|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Administration faces supoenas from 9/11 panel
By Philip Shenon, New York Times (via Yahoo), October 25, 2003
The chairman of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks said that the White House was continuing to withhold several highly classified intelligence documents from the panel and that he was prepared to subpoena the documents if they were not turned over within weeks.
The chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, also said in an interview that he believed the bipartisan 10-member commission would soon be forced to issue subpoenas to other executive branch agencies because of continuing delays by the Bush administration in providing documents and other evidence needed by the panel.
"Any document that has to do with this investigation cannot be beyond our reach," Mr. Kean said on Friday in his first explicit public warning to the White House that it risked a subpoena and a politically damaging courtroom showdown with the commission over access to the documents, including Oval Office intelligence reports that reached President Bush's desk in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks. [complete article]
Remaking the world: Bush and the neoconservatives
By Joshua Micah Marshall, Foreign Affairs, November/December, 2003
Days before the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom this past March, a well-known intellectual close to the White House walked me through the necessity and promise of the coming invasion. Whatever rancor it caused in the short term, he said, would pale in comparison to the payoff that would follow. In the months and years to come, Iraqis who had suffered under Saddam Hussein's tyranny would write books and testify to the brutality of the regime, the bankruptcy of the Arab nationalism that stood idly by while they suffered, and the improvement of their lives. That testimony and the reality of an Iraqi state where basic human rights were respected would shatter the anti-Americanism that fills the Muslim Middle East and start a wave of change that would sweep over the region.
It was a breathtaking vision, and one that was difficult to dismiss out of hand. But from the vantage point of late 2003, it seems little better than a fantasy. To be sure, the war did eliminate a dangerous and evil regime. But the Bush administration greatly exaggerated the scale and imminence of the danger Saddam posed, while dramatically underestimating the cost and burden of the postwar occupation. The prewar links between Iraq and terrorism proved to be as minimal as skeptics had charged. And the Iraqis' feelings toward their liberators turned out to be more ambivalent than Washington had assumed, the regional ripple effects less extensive, and the diplomatic damage of the whole episode worse and longer lasting. [complete article]
Intelligence problems in Iraq are detailed
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, October 25, 2003
The U.S. military intelligence gathering operation in Iraq is being undercut by a series of problems in using technology, training intelligence specialists and managing them in the field, according to an internal Army evaluation.
A report published this week by the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., uses unusually blunt language to identify the intelligence problems and to recommend solutions. In discussing the training of intelligence specialists, for example, it states that commanders reported that younger officers and soldiers were unprepared for their assignments, "did not understand the targeting process" and possessed "very little to no analytical skills." [complete article]
See full report, Operation Outreach: Tactics, techniques and procedures (PDF format).
Iraq aid needs, pledge at odds
By Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, October 24, 2003
The U.S.-run government in Iraq has vowed to seek no congressional funding in 2005 to reconstruct that nation if it receives the Bush administration's full $20.3 billion request this fall, raising questions about how it will meet its total spending needs.
The written pledge, in a document responding to lawmakers' questions, appeared at odds with the Coalition Provisional Authority's estimated costs of reconstruction and the amount of money likely to come from other nations. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow put the total rebuilding cost at $55 billion in a speech yesterday at an Iraq donors conference in Madrid.
If the administration secures its full request from Congress, the United States will have committed less than half that amount -- $24 billion in 2003 and 2004. Pledges from the World Bank and other donors total little more than $8 billion so far, and the Madrid conference started on a disappointing note for U.S. officials, largely because of reluctance from Saudi Arabia. [complete article]
CIA may have been out of loop
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2003
Officials in the Bush administration appear to have bypassed the CIA and other agencies to collect their own intelligence overseas on Iraq, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday.
Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV's comments came as bipartisan cooperation on the committee's inquiry into prewar intelligence appeared to be unraveling. Democrats complained that Republicans are out to pin blame on the CIA and shield the White House from criticism that intelligence used to make the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated.
After reviewing tens of thousands of pages of intelligence documents, the committee staff has begun drafting a report that sources said would harshly criticize the CIA for prewar judgments that congressional investigators believe were unfounded, thinly sourced or lacked adequate caveats.
Democrats, who have been rebuffed by Republicans in their efforts to widen the probe's scope, threatened Friday to launch a separate investigation. Several committee Democrats said it is now all but inevitable that they will produce a separate report. [complete article]
FREE-TRADE GENERAL ALIENATES BONEHEADS IN WASHINGTON
U.S. officials fume at trade by Iraq, Syria
By Stephen J. Glain, Boston Globe, October 23, 2003
The US general serving as administrator of northern Iraq has seemingly placed himself at odds with the White House and a majority of lawmakers by allowing free trade between Iraq and Syria, a country that Washington is attempting to isolate for its support of Islamic militant groups.
"If you want to apply pressure on Syria, it's one . . . funny way to do it," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat from Illinois who wrote a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell last week in which he criticized the growing trade between Iraq and its neighbor.
Emanuel said the efforts by Major General David H. Petraeus to create jobs by encouraging free trade between US occupied-Iraq and Syria violate the spirit of a bill recently approved by the House of Representatives that would impose sanctions on Syria. [complete article]
Israel publishes map of planned barrier
By Ravi Nessman, Associated Press, October 24, 2003
For the first time, Israel published a detailed map Friday of its planned security barrier, which would encircle tens of thousands of Palestinians, cutting them off from the rest of the West Bank, while keeping about 80 percent of Jewish settlers on the Israeli side of the fence.
The fence's snaking path, sloping from flat land up into mountains, cuts deep into the West Bank and will likely enflame already fierce international opposition.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the military also was planning a final section of the barrier in the eastern area of the West Bank and would soon present it to the Cabinet. That section, which would cut Palestinians off from the Jordan Valley, would likely pass a few miles from the Jordan River, he said in a TV interview. [complete article]
Taliban resurgence undermining U.N. Afghan aid work
By Irwin Arieff, Reuters, October 24, 2003
A Taliban resurgence has forced U.N. aid workers to suspend their work in most of southern Afghanistan during a crucial period, a top U.N. official told the Security Council on Friday.
The suspension has undermined humanitarian work intended to shore up the shaky central government as Afghanistan elects delegates to a December national assembly meeting that will vote on a new draft constitution, said Jean-Marie Guehenno, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations. [complete article]
Kurds are finally heard: Turkey burned our villages
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, October 24, 2003
One after another, the villagers stepped forward in their tattered clothes, took the courtroom oath and spoke of a previously unutterable crimes.
One of the first was Emine Toprak, an elderly Kurdish woman whose cracked and withered face hinted at her story to come.
"I was sitting in the house with my children, and they came and said we are going to burn your house, and so we got out," Ms. Toprak told a row of silk-robbed Turkish judges seated before her.
"Who burned your village?" one of the Turkish judges asked.
"The government forces," Ms. Toprak answered.
So it was in a third-floor Turkish courtroom last week that a handful of Kurdish villagers broke the silence that has prevailed in this country over what human rights groups here say was one of the most violent secrets of the 1990's: the systematic campaign by Turkish security forces to burn down villages of Kurds suspected of harboring separatist guerrillas. [complete article]
U.S. requests pause in Turkey troop talks - Turk PM
By Gill Tudor, Reuters, October 24, 2003
Washington has requested a break in talks on sending Turkish troops to join U.S.-led forces in Iraq, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was quoted Friday as saying.
NATO-member Turkey has offered to contribute troops to try to help stabilize its war-torn southern neighbor, but talks with U.S. officials have so far yielded no firm details of any deployment since parliament approved the idea early this month.
"The United States has just approached our chiefs of staff saying 'Give us a little time, let us continue with our work, and then we'll move forward'," Turkish NTV television's Web site quoted him as saying.
"Taking a break in talks does not mean the talks are over."
U.S. officials in Ankara declined to comment on the report. [complete article]
Syria, long ruthlessly secular, sees fervent Islamic resurgence
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, October 24, 2003
Two decades after Syria ruthlessly uprooted militant Islam, killing an estimated 10,000 people, this most secular of Arab states is experiencing a dramatic religious resurgence.
Friday Prayers draw overflowing crowds. More heavily veiled women and bearded men jostle unharried among city pedestrians. Family restaurants on the outskirts of Damascus do not serve alcohol, and one fashionable boutique even sports a sign advertising Islamically modest bathing suits.
Syrian experts on religious matters and others attribute the phenomenon -- more creeping than confrontational -- to various factors. Islam is proving appealing through much of the Arab world, including Syria, as a means to protest corrupt, incompetent and oppressive governments.
The widespread sense that the faith is being singled out for attack by Washington has invigorated that appeal, at a time when the violence fomented by radicals had tarnished political Islam. [complete article]
More and more Iraqis view the U.S. as occupation force: poll
Agence France Presse, October 23, 2003
More and more Iraqis view the US forces as "occupiers" not liberators and say they want an Islamic-style democracy, citing Iran as a model, said a new poll.
The results found 67 percent of Iraqis view the US-led coalition as an occupying force, while only 46 percent of the population considered them as such when US troops rolled into Baghdad April 9, said the Iraqi Centre for Research and Strategic Studies.
Over the same timeframe, those who viewed the US forces as liberators slumped from 43 percent to 15 percent, the study said.
Asked about a future Iraqi government, 33 percent said they favoured an Islamic model as opposed to 30 percent who said yes to a Western-style democracy.
Asked what country offered the best model for Iraq, 14 percent said Iran, followed by 13.5 percent who opted for the United Arab Emirates and 9.6 percent for the United States, it said. [complete article]
Since starting The War in Context in January 2002, I have invested over 2500 hours, $200 hosting charges, $750 ISP charges. If this site provides you with a service you value, you can offer a token of your appreciation and help keep the site running by making a donation. It's easy if you have a credit card. To donate, just hit the PayPal button below! PayPal is an eBay company that enables secure online transactions. PayPal has more than 31 million account members and is available to users in 38 countries around the world. If you prefer to donate by check, send an email to email@example.com for more information. Thank you, Paul Woodward, Editor.
'Pashtunistan' issue back to haunt Pakistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, October 25, 2003
Faced with the uphill task of curtailing extremist elements in South and Central Asia, such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the United States appears to be leaning towards a policy of promoting instability in the region, with the biggest loser in such a game likely to be Pakistan, even though it is Washington's stated premier ally in the "war on terror".
Many in the present Afghan government believe that the agreement reached between Afghan king Abdur Rahman Khan and British colonial official Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in 1893 that defined the Durand Line [which demarcates the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan] was for 100 years only, and expired in 1993. The Afghans are now asking the US to renegotiate the border, and some Afghan officials have already issued a new map that shows such major Pakistani cities as Peshawar and Quetta in Afghanistan.
Asia Times Online sources close to Pakistan strategic circles report that there has been recent contact between Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and Pashtun leader Khan Abdul Wali Khan, much to the alarm of the Pakistani hierarchy, which is convinced that the meeting took place at the instigation of the US. [complete article]
Privatisation is a burning issue
By Colin Freeman, The Scotsman, October 24, 2003
Like most of the 500,000 employees of Iraq's lumbering state-owned industries, Munther Nomman has spent most of his career comfortably insulated from the harsh realities of the free-market economy.
Faced with the prospect of imminent privatisation, however, he and his colleagues at Baghdad's Sumer Cigarette Factory have formulated their own uncompromising business strategy.
"It is very simple: we will burn the place down and kill any foreign investor who comes to take it over," the 30-year veteran declared, to grim nods from colleagues. "If it is privatised most of us will lose our jobs, and why should we let that happen? If they try to buy it, I tell you, all they will have left is the land that this place stands on."
Two weeks ago Iraq's Governing Council voted to sell off the country's 200 state-owned companies to the highest bidders, in what promises to be one of the biggest denationalisation schemes since the collapse of communism a decade ago. [complete article]
Confusing occupation with liberation
By Amy Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2003
"Why, we have gotten into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation."
Someone could have said this about Iraq today or about Vietnam 35 years ago. But in fact it was Mark Twain who said it a century ago about the American occupation of the Philippines.
I was reminded of that quote when I heard President Bush, in a speech Saturday before the Philippine Congress, refer to our history in that country as a "model" for establishing democracy in Iraq. Alluding to the 1898 Spanish-American War, he said, "America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule."
Twain would have laughed with outrage at this stretch of the truth, which obscures a shameful chapter of this story. What Bush called liberation, Twain decried as a bloody campaign against the Philippine struggle for independence, a campaign that would usher in five decades of occupation by the United States. [complete article]
Postwar Iraq prepares for uncertain Ramadan
By Rosalind Russell, Reuters, October 24, 2003
Khalid Abdul Hamid, who runs Baghdad's finest confectioner's shop, worries that fear of lawlessness may dampen the usual rush of business during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts at the weekend.
Normally, his cash tills ring incessantly in Ramadan, when customers fill his shop after breaking their fast at sundown and keep coming into the early hours to buy sweetmeats made from pastry, honey and pistachio nuts.
This year, Iraq's U.S.-led occupation forces say they will lift a night-time curfew across Baghdad to allow residents to observe the fasting month, which is expected to start Sunday, or whenever the new moon is sighted.
Hamid says he plans to keep his shop open late but is not sure whether his customers will throng it as usual in a city where shooting, kidnapping and robbery have soared since the U.S.-led war which toppled Saddam Hussein in April. [complete article]
Fiddling while the fuse burns
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, October 23, 2003
It is easy to forget that this week's agreement concerning Iran's nuclear activities was primarily about curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, not about scoring points in a game of international power politics.
In Iran itself, the deal brokered during the visit to Tehran of the British, French and German foreign ministers was hailed as a political victory over the Bush administration and to a lesser degree, Israel - not as an advance for non-proliferation policy. [complete article]
Countries pressured to give money for Iraq
By Giles Tremlett, The Guardian, October 24, 2003
US officials predicted last night that the scale of international pledges for the reconstruction of Iraq today would take some by surprise, despite what appeared to be a poor start to the Madrid donors' conference yesterday.
France, Germany and Russia showed no sign of bowing to pressure to contribute immediately to a new fund. But there were rumours last night night that Arab countries may alter their positions and contribute.
"Tomorrow I think we will surprise some in the press when the size of the outpouring of support is made visible," the US treasury secretary John Snow told investors. [complete article]
Iraqis on the sidelines
By Susan E. Rice, New York Times, October 24, 2003
In pressing their request for nearly $20 billion for reconstructing Iraq, Bush administration officials have been invoking the Marshall Plan, as President Bush himself did when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last month. L. Paul Bremer III, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, did the same when testifying before Congress. In fact, however, such invocations are highly misleading, and the Congressional conferees who are shaping the final version of the Iraq appropriation bill would do well to review what made the Marshall Plan a success -- and how the Bremer plan may be headed for failure. [complete article]
U.S. raid nets whole Iraqi village
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, October 23, 2003
American troops in helicopters swooped down on this remote sheepherding village in the desert and detained nearly all the men, one as old as 81, one as young as 13. A month after the raid, apparently aimed at preventing terrorists from slipping across the border from Saudi Arabia, only two of the 79 captives have been freed.
The sweep -- similar to those conducted in Afghanistan by U.S. special operations troops -- came at a time when American officials are concerned that foreign fighters, including those loyal to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, are crossing into Iraq to join the resistance against the U.S.-led occupation.
The U.S.-appointed mayor of Habbariyah and its deputy police chief believe the Americans rounded up so many men and boys to punish the village because of suspicions it maintains contact with desert smugglers or infiltrators from across the border, 80 miles away. [complete article]
Inquiry faults intelligence on Iraq
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, October 24, 2003
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing a blistering report on prewar intelligence on Iraq that is critical of CIA Director George J. Tenet and other intelligence officials for overstating the weapons and terrorism case against Saddam Hussein, according to congressional officials.
The committee staff was surprised by the amount of circumstantial evidence and single-source or disputed information used to write key intelligence documents -- in particular the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate -- summarizing Iraq's capabilities and intentions, according to Republican and Democratic sources. Staff members interviewed more than 100 people who collected and analyzed the intelligence used to back up statements about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities, and its possible links to terrorist groups. [complete article]
See also Walter Pincus' article on the drafting of the National Intelligence Estimate.
Armed with Oxford dictionary, Rumsfeld strikes back in memo flap
Agence France Presse, October 23, 2003
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reached for the Oxford dictionary to try to take the sting out of a leaked memo that warned the United States faces a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld burst into a regular Pentagon briefing by surprise, armed with what he said was the dictionary's preferred definition of the word "slog."
"Slog: to hit or strike hard, to drive with blows, to assail violently,' Rumsfeld said.
"And that's precisely what the US has been doing and intends to continues to do," he added.
Asked whether that was the definition he intended when he wrote the memo, Rumsfeld grinned: "It's close enough for government work."
He acknowledged the word had other meanings when a reporter noted the American Heritage dictionary's prefered definition of "slog":
"To walk or progress with a slow, heavy pace; plod as in 'slog across the swamp.'" [complete article]
Rumsfeld draws Republicans' ire
By Douglas Jehl and David Firestone, New York Times, October 24, 2003
Last Friday, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and his top Democratic colleague sent a private letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that questioned the propriety of comments made by a top Pentagon general, William G. Boykin.
Mr. Rumsfeld not only did not respond, but on Tuesday, after the chairman, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, made the letter public, the defense secretary said he knew nothing about it. "It may be somewhere around the building," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters on Capitol Hill, "but I am not aware of it."
The episode was described this week by senior Republican Congressional officials as emblematic of what some now openly call the high-handedness and lack of respect shown by Mr. Rumsfeld, whose steps and missteps in the past month have drawn increasing Republican ire. [complete article]
ISRAEL, INDIA, THE PHALCON DEAL, AND THE SAUDI NUCLEAR SCARE
Paul Woodward, The War in Context, October 23, 2003
Earlier this week the Washington Times reported that "Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have concluded a secret agreement on 'nuclear cooperation' that will provide the Saudis with nuclear-weapons technology in exchange for cheap oil" and today the WT follows up with an article reporting that a "top Israeli intelligence official has charged that Saudi Arabia is pressing forward with a secret program to acquire nuclear-weapons technology from Pakistan, even as senior U.S. officials said yesterday they had seen 'no information to substantiate' reports that a deal was in the works."
Chance would have it that at the time this story is making the rounds, another story is gaining somewhat less attention. Earlier this month, Israel and India signed an agreement through which India intends to purchase from Israel three Phalcon AWAC aircraft - a deal worth $1.3 billion. An earlier sale to China that was subsequently vetoed by the US government ended up costing Israel $350 million compensation to China. Now Israel is trying to persuade the Indian government to make a 25-30% downpayment to shore up this high risk contract. Are the Israelis also calculating that any Congressional misgivings about the destabilizing effect that the sale of this technology might have in the balance of power between India and Pakistan will be outweighed by the fear that Pakistan is attempting to create an Islamic nuclear network? Even if Pakistan is not actually doing so, the mere thought that they might could be sufficient to persuade many members of Congress that they should do nothing to obstruct the Phalcon sale.
Tribes inflamed by Qaeda hunt
By Owais Tohid, Christian Science Monitor, October 20, 2003
The hunt for Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders has lead to a corner of Pakistan where privacy and seclusion are reflected even in the architecture. Windows open into inner courtyards, and the facades of homes are blank and featureless in Pakistan's tribal region.
On a thronelike armchair in front of his massive house sits Haji Malik Mirza Alam Khan, the chief of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe. He is trying to pacify his fellow Pashtun tribesmen, who sit cross-legged on the floor in front of him, venting anger at what they see as a violation of their fiercly guarded independence by a series of recent Pakistani military incursions.
"We have to be calm through the most difficult time of our lives," the chief tells his men, each armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, otherwise known here as "jewelry of men."
"It is a conspiracy against the tribesmen by the US, because it wants to control the tribal areas as it does Afghanistan. We have to be wise in our decisions," he warns. [complete article]
Press underreports wounded in Iraq
By Seth Porges, Editor and Publisher, October 23, 2003
When newspapers reported this week on poor medical and living conditions for Americans injured in Iraq, it might have come as a shock for some readers. For months, the press has barely mentioned non-fatal casualties or the severity of their wounds.
E&P reported in July that while deaths in combat are often tallied by newspapers, the many non-combat troop deaths in Iraq are virtually ignored. It turns out that newspaper readers have also been shortchanged in getting a sense of the number of troops injured, in and out of battle.
"There could be some inattention to [the number of injured troops]," said Philip Bennett, Washington Post assistant managing editor of the foreign desk. "And obviously if there is, it should be corrected. Soldiers getting wounded is part of the reality of conflict on the ground. I think if you were to find or discover that those figures are being overlooked, that would be something we'd want to correct."
Few newspapers routinely report injuries in Iraq, beyond references to specific incidents. Since the war began in March, 1,927 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq, many quite severely. (The tally is current as of Oct. 20.) Of this number, 1,590 were wounded in hostile action, and 337 from other causes. About 20% of the injured in Iraq have suffered severe brain injuries, and as many as 70% "had the potential for resulting in brain injury," according to an Oct. 16 article in The Boston Globe. [complete article]
World aid for Iraq falling short
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 2003
"I know it's unrealistic to expect the full $50-60 billion we need in Madrid, but it's important that we get as much of this money as possible,'' says Mahmoud Othman, a member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. "The longer it takes for our economy to recover, the more dangerous and unstable the transition to sovereignty will be."
Unless further contributions by international donors bridge the gap, the United States will eventually have to put more money into Iraq, despite the unabated rate of attacks on US forces. That's a decision, if and when it comes, that will probably prove unpopular among US voters. But the alternative could be worse. [complete article]
Former U.S. Navy chief counsel alleges 'Liberty' cover-up
By Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press (via Jerusalem Post), October 23, 2003
A former Navy attorney who helped lead the military investigation of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 American servicemen says former President Lyndon Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, ordered that the inquiry conclude the incident was an accident.
In a signed affidavit released at a Capitol Hill news conference, retired Capt. Ward Boston said Johnson and McNamara told those heading the Navy's inquiry to "conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
Boston was senior legal counsel to the Navy's original 1967 review of the attack. He said in the sworn statement that he stayed silent for years because he's a military man, and "when orders come ... I follow them."
He said he felt compelled to "share the truth" following the publication of a recent book, "The Liberty Incident," which concluded the attack was unintentional.
The USS Liberty was an electronic intelligence-gathering ship that was cruising international waters off the Egyptian coast on June 8, 1967. Israeli planes and torpedo boats opened fire on the Liberty in the midst of what became known as the Israeli-Arab Six-Day War. [complete article]
For more background discussion on this, see the Washington Post's The attack on Liberty.
NOTE: THE WAR IN CONTEXT WILL SOON BE OFFERING ITS SUPPORTERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE "USS LIBERTY SURVIVORS: OUR STORY", A DOCUMENTARY ON DVD THAT PROVIDES EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THE TWO HOUR ATTACK THAT KILLED 34 AMERICANS, WOUNDED 171 OTHERS AND LEFT 800 ROCKET AND TORPEDO HOLES IN THE SHIP. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org
Charity says $4bn 'missing' in Iraq
BBC News, October 23, 2003
A British charity has accused the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq of failing to account for $4bn meant to help rebuild the country.
The charity, Christian Aid, said in a report that the authority had not publicly disclosed its accounts since Saddam Hussein was ousted in April.
The report's authors calculated that the CPA had received at least $5bn in oil revenues and assets seized from Saddam Hussein's government.
However, only $1bn of this could be traced, while the rest had simply vanished into a "financial black hole", said the report.
"For all the talk of freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people before, during and after the war which toppled Saddam Hussein," said the report, "there is no way of knowing how the vast majority of this money has been spent". [complete article]
See Christian Aid's 20-page report Iraq: The missing billions - Transition and transparency in post-war Iraq (PDF format), a briefing paper for the Madrid conference on Iraq.
Cheney's the one
By Jim Lobe, Antiwar.com, October 23, 2003
The image was not an edifying one: the president of the United States a horse, his vice president, the rider.
But that is the image Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, used to describe the power relationship between U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in a recent interview with the National Journal.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, according to Biden's account, sometimes talks Bush into pursuing a more conciliatory foreign-policy line, as he has done with North Korea or the United Nations from time to time.
"Like with a horse, Powell is always able to lead Bush to the water. But just as he is about to put his head down, Cheney up in the saddle says, 'Un-uh,' and yanks up the reins before Bush can drink the water. That's my image of how it goes," Biden said.
That is also the image which is gaining currency in power circles in Washington. When it comes to foreign policy, Cheney is increasingly seen as holding the reins. [complete article]
At the start of each of Bush’s bad ideas is Dick Cheney
By Josh Marshall, The Hill, October 22, 2003
In Sunday's New York Times, Iraq's new interim president, Iyad Alawi, thanked Americans for liberating his country and then made a simple request: please bring back the Iraqi army.
Given what we just put into defeating the Iraqi army, that might sound like an odd proposal. But it's difficult to find anyone today who thinks disbanding the Iraqi army was a good idea in the first place. And few thought it was a good idea at the time. Doing so not only worsened the security vacuum that now plagues the country, it took hundreds of thousands of armed men and -- in a pen stroke -- made them both unemployed and harder to control.
Who was the senior administration official most responsible for this ill-conceived idea?
Vice President Dick Cheney. [complete article]
Since starting The War in Context in January 2002, I have invested over 2500 hours, $200 hosting charges, $750 ISP charges. If this site provides you with a service you value, you can offer a token of your appreciation and help keep the site running by making a donation. It's easy if you have a credit card. To donate, just hit the PayPal button below! PayPal is an eBay company that enables secure online transactions. PayPal has more than 31 million account members and is available to users in 38 countries around the world. If you prefer to donate by check, send an email to email@example.com for more information. Thank you, Paul Woodward, Editor.
The spy who was thrown into the cold
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, October 22, 2003
It is early autumn in Washington. The leaves are falling, another election season is limbering up, and the nation's capital is once more embroiled in a gale-force scandal. It is an extraordinary affair that combines espionage, political dirty tricks and weapons of mass destruction - a heady mix normally found only in airport thrillers. But fact has had a knack of trumping fiction in Washington lately. In principle at least, this is worse than Watergate and far worse than Bill Clinton's sexual liaisons. According to the claims now under scrutiny by the FBI, senior officials in the Bush administration (possibly including aides close to the president himself) blew the cover of a high-ranking CIA agent in order to punish and discredit her husband, a critic of the administration. In doing so, they endangered the very national security in the name of which the administration has so far invaded two countries. Ironically, the agent in question was a leading player in the monitoring and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction around the world. Her outing has undoubtedly hamstrung that pursuit. [complete article]
Leaked memo exposes Rumsfeld's doubts about war on terror
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, October 23, 2003
The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has admitted that Washington has no way of knowing whether it is winning or losing its "war on terror" and predicts "a long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a leaked document published yesterday.
The memorandum was sent to his civilian deputies and top military officers, calling for fresh thinking in US counter-terrorist strategy. Its sober tone is a marked contrast to the upbeat assessments offered to the public by President Bush and his administration officials. [complete article]
See the full text of Rumsfeld's memo.
From Baghdad to Manila
Another lousy analogy for the occupation of Iraq
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, October 21, 2003
The Bush administration seems, for the moment, to have stopped making analogies between post-Gulf War II Iraq and post-World War II Germany (an argument that has been refuted at least a couple of times). Now President Bush himself has taken to likening the democratic prospects of modern Iraq to those of the early 20th-century Philippines. In a recent speech in Manila, Bush said, speaking of the critics of the Iraqi occupation:
Democracy always has skeptics. Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democracy in Asia.
The comparison between Iraq and the Philippines may be more accurate than the one between Iraq and West Germany, but it is hardly more comforting. In fact, it is so discomfiting -- it implies such a dismal forecast for America's occupation in Iraq over the next several years (for that matter, the next few decades) -- that it's hard to imagine Bush would have made such a remark if he'd understood its full implications. [complete article]
LOOT FROM HIGHWAY ROBBERY ENDS UP IN VICE PRESIDENT'S POCKET?
New information may bolster questions on Halliburton
By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, October 22, 2003
The head of an Iraqi oil agency said yesterday that his group had been trucking in gasoline and other fuel to Iraq for considerably less money than Halliburton, which has so far received more than $700 million from the Army Corps of Engineers to stave off shortages there.
Separately, a report earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan public policy research arm, warned that the Corps of Engineers might be paying too much to import fuel.
The disclosures support assertions by two senior House Democrats, Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and John D. Dingell of Michigan, that Halliburton may be overcharging American taxpayers and Iraqis. The lawmakers sent a letter to the head of the Corps of Engineers yesterday asking it to look into the price disparity between the Iraqi agency's imports and Halliburton's.
Halliburton said in response to the Congressional letter last week that it charges $1.59 a gallon for its gasoline imports, which includes the 2 percent profit margin. In the fax, the Iraqi marketing organization's general manager, Mohammed al-Jibouri, said that gasoline from Turkey costs $347 a metric ton delivered to Baghdad, which he said translates to about 98 cents a gallon. [complete article]
In Sadr City, army's new caution
By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, October 22, 2003
Lt. Denny Vigil points the barrel of his M-4 carbine out the driver's side door of a Humvee. His eyes scan the storefronts and the rooftops. He and his men used to stop and walk through the busy markets of Sadr City, Baghdad's vast Shiite Muslim slum. But now they stay buttoned up in their vehicles with mounted machine guns and go out on patrol only with M1-A1 Abrams tanks leading the way. [complete article]
Note: The Washington Post, in line with most of the US press, generally refers to Sadr City (the part of Baghdad formerly known as Saddam City) as a "Shiite slum" -- hence the WP's headline, "In Shiite Slum, Army's New Caution." Although English-speaking residents of Baghdad may in fact describe Sadr City as a Shiite slum, the use of this description by headline writers appears (at least in my mind) to marginalize the significance of what happens in this part of Baghdad. Is "slum" intended to connote the locus of an uneducated, religiously zealous, volatile rabble? Are we intended to conclude that what happens in a Shiite slum is not an indicator of what might happen elsewhere in Iraq? PW
Getting along with the 'axis of evil'
By Tony Karon, Time, October 22, 2003
For the remaining two poles of President Bush's "Axis of Evil," it's been a good week to be less of a bad actor. First, President Bush Sunday signaled his readiness to sign security guarantees if North Korea agrees to end its nuclear program, and repeatedly emphasized that the U.S. has no intention of invading. Then, on Tuesday, Iran accepted a deal brokered by Britain, France and Germany requiring a more intrusive inspection regime to satisfy international concerns over the potential for Tehran's nuclear energy program to camouflage a bomb program. Two prime candidates for further testing of the Bush administration's doctrine of preemptive warfare suddenly seem to morphing into exercises in Cold War-ish containment, engagement and coexistence. [complete article]
The 'Israelization' of the United States
By David Hirst, The Daily Star, October 22, 2003
Few disputed at the time that Israel was a factor that pushed Bush to go to war on Iraq. Just how much weight it had among all the others was the only controversial question. But what is clear is that Israel has become a very important one indeed in the stumbling neo-imperial venture that is Iraq today.
This "Israelization" of US policy crossed a new threshold with the two blows dealt Syria in recent days: President Bush's endorsement of Israel's air raid on its territory and the Syrian Accountability Act passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. A community of US-Israeli purpose pushed to unprecedented lengths is now operational as well as ideological. For the US, the primary battlefield is Iraq, and any state which sponsors or encourages resistance to its occupation; for Israel it is occupied Palestine, its "terrorists" and their external backers. These common objectives converge on Syria. [complete article]
Civilians pay with lives under Gaza's skies of death
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, October 22, 2003
When Dr Zein al-Abedin Shahin heard the first missile hit, he immediately ran to help the wounded.
Outside the clinic where he was working late, on Abu Bakr al-Siddiq street, he found 12-year-old Mohammed al-Barood lying injured.
According to colleagues at the clinic who rushed out after him, Dr Shahin was holding the boy in his arms when the second missile hit. Both doctor and child were killed in Monday night's attack, the fifth Israeli air strike in Gaza in 24 hours and the most devastating in terms of civilian casualties.
A piece of shrapnel pierced Mohammed's heart.
It was not clear whether the pilot of the Israeli helicopter saw the doctor holding the boy before he fired the second missile. But what he must have seen as he pulled the trigger was the crowd of civilians who had run into the street to help the wounded. There were hundreds of people on Abu Bakr al-Siddiq street when the second missile was fired, according to witnesses. Many of them were children.
At least nine people died in the two strikes. Seven of the dead were civilians. More than 100 civilians were wounded. The director of the nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs' hospital said that of the cases it received, 11 of the 30 wounded were younger than 14. [complete article]
AMERICA, ISRAEL, MICRONESIA AND THE MARSHALL ISLANDS JOIN FORCES TO OPPOSE U.N. RESOLUTION
Israel vows to go on with fence, despite UN condemnation
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, October 22, 2003
Israel vowed on Wednesday to press on with building a vast barrier in the West Bank despite a U.N. resolution condemning the project as a violation of international law and demanding it be halted. [complete article]
Plan for Turkish troops to aid U.S. in Iraq stalls
By John Hendren and Esther Schrader, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2003
The Bush administration's intense effort to put a Muslim face on its occupation of Iraq by adding a large contingent of Turkish troops appears to be unraveling as a result of Iraqi opposition.
Senior administration officials were understood to have serious doubts about the plan after what sources described as a strong recommendation by Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer III that it be abandoned. [complete article]
Angry clash over dog, woman's bag and holy book
Associated Press (via Sydney Morning Herald), October 21, 2003
The matter of a woman, a dog and a holy book yesterday led to a violent protest that illustrates the cultural chasm dividing the US occupiers from ordinary Iraqis.
The confrontation began when Amal Karim, 28, showed up for work at the Oil Ministry in Baghdad yesterday morning and faced a routine search at the ministry entrance by US soldiers, who have guarded the building tightly since the end of the US-Iraq war last April.
When the Americans told her to submit her bag to a sniff-search by a dog, she refused, saying the bag held a copy of the Koran, Iraqi witnesses later reported.
Devout Iraqis often carry Islam's holy book with them, and Muslims consider dogs to be dirty, disease-spreading animals.
"When she refused, the American soldiers took the Koran out of her bag and threw it to the ground," said one woman, Zaineb Rahim. "Then the American soldiers handcuffed Amal."
Pushing and punching followed between soldiers and Iraqis, Americans struck out with rifle butts and soon about 100 Iraqis had gathered in angry protest outside the huge, modern building on Baghdad's northern edge, leading the Americans to fire shots in the air, the witnesses said. [complete article]
Iraqi civilian deaths
By Martin Asser, BBC News, October 22, 2003
On the day Human Rights Watch publishes a report on the suspected killings of dozens of Iraqi civilians by the American army, the BBC visits survivors of one the most tragic and disturbing cases. [complete article]
See also the HRW report, Hearts and minds: Post-war civilian deaths in Baghdad caused by U.S. forces.
A DESPERATE GAMBLE
Plan to arrest maverick Iraqi cleric for murder
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, October 22, 2003
Coalition and Iraqi officials are preparing an arrest warrant for the firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr over his alleged involvement with the brutal murder of a rival cleric last spring, sources close to the Iraqi governing council told the Guardian yesterday.
The warrant, which has yet to be finalised, cites Mr Sadr for instigating a deadly attack on Abdel Majid al-Khoei, who was stabbed to death by a mob in the Shia holy city of Najaf on April 10.
It is said to be signed by Tahir Jalil Habboush - a senior mukhabarat officer under the former regime who now works with the coalition authorities - and is based on the confessions of 23 men who were involved in the killing.
"The belief of the coalition is that al-Sadr is not containable," the council source said. "They believe there is enough evidence that Muqtada was involved in the Khoei assassination and want to act to clip his wings before he can cause any more damage." [complete article]
The new Great Game
By Lutz Kleveman, The Guardian, October 20, 2003
Nearly two years ago, I travelled to Kyrgyzstan, the mountainous ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia, to witness a historical event: the deployment of the first American combat troops on former Soviet soil.
As part of the Afghan campaign, the US air force set up a base near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Brawny pioneers in desert camouflages were erecting hundreds of tents for nearly 3,000 soldiers. I asked their commander, a wiry brigadier general, if and when the troops would leave Kyrgyzstan (and its neighbour Uzbekistan, where Washington set up a second airbase). "There is no time limit," he replied. "We will pull out only when all al-Qaeda cells have been eradicated."
Today, the Americans are still there and many of the tents have been replaced by concrete buildings. Bush has used his massive military build-up in Central Asia to seal the cold war victory against Russia, to contain Chinese influence and to tighten the noose around Iran. Most importantly, however, Washington - supported by the Blair government - is exploiting the "war on terror" to further American oil interests in the Caspian region. But this geopolitical gamble involving thuggish dictators and corrupt Saudi oil sheiks is only likely to produce more terrorists. [complete article]
Curtains ordered for media coverage of returning coffins
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, October 21, 2003
Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.
To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases. [complete article]
Bush proposes a security accord for North Korea
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 20, 2003
President Bush presented President Hu Jintao of China with a new, if still vague, American plan here on Sunday that would provide a five-nation security guarantee to North Korea -- but not a formal nonaggression treaty -- if the North dismantles all of its nuclear weapons programs.
Mr. Bush's decision to find a way to provide assurances to North Korea -- over the objections of those in his administration who have made it clear that they do not believe the United States should be negotiating with the North at all -- is a subtle but important shift in his approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis. [complete article]
The last emperor
By Peter Maass, New York Times, October 19, 2003
The Dear Leader is a workaholic. Kim Jong Il sleeps four hours a night, or if he works through the night, as he sometimes does, he sleeps four hours a day. His office is a hive of activity; reports cross his desk at all hours. Dressed as always in his signature khaki jumpsuit, he reads them all, issuing instructions to aides, dashing off handwritten notes or picking up the phone at 3 a.m. and telling subordinates what should lead the news broadcasts or whom to dispatch to a prison camp. His micromanaging style is less Caligula, with whom he has often been compared, and more Jimmy Carter on an authoritarian tear.
The Dear Leader, as the North Korean media refer to him, wishes to be viewed as a modern leader. He has boasted to visitors that he has three computers in his office, though it's not known if he operates them himself or has aides who do so. His eldest son is reputed to be a computer whiz and, like sons the world over, is credited with bringing his father into the digital age. When Madeleine K. Albright, then the secretary of state, visited North Korea in 2000, Kim asked her, as he said farewell, to give him the State Department's e-mail address. [complete article]
DIPLOMACY AT WORK
Iran agrees "full transparency" over nuclear programme, tougher inspections
Agence France Presse, October 21, 2003
Iran yielded to international demands for it to prove it is not developing nuclear weapons, promising Britain, France and Germany "full cooperation" with the UN's nuclear watchdog and bowing to an intrusive inspections regime.
The foreign ministers of the three countries immediately hailed the capping of their unprecedented diplomatic effort here as an important step forward in defusing mounting tensions that have raised fears of yet another Middle East conflict.
"This is a very important day," France's Dominique de Villepin said after the ministers emerged from several hours of hard bargaining with top Iranian officials just 10 days before the expiry of an ultimatum set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for Iran to come clean. [complete article]
Iraqi civilians fall victim to hair triggers
By Fred Abrahams, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2003
Adil abd al Karim al Kawwaz was driving home from his in-laws' house in Baghdad one night in August with his wife and four kids. It was dark, and he couldn't see the American soldiers from the 1st Armored Division operating a checkpoint with armored vehicles and heavy-caliber guns. No signs or lights were visible, and he did not understand that he was supposed to stop. So he drove a bit too close and the soldiers opened fire, killing him along with three of his children, the youngest of whom was 8 years old.
Such accidents are no longer rare in Iraq. They occur at checkpoints, during raids or after roadside attacks as edgy U.S. soldiers resort with distressing speed to lethal force. [complete article]
Time for reckoning
By Greg Thielmann and Daryl G. Kimball, Baltimore Sun, October 21, 2003
For months, President Bush has asked the American people for more time to find the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he said the war was intended to counter. But David Kay and the U.S. survey team charged with finding Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons provide further evidence that the Bush administration's most dire claims about unconventional Iraqi weapons were wrong and based on discredited intelligence.
It is past time for Congress to hold Mr. Bush and his administration to account, beginning with an independent, public investigation of the gathering and handling of intelligence on Iraq. [complete article]
IS THE VICE PRESIDENT A HABITUAL LIAR OR SIMPLY DELUDED?
The misuse of polling in the case of Iraq
By James J. Zogby, Washington Watch (via Indymedia), October 20, 2003
Early in President Bush's recent public relations campaign to rebuild support for the U.S. war effort in Iraq, Vice-President Cheney [on September 14, 2003] appeared on "Meet the Press." Attempting to make the case that the U.S. was winning in Iraq, Cheney made the following observation:
There was a poll done, just random in the last week, first one I've seen carefully done; admittedly, it's a difficult area to poll in. Zogby International did it with American Enterprise magazine. But that's got very positive news in it in terms of the numbers it shows with respect to the attitudes to what Americans have done.
One of the questions it asked is: "If you could have any model for the kind of government you'd like to have" -- and they were given five choices -- "which would it be?" The U.S. wins hands down.
In fact, Zogby International (ZI) in Iraq had conducted the poll, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) did publish their interpretation of the findings. But the AEI's "spin" and the Vice-President's use of their "spin" created a faulty impression of the poll's results and, therefore, of the attitudes of the Iraqi people.
For example, while Cheney noted that when asked what kind of government they would like, Iraqis chose "the U.S. . . .hands down," in fact, the results of the poll are actually quite different. Twenty-three percent of Iraqis say that they would like to model their new government after the U.S.; 17.5% would like their model to be Saudi Arabia; 12% say Syria, 7% say Egypt and 37% say "none of the above." That's hardly "winning hands down." [complete article]
The one-state solution
By Daniel Lazare, The Nation, November 3, 2003
In his 1896 manifesto The Jewish State, Zionism's founding document, the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl predicted that such a country would be at peace with its neighbors and would require no more than a small professional army. In fact, Zionist settlers have clashed repeatedly with the Arabs from nearly the moment they began arriving in significant numbers in the early twentieth century, a Hundred Years' War that grows more dangerous by the month. Herzl envisioned a normal state no different from France or Germany. Yet with its peculiar ethno-religious policies elevating one group above all others, Israel is increasingly abnormal at a time when almost all other political democracies have been putting such distinctions behind them. Herzl envisioned a state that would draw Jews like a magnet, yet more than half a century after Israel's birth, most Jews continue to vote with their feet to remain in the Diaspora, and an increasing number of Israelis prefer to live abroad. Israel was supposed to serve as a safe haven, yet it is in fact one of the more dangerous places on earth in which to be Jewish.
Israel was also supposed to have been the final answer to "the Jewish question," an issue that is as old as--and has virtually defined--modernity itself. Herzl emphasized again and again that hatred and competition would melt away once Jews removed themselves from their increasingly reluctant host countries, returned to their ancient homeland and took their place as separate but equal members of the international community. Yet anti-Semitism is mushrooming in the Muslim world and, based on anecdotal evidence, may be undergoing a resurgence in Europe and the United States. Is this because the world is intrinsically anti-Semitic and is therefore always looking for an excuse to bash the Jews? Or does Zionism bear responsibility in any way for the upsurge? [complete article]
By Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post, October 21, 2003
President Bush's commission on public diplomacy recently noted that in nine Muslim and Arab nations, only 12 percent of respondents surveyed believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values." Such attitudes, the commission argued, create a toxic atmosphere of anti-Americanism that cripples U.S. foreign policy and helps terrorists. To address the problem the commission suggested a major reorganization of the American government, hundreds of millions of dollars of funding and the creation of a new Cabinet position. I have a simpler, more urgent suggestion: Fire William G. Boykin. [complete article]
New Cheney adviser sets Syria in his sights
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, October 20, 2003
A neo-conservative strategist who has long called for the United States and Israel to work together to ''roll back'' the Ba'ath-led government in Syria has been quietly appointed as a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
David Wurmser, who had been working for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, joined Cheney's staff under its powerful national security director, I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby, in mid-September, according to Cheney's office.
The move is significant, not only because Cheney is seen increasingly as the dominant foreign-policy influence on President George W. Bush, but also because it adds to the notion that neo-conservatives remain a formidable force under Bush despite the sharp plunge in public confidence in Bush's handling of post-war Iraq resulting from the faulty assumptions propagated by the ''neo-cons'' before the war. [complete article]
Army defends probe of alleged Vietnam-era war crimes
Agence France Presse, October 21, 2003
The US Army said it acted properly more than three decades ago in dropping an investigation into alleged war crimes by an elite army unit whose members were accused of killing and mutilating large numbers of civilians during the Vietnam War.
A spokesman, however, said the army was looking into statements by veterans of the unit who were quoted over the weekend by the Toledo Blade, an Ohio newspaper, as admitting having killed civilians.
"We're looking at the issue," said Joe Burlas, the spokesman. "It's not being ignored."
The Blade reported that hundreds of civilians were killed over a seven-month period in 1967 by the 101st Airborne Division's Tiger Force unit in the central highlands of South Vietnam. [complete article]
Kurds' faith in new Iraq fading fast
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, October 21, 2003
The kebab stalls and tea shops huddled at the foot of the limestone cliffs at the gorge of Gali Ali Beg in Iraqi Kurdistan are doing good business as Arabs from Baghdad and Basra picnic alongside local Kurdish families by the cool, frothy waterfalls.
The tourism boom in the largely tranquil north has been one of the most tangible benefits of regime change for the Kurds. To some it offers rare hope that the country's deep sectarian divisions, exacerbated by 35 years of Ba'athist rule, can finally be overcome.
But as the US and British authorities dither over Iraq's post-war political settlement, growing numbers among the strongly pro-western Kurds here worry that their fundamental political concerns are being swallowed by the ethnic, religious and political problems in post-Saddam Iraq. Their demands for a federal state appear to be falling on deaf ears. [complete article]
"The unity of terror"
Paul Woodward, The War in Context, October 20, 2003
In Truth, war and consequences -- a recent report from PBS's Frontline -- Richard Perle takes credit for the pivotal line in President Bush's address to the nation on September 11, 2001: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
Since the Bush administration made this inclusive principle the foundation of the war on terrorism (subsequently enshrining it in the National Security Strategy under the umbrella of an American "right" to conduct preemptive war), Ariel Sharon and numerous other political leaders have asserted that their own regional conflict -- whether it be in Palestine, Chechnya or the Philippines -- is simply a local front in a global war against a common enemy.
Richard Perle, in quasi-theological terms, posits a "unity of terror." In the same spirit, an editorial in Sunday's Jerusalem Post, in reference to the terrorists who killed three Americans in Gaza this week, goes so far as to say:
Whether it was Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or perhaps even al-Qaida itself matters little and in fact tends to distract from what the West knows but often does not like to admit: The tentacles all belong to the same enemy.
Within this conception of terrorism, a phenomenon that is scattered across the globe has been turned into a beast of mythological proportions. The explicit connection is militant Islam, but whether the "tentacles" linking Islamic terrorists amount to concrete connections through finance and organization, or whether we are looking at bonds that have no more substance than a common cause or simply the common use of particular techniques of terrorism, these are all distinctions that the unitarians dismiss as distractions. Terrorism has been reduced to terror, and the actors, their actions and their effects have been fused into an entity that is explained and understood simply by recognizing its existence. Attempts to analyze motives, discriminate between groups or in any other way apply a nuanced interpretation of terrorism are, we are told, an expression of weakness.
The impassioned demand that we should stand united in the face of a common enemy might work well from a podium in front of an audience that has a greater capacity to fear than it has the power to reason. But suggesting that it matters little whether the culprits behind a particular attack were members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or al Qaeda is tantamount to suggesting that intelligence has no role in combating terrorism.
If belief in the unity of terror is now an article of faith among the high priests in this war on terror are we now expected to believe that whoever they select as their next target is by definition "the same enemy" -- an enemy about whom we need know nothing more than that they deserve to be destroyed?
When armies cease to discriminate between their enemy and those who harbor them, this is what happens...
Elite U.S. unit killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians, report says
Associated Press (via Washington Post), October 20, 2003
An elite unit of U.S. soldiers mutilated and killed hundreds of unarmed villagers over seven months in 1967 during the Vietnam War, and an Army investigation was closed with no charges filed, the Blade newspaper reported Sunday.
Soldiers of the Tiger Force unit of the Army's 101st Airborne Division dropped grenades into bunkers where villagers -- including women and children -- hid, and shot farmers without warning, the newspaper reported. Soldiers told the Blade that they severed ears from the dead and strung them on shoelaces to wear around their necks.
The Army's 41/2-year investigation, never before made public, was initiated by a soldier outraged at the killings. The probe substantiated 20 war crimes by 18 soldiers and reached the Pentagon and White House before it was closed in 1975, the Blade said.
William Doyle, a former Tiger Force sergeant now living in Willow Springs, Mo., said he killed so many civilians in 1967 he lost count. [complete article]
See Day One, Rogue GIs unleashed wave of terror in Central Highlands, from the Toledo Blade's four day report, Buried secrets, brutal truths.
Bush's news war
By Richard Wolffe and Rod Nordland, Newsweek, October 27, 2003
It started out as a little crowd control in Baghdad. But as U.S. troops entered the streets to restore order earlier this month, the protest turned ugly.
Someone threw a homemade grenade at the Americans, wounding 13 servicemen. According to the Oct. 8 Daily Threat Assessment -- the Coalition's internal casualty report, which was shown to Newsweek -- eight soldiers were wounded seriously enough to be evacuated to military hospitals. Yet at a press conference the next day, there was no mention of the attack. Pushed by reporters, U.S. officials would only say the incident was under investigation. It was as if the ambush, and the casualties, had never happened.
In Baghdad, official control over the news is getting tighter. Journalists used to walk freely into the city's hospitals and the morgue to keep count of the day's dead and wounded. Now the hospitals have been declared off-limits and morgue officials turn away reporters who aren't accompanied by a Coalition escort. Iraqi police refer reporters' questions to American forces; the Americans refer them back to the Iraqis. [complete article]
What's that in euros?
By Simon Nixon, The Spectator, October 18, 2003
The lengths to which the eurozone will go to supplant the dollar can be seen in reports, last week, that Russia is considering selling its oil in euros rather than dollars. On the face of it, this seems perfectly rational: Russia sells most of its oil to Europe, so such a move would save on currency conversion. But in reality, talk of pricing oil in euros is pure politics, says Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, a former adviser to President Putin and managing director of Troika Dialog, a Russian investment bank. 'There is minimal economic benefit to either Russia or the eurozone to be gained from such a move.'
The idea came from France and Germany and its aim is to undermine the dollar. The fact that oil and other commodities are priced in dollars underpins America's role as a global reserve currency and by extension its economic supremacy. Other countries are obliged to buy dollars to trade. This gives America the freedom to keep printing dollars without sparking inflation, enabling it to fund wars, giant trade deficits, government-spending programmes and tax cuts. If the EU could persuade oil producers to price oil in euros, it would be a hugely symbolic victory for the single currency. [complete article]
Israel's protesting pilots expose its divided vision of democracy
By Bernard Avishai, Slate, October 17, 2003
It would be hard to plan a more perfect challenge to a democracy than the one handed Israel in late September by 27 fighter and helicopter pilots. In an open letter, they expressed anguish over the scores of Palestinian civilians (including many children) killed or maimed as a byproduct of "targeted" attacks on senior members of Hamas and other terror groups -- especially in densely populated Gaza, which Israeli ground troops are generally reluctant to enter. The pilots announced they would fly such missions no more. "These acts," the letter said, "are illegal and immoral and are a direct result of the ongoing occupation that corrupts all of Israeli society." The men, most veteran reservists, nine still on active duty, are members of a high military caste -- one is a brigadier general who took part in the celebrated attack against Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981. [complete article]
Lost in translation
By Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, October 27, 2003
A shortage of Arabic speakers has plagued the entire intelligence community. Though U.S. intelligence was using all the best technology -- spy satellites, high-tech listening posts and other devices -- to listen in on the conversations of possible terrorists, far too often it had no idea what they were saying. A congressional inquiry after 9/11 found enormous backlogs. Millions of hours of talk by suspected terrorists -- including 35 percent of all Arabic-language national-security wiretaps by the FBI -- had gone untranslated and untranscribed. Some of the overseas intercepts contained chillingly precise warnings. On Sept. 10, 2001, the National Security Agency picked up suggestive comments by Qaeda operatives, including "Tomorrow is zero hour." The tape of the conversation was not translated until after 9/11. [complete article]
Terror war 'holding back Arab societies'
By Gareth Smyth, Financial Times (via Yahoo), October 20, 2003
A group of leading Arab intellectuals warned on Monday that the US-led "war on terror" was "giving ruling regimes in some Arab countries spurious justification for curbing freedom".
The Arab Human Development Report 2003, published by the United Nations Development Programme, is the second annual report to examine the relationship between low economic growth, poor education levels and repressive governments.
This year's report focuses on the need to create a "knowledge society" but in reviewing the past 12 months it presents a bleak picture of the effects of September 11, 2001.
"Worldwide anti-terrorism policies have been largely military and security- oriented in nature," it says. "[Consequent] restrictive procedures introduced by some advanced countries and adopted in several parts of the developing world, including the Arab region, have created a situation inimical to human development." [complete article]
Ex-Iraq Bank head says cost will force U.S. pullout
By Robert Evans, Reuters, October 20, 2003
A former head of Iraq's Central Bank predicted Monday that the spiraling cost of holding down Iraq will compel the United States to look for an early way to pull out of the country.
An exile in the West for the past two decades, Salah Shaikhly also said "democratic forces" in Iraq were on the retreat from religious and fundamentalist groups while political leaders were sowing ethnic division.
"Once the U.S. Congress and public opinion realize the true cost burden of the Iraqi campaigns for the U.S. taxpayer, they will force this and any future administration to quickly look for an honorable exit strategy," Shaikhly said.
There were already signs that U.S. efforts to prepare the ground for this were under way, he said. [complete article]
Top Iraqi cleric urges crackdown on spread of firearms, wants constitution writers elected
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, October 20, 2003
Iraq's most influential Shiite Muslim cleric warned of "grave problems" if nothing is done to stem the proliferation of firearms in the country and blamed clashes between his supporters and followers of a radical cleric on the weakness of Iraq's U.S.-backed authorities.
In written comments given Sunday to The Associated Press, Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein al-Sistani, spiritual leader of most of Iraq's Shiite majority, also said there could be "no substitute" for a general election to choose delegates to a convention to draft a new constitution despite U.S. demands for a quicker selection process. [complete article]
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, October 20, 2003
Since midsummer, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been attempting to solve the biggest mystery of the Iraq war: the disparity between the Bush Administration's prewar assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and what has actually been discovered.
The committee is concentrating on the last ten years' worth of reports by the C.I.A. Preliminary findings, one intelligence official told me, are disquieting. "The intelligence community made all kinds of errors and handled things sloppily," he said. The problems range from a lack of quality control to different agencies' reporting contradictory assessments at the same time. One finding, the official went on, was that the intelligence reports about Iraq provided by the United Nations inspection teams and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitored Iraq's nuclear-weapons programs, were far more accurate than the C.I.A. estimates. "Some of the old-timers in the community are appalled by how bad the analysis was," the official said. "If you look at them side by side, C.I.A. versus United Nations, the U.N. agencies come out ahead across the board."
There were, of course, good reasons to worry about Saddam Hussein's possession of W.M.D.s. He had manufactured and used chemical weapons in the past, and had experimented with biological weapons; before the first Gulf War, he maintained a multibillion-dollar nuclear-weapons program. In addition, there were widespread doubts about the efficacy of the U.N. inspection teams, whose operations in Iraq were repeatedly challenged and disrupted by Saddam Hussein. Iraq was thought to have manufactured at least six thousand more chemical weapons than the U.N. could account for. And yet, as some former U.N. inspectors often predicted, the tons of chemical and biological weapons that the American public was led to expect have thus far proved illusory. As long as that remains the case, one question will be asked more and more insistently: How did the American intelligence community get it so wrong? [complete article]
Note: Links to the key documents in the Niger affair, the misuse of intelligence, and the exposure of Valerie Plame can be found in the sidebar to the left, under the heading "Intelligence Betrayed."
Syria said to control $3 billion for Saddam
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times (via IHT), October 20, 2003
American investigators have evidence that $3 billion that belonged to Saddam Hussein's government is being held in Syrian-controlled banks in Syria and Lebanon, Bush administration officials say.
A delegation led by the Treasury Department has spent nearly two weeks in Damascus trying to win access to accounts established by the former Iraqi government or its confederates, the officials said last week. Syria has promised to cooperate, but has so far failed to do so, the officials said. [complete article]
U.S. set to cede part of control over aid to Iraq
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, October 20, 2003
Under pressure from potential donors, the Bush administration will allow a new agency to determine how to spend billions of dollars in reconstruction assistance for Iraq, administration and international aid officials say.
The new agency, to be independent of the American occupation, will be run by the World Bank and the United Nations. They are to announce the change at a donor conference in Madrid later this week.
The change effectively establishes some of the international control over Iraq that the United States opposed in the drafting of the United Nations Security Council resolution that passed on Thursday. [complete article]
The Geneva Accord
The complete text of the Geneva Accord between Israel and Palestine.
A new complication
By Mohamad Bazzi, Newsday, October 19, 2003
Investigators suspect that last week's bombing of the Turkish embassy here was carried out by the PKK, a Kurdish group that has fought a long guerrilla war against Turkey, according to a senior Iraqi official.
U.S. and Iraqi officials had thought initially that Tuesday's suicide bombing was the work of Saddam Hussein supporters or fighters linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network who have slipped into Iraq in recent months. But investigators have developed evidence of the PKK's (or Kurdish Workers Party) involvement in the bombing, which injured 10 people, said a senior official at the Iraqi Interior Ministry. [complete article]
Coalition embarrassed as U.S.-appointed governor goes on trial
By Colin Freeman, The Telegraph, October 19, 2003
From the day the United States Army freed the Shia holy city of Najaf from Saddam Hussein's grip, Abdul Mun'im seemed to be a man they could do business with.
Yet within weeks of persuading US commanders to appoint him as the first post-war governor of Najaf, the former Iraqi army colonel was running a regime much like the one he helped to oust, earning him the nickname "the Second Saddam".
Between photocalls with US generals and school re-openings, he allegedly masterminded a large scale car-theft ring, tried to empty local banks of public funds, and kidnapped and imprisoned anyone who got in his way.
For almost three months coalition officials ignored complaints from locals about the thuggish behaviour of Mun'im's militia of 100 armed henchmen, led by his brother, a potbellied tough nicknamed "Mohamed the Monster". His arrest came only when US soldiers searching for three kidnapped boys found them imprisoned in his offices - within the walls of their own coalition HQ. [complete article]
For better or worse, it's becoming 'Bush's war'
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, October 19, 2003
All may not be well at the White House if the president feels compelled to assert, as George W. Bush did in a television interview last week, that "the person who is in charge is me." If a president has to state the obvious -- in 1995, Bill Clinton memorably announced that he was still relevant -- it is even more likely that something, somewhere, is wrong. [complete article]
State Dept. study foresaw trouble now plaguing Iraq
By Eric Schmitt and Joel Brinkley, New York Times, October 19, 2003
A yearlong State Department study predicted many of the problems that have plagued the American-led occupation of Iraq, according to internal State Department documents and interviews with administration and Congressional officials.
Beginning in April 2002, the State Department project assembled more than 200 Iraqi lawyers, engineers, business people and other experts into 17 working groups to study topics ranging from creating a new justice system to reorganizing the military to revamping the economy.
Their findings included a much more dire assessment of Iraq's dilapidated electrical and water systems than many Pentagon officials assumed. They warned of a society so brutalized by Saddam Hussein's rule that many Iraqis might react coolly to Americans' notion of quickly rebuilding civil society.
Several officials said that many of the findings in the $5 million study were ignored by Pentagon officials until recently, although the Pentagon said they took the findings into account. The work is now being relied on heavily as occupation forces struggle to impose stability in Iraq. [complete article]
Bin Laden urges terror blitz
By Jason Burke, The Observer, October 19, 2003
The world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, has mounted an unparalleled propaganda offensive calling for renewed attacks on the West and on American and British troops in Iraq.
The Saudi-born leader of al-Qaeda has simultaneously released two audio tapes, a series of videotaped threats and several filmed statements by his group's suicide bombers who died in an attack on Riyadh in May.
In a development that is likely to embarrass the Saudi regime, a suicide bomber, calling himself Fazl bin Mohammed al-Kashmiri, claims he is the son of a retired senior officer in the Saudi intelligence service. [complete article]
Arrest of Iraqi cleric sparks confrontations with Shiites
By Karl Vick, Washington Post, October 19, 2003
The man in the doorway of the mosque had a rifle, and when a U.S. convoy appeared down the street, he ducked inside. To an Iraqi policeman riding with the Americans, the movement seemed suspicious.
So the officer, as witnesses and his own superior told it later, followed the armed man into the Ali Bayaa mosque to attempt an arrest. It was only a few yards, but the action set in motion an escalating series of confrontations -- threats and arrests, mass protests, a grenade attack -- that in the space of two weeks helped push the U.S. military to the cusp of a new conflict in Iraq, one involving a volatile section of the country's Shiite Muslim majority. [complete article]
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