the White House (read: Vice President Dick Cheney) was decisive in many of the behind-the-scenes struggles over postwar policymaking in Iraq. But President George W. Bush put the Defense Department in charge of both invading Iraq and rebuilding it after the war. Since 9/11, the secretary of Defense has been a brilliant war leader. Yet when it comes to making peace, he has been guilty of almost willful denial. His deep reluctance to use the American military for "peacekeeping" and "nation-building" -- he scorns the very terms -- threatens to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. [complete article]

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Kirkuk's conflicting claims
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, September 28, 2003

The vast pools of oil burbling below this northern city made it a crucial asset for Saddam Hussein, who worked harder here than perhaps anywhere else to foster mutual hatred amid the city's jumble of ethnic groups.

No measure was too large, or too small, to ensure that his control over the spigots went unchallenged.

He expelled tens of thousands of Kurds and replaced them with more loyal Arabs imported from elsewhere. A secret police force was recruited within each group to spy on rival communities. His government even commissioned a pair of rather crudely executed bronze statues of two men killed by the Kurds during political clashes in 1959 artwork calculated to fan the embers of distrust and loathing.

Mr. Hussein is gone, but the effect survives. Late last month, a sudden burst of ethnic bloodletting in Kirkuk and a neighboring town left 13 people dead. The United States occupation administration quelled the violence through a combination of military muscle and forced negotiations. [complete article]

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Media new boogeyman of Iraq
By Pamela Hess, UPI, September 27, 2003

As Bush administration officials and Pentagon chiefs peddle their $87 billion supplemental bill for Iraq next year -- even as President Bush's popularity on the issue wanes -- they have a new enemy in their sites. Not Saddam or Osama, but the media.

As they see it, the problem in Iraq is not so much the almost daily casualties or the pace of rebuilding but the fact that the news media keeps harping on it, at the expense of reporting "good news."

"I understand that breaking news is largely driven by bad news. That's a structural defect of a free press," said L. Paul Bremer, the American administrator in Iraq, at a House Armed Services Committee Hearing Thursday.

The conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington is holding a symposium next week on the very topic. "Is the Bush administration losing control of the situation on the ground, or is the media transforming a military victory into a defeat?" asks a flyer for the Oct. 7 panel discussion. [complete article]

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Iran rules out compromise on uranium enrichment, nuclear programme
Agence France-Presse, September 28, 2003

Iran will not compromise on its right to nuclear technology or to conduct uranium enrichment, the foreign ministry said, shrugging off mounting international pressure over its atomic programme.

"Renouncing nuclear technology or enrichment is not something that Iran will accept a compromise on," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters on Sunday in response to weekend statements on Iran by US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. [complete article]

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Why the media don't call it as they see it
By Paul Waldman, Washington Post, September 28, 2003

True or false: Saddam Hussein helped plan the Sept.11 attacks.

As those who read or heard President Bush's recent statement on the issue are aware, that assertion is false. Then why have so many Americans -- 69 percent, according to a Washington Post survey last month -- been telling public opinion pollsters they believe it is likely that Saddam was involved?

The administration's critics think they know whom to blame for this: President Bush and those who work for him. I think they're right. But I would also name an accessory: The nation's media, which have yet to find a clear and effective way to report incorrect impressions and untruthful statements, particularly those that emanate from the White House. [complete article]

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Reluctance to share control in Iraq leaves U.S. on its own
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, September 28, 2003

To rebuild Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration wanted control and it wanted international help on U.S. terms. A difficult few days of personal diplomacy at the United Nations last week confirmed that President Bush cannot have both, so he has settled for control.

Neither the United Nations nor the Iraqi Governing Council will have much authority over events in Iraq anytime soon, the White House has decided. Policymakers consider the Iraqi overhaul too complex and the stakes too high to risk surrendering enough responsibility to win significant amounts of fresh international assistance.

That calculation, rooted in the politics of Iraq and Iowa alike, leaves Bush and his key aides largely where they were on the war's opening night: calling the shots, essentially alone. [complete article]

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