The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
A fiction shattered by America's aggression
By William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, November 1, 2003

...what actually has happened during the past nine months is something Americans have yet to grasp, and that others have yet to say out loud: People outside the United States have stopped believing the American story.

They don't think terrorism is an Evil force the United States is going to defeat. They say instead that terrorism is a way people wage war when they don't have F-16's or armored divisions.

They say that Chechens, Moros, Taliban, Colombian insurgents, Palestinian bombers and Iraqi enemies of the U.S. occupation do not really make up a single global phenomenon that the world must mobilize to defeat.

They say that, actually, they had never really believed the American story in the first place. They had listened to it because Washington said it, and they respected Washington. Now they don't. [complete article]

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U.S. considering recalling units of old Iraq army
By Thom Shanker and Thom Schmitt, New York Times, November 2, 2003

Some American military officers in Iraq are pressing to reconstitute entire units of the former Iraqi Army, which the top United States administrator in Baghdad disbanded in May. They say the change would speed the creation of a new army and stabilize the nation.

Proposals under consideration would involve identifying former Iraqi officers and weeding out any still loyal to Saddam Hussein. Those who pass the vetting could then track down the troops who had served under them in order to re-assemble complete companies and battalions rapidly.

"We feel we could contact a midlevel officer -- say, the rank of captain or major -- who knows where all the members of his unit are today," said a senior military officer at the occupation's military headquarters in Baghdad.

The talks are at an early stage and do not represent an actual plan. At a news conference in Baghdad on Saturday, the American administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, spoke merely of the need to welcome back former members of the Iraqi Army into the small replacement army now being formed.

But the talks tacitly acknowledge that some officers view Mr. Bremer's decision to dismantle the defeated 500,000-member Iraqi Army as a mistake, one that has contributed to the instability and increasing attacks against United States forces in Iraq. [complete article]

See also An angry former Iraqi officer says U.S. is wasting his talent

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Blueprint for a mess
By David Rieff, New York Times, November 2, 2003

Historically, it is rare that a warm welcome is extended to an occupying military force for very long, unless, that is, the postwar goes very smoothly. And in Iraq, the postwar occupation has not gone smoothly.

I have made two trips to Iraq since the end of the war and interviewed dozens of sources in Iraq and in the United States who were involved in the planning and execution of the war and its aftermath. It is becoming painfully clear that the American plan (if it can even be dignified with the name) for dealing with postwar Iraq was flawed in its conception and ineptly carried out. At the very least, the bulk of the evidence suggests that what was probably bound to be a difficult aftermath to the war was made far more difficult by blinkered vision and overoptimistic assumptions on the part of the war's greatest partisans within the Bush administration. The lack of security and order on the ground in Iraq today is in large measure a result of decisions made and not made in Washington before the war started, and of the specific approaches toward coping with postwar Iraq undertaken by American civilian officials and military commanders in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Despite administration claims, it is simply not true that no one could have predicted the chaos that ensued after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In fact, many officials in the United States, both military and civilian, as well as many Iraqi exiles, predicted quite accurately the perilous state of things that exists in Iraq today. [complete article]

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Flat tax system imposed on Iraq
By Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 2, 2003

The flat tax, long a dream of economic conservatives, is finally getting its day -- not in the United States, but in Iraq.

It took L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Baghdad, no more than a stroke of the pen Sept. 15 to accomplish what eluded the likes of publisher Steve Forbes, former representative Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), former senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and former representative Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) over the course of a decade and two presidential campaigns.

"The highest individual and corporate income tax rates for 2004 and subsequent years shall not exceed 15 percent," Bremer wrote in Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 37, "Tax Strategy for 2003," issued last month.

Voila, Iraq has a flat tax, and the 15 percent rate is even lower than Forbes (17 percent) and Gramm (16 percent) favored for the United States. And, unless a future Iraqi government rescinds it, the flat tax will remain long after the Americans have left. [complete article]

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Underlying the campaign of a "war against terror" is an ideological presupposition of a "unity of terror." Only when viewing terrorists and terrorist groups as forming a common enemy does it make any sense to make assertions, as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz claimed on Thursday, that terrorism is the "greatest evil of our time." While such assertions remain highly debatable, the ideological framework within which they are being made, appears to have the power to turn such fears into a reality.

Burying the hatchet: U.S., Israel see Sunni-Shiite alliance emerging
By Ed Blanche, Daily Star, November 1, 2003

For years, the idea of an Islamic alliance between Sunni and Shiite extremists has been a nightmare scenario for Western intelligence agencies, their allies in the Muslim world and Israel.

Ever since the 1980s, there have been indications that hard-liners from both sects have been setting aside the theological differences that have kept them apart from 14 centuries and possibly even cooperating now and then on particular operations in which the interests of all concerned are advanced.
But no formalized hard-and-fast alliance between Shiite and Sunni hard-liners, dedicated to attacking the West and its Arab friends, ever seemed to emerge. By some accounts, that may be changing, largely as a consequence of Sept. 11, 2001, and the US response to that unprecedented terrorist attack on its soil.

The issue is clouded by intrigue and political agendas, propaganda from all sides, Iran, Israel, the US and elsewhere. But there seems little doubt that US President George W. Bush's "war against terrorism" is increasingly perceived in the Muslim world as a new Judeo-Christian crusade against Islam and its people. The conquest and occupation of Iraq has radicalized the Muslim world to an unprecedented degree. [complete article]

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Nuclear weapons unholy, Iran says
Islam forbids use, clerics proclaim

By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, October 31, 2003

In a surprising development, Iran's hard-line clerical establishment, which had bitterly resisted American pressure to open the country's nuclear facilities to inspection, is using its religious influence to rally support for an agreement with the West to foreswear the development of nuclear weapons.

Led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's "supreme leader," Iranian clerics have repeatedly declared that Islam forbids the development and use of all weapons of mass destruction.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its fundamental religious and legal beliefs, would never resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction," Khamenei said recently. "In contrast to the propaganda of our enemies, fundamentally we are against any production of weapons of mass destruction in any form."

These and other statements from senior Iranian clerics appear to have bolstered domestic support for an agreement signed Oct. 21 with Britain, France and Germany that will allow international inspections of the country's nuclear program. [complete article]

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Desperation grows in a nation with few jobs
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2003

Nearly every day, Mohammed Zwadi treks downtown and anxiously checks an updated list of men hired for coveted jobs as security guards. Each time, he leaves a little more disappointed, a little more desperate, a little more annoyed.

"It's all a big lie," said Zwadi, 30, complaining that apparently the only people getting jobs are those who paid $50 bribes.

Moments later, he and several dozen other unemployed men pressed up against a coil of razor wire surrounding the job application office. Some frantically tried to push their resumes into a manager's hands, but half a dozen police officers shooed them away. Others just gave up, cursing the manager and shaking their fists in disgust.

"This time it's peaceful," Zwadi said. "But one day things may turn bad." Behind him, another unemployed man added, "It's no wonder people are taking $500 or $1,000 to commit acts of sabotage. What are we supposed to do? I need to pay my rent." [complete article]

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U.S. gives Senate panel some intelligence data
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 1, 2003

A number of documents on prewar Iraq intelligence requested by a Senate committee were turned over by the government yesterday, but the White House balked, saying it was discussing them with the panel.
The White House has refused to turn over copies of the daily intelligence briefings President Bush receives from a top CIA official and internal communications at the NSC on Iraq that the committee wanted. Like other administrations, the White House is likely to assert they are protected by executive privilege when declining to respond further.

Rockefeller has said it is impossible to do a thorough inquiry without the White House material.

A Defense Department spokesman said "we are still working" on outstanding questions from the committee, including details about the activities of the Office of Special Plans. [complete article]

See also White House misses deadline to open records.

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In recent days the administration's favorite phrase for describing its opponents in Iraq is "bitter-enders." George Bush's suggestion that recent violence should be interpreted as a sign of progress is meant to convey an image of a resistance confronting its own inevitable demise. But where does Saddam Hussein fit into this scenario? The logic runs backwards from his defeat. As a defeated opponent, Saddam is necessarily irrelevant, a vagabond on the run whose death or capture need not be regarded as the linchpin to pacifying a restive population. If, however, he is killed or captured we can be sure that will be an event hailed as no less significant than the day a toppled statue became the symbol of Iraq's liberation. Meanwhile, does he have a role behind the recent wave of attacks? Contradictory statements out of Washington clearly indicate that outside Iraq, no one actually knows.

No signs of Hussein role, Powell says
Reuters (via New York Times), November 1, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on Friday that he saw no signs that Saddam Hussein was active in coordinating attacks on American forces in Iraq.

"I don't know where he is or what he's doing, but we really don't have the evidence to put together a claim that he is pulling all the strings among these remnants in Baghdad and other parts of the country that are causing us the difficulty," Mr. Powell said on the ABC News program "Nightline," according to a transcript. [complete article]

U.S. officials see Hussein's hand in attacks on Americans in Iraq
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, October 31, 2003

Saddam Hussein may be playing a significant role in coordinating and directing attacks by his loyalists against American forces in Iraq, senior American officials said Thursday.

The officials cited recent intelligence reports indicating that Mr. Hussein is acting as a catalyst or even a leader in the armed opposition, probably from a base of operations near Tikrit, his hometown and stronghold. A leadership role by Mr. Hussein would go far beyond anything previously acknowledged by the Bush administration, which has sought in its public remarks to portray the former Iraqi leader as being on the run and irrelevant. [complete article]

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G.I.'s battle guerrillas as protest turns violent
By Alex Berenson and Susan Sachs, New York Times, November 1, 2003

Guerrillas and American troops battled for hours here on Friday in an intense firefight after a demonstration in support of Saddam Hussein turned violent.

In Baghdad, rumors of terrorist attacks this weekend roiled the city.

The daylong battle in Abu Ghraib, a western suburb of Baghdad that has been a center of hostility to the American-led occupation, and the anxiety in the capital, underscored the deteriorating security situation here at the end of a week that began when four simultaneous car bombs killed 34 people and wounded more than 200.

In addition, an American soldier was killed on Friday in an attack west of Baghdad. At least 33 United States troops have died from hostile fire in October, compared with 16 in September, and the pace has increased in recent days. [complete article]

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Calls to jihad are said to lure hundreds of militants into Iraq
By Don Van Natta Jr. and Desmond Butler, New York Times, November 1, 2003

Across Europe and the Middle East, young militant Muslim men are answering a call issued by Osama bin Laden and other extremists, and leaving home to join the fight against the American-led occupation in Iraq, according to senior counterterrorism officials based in six countries.

The intelligence officials say that since late summer they have detected a growing stream of itinerant Muslim militants headed for Iraq. They estimate that hundreds of young men from an array of countries have now arrived in Iraq by crossing the Syrian or Iranian borders.

But the officials say this influx is not necessarily evidence of coordination by Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, since it remains unclear if the men are under the control of any one leader or what, if any, role they have had in the kind of deadly attacks that shook Baghdad on Monday. A European intelligence official called the foreign recruits "foot soldiers with limited or no training." [complete article]

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Err war
The Army buries its mistakes

By Fred Kaplan, Slate, October 31, 2003

...intelligence-gathering and intelligence-analysis teams are held in such low esteem [by the U.S. Army] that they're supplied with mismatched computer systems, they're manned by junior officers (or more senior officers who've received little training), they're assigned to risky raid operations that have nothing to do with their missions, and, as if to place an exclamation point on their dispensability, they're put in the raid-team's most dangerous slot. [complete article]

As rumors of new attacks roil Baghdad, few answers for U.S.
By Drew Brown, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31, 2003

Rumors are swirling around Baghdad that foreign terrorists are likely to initiate another wave of suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital within days and weeks as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan continues.

A shadowy Iraqi nationalist resistance group known as Mohammed's Army used an intermediary to pass on word to journalists that a foreign Islamic terrorist cell based in the western Iraqi town of Ramadi plans to carry out bombings tomorrow and on Nov. 13, striking Baghdad police stations and other targets associated with the U.S.-led coalition. [complete article]

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Tribesmen take cash, count 'blessings' from Al Qaeda
By Owais Tohid, Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2003

At sunset, a bevy of four-wheel- drive Land Cruisers screech to a halt in a Wana town market. A group of tribesmen with shoulder-length hair wearing belts strapped with grenades and toting their trademark Kalashnikovs jump out and start loading huge quantities of rice, cooking oil, and other groceries onto the trucks. They drive off in minutes.

"After every week or two they come and go," says a young tribesman, Zahid Khan. "Every person in town knows who these people are and where the food goes."

These tribesmen are the powerful local agents of Al Qaeda fighters, who ferry food supplies to the "Arab mujahideen" in the tribal belt of Pakistan on the Afghan border. Groups of Al Qaeda and Taliban, numbering more than 300 and perhaps including the elusive Osama bin Laden, are buying out local criminals, recruiting unemployed young men, and making the region their fortress against US forces and their Pakistani proxies. [complete article]

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Analysts made accurate Iraq war estimates
By Matt Kelley, Associated Press (via Yahoo), October 31, 2003

Bush administration officials repeatedly insisted before the war that they could not estimate how much the war or the postwar occupation might cost.

But the Congressional Budget Office, for example, estimated in September 2002 that occupying Iraq would cost between $1 billion and $4 billion a month.

The current figure? About $4 billion a month. [complete article]

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Casualties of peace
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, November 1, 2003

He failed to get other countries to provide cannon fodder in Iraq, so now President George Bush plans to arm Iraqi teenagers and give them a few weeks' training before dispatching them to the front line in the Iraq war.

The US went into this war on a "don't know" basis. It bluffed on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and on its links with al-Qaeda, and the Pentagon quietly pigeonholed a prescient State Department report on post-combat difficulties.

All this has caused a crisis of confidence and profound uncertainty in the US. And after more than six months of a US presence on the ground in Baghdad, there is another crisis - it still doesn't know who is killing its soldiers on a daily basis. [complete article]

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Behind Israel's siege mentality
By Nicole Gaouette, Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2003

Israel's first prime minister had little time for world opinion, at one point dismissing the United Nations by in Hebrew as 'nothing' "Um shmum" David Ben-Gurion once said, "the important thing is not what the world says, but what we do."

In the 1990s, the Oslo peace process offered Israel a break from that defiant posture, engendering goodwill for the country and its leaders. But three years of conflict with the Palestinians have left Israelis feeling more isolated than ever.

From grassroots to government, Israelis say that apart from the US, the world condemns them even as they defend themselves. Analysts say this sense of victimization prompts greater defiance of world opinion, deepens Israel's sense of alienation, and could prolong conflict here. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld's folly
How the war in Iraq undermined the war on terror

By Daniel Benjamin, Slate, October 30, 2003

In the week since Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Oct. 16 memo appeared in USA Today, the press squall has churned mostly around the doubts it expresses about the prosecution of the war on terror and the way those doubts contradict the administration's public statements. But the memo is significant for an entirely different reason. It opens a window onto the Bush team's flawed thinking about the war on terror. [complete article]

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Wounding of Ukrainians could give other nations pause
By Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2003

When Ukrainian troops were ambushed outside town this week, it came as no surprise to the residents or the police.

Suwayrah police commander Lt. Col. Salih Mahdi Kunaihir said Thursday that he had warned the Ukrainian forces they were vulnerable to attack and advised them to vary their route as they went on patrol in this sector about 40 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Seven Ukrainian soldiers were wounded when two armored personnel carriers were attacked Tuesday night while returning to a base 10 miles south of here. At least 10 gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were involved in the attack.

The Ukrainian soldiers were apparently the first combat casualties from countries that have recently sent troops to augment the U.S.-led coalition. [complete article]

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U.N. analyzing nuclear evidence in Iran
By Vanessa Gera, Associated Press (via The Guardian), October 31, 2003

The U.N. nuclear agency expressed optimism as a deadline for Iran to prove that it isn't building nuclear weapons expired on Friday, but officials said no special action was planned because they were still analyzing documents handed over last week by Tehran.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency ordered Iran to prove by Friday that its nuclear activities were only geared toward generating electricity - and not at building a weapons arsenal as the United States contends. [complete article]

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If Bill Clinton had really wanted to leave a lasting impact on the world, he should have grasped an opportunity that is unlikely to present itself again: To lead a global campaign for nuclear disarmament. Non-proliferation and disarmament are inseparable goals -- unless you believe that the rules of the nuclear club are rules that non-members will always feel duty-bound to obey. "Safe in our hands, but not in yours" is a neo-colonial message that the post-colonial world refuses to accept.

Forty countries can make nukes: U.N.
Agence France Presse (via The Australian), October 31, 2003

Up to 40 countries are believed to be capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons, underlining the need to reinforce and update the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei told a French newspaper.

The treaty, which came into force in 1970, has been overtaken by a world in which developing nuclear arms has become attractive not only to many countries, but also to "terrorist groups", ElBaradei told today's issue of Le Monde. [complete article]

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Panel issues broad demand for Iraq intelligence data
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, October 31, 2003

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating the quality of prewar intelligence on Iraq, sent stern letters yesterday to three departments in the executive branch demanding that they produce previously requested documents and allow interviews to be scheduled by noon today.

The committee said it cannot finish its inquiry without the information.

"You must expedite our access to the outstanding documents and immediately make available the individuals identified," the letters say. ". . . The credibility of the government with its people and the nation with the world is at stake. Incomplete answers and lingering doubts will haunt us for many years."
The panel also asked the Defense Department for detailed information on several handpicked, Iraq-focused policy groups headed by Undersecretary for Policy Douglas J. Feith. It also requested information on the activities and personnel of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans.

The special plans office, headed by William Luti, has been accused by administration critics of being a rogue shop that collected and analyzed intelligence on Iraq outside the normal channels. Luti has denied this. The allegations have never been substantiated. [complete article]

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Cracking down on Moqtada Sadr
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, October 31, 2003

In a high-stakes escalation of U.S. strategy in Iraq, the Bush administration has decided after an intense internal debate to work with Iraqi security forces to crack down on the radical Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada Sadr.

Administration officials were reluctant to disclose details of the new approach for fear of tipping their hand to Sadr. But they said the Pentagon had concluded it was crucial to show resolve in the face of Sadr's attacks over recent months on Americans and their Iraqi allies.

"A decision was made to move against Sadr head-on because he crossed a red line. The U.S. military believes he is responsible for the deaths of Americans and Iraqis and is actively hostile to the American presence," said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer and now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Gerecht, an expert on Shiite Islam, has occasionally advised the administration about Iraq. [complete article]

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An Iraqi call: Get on the bus
Weekly pilgrimage mixes politics, piety

By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, October 31, 2003

The cries began before dawn Friday and rang out around the impromptu bus stop for hours. "Karbala! Karbala! Karbala!" the drivers shouted in staccato bursts, their voices rising on the last word like a car horn. "Najaf! Najaf! I'm going to Najaf!"

In streets subdued by the Muslim sabbath, three men hurried toward a gray minibus headed south. Strangers brought together by faith and fervor, they had packed tattered prayer rugs and pocket money to cover the 75-cent fare. Still sleepy, they grabbed their seats for the 21/2-hour trip to hear a sermon by a militant Shiite Muslim cleric, Moqtada Sadr. [complete article]

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Pentagon hawk released -- straws in the wind?
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, October 30, 2003

A major Pentagon hawk has abruptly resigned his post in a move that, in the context of other recent developments, is likely to fuel speculation that the White House might be trying to soften the harder edges of its controversial policies.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday evening that Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Policy, J.D. Crouch II, was resigning effective Friday, in order to return to ''academia'' at Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU).

Significantly, the announcement did not give a reason for his departure nor for the suddenness with which it is taking place. And no one was named to replace him. [complete article]

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Our strategy helps the terrorists - army chief warns Sharon
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 31, 2003

Israel's army chief has exposed deep divisions between the military and Ariel Sharon by branding the government's hardline treatment of Palestinian civilians counter-productive and saying that the policy intensifies hatred and strengthens the "terror organisations".

Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya'alon also told Israeli journalists in an off-the-record briefing that the army was opposed to the route of the "security fence" through the West Bank. The government also contributed to the fall of the former Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, by offering only "stingy" support for his attempts to end the conflict, he said.

Gen Ya'alon had apparently hoped his anonymous criticisms would strengthen the army's voice, which has been subordinated to the views of the intelligence services in shaping policy.

But the comments were so devastating that he was swiftly revealed as the source.

The statements - which a close associate characterised to the Israeli press as warning that the country was "on the verge of a catastrophe" - will also reinforce a growing perception among the public that Mr Sharon is unable to deliver the peace with security he promised when he came to office nearly three years ago. [complete article]

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More mystery over missing Iraqi millions
By Emad Mekay, Inter Press Service (via Asia Times), October 31, 2003

The United States Treasury Department says hundreds of millions of dollars in seized Iraqi assets previously unaccounted for by the US-led occupying force in Iraq were used to pay the country's civil servants, hire a police force and buy security equipment. But critics say that the US authority should have publicized how it was spending the money long before various groups raised questions of transparency, and they charge that Washington is still creaming off of the seized assets for the benefit of US corporations without first consulting the Iraqi people.

Officials from the treasury, the US body responsible for pushing Iraq to privatize its economy and, before that, for confiscating billions of dollars in Iraqi assets worldwide, were responding to accusations that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US-controlled office that rules Iraq, had not accounted for US$4 billion of seized money. [complete article]

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Report links Iraq deals to Bush donations
By Larry Margasak, Associated Press, October 30, 2003

Companies awarded $8 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been major campaign donors to President Bush, and their executives have had important political and military connections, according to a study released Thursday.

The study of more than 70 U.S. companies and individual contractors turned up more than $500,000 in donations to the president's 2000 campaign, more than they gave collectively to any other politician over the past dozen years. [complete article]

See Windfalls of war, the complete report from The Center for Public Integrity.

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Iraqi aid workers take low profile, keep going
By Rosalind Russell, Reuters, October 30, 2003

She is an Iraqi employee of a major United Nations agency and she has stayed behind in Baghdad after the bomb-battered city was deemed too dangerous for her expatriate colleagues to stay.

But her work is not the same.

She comes to the office only occasionally, just for the most essential tasks. Instead of bulky, U.N.-marked all-terrain vehicles, she gets around in small anonymous cars.

Her U.N. T-shirts are hidden away at home.

And, as her foreign colleagues pull out of the country in fear of their lives, she dare not reveal her name in the media nor identify the agency for which she works. [complete article]

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Hamas leader talks strategies
By Barbara Plett, BBC News, October 29, 2003

For someone in Israel's gun sights, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin radiates confidence.

The bearded paraplegic is the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, the largest and most militant of all the Palestinian groups fighting the Israeli occupation.

Israel tried to kill him in September.

But he was not in hiding when I met him. He was at home, attended by a single armed guard.

I asked him about the burning topic of the day, a possible Palestinian ceasefire. [complete article]

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Secret 9/11 case before high court
By Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor, October 30, 2003

It's the case that doesn't exist. Even though two different federal courts have conducted hearings and issued rulings, there has been no public record of any action. No documents are available. No files. No lawyer is allowed to speak about it. Period.

Yet this seemingly phantom case does exist - and is now headed to the US Supreme Court in what could produce a significant test of a question as old as the Star Chamber, abolished in 17th-century England: How far should a policy of total secrecy extend into a system of justice?

Secrecy has been a key Bush administration weapon in the war on terrorism. Attorney General John Ashcroft warns that mere tidbits of information that seem innocuous about the massive Sept. 11 investigation could help Al Qaeda carry out new attacks.

Yet this highly unusual petition to the high court arising from a Miami case brings into sharp focus the tension between America's long tradition of open courts and the need for security in times of national peril. At issue is whether certain cases may be conducted entirely behind closed doors under a secret arrangement among prosecutors, judges, and docket clerks. [complete article]

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Jihad rising in Islamic holy month
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, October 30, 2003

A wave of suicide-bomb attacks in Baghdad kills more than 30 people and wounds 200. The same day, Lebanese Hizbullah fighters bombard Israeli army positions along the border with the Golan Heights. The US urges Americans to take extra precautions or avoid travel to Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The connection between these incidents? The onset of the fasting month of Ramadan - the holiest period in the Islamic calendar, and a time for Muslims to renew their commitment to God. For the vast majority, it is an opportunity to express their obligation to Islam's five pillars: faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage.

But for Islamic militants, Ramadan allows them not only to reaffirm their religious observance but to strengthen their political ideological convictions as well. [complete article]

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Weapons team may be used to seek insurgents
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, October 30, 2003

Scrambling for ways to bolster the hunt for insurgents in Iraq, U.S. officials are considering drawing intelligence analysts and other personnel from the search for Iraqi biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, defense officials said yesterday. [complete article]

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Afghans tell of torture during security sweep
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, October 30, 2003

Dai Chopan lies near the border between Zabol and Oruzgan provinces, both of which are Taliban strongholds and suspected hide-outs for the Taliban's Al Qaeda allies. Zabol was the scene of fierce battles between the Taliban and U.S.-led forces in August, the bloodiest month since the Taliban regime was overthrown in December 2001.

A senior Taliban commander, Maulvi Faizullah, announced last month that he had sent 300 reinforcements into mountainous Dai Chopan district, which surrounds the village, to join 1,000 Taliban fighters already here.

But residents insist that the village itself isn't a Taliban or Al Qaeda base, and said men wrongly arrested as Taliban suspects included a shopkeeper and the son of the government vaccination coordinator.

U.S. troops have conducted three search operations in the village over the past several months, said Mohammed, 50, the village elder. Each time, he said, they brought the militia fighters, who followed Americans' orders during house-to-house searches and arrests and -- each time -- beat and robbed villagers.

"They stand with the Americans, and when Americans leave an area, then the militias go by another route and rob the houses," Mohammed said.

The villagers said assaults and thefts are common when militia members from Kandahar join U.S. troops in raids on the region's villages, as they have for months. The militia members are loyal to Kandahar warlords Haji Granai, Haji Habibullah Jan and Toar Jan, whose brutality during Afghanistan's civil war in the early 1990s was among the factors that led Afghans to support the takeover by the hard-line Taliban. [complete article]

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Our friends, the warlords
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, October 30, 2003

Karim Khan stands disconsolately outside the local government headquarters in the remote village of Tuksar. He used to run the neighbouring village, but was bundled out by a rival militia one night recently, leaving his wife and family behind as virtual prisoners.

The incident is not isolated. It is being replicated throughout northern Afghanistan in what amounts to low-level civil war as militias use the autumn, the country's traditional fighting season, to change the map of power.

Casualties are fortunately few and front lines in this largely unreported struggle are invisible. All that is different when places change hands, usually by night and with one side running away, is the loyalty of the men who sit in the fort which commands the highest point in every Afghan village. To which warlord do the new local rulers owe their allegiance, and who will enjoy the "taxes" that the militias exact from ordinary people?

While fighting is growing in intensity in southern Afghanistan, as US forces engage resurgent Taliban forces in the Pashtun heartlands two years after they were supposed to have been defeated, the jockeying for power in the north is between three main groups, all of which are financed and supported by the Americans. [complete article]

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Huge Afghan opium harvest brings fears of new terrorism
By Jason Bennetto, The Independent, October 30, 2003

Opium cultivation is spreading like a "cancer" in Afghanistan, a United Nations survey has found.

Afghanistan produces three quarters of the world's illicit opium - the raw material for heroin - and two thirds of all opiate users take drugs of Afghan origin, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

The UN said yesterday that unless the problem was tackled the country could be over-run by violence, corruption and terrorism. High prices for opium had recruited more farmers, spreading poppy cultivation to 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces, from 18 four years ago.

The alarming report by the UN's drugs and crime agency based in Vienna found that Afghan opium farmers and traffickers took home about $2.3bn (£1.4bn), or about half of the country's legitimate GDP in 2003. [complete article]

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Senators give Tenet deadline to provide prewar intelligence
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, October 30, 2003

In a sharply worded letter, the top two senators with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence called on CIA Director George J. Tenet to supply long-sought materials and schedule interviews by noon Friday and to be ready to appear before the panel "at a time determined by the committee."

The letter to Tenet showed that although the committee's chairman, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and vice chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), may disagree on whether their investigation of prewar intelligence will examine its use by Bush policymakers, they are together in pressing for the CIA and other intelligence community agencies to produce information they have been seeking since July. [complete article]

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U.S. moderates edge ahead over Iran
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News, October 29, 2003

Moderates in the Bush administration appear to have gained the upper hand over United States policy towards Iran.

This emerged from evidence given to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, who said that Washington was ready to re-open limited talks with Iran.

He was also asked if the US policy sought regime change and answered: "No, sir."

"It is not up to the United States to choose Iran's future," he said, adding: "We are prepared to engage in limited discussions with the government of Iran about areas of mutual interest." [complete article]

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Madrid help illusory
By Susan E. Rice and Ivo H. Daalder, Newsday, October 28, 2003

At first blush, the American attempt to secure foreign funding last week for the reconstruction of Iraq appears to have succeeded. Seventy countries showed up at Madrid, pledging a combined total of at least $13 billion - nearly three times what a similar pledging conference secured for Afghanistan two years ago.

But a look at the details shows a different and more disturbing picture. Even at $13 billion, funding for Iraq's reconstruction still falls tens of billions of dollars short of what is required - leaving U.S. taxpayers or the Iraqis to fill the gap. Moreover, with three-quarters of the pledges coming in the form of loans rather than outright grants, the administration will have difficulty heading off congressional attempts to turn part of its $20-billion request into a loan, as the Senate has now demanded. [complete article]

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New Iraq 'well on way to becoming Islamic state'
By David Rennie, The Telegraph, October 29, 2003

The United States is failing in its mission to create a secular, overtly pro-Western Iraq, a leading adviser to the American administrator Paul Bremer said yesterday.

Instead, the new, democratic Iraq appears bound to be an Islamic state - with an official role for Islam, and Islamic law enshrined in its constitution.

That prospect is triggering alarm and opposition from the White House and the Pentagon, Noah Feldman, a leading American expert in Islamic law, told The Daily Telegraph.

Dr Feldman served as senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, working closely with Mr Bremer. Returning from Baghdad this summer, the New York University law professor now works as an unpaid adviser to the CPA, to the White House, and to different factions in the Iraqi Governing Council. [complete article]

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Speeches called propaganda
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, October 29, 2003

For the past few weeks, Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer has appeared every Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. on IMN, the Pentagon-run television network, with a taped message to the Iraqi people about what is going on in their country.

The speeches, dubbed in Arabic, are much like President Bush's weekly Saturday radio address, according to Gary Thatcher, the former CBS producer who is head of strategic communications for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. "We are here to set an example of journalism in the Western tradition," he said.

To many Iraqis, though, Bremer's prime-time addresses are more reminiscent of the regular television appearances of former president Saddam Hussein, according to both American and Iraqi media specialists who have studied IMN, the Iraqi Media Network. Iraqis see the station not as a vehicle for free speech but "as the mouthpiece of the CPA," the BBC World Service Trust reported after studying the stations this summer. [complete article]

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A grim wake-up call for U.S. in the fight to build democracy
By Toby Dodge, The Guardian, October 29, 2003

The scale of the bombings in Iraq in the past two days, the casualties they inflicted and their locations, should finally put an end to the coalition provisional authority's oft repeated mantra that things are getting better, despite much evidence to the contrary.

The increasing tide of politically motivated violence should act as a wake-up call. It has been fuelled by a series of mistakes the occupiers have made since they symbolically toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Fardus Square on April 9.

The solution to the growing anarchy now threatening to engulf Iraq is political not military. For US forces to stop the growing momentum of the insurgency, they must convince the wider population that the occupation is temporary and that real power is being devolved to real Iraqis across the country. [complete article]

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Baghdad's tale of two councils
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2003

First, US soldiers helped select representatives to work in the district council building. Then supporters of a radical Shiite cleric kicked them out and installed a rival council. Today, the Sadr City council building stands empty. Two American tanks and yards of concertina wire seal this experiment in Iraqi self-rule off from more controversy, which resulted in one council meeting in private, and another being arrested and disbanded by coalition forces.

Six months into the occupation, the effort to give more power to Iraqis through coalition-sponsored advisory councils is running into a legitimacy problem. A recent poll found more than half of Iraqis don't know the councils exist. [complete article]

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Taliban raise the stakes in Afghanistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, October 30, 2003

After two years of guerilla warfare with almost dry supply lines, the Taliban are now in a position around the important cities of south and southeastern Afghanistan to begin the next phase of their campaign to oust foreign troops from the country.

At present, they are poised to close in on Kandahar, Khost, Jalalabad, Asadabad and Gardez. [complete article]

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Schumer to grill Justice nominee
By Anne Q. Hoy, Newsday, October 29, 2003

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday said he may oppose New York prosecutor James Comey to become the No. 2 man at the Justice Department as Democrats seek to transform the nomination into a referendum on the administration's handling of the leak of an undercover CIA agent's identity.

Schumer, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, said he would oppose Comey if he fails today to outline his views on the ethical questions posed by the current Justice Department inquiry on who was behind the naming of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. [complete article]

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Justice Dept. tightens security in C.I.A. leak case
By David Johnston and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, October 29, 2003

Justice Department and F.B.I. officials have imposed tighter secrecy restrictions over the inquiry into the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, government officials said on Tuesday. In an unusual step, they have removed the director of the F.B.I's Washington office from the list of officials with access to the case. [complete article]

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Intelligence veteran faults Iraq arms data
By Sonni Efron and Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2003

The newly retired head of the State Department's intelligence arm said Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community "badly underperformed" for years in assessing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and should accept responsibility for its failure.

The assessment by Carl W. Ford Jr., former assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research, marked the first time a senior official involved in preparing the prewar assessments on Iraq has asserted that serious intelligence errors were made.

Prior to the war, the intelligence community concluded that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons and that Saddam Hussein had restarted a nuclear weapons program. After nearly six months of occupation, no such weapons have been discovered.

The intelligence community "has to bear the major responsibility for WMD information in Iraq and other intelligence failures," Ford said in two interviews with The Times. The Vietnam veteran worked for years in U.S. military intelligence, the CIA and the Defense Department and retired Oct. 3. "We badly underperformed for a number of years," he added, "and the information we were giving the policy community was off the mark." [complete article]

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Not all of us Americans are evil
By Eric Schlosser, The Guardian, October 29, 2003

I've spent time in Great Britain, on and off, for almost 30 years. And I've seen first-hand how the British love-hate relationship with the United States has changed during that period. It used to be that we would take shit from grumpy old Tories who hated rock music and viewed Americans as being just slightly above Australians on the social evolutionary scale. There was also no shortage of leftwing Laborites who saw Americans as a personal embodiment of racism and neo-colonialism and mindless consumerism. Things got pretty bad when Ronald Reagan was president, calling the Soviet Union "the Great Satan" and inspiring the camp-outs at Greenham Common. But even then, a snide remark about American foreign policy was usually followed by a compliment about some camping trip in the Rockies or a good bar in New York. These days the compliments are in short supply. I can't remember another time when having an American accent provoked as much immediate hostility from Brits of every race, creed, class, and sexual orientation. If you're an American, overseas, in the fall of 2003, you've got a lot to answer for.

If I could fake a British accent with any skill, I would now. It would save a lot time. Instead, when the anti-Americanisms start coming my way, I patiently explain that I love my country but not my government, that I oppose almost every single thing that George Bush has done since taking office, that he lost the 2000 election by at least half a million votes, etc, etc. Those points usually take the edge off things. And then I try to shift the conversation to Tony Blair. You can blame us for a hell of a lot of things - but not for him. [complete article]

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The wrong Ayoub
By Nir Rosen, Asia Times, October 30, 2003

According to a major from the Judge Advocate General's office working on establishing an Iraqi judicial process, at least 7,000 Iraqis are being detained by US forces. Many languish in prisons indefinitely, lost in a system that imposes English-language procedures on Arabic speakers with Arabic names not easily transcribed.

Some are termed "security detainees" and held for six months pending a review to determine whether they are still a "security risk". Most are innocent. Many were arrested simply because a neighbor did not like them. A lieutenant-colonel familiar with the process adds that there is no judicial process for the thousands of detainees. If the military were to try them, that would entail a court martial, which would imply that the United States is occupying Iraq, and lawyers working for the administration are still debating whether it is an occupation or a liberation.

The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's (ACR) S2 section, responsible for intelligence, has not proved itself very reliable in the past and soldiers are getting frustrated. "You get all psyched up to do a hard mission," says Sergeant Scott Blow, "and it turns out to be three little girls. The little kids get to me, especially when they cry." Even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operator could not recognize a large picture of Oday Saddam Husayn, one of Saddam's sons, hanging on a wall.

The little confidence S2 deserves is made clear by the case of a man called Ayoub. [complete article]

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Commanders doubt Syria is entry point
By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, October 29, 2003

Commanders of U.S. military forces responsible for monitoring the border between Iraq and Syria say there is no evidence from human intelligence sources or radar surveillance aircraft indicating that significant numbers of foreign fighters are crossing into Iraq illegally.

U.S. and Iraqi forces are working together to secure Iraq's borders against infiltration by foreigners intent on assisting attacks against troops and civilians associated with the occupation. U.S. officials blamed foreign fighters for four suicide car bombings in Baghdad on Monday that killed at least 35 people. [complete article]

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The Syrian Accountability Act and the triumph of hegemony
By Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, October 27, 2003

On October 15, the U.S. House of Representatives--with an overwhelming bipartisan majority--passed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, which imposes strict sanctions against the Syrian government. (A similar bill was introduced earlier this year in the Senate and is pending.)

Both Republican and Democratic leaders in the House International Relations Committee agreed to not allow for any witnesses opposing the bill to testify at the committee hearings for the bill, which a major shift away from previous U.S. policy that stressed engagement with the nationalist government in Damascus.

Given the already somewhat limited trade between the United States and Syria, as well as Syria's growing commercial ties with western European countries, the impact of the sanctions will minimal. What is noteworthy about the vote, however, is that a careful reading of the bill reveals a rather frightening consensus in support of the Bush administration's unilateralist worldview. [complete article]

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Powell begs aid agencies to stay in Baghdad
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, October 29, 2003

Medecins sans Frontieres, a frontline aid agency with a reputation for working in warzones where other agencies refuse to go, is to join the exodus of international workers from Baghdad despite a plea for it to stay from the US secretary of state, Colin Powell.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose headquarters was bombed on Monday, is also considering whether to scale back its operations in the city.

Mr Powell expressed hope that non-governmental bodies, contractors and the UN would stay despite the dangers: "They are needed. Their work is needed. And if they are driven out, then the terrorists win."

Many organisations left after the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August, and Monday's attacks have forced the remainder to weigh the risks to their staff against their humanitarian duty. [complete article]

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It's time to get out
By Nick Cater, The Guardian, October 28, 2003

On the cynical basis that one should believe nothing until it is denied, the US government has confirmed that relief workers in Iraq are in greater danger than ever before.

The US, through its secretary of state, Colin Powell, has appealed to international aid agencies to stay in the country, despite the recent carnage.

That carnage has included the deliberate targeting of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the earlier bombing of Baghdad's UN headquarters. The US appeal is a devastating admission of failure. [complete article]

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Iraq business deals may be invalid, law experts warn
By Thomas Catan, Financial Times, October 28, 2003

The US-led provisional authority in Iraq may be breaking international law by selling state assets, experts have warned, raising the prospect that contracts signed now by foreign investors could be scrapped by a future Iraqi government.

International businesspeople attending a conference in London this week heard that some orders issued by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) may be in breach of the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"Is what they are doing legitimate, is it legal?" asked Juliet Blanch, a partner at the London-based international law firm Norton Rose. "Most [experts] believe that their actions are not legal", she said. "There would be no requirement for a new government to ratify their [actions]." [complete article]

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The axis of oil: How a plan for the world's biggest pipeline threatens to wreak havoc
By Philip Thornton and Charles Arthur, The Independent, October 28, 2003

It is a story of empire-building, intrigue, espionage, double-dealing and arm-twisting that Rudyard Kipling would have been proud to write.

Kipling popularised the phrase "The Great Game" to describe the secret battle to dominate central Asia fought between the British Empire, Russia and France.

But even he would have blanched at plans by the United States - with the help of the oil giant BP and British taxpayers - to establish a hegemony across an area stretching from the Russian borders to the Mediterranean Sea.

Inevitably, the need for oil is at the heart of the story. Two former Soviet states, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, between them have oil reserves three times the size of America's. The "game" is to find the safest way to get that black gold into the petrol tanks of American cars. [complete article]

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They're getting better
By Robert Fisk, The Independent (via Fairuse), October 26, 2003

You need to take a military escort to reach Baghdad airport these days. Yes, things are getting better in Iraq, according to President Bush -- remember that each hour that goes by -- but the guerrillas are getting so close to the runways that the Americans have chopped down every tree, every palm bush, every scrap of undergrowth on the way.

Rocket-propelled grenades have killed so many GIs on this stretch of highway that the US army -- like the Israelis in southern Lebanon in the mid-80s -- have erased nature. You travel to Baghdad airport through a wasteland. [complete article]

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Gunmen kill a deputy mayor of Baghdad
By Associated Press (via SFGate), October 28, 2003

Unknown gunmen assassinated a deputy mayor of Baghdad in an apparent hit-run shooting, the U.S. occupation authority reported Tuesday.

Faris Abdul Razzaq al-Assam, deputy mayor for technical services, had returned from last week's international Iraq donors' conference in Madrid, Spain, when he was shot Sunday, the Coalition Provisional Authority said.

Tom Basile, a CPA spokesman, said he had no details on the killing, other than that it occurred in Baghdad, and "we believe he was shot in a hit-and-run incident." [complete article]

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Seymour Hersh's pipedream: Niger-forgeries scoop in New Yorker article "The Stovepipe" merits a pooper scooper
By Dennis Hans, Scoop, October 24, 2003

Seymour Hersh has been had by a CIA has-been. A "former senior CIA officer" has gotten him to credit and peddle a preposterous tale about the Niger-uranium forgeries.

Much of Hersh's latest New Yorker article, "The Stovepipe", is a valuable contribution to enhancing our understanding of how the Bush administration politicized intelligence to create an alarmist picture of the purported Iraqi "threat," so as to win public support for an invasion Bush had all but decided on more than a year before he launched the war.
Alas, what the article reveals is that Hersh is as prone to believing absurd, illogical tales as Cheney himself (assuming Cheney believes the stuff he says he believes). I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that Hersh was sold a bill of goods, but I'll lay out some of the reasons why I'm 99.99 percent sure. [complete article]

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The elephant in Wilson's living room
By Murray S. Waas, Village Voice, October 29, 2003

The Justice Department and FBI have broadened their criminal investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to include subsequent Bush administration efforts to discredit her and her diplomat husband, according to two administration officials familiar with the probe.

Of particular interest, the two sources said, were contacts between White House officials and the Republican National Committee during the burgeoning scandal. Probers are interested in how the Bush administration and party officials strategized to stymie negative press and to counter public criticism by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV of the leak of his wife's status as a CIA officer. [complete article]

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Wilson talks about Niger mission; blasts Bush foreign policy
Joseph Wilson interviewed by Jeff Gannon, Talon News (GOP USA), October 28, 2003

Ambassador Joe Wilson, the man at the heart of the White House/CIA leak controversy, recently sat down with Talon News for an exclusive interview to discuss his mission to Africa to investigate Iraq's desire to purchase uranium for weapons, the leak of his wife's position within the CIA, the foreign policy of President Bush and his administration, and a host of other issues. [complete article]

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Holy month begins in anger and ruin
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, October 28, 2003

The din of destruction filled the streets of the working-class neighborhood of Shaab. Sirens of ambulances carrying the dead and wounded wailed past barbed wire, glass shoveled from gutted shops clanged on sidewalks smeared with blood, helicopter rotors beat against the air, and cries of despair erupted from confused crowds trapped between war and peace.

"This is the work of bin Laden!" one man shouted to no one in particular.

A teenager glared at a U.S. soldier passing him. "Where were you, mister?" he asked in Arabic. The soldier, not understanding, looked straight ahead. [complete article]

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The wages of war:
Iraqi combatant and noncombatant fatalities in the 2003 conflict

By Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives, October 20, 2003

An independent review of US combat data, battlefield press reports, and Iraqi hospital surveys has found that approximately 13,000 Iraqis (plus or minus 16.5 percent or 2,150) were killed during the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The report covers the period from 19 March to the end of April. Among the Iraqi dead were between 3,200 and 4,300 noncombatants -- that is, civilians who did not take up arms.

The report, produced by the Project on Defense Alternatives at Commonwealth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), is the first to attempt a rigorous estimate of Iraqi military fatalities. It finds that 9,200 (plus or minus 1,600) Iraqi combatants were killed during the main combat phase of the war. This number it derives from operational statistics and the observations of embedded journalists and military personnel on both sides. [complete report]

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Aid groups in Afghanistan weigh good deeds vs. safety
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, October 28, 2003

By most standards, Mohammad Sharif and his Belgian shepherd dog Brenda would be considered heroes. Day after day, the man-and-dog team work to detect land mines lurking beneath the soil along Afghanistan's busiest highway, the Kabul to Kandahar road.

But in recent months, Mr. Sharif's aid agency, the Mine Dog Center (MDC), has come under attack by Taliban extremists and sympathizers. But it hasn't stopped Sharif and his team. At least, not yet. [complete article]

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Arabs blame United States for Baghdad bloodbath
By Edmund Blair, Reuters, October 28, 2003

Most Arab media said Tuesday that U.S. security failures were to blame for the latest suicide bombings in Baghdad and some said the bloodbath in Iraq's capital might only prolong the presence of U.S. troops.

Despite its military might, commentators said Washington had failed the Iraqis by not providing enough security to stop the devastating attacks that killed 35 people Monday at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. [complete article]

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The two brides of Baghdad
By Gerard Wright, Sydney Morning Herald, October 28, 2003

Like every other story out of Iraq, the tale of the brides of Baghdad is complicated, with no certain ending. The story includes newlyweds who have not laid eyes on each other since the ceremony that joined them for life, on August 17, a mother who hasn't heard from her son in nearly four weeks, and a soldier, newly converted to Islam, whose tenuous grasp of civilian life could be measured in weeks. [complete article]

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Operation decapitation
By Nir Rosen, Asia Times, October 29, 2003

Bandit troop [from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's (ACR) Tiger Base in western Iraq] does not return to base until 11am. They have arrested 38 men. Six of them were from the list [of suspects], three others were relatives and the rest were "military-age males" who were present. One man confronted Bandit troop demanding, "Arrest me, I have some information for you." Like many sources, he did not want to be seen as a collaborator.

That night the prisoners are visible on a large dirt field in a square of concertina wire, and beneath immense spotlights and to the sound of loud generators they try to sleep on the ground, guarded by soldiers. One non-commissioned officer is surprised by the high number of prisoners Apache has taken. "Did they just arrest every man they found?" he asks, wondering whether "we just made another 300 people hate us". [complete article]

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Britain and the U.S. claim a moral mandate -- and back a dictator who boils victims to death
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, October 28, 2003

There are over 6,000 political and religious prisoners in Uzbekistan. Every year, some of them are tortured to death. Sometimes the policemen or intelligence agents simply break their fingers, their ribs and then their skulls with hammers, or stab them with screwdrivers, or rip off bits of skin and flesh with pliers, or drive needles under their fingernails, or leave them standing for a fortnight, up to their knees in freezing water. Sometimes they are a little more inventive. The body of one prisoner was delivered to his relatives last year, with a curious red tidemark around the middle of his torso. He had been boiled to death.

His crime, like that of many of the country's prisoners, was practising his religion. Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, learned his politics in the Soviet Union. He was appointed under the old system, and its collapse in 1991 did not interrupt his rule. An Islamist terrorist network has been operating there, but Karimov makes no distinction between peaceful Muslims and terrorists: anyone who worships privately, who does not praise the president during his prayers or who joins an organisation which has not been approved by the state can be imprisoned. Political dissidents, human rights activists and homosexuals receive the same treatment. Some of them, like in the old Soviet Union, are sent to psychiatric hospitals.

But Uzbekistan is seen by the US government as a key western asset, as Saddam Hussein's Iraq once was. Since 1999, US special forces have been training Karimov's soldiers. In October 2001, he gave the United States permission to use Uzbekistan as an airbase for its war against the Taliban. The Taliban have now been overthrown, but the US has no intention of moving out. Uzbekistan is in the middle of central Asia's massive gas and oil fields. It is a nation for whose favours both Russia and China have been vying. Like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it is a secular state fending off the forces of Islam. [complete article]

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Bush won't commit to giving classified reports to 9/11 panel
By Philip Shenon, New York Times, October 27, 2003

President Bush declined today to commit the White House to turning over highly classified intelligence reports to the independent federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, despite public threats of a subpoena from the bipartisan panel.

The president said in a brief meeting with reporters that the documents were "very sensitive" and that the White House was still discussing the issue with the panel's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey.

Mr. Bush's remarks and subsequent comments today from his press secretary suggested that the White House may ultimately refuse the commission's demand for access to the documents, setting up a possible showdown between the White House and the independent investigators. [complete article]

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Iraq paradox: Cracking down while promoting freedom
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 28, 2003

At one of the first meetings of the White House's new Iraq Stabilization Group, days before the series of attacks on Monday that left at least 34 dead, President Bush's aides debated the trade-off between locking down Baghdad and demonstrating to Iraqis that they now live in an open society, where they are free to shop, go to work or even protest the American-led occupation.

"It wasn't much of a discussion," one of Mr. Bush's senior aides reported. "We couldn't turn the place into a police state for long, even if we wanted to. And if we did, it would be a Pyrrhic victory."

Now that question is more urgent than ever. [complete article]

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In the strike zone, big shadows of the past
By Joel Brinkley, New York Times, October 27, 2003

The Dor al Sikik neighborhood lies like a snake coiled around one side of the Rashid Hotel, site of the rocket attack early on Sunday morning that killed an American colonel and wounded at least 16 other people. It serves as a vivid illustration of the near futility of trying to protect any prominent site in Baghdad. [complete article]

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A logic behind the attacks
Paul Woodward, The War in Context, October 28, 2003

President Bush yesterday accounted for the recent wave of violence to sweep Baghdad by saying that the attackers "hate freedom. They love terror. They love to try to create fear and chaos." Four suicide attacks in the space of 45 minutes (along with a fifth attack that was thwarted) suggests meticulous planning. Today there has been another suicide bombing, this time in Falluja. The care with which these attacks were planned suggests a motive more specific than a hatred of freedom.

Attacks over recent weeks have clearly been aimed at undermining the reconstruction of Iraq along with punishing Iraqis who might be regarded as collaborators. With the start of Ramadan, the opponents of the occupation would seem to have seized on two opportunities. Firstly, they are taking advantage of the greater freedom to operate now that the curfew has been lifted. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the attacks now taking place may actually be aimed at forcing the reimposition of curfew.

Even before yesterday's bombings, American gestures of "cultural sensitivity" that were intended to demonstrate respect for Ramadan, soon had to be reviewed in response to Sunday's rocket attack on the Al Rasheed Hotel. Close to the hotel, the 14th July Bridge across the Tigris had been reopened on Saturday to ease traffic congestion and accommodate the needs of Iraqis during a period in which daytime fasting is widely followed by late-night banqueting and socializing. On Sunday, access to the bridge was again restricted.

If the current wave of bombings results in renewed nighttime restrictions for the residents of Baghdad, their consequent anger will likely focus on the authorities imposing control rather than the bombers who precipitated the clampdown. During a period when daytime fasting easily results in frayed nerves, a further loss of freedom carries the risk of a backlash too widespread for U.S. forces to contain.

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A strategic pattern to Iraqi strikes
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2003

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began under a pall of fear Monday, as a coordinated series of attacks killed about 40 people here - the most violent day in Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Investigations are just beginning, but the incidents fit a pattern of increasingly organized attacks that hit soft targets to demoralize foreigners and locals working with the coalition. Iraqi police have been singled out - dozens of lightly guarded stations in Baghdad are easy targets.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was probably one of the softest targets with foreigners in Baghdad; it has a policy of using minimal security.

But if more aid workers leave the country or if Iraqi police either quit or refuse to volunteer for dangerous duty, humanitarian and law enforcement duties will revert to coalition troops - soldiers generally ill-equipped for either task. [complete article]

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Evangelicals sway White House on human rights issues abroad
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, October 26, 2003

Shortly after George W. Bush took office, an odd coalition came to the White House to see Karl Rove, the president's powerful political adviser, to ask that the United States intercede in the civil war in Sudan. The group included Charles W. Colson, the born-again Christian who spent seven months in jail for his role in Watergate, and David Saperstein, a Reform rabbi and a longtime lobbyist for liberal causes in Washington.

The two-decades-long war in Sudan was not a front-burner problem for the new administration, and Mr. Rove was not a foreign policy adviser. But the religious strife between Christians and Muslims in a conflict that had killed two million people was of enormous concern to American religious groups, particularly the evangelicals who make up a major portion of President Bush's electoral base. [complete article]

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Swallowed by Kabul's cracks
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, October 26, 2003

They live in tents and storefronts and abandoned ruins, cooking and bathing on patches of dirt. The men haunt traffic circles, hoping to be picked up for a day's construction work. The women knock on doors asking for clothes to wash. The children forage for firewood and filch potatoes from bazaars.

They are returnees without a refuge, the least skilled and most vulnerable of an estimated 750,000 Afghans who have flooded into Kabul in the past 18 months from Pakistan, Iran or other parts of Afghanistan where they had fled during years of war, drought, civil conflict and religious repression.

They came back because they had heard there was democracy and peace in their homeland. Mistakenly, they thought this also meant jobs, land and help. Instead, they fell straight between the cracks of a vastly overburdened Afghan government and an international aid network that is geared to help almost every category of need except theirs. [complete article]

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Iraq poised between stability and chaos
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News, October 27, 2003

The race is on in Iraq between destabilisation and reconstruction.

On the one side is the Iraqi resistance. Its policy is to cause chaos in the hope that out of the wreckage, the occupation will end and perhaps even that Saddam Hussein himself will be propelled back to power.

On the other are the Coalition or occupation authorities and their Iraqi allies. They hope to transfer power by the end of next year and in the meantime are pouring in money to rebuild the basic infrastructure.

At the moment, the Iraqi resistance is able to range freely across Baghdad and in what is known as the "Baathist triangle", an area where loyalty to Saddam Hussein remains strong. [complete article]

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U.S. case for helping Iraq suffers a setback
By Alex Berenson, New York Times, October 27, 2003

Mr. Wolfowitz came to Iraq hoping to underscore the progress the administration has made, and to persuade investors to come and help Iraq rebuild. He did not back away even after he and his rattled aides were evacuated from the smoking floors of their hotel [after Sunday's rocket attack].

But the attack sent the opposite message, by underscoring the vulnerability of even the best-protected part of the capital.

There are many Iraqis whose confidence can make a real difference in the immediate future -- like entrepreneurs considering new investments, wealthy merchants wondering whether to keep their families here and ordinary Iraqis wondering whether they can safely enter political life. For them, the American military's inability to assure the safety of one of its most senior officials is a frightening sign.

The United States is doing everything it can to fight their fears. All over the city, the occupying authorities have put up large billboards featuring bucolic scenes of date palms arched over a river bank. Inspirational messages are splashed over the pretty pictures. "Baghdad is getting better," says one. [complete article]

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Get out of Gaza
Lead Editorial, Haaretz, October 27, 2003

The terrorist attack early on Friday morning at Netzarim, which ended in the deaths of three soldiers, two of them women, and the wounding of two others, makes tangible the absurdity of Israel continuing to hold on to the Gaza Strip. It would be an error to examine the incident merely in the light of an operational mishap or mistaken considerations by the commanders and to try to learn lessons from it regarding the local deployment of the Israel Defense Forces. This is a national failure and all Israeli governments since 1967 are party to it, as is the society of this country, which gave them backing. [complete article]

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Still waiting for the euphoria
By John Zogby, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2003

Five months after the end of the war, Americans remain deeply ambivalent over whether it was right or wrong to invade Iraq. In part, that's because it's still not clear whether we were, in fact, welcomed by the people we set out to liberate.

Most people know by now that the popularity of the United States has dramatically declined across the Arab world during the last half year. But how about in Iraq itself? Are Iraqis glad that we came? Do they see a brighter future ahead? Do they want us to stay and see them through this mess or do they want us to pack up and get out?

In August, I conducted the first serious public opinion survey of Iraqis since the end of the war, in hopes of getting answers to some of these questions. [complete article]

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Bombers in Iraq target Red Cross and police stations
By Dexter Filkins and Raymond Bonner, New York Times, October 27, 2003

A series of blasts shook Baghdad early Monday, including a suicide attack on the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Police and U.S. military told the Associated Press that 37 people were killed in the attacks.

An Iraqi police major said the attacker was driving an ambulance and crashed through the security gate. The bomb exploded about 50 feet from the building. Most of the dead appeared to be Iraqis, although at least one Red Cross worker died. Most of the Red Cross staff had not yet arrived for work when the blast went off around 8:30 a.m.

It was the second day of attacks in the capital. On Sunday, an American colonel was killed and at least 16 people were wounded when a barrage of air-to-ground missiles from a homemade launching pad slammed into a highly protected hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was staying. [complete article]

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Attack is a media coup for Iraq resistance, experts say
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2003

The assault on the Rashid Hotel by Iraqi resistance fighters Sunday was designed to grab attention by flaunting their ability to inflict casualties on U.S. soldiers and civilians, even those ensconced within the most secure compound in Iraq, according to terrorism experts and law enforcement officials in Baghdad.

The onslaught, in which one U.S. colonel was killed and 15 people were wounded, did not cause as many casualties as previous attacks on other high-profile targets in the capital. But it exhibited the growing sophistication of the opposition's tactics and raised hard questions about whether it would be possible to stem such attacks.

Early today, the resistance struck again, detonating an ambulance packed with explosives at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross. A U.S. military official said that at least 10 people were killed in the attack.

Toby Dodge, a terrorism expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, called the attack on the Rashid "a coup for the guys who did it."

"Politically, it shows people that they can deploy at will…. By attacking the most famous landmark in the compound, they are saying, 'We rule the streets. You don't,' " he said. [complete article]

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Death of a town
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 27, 2003

For two weeks now, the Israeli army has been grinding its way through Rafah refugee camp in the southern tip of the Gaza strip. "Operation Root Canal" is ostensibly aimed at destroying some of the dozens of tunnels the military says are used for smuggling weapons under the border with Egypt.

As about 65 tanks, armoured vehicles and mammoth armour-plated bulldozers rolled into Rafah, the Israeli army said it had intelligence that surface-to-air missiles were being hauled through the tunnels. But there was no sign of them as dozens of Palestinians attempted to exact some kind of price for the attack with pistols, AK-47s and homemade hand grenades. By the time the Israelis withdrew to the fringes of the camp where the tanks and bulldozers are perpetually at work, 18 Palestinians were dead, including three children under 15 years old, and more than 120 were wounded.

Just three tunnels were found, and no weapons. But in the process, the military crushed or rocketed nearly 200 homes, throwing about 1,700 people onto the street. The army claimed it never happened, that just 10 homes were wrecked, and then sent back the bulldozers to grind the evidence that the houses ever existed into the dirt. [complete article]

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Permits ordered for Palestinians
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, October 27, 2003

The Israeli military has ordered thousands of Palestinians living near the steel and concrete "security fence" through the West Bank to obtain special permits to live in their own homes.

Palestinian officials said the order breached a pledge by Israel to the UN security council a fortnight ago that the barrier would not change the legal status of those who live near it, and was another step towards the annexation of tens of thousands of hectares of Palestinian land.

The order, signed by the Israeli army's commander in the West Bank, Major General Moshe Kaplinski, said Palestinian land between the fence and the 1967 border, known as the green line, was to be a "closed military zone".

Any Palestinian who lived in the area would be defined by a new category of "long-term resident" and everyone over the age of 12 would be required to obtain a permit to live in their own homes and travel beyond their villages.

The order said that only Israelis and Jews could enter the designated areas without a pass. [complete article]

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Relief for U.S. troops stalls after Turkish troop imbroglio
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2003

A plan to send upward of 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq, a proposal the US heavily lobbied for in recent months, has effectively been shelved due to vehement opposition in Iraq.

For several months US military delegations came here seeking Turkey's approval to send its troops abroad - a nod which finally came earlier this month, only to be followed by a unanimous "no" vote by the interim Governing Council in Baghdad.

The US efforts point to a diplomacy disconnect, indicating miscalculations in how Iraqis would react to having troops from a neighbor they mistrust and casting doubt on the Bush administration's plans to get regional Muslim allies to share the Iraq burden. [complete article]

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A new battle front: Pro-warrior but antiwar
By David Montgomery, Washington Post, October 26, 2003

They were near the front of the antiwar march downtown yesterday, dozens of parents, siblings and spouses of soldiers, sailors and Marines occupying Iraq. They drew energy from each other, from the exciting discovery that there were so many in the same situation. They traded stories of extended deployments and shaky morale. They carried poster-size pictures of their loved ones standing proudly in dress uniforms, and they raised a banner that said: "Bush Says Bring 'Em On, We Say Bring 'Em Home Now!" [complete article]

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Is America copying Israel's mistakes?
By William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, October 25, 2003

The power of the weak lies in a people's acceptance of suffering. The weakness of the strong is that a disproportionate use of force against the weak eventually corrupts their own society.

The recent air attacks against the Palestinians in Gaza, using helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter aircraft and producing the inevitable "collateral damage," have actually been a demonstration of Israeli weakness.
The mission of civilian repression has deeply affected the Israeli military. Martin Van Creveld, a military sociologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes that "the morale of the army has never been so low."

The military command has no strategic vision, he said. "Nothing it has done to defeat the intifada has worked."

There is a grave lesson in this for the U.S. Army in Iraq, which now teeters on the wall separating liberation from repression. [complete article]

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The locals
By Nir Rosen, Asia Times, October 28, 2003

Aftam, 26, [a customs office manager on the Iraqi al-Huseiba border with Syria] who studied law at Baghdad University, saw hundreds of foreign mujahideen, or holy fighters, enter Iraq through the al-Qaim crossing before the war. "We welcomed them because they were here to defend our country," he says. As for the Americans, "We don't welcome them. They are occupying forces. We haven't seen anything good from them, only an occupation." He conceals his resentment from the American soldiers he cooperates with, but in Arabic he demands, "Why do they come with their Bradleys in front of our houses, and put their boots on our people's heads? Why don't they wave back when our children wave to them? They just keep their guns pointed at us." Aftam also refers to the many innocent people he claims the Americans have killed, including a man who drove up to their checkpoint but did not understand the instructions and was shot. [complete article]

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Baghdad's simmering religious tensions
By Martin Asser, BBC News, October 26, 2003

The deaths [of Sheikh Ahmed Khudeir, his brother and a teenage aide] have shocked the poverty-stricken Washash slum, but the manner of their killing has added to their anguish.

"I have not seen the bodies myself," Dr Dahham told the BBC. "But my colleague said that each one had many bullets in it."

Fifteen Kalashnikov rounds for the sheikh, 13 for his brother and nine for the young boy, according to people in Washash who had gone with the bodies to Saddam hospital.

"The gunmen killed them first and then emptied the magazines into the dead bodies," said one resident.

As far as the mosque faithful are concerned, there is only one explanation for what happened on Sunday morning.

Ahmed Khudeir was a Sunni sheikh at a Sunni mosque and he was killed by members of the local Shia militia, they believe.

The militia they have in mind - the Badr brigades - belongs to a leading Shia political party which has a seat on the US-appointed Governing Council. [complete article]

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After Iraq, the guilt of killing tears a life apart
By Scott Calvert, Baltimore Sun, October 26, 2003

During the Iraq war, Pfc. Tyrone Roper became a combat star. By early April his Kevlar helmet bore three hand-drawn feathers, one for each of his confirmed kills. His buddies in the 101st Airborne Division praised his machine-gun prowess. He was the one they most wanted by their side in a firefight.

These days, Roper's battles are raging mostly inside his head. He was evacuated to the Army base here this summer after being found psychologically unfit. He says he is still racked by bad dreams, acute loneliness and punishing guilt over the killings he carried out for the U.S. Army.

Now Roper, 27 and a married father of two, is on the run. This month, days before he was to be released from the Army, he left his blue stucco rowhouse on the base, possibly headed to Texas, where his mother lives, or to Canada, where he was born. No one is sure where he went or why. [complete article]

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Bush is not welcome in Britain
By Roy Hattersley, The Guardian, October 27, 2003

Has anyone yet explained why President George W Bush is about to make a state visit to the United Kingdom? In my time at the Foreign Office, the supreme accolade of an invitation from Her Majesty was only awarded after long deliberation had convinced the prime minister and foreign secretary that Britain's national interest would be served by arranging for the king, queen or president in question to perform a number of meaningless ceremonies and eat numerous mediocre meals in the company of the royal family. What do we have to gain by feting President Bush? [complete article]

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Cracks in support for Sharon
By Nicole Gaouette, Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2003

Ordinary Israelis, media commentators, and military officers unleashed unusually strident criticism Sunday of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's strategy in the Palestinian territories, a wave of anger that some analysts say may signal the first cracks in previously broad public support for his policies.

The condemnation followed a Palestinian attack on a remote Gaza Strip settlement that killed three soldiers on Friday, including two 19-year-old female soldiers shot while sleeping.

Their deaths, in a week that began with the death of three other troops in an ambush, triggered questions about Israel's presence in Gaza, the lack of a political process with the Palestinians, and Mr. Sharon's failure to deliver on election promises of greater security. The criticism, along with stirrings on the long dormant political left, suggest a shift in Israeli opinion may be afoot. [complete article]

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Iran ready for al-Qaeda deal
By Faye Bowers, The Scotsman, October 26, 2003

Iran is preparing to strike a deal with America to hand over Osama bin Laden’s two top acolytes in return for its removal from US President George Bush’s "axis of evil".

According to European diplomats involved in talks with the Iranians about the country’s development of nuclear technology, its government sees the dozen senior members of al-Qaeda and 50 fighters living there as a way to win concessions from the US.

Iran wants the Americans to accept it can build nuclear power stations and for the US to clamp down on a rebel movement, Mujahideen-e-Khalq, which is seeking to overthrow the Islamic republic. The rebels have had offices in the US - despite being named on the State Department’s list of terrorist organisations - and it continues to operate freely in Iraq. [complete article]

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U.S. gleans facts on Iran from debatable source
Nuclear arms allegations derived in part from rebel group's data

By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 2003

Both Iran and Iraq were accused by the United States of developing banned weapons, and in both cases much of the intelligence came from exile groups whose credibility has been questioned.

Now, some fear that despite the deal struck between Iran and European foreign ministers last week to allow inspections of nuclear sites, the United States may be proceeding down a warpath toward Iran, as it did with Iraq, based in part on faulty intelligence peddled by politically ambitious exiles. [complete article]

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Search in Iraq fails to find nuclear threat
By Barton Gellman, Washington Post, October 26, 2003

[After the invasion of Iraq, p]articipants in the subsequent hunt for illegal arms said months elapsed without a visit to Nasr [munitions plant] and many other sites of activity that President Bush had called "a grave and gathering danger."

According to records made available to The Washington Post and interviews with arms investigators from the United States, Britain and Australia, it did not require a comprehensive survey to find the central assertions of the Bush administration's prewar nuclear case to be insubstantial or untrue. Although Hussein did not relinquish his nuclear ambitions or technical records, investigators said, it is now clear he had no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either. [complete article]

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Tikrit tests plan A
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, October 26, 2003

Wolfowitz describes the Iraqis themselves as the second-largest contributor to the U.S.-led multinational force; more than 80,000 Iraqis are serving in the various security forces, he says, and 82 have been killed in action since June 1.

He visited a police station and a civil defense training center Saturday, as if to underscore that it's their job to stabilize Iraq.

Building up Iraqi security forces is Plan A for eventually withdrawing U.S. troops, but it isn't clear that Wolfowitz has a good Plan B. Hopes have faded for a broad multinational force. [complete article]

For a contrasting perspective, consider this curious story retold by "Kevin", a U.S. infantryman who is Baghdad's latest blogger:

I was talking to some guys who came by from the 82nd Airborne who are also deployed to Iraq. I was told about this time they worked with Military Police. As they were driving around the city they spotted an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). They had to lock down the neighborhood immediately and have EOD (explosive experts) come and disarm the bomb. While they had stopped all traffic going in and out, all of a sudden a IP (Iraqi Police) car quickly drove up to the IED and the officer quickly got out of his cruser and grabbed the IED and put it in the car and quickly drove off. They were all kinda stunned to see this and didn't do anything to stop the IP from getting away. Personally, I would have givin a few warning shots and just lit the car up, or blow out it's tires and then chase him but it was really dumb to not have done anything and let him get away. So now that has got me thinking that there are probably some bad apples in the police that might be setting up IEDs. Boots on the ground

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The real effects of Israel's security wall
By Rev. Don Christensen, Pioneer Press, October 26, 2003

Olive trees are the staff of life for Palestinian people. Some of the trees have produced olives and oil for hundreds of years. In the Palestinian village of Jayyous, where I'm living for three months as an ecumenical accompanier with the World Council of Churches, farmers and families are launching their annual olive harvest. It's a ritual by which Palestinian families renew the economic and cultural foundations that have sustained them for centuries.

This year the olive harvest is threatened by a different reality: the newly constructed Israeli "Separation Wall." At Jayyous it snakes 6 kilometers inside the internationally recognized Green Line (1967 Israel-Palestine boundary), separating farmers from their fields and the groundwater beneath them. Upon completion "the Wall," as it's known to Palestinians, is expected to extend 400 miles, destroying or confiscating 40,000 acres of prime Palestinian farmland. [complete article]

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Wolfowitz's hotel hit by rocket attack
BBC News, October 26, 2003

Visiting US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has escaped unhurt after a rocket attack on his hotel in Baghdad.

Up to eight rockets were fired at the Hotel al-Rashid, one of the most heavily guarded sites in the Iraqi capital.

One American soldier was killed and 15 other people were wounded, the US military said.

The attack came on the day an overnight curfew, which has been in force since the arrival of US-led troops in the city, is being lifted for the start of Ramadan.

A BBC News Online correspondent in Baghdad says that many people there believe anti-American attacks may increase with the ending of the curfew. [complete article]

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Why are we back in Vietnam?
By Frank Rich, New York Times, October 26, 2003

Like it or not, news doesn't register in our culture unless it happens on television. It wasn't until the relatively tardy date of March 9, 1954, when Edward R. Murrow took on Joseph McCarthy on CBS's "See It Now," that the junior senator from Wisconsin hit the skids. Sam Ervin's televised Watergate hearings reached a vast audience that couldn't yet identify the pre-Redford-and-Hoffman Woodward and Bernstein. Voters didn't turn against our Vietnam adventure en masse until it became, in Michael Arlen's undying phrase, the Living Room War.

However spurious any analogy between the two wars themselves may be, you can tell that the administration itself now fears that Iraq is becoming a Vietnam by the way it has started to fear TV news. When an ABC News reporter, Jeffrey Kofman, did the most stinging major network report on unhappiness among American troops last summer, Matt Drudge announced on his Web site that Mr. Kofman was gay and, more scandalously, a Canadian -- information he said had been provided to him by a White House staffer. This month, as bad news from Iraq proliferated, Mr. Bush pulled the old Nixon stunt of trying to "go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people" about the light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, "the people" meant the anchors of regional TV companies like Tribune Broadcasting, Belo and Hearst-Argyle. [complete article]

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Thousands join U.S. anti-war march
BBC News, October 26, 2003

Thousands of protesters have turned out in Washington and San Francisco to demonstrate against the occupation of Iraq by the United States-led coalition.

In the capital, about 20,000 gathered at the Washington Monument, within sight of the White House, carrying posters calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

They also called for the repeal of the US Patriot Act - wide-ranging legislation that was introduced as part of the campaign against terrorism following the 11 September attacks. [complete article]

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Pentagon wants 'mini-nukes' to fight terrorists
By Julian Coman, The Telegraph, October 26, 2003

Influential advisers at the Pentagon are backing the development of a new generation of low-yield nuclear weapons - so-called mini-nukes - in a controversial report to be published this autumn.

The document, entitled Future Strategic Strike Force, has been produced by the Defence Science Board, which has a Pentagon brief to "transform the nation's armed forces to meet the demands placed on them by a changing world order".

The DSB's findings envisage a revamped nuclear arsenal made up of small-scale missiles whose explosive impact would be easier to control and could be targeted at smaller aggressive states. The most radical part of the report argues for a move away from the Cold War view of nuclear arms as catastrophic weapons of last resort. [complete article]

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U.S. engineers working under the gun in Iraq
By David Streitfeld, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2003

Resembling over-wide house trailers, the prefabricated units [in Bechtel's Baghdad headquarters] are roomy and nicely cool. Their wood paneling evokes suburban family "rec" rooms from the early 1970s. There's a special trailer with a pool table and exercise machines, and an admonition taped to the wall: "Drinking will occur only at the end of the work day."

The idea is to keep things comfortable, letting people concentrate on their work. The commissary plays a special role, with food that is the envy of any American who's lucky enough to be invited to eat there -- hot dogs, hamburgers, fresh pastries and soft-serve ice cream. On Labor Day, there was a barbecue with T-bones and lobster. It's a little outpost of America, down to the "No Smoking" and "Keep Off the Grass" signs.

No one could begrudge Bechtel workers a pleasant and safe place to sleep, but all this infrastructure costs money. Members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council say that having a multinational corporation like Bechtel involved in the rebuilding swells costs by a factor of 10.

"We need for the Iraqi people to be working, not sitting around and thinking about how hungry they are," says council member Songul Chapouk, a civil engineer. "Why not fix the Iraqi companies so they can do the work?" she asks. [complete article]

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Threat grows amid Shi'ite power fued
By Charles A. Radin, Boston Globe, October 26, 2003

In the shadow of the Shrine of Imam Ali, whose successors divided the Islamic world after his death in AD 661 into Sunni and Shi'ite camps, a struggle for control of Iraq is unfolding with fateful consequences for this occupied country, for the United States, and for Islamic politics throughout the Middle East.

It is a competition among Shi'ite religious leaders for political power, but it also is fueling a power struggle between the US-led occupation and moderate Muslim leaders -- Shi'ite and Sunni alike -- over who should police the society and maintain order.

At best, the outcome could help foster a democratic, pluralistic Iraq and a smooth, prompt withdrawal of foreign forces. At worst, it could lead to chaos, and to the emergence of a new Shi'ite theocracy like that in Iran. This would be a disaster for American policy makers, already battling to cope with Iran. And it could lead to fracturing of the country if minority Kurds and Sunnis seek to break away from Shi'ite dominance. [complete article]

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