The War in Context  
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Many gaps in Bush's Guard records
Released papers do not document Alabama service

By Dana Milbank and Mike Allen, Washington Post, February 14, 2004

Files released by the White House last night from President Bush's Vietnam War-era service in the National Guard show that the future president was an exemplary pilot whose military record contains numerous gaps in the last two years of his six-year commitment. [...]

The records show Bush was an eager fighter pilot who said he wanted to spend a lifetime in aviation. But they provide no evidence that he did any military service in Alabama, to which he had requested a transfer in May 1972 to work on a Senate campaign that ended in November 1972.

And the records show officials from Bush's home base in Texas declining to provide details of his activities between May 1972 to April 1973, even though such documentation was requested by National Guard headquarters. [complete article]

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Pencil it in
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, February 14, 2004

The Bush administration is fighting with itself again. At issue: whether the president will stick to his State of the Union promise to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis by June 30. Interestingly, the main battle lines this time are not between those ever-clashing titans at Defense and State, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. The fight is largely between Baghdad and the Beltway. And all indications are that Baghdad -- in the person of Iraq civil administrator L. Paul Bremer III -- is carrying the day.

As recently as a week ago, senior State and Defense department officials back in Washington, in a rare state of agreement, were suggesting privately that the June handover probably would have to slide -- possibly until January 2005, when genuine elections could be held. This would almost certainly mean a political migraine for the president. Bush would face Democratic charges this fall that America is still mired in an Iraq quagmire and that he had reversed himself yet again on a critical issue. The problem is that administration officials in Washington fear a disaster, possibly civil war, if sovereignty is granted before the installation of a legitimate government created by proper nationwide elections. The United Nations new special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, this week called civil war a "very, very serious danger." [complete article]

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Chaos and war leave Iraq's hospitals in ruins
By Keffrey Gettleman, New York Times, February 14, 2004

At Baghdad's Central Teaching Hospital for Children, gallons of raw sewage wash across the floors. The drinking water is contaminated. According to doctors, 80 percent of patients leave with infections they did not have when they arrived.

Doctors say they have been beaten up in the emergency room. Blood is in such short supply that physicians often donate their own to patients lying in front of them. [complete article]

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Halliburton likely to be a campaign issue this fall
By Joel Brinkley, New York Times, February 14, 2004

As the accusations and investigations of the Halliburton Company's federal contracts in Iraq expand in size and number, Democrats say they will use the company's ties to the Bush administration as a campaign issue, and Halliburton is responding with television advertisements implying that it is being unfairly singled out.

"We are serving our troops because of what we know, not who we know," declares the 30-second spot, which is running in Washington, Houston and several other cities.

A company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late last month declared that Halliburton's Iraq contracts "will likely be subject to intense scrutiny" in the months ahead, in large part because "the vice president of the United States" is "a former chief executive officer."

"We expect that this focus and these allegations will continue and possibly intensify as the 2004 elections draw near," it adds with understandable prescience. [complete article]

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Why al-Qaeda votes Bush
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, February 14, 2004

Sheikh Terror are the new underground sensation in ever-swingin' London. Their rap video called "The Dirty Infidels" has been sent by e-mail to the Arab-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat. The paper says the video - unlikely to end up on MTV - may have been produced in a London studio by young, radical Muslims, but mosque talk in London and northern England has attributed it to ... al-Qaeda. Sheikh Terror rap in favor of the "fight against the infidels", praise Osama bin Laden and ask for British Prime Minister Tony Blair to be "burned", while images switch from September 11 to shots of George W Bush, President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and a Russian soldier executed by a Chechen guerrilla with a Kalashnikov.

Bin Laden may not be cornering the rap market just yet, but this only goes to show how the al-Qaeda brand has taken in the collective consciousness of many. [complete article]

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The costs of empire:
Starting with a solid base

By David Isenberg, Asia Times, February 13, 2004

The global [US military] "footprint" as it is called, conjuring up interesting images of just who and what the US treads on, spans the world.

Currently Pentagon officials are in the final throes of crafting an updated National Military Strategy that is expected to acknowledge a need to redistribute US forces and revamp their chains of command throughout the globe. "Global sourcing", a term used to describe the distribution of US forces across the Earth, is also an issue to be addressed in the new national military strategy. The new posture is expected to carry with it a new lingo for bases, including "power projection hubs", main operating bases and more flexible and agile "forward operating sites".

Under the plan, US troops, rather than inhabiting a small number of large garrisons, would rotate through dozens of small bases throughout the world on exercises, staying for only a few weeks or months at a time. Those bases could serve as launching points for military strikes to protect US interests or quickly strike out at terrorists. [complete article]

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Most pre-war information from Iraqi defectors was iffy, officials say
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, February 13, 2004

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that almost all of the Iraqi defectors whose information helped make the Bush administration's case against Saddam Hussein exaggerated what they knew, fabricated tales or were "coached" by others on what to say.

As probes expand into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, questions are growing about the defectors' role in building the momentum toward last spring's invasion.

Most of the former Iraqi officials were made available to U.S. intelligence agencies by the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of exile groups with close ties to the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office. The INC had lobbied for years for a U.S. military operation to oust Saddam. [complete article]

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Guerrilla raid in restive Iraq town leaves 22 dead
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters, February 14, 2004

Scores of gunmen firing mortars and grenades stormed security compounds in the Iraqi town of Falluja on Saturday, killing 14 policemen in one of the most daring raids in 10 months of U.S. occupation.

Police said the police station and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) compound as well as the mayor's office were hit in a coordinated assault by about 70 guerrillas which left a total of 22 people dead, including four attackers and four civilians.

A further 35 people were wounded. Just two days earlier, a top U.S. general survived an attack at the ICDC compound. [complete article]

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Secret report warns of Iraq 'Balkanisation'
By Nicolas Pelham, Financial Times, February 13, 2004

A confidential report prepared by the US-led administration in Iraq says that the attacks by insurgents in the country have escalated sharply, prompting fears of what it terms Iraq's "Balkanisation". The findings emerged after a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the top US general in Iraq, John Abizaid, on Thursday.

"January has the highest rate of violence since September 2003," the report said. "The violence continues despite the expansion of the Iraqi security services and increased arrests by coalition forces in December and January."

The report, which is based on military data and circulated to foreign organisations by the US aid agency USAid, diverges with public statements by US officials who claim that security in the country is improving. [complete article]

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Kay: Bush administration hampering intelligence reform
Associated Press (via USA Today), February 13, 2004

The Bush administration is hampering efforts to improve intelligence by clinging to the false hope that weapons of mass destruction may be found in Iraq, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector said Thursday.

"My only serious regret about the continued holding on to the hope that eventually we'll find it is that it eventually allows you to avoid the hard steps necessary to reform the process," David Kay said in an interview with The Associated Press. [complete article]

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Most think truth was stretched to justify Iraq war
By Richard Morin and Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 13, 2004

A majority of Americans believe President Bush either lied or deliberately exaggerated evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in order to justify war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey results, which also show declining support for the war in Iraq and for Bush's leadership in general, indicate the public is increasingly questioning the president's truthfulness -- a concern for Bush's political advisers as his reelection bid gets underway. [complete article]

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Stung by exiles' role, CIA orders a shift in procedures
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, February 13, 2004

American intelligence officials who before the war were sifting through claims that Iraq had illicit weapons were generally not told that much of the information came from defectors linked to exile organizations that were promoting an American invasion, according to senior United States intelligence officials.

The claims, which have largely proved to be unsubstantiated, included those from a defector who was identified as early as May 2002 as a fabricator by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Nevertheless, reports based on his debriefings arranged by the Iraqi National Congress found their way into documents and speeches used by the Bush administration to justify the war. [complete article]

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Iraq Shi'ites warn of problems if polls delayed
By Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters, February 13, 2004

Supporters of Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said on Friday an assessment by U.N. officials that elections are not possible before June 30 could stir revolt against their U.S. occupiers.

The United Nations sent a team to Iraq to gauge differences between Washington, which wants to hand over power to Iraqis by mid-year without holding polls first, and the country's majority Shi'ites, led by Sistani, who insist on a democratic election.

U.N. officials in Iraq said on Friday it would not be possible to organize polls before June 30, though they stressed it was important to hold elections as soon as security and technical arrangements permitted.

In Sistani's home town of Najaf, his supporters threatened to rise up if they did not get their way.

"If the United Nations and Americans do not fulfil the wish of our religious scholars then fatwas (religious edicts) will follow," Sheikh Rida Hamdani, a Sistani follower, said.

"At first there will be demonstrations or civil disobedience and finally armed struggle." [complete article]

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Al Qaeda's new young guard: a shift in tactics
By Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2004

Even as Osama bin Laden remains at large, Al Qaeda may be anointing new, younger leaders to carry on his cause. Some experts go so far as to call this coterie terrorism's next generation.

These men may be behind a recent wave of attacks in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Abu Musab Zarqawi, the main suspect in this week's bombings in Baghdad, is but 37 years old. Most of this generation looked to Mr. bin Laden for inspiration, not direction. Most trained in Al Qaeda's Afghanistan camps. Most are so devout they have memorized the Koran.

They are better educated than their predecessors - and, as independent operators, they may be more difficult to control. [complete article]

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Israel shuns world court's fence hearing
Associated Press (via MSNBC), February 12, 2004

Israel announced Thursday that it won't attend world court hearings on the West Bank separation barrier it is building, arguing that the judges don't have the authority to rule on the controversial fence.

Palestinian officials said Israel's decision is an admission that the barrier is illegal and indefensible.

Israel won't remain entirely on the sidelines in the closely watched case, which begins Feb. 23 at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. The Foreign Ministry is dispatching representatives, hundreds of Israeli demonstrators plan to fly in, and an Israeli rescue service is sending the skeleton of a Jerusalem bus mangled in a Palestinian suicide bombing. [complete article]

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Another dead end
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram, February 12, 2004

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement that most of the 7,500 Jewish settlers living in the Gaza Strip would be soon evacuated came as Palestinians were celebrating Eid Al-Adha. That coincident, and the understandable caution which nowadays greets every "painful concession" Sharon makes for his neighbours' benefit, may explain why it took so long for the Palestinian leadership to digest the news.

The announcement was met first with incredulity. Then, as the magnitude of Sharon's policy reversal sank in, it was seized on as a breakthrough. Only by the weekend did the Palestinian Authority (PA) sense a trap. A statement issued on Friday -- following a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation chaired by Arafat -- rejected the "unilateral disengagement" plan.

"The plan is a recipe for a takeover of most of the territories of the West Bank," the statement read. [complete article]

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Senate's Iraq probe to include Bush, aides
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2004

In a blow to the Bush administration, the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that it planned to investigate whether White House officials exaggerated the Iraq threat or pressured analysts to tailor their assessments of Baghdad's weapons programs to bolster the case for war.

The move puts claims made by President Bush and other senior officials in his administration squarely in the sights of the committee's investigation, and could add to the White House's political troubles as it tries to keep questions about the war from becoming a drag on Bush's reelection campaign.

The White House and Republican leaders in Congress had sought for months to confine the inquiry to the performance of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and to insulate the administration. But the Senate panel voted unanimously Thursday to expand the probe after some GOP members appeared ready to break from the Republican position. [complete article]

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The "Greater Middle East Initiative": vision or mirage?
By Paul Rogers, Open Democracy, February 12, 2004

The "Greater Middle East Initiative", already in receipt of inputs from some other Nato member-states, may be modelled on the "Helsinki process" of the post-1975 period, which focused on human rights across Europe – especially in the then Soviet bloc. An indication of the political tenor of this move was given by Dick Cheney, US vice-president, at Davos recently: "Our forward strategy for freedom commits us to support those who work and sacrifice for reform across the greater Middle East. We call upon our democratic friends and allies everywhere, and in Europe in particular, to join us in this effort."

It is probable that this initiative is partly a response to the failure of existing US-led policy. It was earlier claimed that terminating the Saddam Hussein regime and implementing the Israel/Palestine roadmap would transform the Middle East and encourage the development of pro-western democratisation. Instead, the roadmap has gone nowhere and Iraq is in disarray.

By way of compensation, visionary talk of a "greater Middle East" for a few months during election year carries the hope of convincing the US electorate, and possibly people across the region, that such an initiative is genuine. It is possible that it will have some effect in the United States, but prospects of an impact in the Middle East itself are remote... [complete article]

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The militarization of U.S. foreign policy
By Mel Goodman, Foreign Policy in Focus, February, 2004

The fall of the Soviet Union handed the U.S. a unique opportunity, as the surviving superpower, to lead the world toward a period of greater cooperation and conflict resolution through the use of diplomacy, global organization, and international law. This great opportunity is being squandered, as the world becomes a more dangerous place. Military force is now looming larger than ever as the main instrument and organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy. In our new national security doctrine, in the shape of our federal budget, and in the missions of the agencies the budget funds, our government is being reshaped to weaken controls on its use of force and further incline our country toward war. [complete article]

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The real man
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, February 13, 2004

To understand why questions about George Bush's time in the National Guard are legitimate, all you have to do is look at the federal budget published last week. No, not the lies, damned lies and statistics -- the pictures.

By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.

It was not ever thus. Bill Clinton's budgets were illustrated with tables and charts, not with worshipful photos of the president being presidential.

The issue here goes beyond using the Government Printing Office to publish campaign brochures. In this budget, as in almost everything it does, the Bush administration tries to blur the line between reverence for the office of president and reverence for the person who currently holds that office. [complete article]

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Giving due process its due
By Nat Hentoff, The Progressive, February 2004

During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the most heated debates concerned the separation of powers in this emerging democracy. The reason for that concern was emphasized by James Madison in the Federalist Papers, often cited by the Supreme Court as a reliable guide to the intentions of the Framers: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

On December 18, echoing the founders, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, in the case of Padilla vs. Rumsfeld, said to George W. Bush:

"The President, acting alone, possesses no inherent constitutional power to detain American citizens seized within the United States, away from the zone of combat, as enemy combatants."

Citizen Jose Padilla, incommunicado in a Navy brig in South Carolina for eighteen months--without charges, without access to his lawyer, and with no date of release--had no idea that his case was even in the Second Circuit. He is insulated from the world. But his case, and that of the other American citizen, Yaser Hamdi, who had also been removed from the protections of the Constitution after George W. Bush designated him as an enemy combatant, has aroused more intense criticism of the Administration's war on the Bill of Rights than any of its other actions. Law professors, former federal judges appointed by both Republican and Democratic Presidents, and members of Congress of both parties have agreed with the essence of the fiery argument in a brilliant brief to the Second Circuit in the Padilla case by Jonathan Freiman of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights... [complete article]

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The unseen cost of the war in Iraq
By Jonathan Miller, Channel Four News (UK), February 10, 2004

The true extent of US casualties in Iraq are still unknown. This has fuelled suspicion that the administration may be hiding the true human cost of the war and its aftermath. Channel Four News has been allowed a rare opportunity to meet some of America's wounded soldiers.

In a dark corner of Andrews Air Force base on the outskirts of Washington DC, America's war-wounded come home.

The human cost of humbling tyrants.

No ceremony, no big welcome.

More than 11,000 medical evacuees have come through Andrews in the past nine months, the Air Force says.

Most, we suspect, from Iraq. But that's 8,000 more than the Pentagon says have been wounded there. [complete article]

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Iraq arms hunt in doubt in '02
By John Diamond, USA Today, February 12, 2004

A classified U.S. intelligence study done three months before the war in Iraq predicted a problem now confronting the Bush administration: the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction might never be found.

The study by a team of U.S. intelligence analysts, military officers and civilian Pentagon officials warned that U.S. military tactics, guerrilla warfare, looting and lying by Iraqi officials would undermine the search for banned Iraqi weapons. Portions of the study were made available to USA Today. Three high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials described its purpose and conclusions.

"Locating a program that ... has been driven by denial and deception imperatives is no small task," the December 2002 report said. "Prolonged insecurity with factional violence and guerrilla forces still at large would be the worst outcome for finding Saddam's WMD arsenal." [complete article]

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U.N. envoy warns of civil war, is doubtful of early Iraq vote
Associated Press (via USA Today), February 13, 2004

A U.N. official said Friday it was unlikely elections could be held before a U.S.-set June 30 deadline for handing power to the Iraqis, and several Iraqi leaders said there was growing support for scrapping the U.S. blueprint for establishing a new government.

U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, meanwhile, warned Iraqis to be aware of the risks of civil war as they try to find an acceptable formula for sovereignty. [complete article]

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Fearful Iraqis weigh working with U.S.
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, February 12, 2004

After two bombings in less than 24 hours killed at least 100 people at recruiting sites for the country's new security forces, many Iraqis are questioning the wisdom and safety of seeking work with institutions that support the U.S.-led occupation.

A vehicle bomb in Baghdad on Wednesday morning killed 47 people, many of whom were waiting outside a government building to apply for jobs in the new U.S.-trained Iraqi army. Lines at the main gate of the army recruiting center began forming before dawn, witnesses said, and hundreds of applicants had gathered by 7 a.m. [complete article]

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Blair's claim is simply incredible
A former senior intelligence officer challenges Lord Hutton's account

By Crispin Black, The Guardian, February 12, 2004

The prime minister told the House of Commons that he was unaware at the time of the war debate that the 45-minute piece of intelligence referred only to battlefield rather than strategic weapons. Let me list just some of the procedures which must have been executed incorrectly to allow him to be kept in such a state of ignorance at such a crucial time on such a crucial matter when other members of his cabinet (Cook and Hoon) appear to have been in the know.

One: neither Cook nor Hoon saw fit to tell the prime minister, for whatever reason.

Two: the intelligence was not considered important or accurate enough to explain to him in detail - even though it appears in the September 24 dossier at least three times and in the prime minister's own foreword... [complete article]

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"I never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush"
Bush a no-show at Alabama base, say Memphian

By Jackson Baker, Memphis Flyer, February 13, 2004

Two members of the Air National Guard unit that President George W. Bush allegedly served with as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to expect him and were on the lookout for him. He never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop are certain.

The question of Bush's presence in 1972 at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery, Alabama – or the lack of it – has become an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. [complete article]

Comment -- To those readers for whom I'm stating the obvious, forgive me, but let's just spell out what the issue is here. It isn't about whether Lt. Bush was a flake in 1972. It's about whether President Bush is a liar in 2004.

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Regional terrorist groups pose growing threat, experts warn
By Raymond Bonner and Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times, February 8, 2004

The landscape of the terrorist threat has shifted, many intelligence officials around the world say, with more than a dozen regional militant Islamic groups showing signs of growing strength and broader ambitions, even as the operational power of Al Qaeda appears diminished.

Some of the militant groups, with roots from Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus to North Africa and Europe, are believed to be loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda, the officials say. But other groups follow their own agenda, merely drawing inspiration from Osama bin Laden's periodic taped messages calling for attacks against the United States and its allies, the officials say.

The smaller groups have shown resilience in resisting the efforts against terrorism led by the United States, officials said, by establishing terrorist training camps in Kashmir, the Philippines and West Africa, filling the void left by the destruction of Al Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan. But what is also worrisome to counterterrorism officials is evidence that like Al Qaeda, some of them are setting their sights beyond the regional causes that inspired them. [complete article]


The Bush administration continues to portray the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a great victory in the war against terrorism. The reality is that it was a great victory for the terrorists.

To defeat terrorism, one must dilute the rage that fuels it. To use a metaphor favored by Donald Rumsfield, one must drain the swamp in which terrorism thrives. But instead of draining the swamp, we have flooded it. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that between the summer of 2002 and May of 2003 (after the occupation of Iraq), the percentage of Muslims with a favorable opinion of the United States dropped radically in most of the Islamic world. Most Muslims are outraged by what they see as an imperial conquest of a country that was once the heart of the Islamic world.

People like bin Laden thrive on the humiliation and rage provoked by the occupation of Iraq. Because George Bush does not understand this, American soldiers are dying at an average rate of more than one a day in a war that is strengthening the very people it was supposed to weaken.

Henry Munson is a Visiting Scholar in Anthropology at Harvard and the author of three books on the Islamic world.

"GUEST COMMENT" is a new feature at The War in Context where I'll be soliciting comments from journalists, academics and other specialists whose insights will add depth to our understanding of the news. If you'd like to participate, please contact me at -- Paul Woodward, Editor

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Bush's Guard actions required an inquiry
By Walter V. Robinson and Francie Latour, Boston Globe (via IHT), February 13, 2004

President George W. Bush's August 1972 suspension from flight status in the Texas Air National Guard, triggered by his failure to take a required annual flight physical, should have prompted an investigation by his commander, a written acknowledgment by Bush and perhaps a written report to senior Air Force officials, according to Air Force regulations then in effect. [...]

For a second day in a row, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, declined to answer questions Wednesday about Bush's failure to take the physical, and McClellan appeared to retreat from Bush's promise Sunday to make public all of his military records. [...]

Brigadier General David McGinnis, a former top aide to the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said that Bush's failure to remain on flying status amounted to a violation of the signed pledge by Bush that he would fly for at least five years after he completed flight school in November 1969.

"Failure to take your flight physical is like a failure to show up for duty," McGinnis said in an interview. "It is an obligation you can't blow off." [complete article]

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This is a new feature at The War in Context where I'll be soliciting comments from journalists, academics and other specialists whose insights will add depth to our understanding of the news.

If you'd like to participate, please contact me at

Paul Woodward, Editor

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Anyone with nothing better to do than read the Drudge Report will already know about the latest Drudge rumor to rock the ... Internet (he says the Democrats). Drudge "quotes" Wesley Clark as saying "Kerry will implode over an intern issue." Interestingly, below Drudge's blazing headline is a link to an Associated Press report that Clark will endorse Kerry tomorrow. A curious decision, one might think, from a man who's predicting Kerry's about to "implode."

What would be more interesting to learn is, where did the rumor come from? Would Mr. Drudge care to share more?

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The centrifuge connection
By David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April, 2004

Iran has admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it made secret efforts to procure the wherewithal to make sophisticated gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. But few believe that Iran has told the whole story of its extensive foreign procurements.

As of mid-January 2004, Iranian officials continued to insist that they obtained sensitive centrifuge drawings and components through "intermediaries," and that they did not know the original source of the items.

Recent Pakistani government investigations are undercutting that assertion and magnifying concerns that Iran has made only a partial declaration to the IAEA. Senior Pakistani gas centrifuge experts and officials have admitted to Pakistani government investigators that they provided centrifuge assistance to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Details are sketchy at press time about who exactly was involved in these transfers, when they occurred, and how they were arranged. Although the Pakistani government has denied authorizing any of the transfers, characterizing them as the work of rogue scientists, evidence points to at least Pakistani government knowledge. [complete article]

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Plame Gate
By Murray S. Waas, The American Prospect, February 12, 2004

Two government officials have told the FBI that conservative columnist Robert Novak was asked specifically not to publish the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in his now-famous July 14 newspaper column. The two officials told investigators they warned Novak that by naming Plame he might potentially jeopardize her ability to engage in covert work, stymie ongoing intelligence operations, and jeopardize sensitive overseas sources.

These new accounts, provided by a current and former administration official close to the situation, directly contradict public statements made by Novak. He has downplayed his own knowledge about the potential harm to Plame and ongoing intelligence operations by making that disclosure. He has also claimed in various public statements that intelligence officials falsely led him to believe that Plame was only an analyst, and the only potential consequences of her exposure as a CIA officer would be that she might be inconvenienced in her foreign travels. [complete article]

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Kerry will win the patriot game
By Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian, February 12, 2004

Since the onset of the cold war, the Republicans have attempted to taint the Democrats as unpatriotic, in league with America's enemies, without and within. With the cold war's end, one of the central organising principles of the Republican political strategy dissolved. But in the aftermath of September 11, George Bush and his political adviser Karl Rove have reanimated the patriot game, and Democrats have been conflated with terrorists and tyrants.

The founding father of the Republican patriot game was Richard Nixon, whose career was borne along by impugning the patriotism of Democratic opponents and uncovering subversives whom he claimed represented the heart of the new deal. His relentless ambition, however, was thwarted when he found himself confronted by a war hero, John F Kennedy. In 1960, the game was over. But the Vietnam war gave Nixon the platform for his resurrection. Once he became president, the game of smearing the Democrats was reinvented as he set Vietnam veterans and hard hat, blue-collar workers against war protesters.

In the spring of 1971, a worrisome new political figure emerged to oppose Nixon's Vietnam policy. On April 22, John Kerry, wearing combat fatigues, his silver star, bronze star and three purple hearts, testified before the Senate foreign relations committee.

"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?" Kerry asked. "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? This administration has done us the ultimate dishonour. They have attempted to disown us and the sacrifices we made for this country." [complete article]

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Yeoman of the Guard
AWOL? Probably not. A draft dodger? No question

By Josh Levin and Timothy Noah, Slate, February 11, 2004

To say that Bush squeaked by on his National Guard requirements doesn't mean that he served his country in any meaningful way during the Vietnam War. The Republican National Committee and the Bush White House have been struggling mightily to change the subject from Bush's truancy to the disrespect Bush's critics are showing for the National Guard, from which the Army and Air Force currently have 100,000 troops mobilized. The Guard has already sent more than 60,000 troops to Iraq, and many more will follow. It's a serious fighting force worthy of gratitude and respect. "I would be careful not to denigrate the Guard," Bush warned Tim Russert in his Feb. 8 Meet the Press interview. [...]

But what really denigrates the National Guard of 2004 is to compare it to the National Guard of the early 1970s, when it was a haven for people who wanted to avoid the Vietnam draft. Not the cushiest haven, perhaps -- not as good as divinity school, for instance -- but a haven nonetheless. [complete article]

See also Ex-officer: Bush file's details caused concern (USA Today) and An interview with Bill Burkett (Calpundit).

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Senate may broaden its Iraq inquiry
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2004

The Senate Intelligence Committee is considering expanding the scope of its investigation of intelligence failures in Iraq to include the White House's use of the information in making its case for war, according to congressional sources familiar with the probe.

If the expansion is approved at a full meeting of the panel scheduled for today, it would mark a reversal for the White House and Republican congressional leaders, who have fought to limit the inquiry to the performance of the CIA and other spy agencies.

The possibility of expanding the inquiry gained new life this week amid signs that one or more of the committee's Republican members now may be inclined to support long-standing Democratic demands for an examination of the White House's role, the congressional sources said. [complete article]

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Data from Iraqi exiles under scrutiny
By James Risen, New York Times, February 12, 2004

In the years before the war in Iraq, an exile group set up a team of analysts in Washington, underwritten by United States government funds, to distribute a steady stream of reports on Saddam Hussein to the government and the news media, according to government officials and a document the group submitted to Congress.

In a June 2002 memorandum to a Senate committee, the group, the Iraqi National Congress, described its "information-collection program," and detailed how it had been able to provide reports on Iraq to the Bush administration, with which it developed close ties, and to the media. [complete article]

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Bad sourcing
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, February 11, 2004

Broadening an internal review of prewar intelligence on Iraq, the CIA is reexamining the credibility of four Iraq defectors whose claims were cited by Secretary of State Colin Powell last year as crucial evidence that Saddam Hussein had developed a system of mobile laboratories and factories to produce biological-warfare agents, Newsweek has learned.

The four defectors were mentioned by Powell in his Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the United Nations Security Council, which made the case for war against Iraq. The defectors also were cited by the CIA as sources in a paper the agency published in May claiming that three large tractor-trailers found in Iraq after the war were proof of the mobile bio-warfare facilities' existence -- a claim now much in dispute.

But the CIA now has questions about whether any of the informants were reliable -- and has acknowledged that one of the defectors had been previously branded a "fabricator" by another U.S. intelligence agency, sources tell Newsweek. In addition, the sources say, some intelligence officers now fear that two major Iraqi-exile groups that provided U.S. agencies with informants may have been infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence and were feeding U.S. agencies with disinformation. [complete article]

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Rule of the rapists
By Mariam Rawi, The Guardian, February 12, 2004

When the US began bombing Afghanistan on October 7 2001, the oppression of Afghan women was used as a justification for overthrowing the Taliban regime. Five weeks later America's first lady, Laura Bush, stated triumphantly: "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."

However, Amnesty International paints a rather different picture: "Two years after the ending of the Taliban regime, the international community and the Afghan transitional administration, led by President Hamid Karzai, have proved unable to protect women. The risk of rape and sexual violence by members of armed factions and former combatants is still high. Forced marriage, particularly of girl children, and violence against women in the family are widespread in many areas of the country."

In truth, the situation of women in Afghanistan remains appalling. Though girls and women in Kabul, and some other cities, are free to go to school and have jobs, this is not the case in most parts of the country. In the western province of Herat, the warlord Ismail Khan imposes Taliban-like decrees. Many women have no access to education and are banned from working in foreign NGOs or UN offices, and there are hardly any women in government offices. Women cannot take a taxi or walk unless accompanied by a close male relative. If seen with men who are not close relatives, women can be arrested by the "special police" and forced to undergo a hospital examination to see if they have recently had sexual intercourse. Because of this continued oppression, every month a large number of girls commit suicide - many more than under the Taliban. [complete article]

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Saving ourselves from self-destruction
By Mohamed Elbaradei, New York Times, February 12, 2004

The international community must do a better job of controlling the risks of nuclear proliferation. Sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle -- the production of new fuel, the processing of weapon-usable material, the disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste -- would be less vulnerable to proliferation if brought under multinational control. Appropriate checks and balances could be used to preserve commercial competitiveness and assure a supply of nuclear material to legitimate would-be users.

Toward this end, negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty must be revived. The treaty, which would put an end to the production of fissionable material for weapons, has been stalled in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva for nearly eight years. For the material that already exists, including in some countries of the former Soviet Union, security measures must be strengthened.

Of course, a fundamental part of the nonproliferation bargain is the commitment of the five nuclear states recognized under the nonproliferation treaty -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- to move toward disarmament. Recent agreements between Russia and the United States are commendable, but they should be verifiable and irreversible. A clear road map for nuclear disarmament should be established -- starting with a major reduction in the 30,000 nuclear warheads still in existence, and bringing into force the long-awaited Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

If the global community is serious about bringing nuclear proliferation to a halt, these measures and others should be considered at the nonproliferation treaty review conference next year. [complete article]

Comment -- The golden opportunity for launching an international nuclear disarmament initiative was available to Bill Clinton in the mid-nineties. If he had set his eyes on such an important legacy he might not have become so distracted. Nevertheless, we are now in a situation where the dangers of proliferation are transparent, the risks in maintaining nuclear deterrents are equally obvious, and the defensive value of such weapons is perversely simply a product of the lack of an international will to eliminate them. Will the next president have the guts, honesty and vision to take on the goal of the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons? It's unlikely, but not impossible. Would a nuclear-weapon-free planet not be a much loftier yet essential goal than sending a man to Mars? As self-appointed world leader, isn't this exactly where America should be taking the initiative?

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Israel: The threat from within
By Henry Siegman, New York Review of Books, February 26, 2004

A recent front-page New York Times article on Condoleezza Rice's role in shaping US foreign policy reported that in the spring of 2002, when violence was escalating between Israel and the Palestinians, President Bush asked the following of Dr. Rice: Beyond the question of whether the US is "pushing this party hard enough or that party hard enough," what is the "fundamental problem" that has defeated all previous peace initiatives and continues to stand in the way of a political agreement?

Dr. Rice's answer was that the fundamental problem is Yasser Arafat -- his refusal to act to stop terrorism and the absence of democracy and accountability in Palestinian political institutions. She concluded, therefore, that sidelining Yasser Arafat, democratizing Palestinian institutions, and bringing to the fore a new Palestinian leadership would improve the prospects of an Israeli–Palestinian peace agreement. This insight, according to Dr. Rice, countered the "prevailing wisdom" that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict was "just about land." [complete article]

GUEST COMMENT FROM TONY KARON (TIME.COM) -- "For analytical grasp of the politics of the Middle East, Dr. Rice's observations (cited by Siegman) on the failures of Mideast peace initiatives rank right up there with her comparison of the current situation in Iraq with that of Germany in 1946. There's been grumbling for quite some time in establishment foreign policy circles -- most notably Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies -- over Condi Rice's competence, given her obvious failure to contain the internecine warfare between the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis and the State Department-CIA axis (which has left Iraq policy in chaos). In offering Bush a strategic insight that even for many Likud people is simply a PR line -- the notion that Arafat himself is the primary obstacle to a two-state peace agreement -- and at the same time blithely dismissing control over land as a prime cause of the conflict suggests not only an epic failure to comprehend the situation, but also what amounts to either ignorance of or contempt for the lived reality and history of the Palestinians, and also of the strategic debates in the Israeli leadership. If this is the perspective of the administration's national security coordinator, it's hardly surprising that President Bush's Middle East policy amounts to little more than a nod and wink to Sharon, and an occasional attempt to look busy. Unfortunately, it's a policy for which both Israel and the U.S. may pay a harsh price."

Tony Karon is Senior Editor for world coverage at Besides daily analyses of the top international stories such as the conflict in Iraq, the Middle East crisis and the war on terrorism, he writes an occasional column, titled "Undiplomatic Dispatch."

"GUEST COMMENT" is a new feature at The War in Context where I'll be soliciting comments from journalists, academics and other specialists whose insights will add depth to our understanding of the news. If you'd like to participate, please contact me at -- Paul Woodward, Editor

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Pullout on hold, Gaza flares up
By Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, February 12, 2004

Just a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made what seemed like a landmark declaration of intent to pull Jewish settlers out of Gaza, Israeli tanks staged a raid in Gaza City Wednesday.

The toll of 14 Palestinians killed, 12 in Gaza City and two in the southern Rafah Refugee Camp during two army incursions was the highest in months. But the scenes of urban warfare were similar to those in a raid just two weeks ago, also in Gaza City, in which nine Palestinians were killed.

Masked men clutching guns they used against Israeli tanks, ambulances screeching, and wounded civilians wincing Wednesday all added to the sense that turmoil rather than momentum towards peace is following Mr. Sharon's surprising statement, which has since been watered down by officials including the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz.
[complete article]

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Israeli Wall on trial:
Venue shifts to the International Court of Justice

By Ian Williams, Foreign Policy in Focus, February 10, 2004

It is quite possible that Ariel Sharon's announcement about planning the removal of settlements from Gaza was wrenched from him by the U.S., in implicit or explicit trade for American support in the hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on the legality of the Israeli Wall in the Occupied Territories. If so, it would be yet another vindication of the Palestinians' determination for the hearings to go ahead in the teeth of Israeli, American, and British disapproval. [complete article]

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U.S. may delay Iraq power transfer
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2004

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell signaled Wednesday that the administration might delay plans to return sovereignty to Iraqis by June 30, telling a congressional oversight panel that violence continued to vex U.S. and Iraqi officials.

In his first appearance before Congress to explain the State Department budget for fiscal 2005, Powell said the administration was "looking forward to transferring authority at the end of June, if all goes well."

But he added that "we have a difficult security problem" in Iraq, as evidenced by a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Wednesday that killed at least 47 people and came only a day after a blast near the Iraqi capital killed more than 50. [complete article]

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U.N. agrees need for well prepared Iraq election
By Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters, February 12, 2004

A U.N. envoy said after talks with Iraq's most powerful religious leader Thursday that the world body backed his call for elections but that both sides agreed any polls must be well prepared.

The most revered man in Iraq for the country's Shi'ites, who make up around 60 percent of the population, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for direct elections before U.S. occupiers hand back sovereignty to Iraqis.

"Sistani is insistent on holding the elections and we are with him on this 100 percent because elections are the best means to enable any people to set up a state that serves their interest," Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters after holding two hours of talks with Sistani. [complete article]

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Travels in the south
By James Longley, Electronic Iraq, February 11, 2004

[Moqtada] Sadr's followers and many Iraqi political parties are now moving to hold direct local elections and remove the city advisory councils and mayors put into power by the United States following the war. This call has been taken up in Najaf, the city holy to all Shia Muslims, where elections are being planned for February 17. Similar moves are starting to be made in smaller towns, such as the neighboring Al Garraf.

Everyone agrees that having a city leadership appointed by the U.S. is intolerable. Two weeks ago thousands of protestors arrived in front of the Nasiriyah Mayor's office and demanded the Mayor's resignation on the grounds that he was appointed by the Americans, and therefore illegitimate. The standoff has apparently cooled down in anticipation of direct local elections; the U.S.-appointed mayor of Nasiriyah is no longer showing up to work.

"We want to turn that building back into a library." I was told in Sadr's office. "We explained to the Mayor that because he was an American appointee he should expect people to come and remove him."

Today a meeting of political parties was held in Nasiriyah to organize the process by which local elections will take place. There were no journalists present, but I was invited to attend and came away generally impressed. [complete article]

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Iran's young turn their backs on the revolution and grip of Ayatollahs
By Angus McDowall, The Independent, February 12, 2004

Fundamentally, the Islamic Republic today is very different to when millions took to the streets for the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in early 1979. Then, less than half the population was literate and more than 60 per cent was rural. Now the population has doubled and the majority are educated city-dwellers. Most are barely adults. The new generation is eager for change, but has shunned the political activism of its forebears.

Apart from occasional demonstrations, attended by a few thousand, there is little sign the young are interested in politics. Instead, the reformist generation is pushing back the boundaries of social acceptability, often taking its cue from the West. Rock music, fast cars, parties and relationships define middle-class Iranians more than religion or revolution. [complete article]

Comment -- At a time when the U.S. government proclaims its "forward strategy of freedom" for the Middle East, it's instructive to see what the political effect of westernization has been in Iran. Free market economics and democracy supposedly work hand in hand, yet looking at countries such as Iran and China as well as Europe and North America suggest much more strongly that consumerism sucks the life out of politics. The freedom to flip more channels on TV is a freedom that nurtures and is nurtured by, political apathy.

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This is a new feature at The War in Context where I'll be soliciting comments from journalists, academics and other specialists whose insights will add depth to our understanding of the news.

If you'd like to participate, please contact me at

Paul Woodward, Editor

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'Frontline' examines Iraq from the outside in
By Gloria Goodale, Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2004

The grim headlines from Iraq this week, detailing the carnage heaped on one group of Iraqi Kurds by another, are a good setup for Frontline's timely documentary, "Beyond Baghdad," which airs Feb. 12 on PBS.

For the investigative report, PBS correspondent Martin Smith spent five weeks going deep into the Iraqi countryside to understand the real challenges of bringing stability to post-Hussein Iraq.

"There's no one there [who is] serious and knowledgeable who thinks things are going to be resolved in a matter of months," says Mr. Smith.

The show began to take shape when the American ambassador to Iraq approached Smith with the reproach that journalists in Iraq weren't giving a fair picture of the whole country. With that criticism in mind, Smith and his crew set out to cover vast swaths of the country - with the exception of Baghdad which, he maintains, gets entirely too much attention from the mainstream press. [complete article]

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By Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, February 9, 2004

In Seattle last Tuesday night, John Kerry gave a perfectly O.K. victory speech. He was a little wooden, though marginally less so than he’d been in Manchester the week before or in Des Moines the week before that. He still has a tendency to orate at people ("We will resume the great march of our history"), though as he gets closer to the presidency his stiff, solemn formality gets easier to take. Yes, the speech was perfectly O.K. And what was most O.K. about it, from the point of view of many Democratic voters, was that it was a victory speech. With great passion, Democrats want to win -- want to win more than they want to dominate or punish each other. The result, so far, may be the least bitter struggle for an open Presidential nomination in living memory. The traditional circular firing squad looks weirdly like a phalanx.

There are plenty of reasons for Senator Kerry's emergence, but the most important can be plainly seen in those primary-night tableaux. Behind Kerry and around him, salted among the local politicians and the family members and the union bigwigs, are always the veterans -- grizzled, weatherbeaten, and exempt from the dress code. They have been the spark and soul of Kerry's campaign. He acknowledges them first, and in the first-person plural: "We're a little older and a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for our country." [complete article]

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Pundit O'Reilly now skeptical about Bush
Reuters (via New York Times), February 10, 2004

Conservative television news anchor Bill O'Reilly said on Tuesday he was now skeptical about the Bush administration and apologized to viewers for supporting prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The anchor of his own show on Fox News said he was sorry he gave the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons program poised an imminent threat, the main reason cited for going to war.

"I was wrong. I am not pleased about it at all and I think all Americans should be concerned about this,'' O'Reilly said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America.'' [complete article]

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Bush's difficult relationship with reality
By William Saletan, Slate, February 8, 2004

"The American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is."

That's the message President Bush conveyed this morning on Meet the Press. He sees things as they are, not as liberals wish they were. As Bush put it:

That's very important for, I think, the people to understand where I'm coming from -- to know that this is a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't. I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is. And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them. … The policy of this administration is … to be realistic about the different threats that we face.

Realistic. Dangers that exist. The world the way it is. These are strange words to hear from a president whose prewar descriptions of Iraqi weapons programs are so starkly at odds with the postwar findings of his own inspectors. [complete article]

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Will Sharon help Bush win re-election?
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz, February 11, 2004

When Ariel Sharon was elected to the premiership a few days after George W. Bush took his own oath of office in early 2001, Sharon began his victory speech by telling cheering supporters of a telephone call he had just received, from the White House.

"No one believed then," the prime minister-elect quoted Bush as having told him, in a reference to a visit in which Sharon had taken then-governor Bush on a tour of the West Bank, "that I would be president and you would be prime minister. But as things turned out, despite the fact that no one believed us, I have been elected president, and you have been elected prime minister."

They are two men who are accustomed to being underestimated, vilified as murderers, scorned as possessors of ill intent. They are two men who share a commonality of neo-conservative outlook and action. And, although diplomatic etiquette forbids them from saying so outright, they are two men who, it may be assumed, would very much like to see the other stay in office for the foreseeable future. [complete article]

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Failed predictions
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, February 11, 2004

"The planners of the fence failed to predict its effects on innocent Palestinians," National Security Advisor Giora Eiland told a high-level diplomatic-security forum in Germany this week (Haaretz, February 9). Like Eiland, other Israeli representatives are now trying to convince the western countries and the United States in particular that the route of the separation fence is a human, localized and almost chance error that can be corrected to minimize the damage.

We have a new sentry to blame for what has gone wrong: the rather anonymous planners of the separation fence. Some sort of personal, individual limitation caused them to fail and not to predict the extent to which "the lives of innocent people would be affected" by the construction of the fortifications, which has destroyed and is destroying wells that are essential to agriculture, is uprooting tens of thousands of olive trees and other trees and is wiping out hundreds of greenhouses in which thousands of people have invested the savings of years. [complete article]

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U.S. among the 'ruins' of Arab nationalism
By Ashraf Fahim, Asia Times, February 12, 2004

Since the occupation of Iraq last April, analysts have puzzled over what impact this new reality will have on Arab nationalism, as well as on political Islam, the two ideological pillars t hat shape the Arab world. If Chinese leader Zhou Enlai said in the 1970s that it was too soon to discern the impact of the French Revolution (late 18th century), then quantifying the outcome of Iraq's occupation 10 months on may be precipitous. But it is safe to assume that these two ideologies are too ingrained in the political landscape to be uprooted as easily as Saddam Hussein's statue was pulled down by a US Army M88 Hercules in Baghdad's Paradise Square. [complete article]

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Top Iraqi's Islamic law proposal could lead to major changes in Iraqi life
By Jim Krane, Associated Press, February, 10, 2004

Iraq's current top official has demanded that Islam be the principal basis for Iraq's laws, a move that breaches a previous agreement among the framers of the interim constitution and creates the possibility that Islamic law could rule the land.

If approved, the proposal could have broad effects on secular Iraq, taking away rights of women in divorce and inheritance cases, shuttering liquor stores and banning gambling, legal advisers here say. Elements also run counter to President Bush's goal of turning Iraq into a beacon for democracy in the Middle East. [complete article]

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Russert's near miss
By James C. Moore, Buzzflash, February 9, 2004

Mr. Bush has authorized only the release of his records from Texas National Guard files. And his Military Personnel Records Jacket from Texas is missing many things. There should be pay stubs for every day served, a roll-up of total retirement points earned for service, and, most likely, an Officers' Board of Inquiry Report on why a pilot, who had spent $1 million dollars learning to fly a jet in war time, was suspended. These records, if they exist, have been committed to microfiche and are on file at the Air Reserve Personnel Headquarters in Denver. And, regardless of the president's parsing of language, he has not yet authorized the release to the public of his full service record from Denver.

Why not? Every president in American history has signed a form to provide the public with all information on his time in the military. In South Carolina, when John McCain was getting beaten up by Karl Rove operatives over possible mental health problems from too many years in captivity, McCain ordered the full release of his military file. Immediately, the issue went away. John Kerry, John Kennedy, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and everyone who has ever aspired to or held the office of the presidency, has given every detail of their military service to the people who had to decide whether they were fit to lead the country. George W. Bush has not. [complete article]

See also The president recalls serving (The Nation); Guard records on president are released (Washington Post).
Comprehensive reporting on this issue by The Boston Globe, for whom Walter V. Robinson originally investigated this story in 2000 can be found here.

Comment -- Does anyone recognize a familiar line of White House reasoning here? Lieutenant Bush must have been present in Alabama because so far no one has proved that he was absent. Perhaps Hans Blix can shed some light here.

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The honeymoon is over, Mr. Bush
By Robert Kuttner, The Boston Globe, February 11,2004

Last week I suggested that President Bush had reached a tipping point in his credibility with the broad public and the press. I speculated that we would soon see newsmagazine covers depicting Bush in trouble. Well, Time magazine obliged. Its new cover depicts a two-faced Bush and asks: "Does Bush Have a Credibility Gap?"

Does he ever. The press has at last given itself permission to be tougher on misrepresentations that have characterized the Bush presidency since its beginnings.

Bush's hourlong Sunday interview with Tim Russert of "Meet the Press" crystalized the moment and underscored just how vulnerable the president suddenly is. [complete article]

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A matter of trust
By Patrick J. Buchanan,, February 11, 2004

Most Americans yet believe President Bush did the right thing in ridding Iraq and the world of Saddam Hussein. Yet, how we were persuaded to go to war raises grave questions about the character and competence of those who led us into it.

As we now know, Iraq had no tie to Osama, no role in 9-11, no nuclear program, no weapons of mass destruction, no plans to attack us. Its people did not threaten us and did not want war with us.

By what right, then, did we invade their country, destroy their army and inflict thousands of casualties upon their people? [complete article]

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Service chiefs challenge White House on the budget
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times, February 11, 2004

In an unusual public display of differences with the White House, the top officers of the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force all raised questions on Tuesday about how the Bush administration plans to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan after the current financing runs out at the end of September. [complete article]

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At least 47 die in Baghdad blast; 2nd attack in 24 hours
By Jeffrey Gettleman and Edward Wong, New York Times, February 11, 2004

In the second deadly strike in Iraq in two days, a suicide bomber careened a car packed with explosives into a crowd of Iraqi Army recruits in central Baghdad, killing at least 47 and wounding at least 50 others, police officials said. The attack today provoked a new wave of fears that the security situation is spinning out of control.

Several Iraqi politicians said the strike, nearly identical to the bombing of an Iraqi police station in the nearby town of Iskandariya on Tuesday, was timed to intimidate a delegation of United Nations election experts who recently arrived to determine if early elections can be held in Iraq.

"These terrorists want to inflame the area to get the United Nations to give up on the idea of elections," said Wael Abdullatif, a judge from the southern city of Basra who sits on the Iraqi Governing Council. "A week ago, things were quiet. But as soon as the delegation arrived, the violence exploded." [complete article]

Comment -- The much publicized terrorist "planning" document alleged to be authored by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian suspected of links to Al Qaeda, along with what are clearly attempts to sabotage the political process of Iraquification, are being portrayed by Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration as evidence of desperation inside an enemy faced with an increasingly successful reconstruction process. These acts of violence are being treated as a form of fanatical Islamic nihilism. Though this might accurately describe the motives of the suicide bombers themselves, it's reasonable to assume that those planning the attacks have practical motives and expectations. The most predictable outcome of suicide attacks against Iraqis is not that they will foment a civil war, but that they will prolong the American occupation. The longer the occupation continues, the more despised America will be across the Middle East. The longer the Iraqi reconstruction process flounders, the more likely it becomes that this or a future president will conclude that it's time to cut and run. If that happens, there can be little doubt that a chant will rise up across the Islamic world that the infidels have been driven out. It's a prospect that America dreads, but as Rumsfeld acknowledges, the advantage is on the side of lone attackers. As he says, "it's impossible to defend in every location against every conceivable kind of attack at every time of the day or night. It is not possible."

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Study of rhetoric on Iraq is urged
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, February 11, 2004

David Kay, the former chief U.S. arms inspector in Iraq, said yesterday that President Bush's new commission on intelligence should study how the president and his senior policymakers used the information they received from intelligence agencies.

"The charges are out there," Kay said during a talk at the U.S. Institute of Peace, "and if there was misuse or distortion, we need to know it." He added that he did not believe that was the case and that he was told to "find the truth" when he was given the job of searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [...]

At the White House yesterday, a senior official would not comment on what the commission would do, but noted that the executive order permits the panel's co-chairmen to set the agenda and meetings after consultation with other members.

Unlike the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which was established by a congressional resolution, the executive order creating the intelligence commission does not mention subpoena power or the authority to take testimony under oath or even hold public hearings. [complete article]

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A cloud over Cheney
Editorial, Boston Globe, February 10, 2004

The Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, French prosecutors, and the Nigerian government are all investigating allegations that a Halliburton subsidiary paid millions of dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials during the 1990s, when Vice President Dick Cheney was the Halliburton CEO. If such payments were made and Cheney approved them, he could be guilty of violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If the payments were made and he did not know about them, he could not have been a hands-on leader of his conglomerate. The nation, in any case, deserves answers before it votes in November if, as President Bush has indicated, he retains Cheney as his running mate. [complete article]

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Nuclear groups question terrorist threat
By Ross Kerber, Boston Globe, February 10, 2004

A top nuclear-safety official has said he wasn't aware that any American nuclear power plant diagrams were found in Afghanistan, despite a terrorist threat cited by President Bush in his State of the Union address two years ago.

Edward McGaffigan Jr., a member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, responding to an environmental group's query, said this month that he testified in 2002 after the speech in at least one closed congressional hearing that he was not aware of any evidence that " `diagrams of American nuclear power plants' had been found in Afghanistan."

McGaffigan's statement has led some groups to assert that Bush either misled the country or mishandled the intelligence about the threat, because the NRC would be expected to play a pivotal role in safeguarding America's nuclear facilities. [complete article]

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Bush at sea
Does this war president have any idea what he's talking about?

By Fred Kaplan, Slate, February 10, 2004

Going over the transcript of Tim Russert's interview with President Bush, a disturbing question comes to mind: Is the president telling lies and playing with semantics, or is he unaware of what's going on-- including inside his own administration?

Two sections of the interview particularly stand out in this regard: a) Bush's defense of the war in Iraq, despite his concession that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction; and b) his views on the war in Vietnam. [complete article]

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9/11 panel threatens to issue subpoena for Bush's briefings
By Philip Shenon, New York Times, February 10, 2004

Members of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks warned the White House on Monday that it could face a politically damaging subpoena this week if it refused to turn over information from the highly classified Oval Office intelligence reports given to President Bush before 9/11.

The panel's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and the former governor of New Jersey, said through a spokesman that he was hopeful an agreement would be worked out before the commission's next meeting, on Tuesday. Commission officials said that negotiations continued throughout the day on Monday and into the evening with the office of Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel.

But other members of the commission said that without an immediate resolution, they would call for a vote on Tuesday on issuing a subpoena to the White House for access to information in the documents. The papers are known as the President's Daily Brief, the intelligence summary prepared each morning for Mr. Bush by the Central Intelligence Agency. [complete article]

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What did the Vice-President do for Halliburton?
By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, February 9, 2004

Vice-President Dick Cheney is well known for his discretion, but his official White House biography, as posted on his Web site, may exceed even his own stringent standards. It traces the sixty-three years from his birth, in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1941, through college and graduate school, and describes his increasingly powerful jobs in Washington. Yet one chapter of Cheney's life is missing. The record notes that he has been a "businessman" but fails to mention the five extraordinarily lucrative years that he spent, immediately before becoming Vice-President, as chief executive of Halliburton, the world's largest oil-and-gas-services company. The conglomerate, which is based in Houston, is now the biggest private contractor for American forces in Iraq; it has received contracts worth some eleven billion dollars for its work there.

Cheney earned forty-four million dollars during his tenure at Halliburton. Although he has said that he "severed all my ties with the company," he continues to collect deferred compensation worth approximately a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, and he retains stock options worth more than eighteen million dollars. He has announced that he will donate proceeds from the stock options to charity.

Such actions have not quelled criticism. Halliburton has become a favorite target for Democrats, who use it as shorthand for a host of doubts about conflicts of interest, undue corporate influence, and hidden motives behind Bush Administration policy -- in particular, its reasons for going to war in Iraq. Like Dow Chemical during the Vietnam War, or Enron three years ago, Halliburton has evolved into a symbol useful in rallying the opposition. On the night that John Kerry won the Iowa caucuses, he took a ritual swipe at the Administration's "open hand" for Halliburton. [complete article]

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Ex-judge on Iraq inquiry 'involved in cover-up'
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, February 10, 2004

Laurence Silberman, a retired judge nominated by the Bush administration as the co-chairman of the commission investigating pre-war intelligence on Iraq, was involved in a major cover-up during the Reagan era, his critics alleged yesterday. [...]

Judge Silberman is most notorious in American liberal circles for his 1990 judgment overturning the conviction of Colonel Oliver North, who admitted his central role in the Iran-Contra affair, in which proceeds from secret arms sales to Iran were diverted illegally to the Contra anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua. [...]

As a former Reagan advisor, Mr Silberman took part in a meeting between top Republicans and Iranian government representatives during the 1980 election campaign, when the Carter administration was trying to negotiate the release of American hostages in Tehran. Those negotiations failed but the hostages were freed five minutes after President Reagan's inauguration, provoking Democrat claims of a secret deal to delay the release in return for military aid. [complete article]

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Doubts, dissent stripped from public version of Iraq assessment
By Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, February 9, 2004

The public version of the U.S. intelligence community's key prewar assessment of Iraq's illicit arms programs was stripped of dissenting opinions, warnings of insufficient information and doubts about deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's intentions, a review of the document and its once-classified version shows.

As a result, the public was given a far more definitive assessment of Iraq's plans and capabilities than President Bush and other U.S. decision-makers received from their intelligence agencies.

The stark differences between the public version and the then top-secret version of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate raise new questions about the accuracy of the public case made for a war that's claimed the lives of more than 500 U.S. service members and thousands of Iraqis. [complete article]

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'Hello, I'm Israeli-Palestinian'
By Peter Hirschberg, Inter Press Service (via, February 10, 2004

Ali Jarbawi has long seen the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, as the best solution to the Middle East conflict. But the professor of political science from Bir Zeit university in the West Bank is not sure any more.

Jarbawi believes the two-state solution is on the verge of extinction, leaving Israelis and Palestinians facing a new reality – the prospect of life in a single binational state.

Jewish settlements built in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have entangled the people, making a solution based on two states look increasingly unlikely. Now, says Jarbawi, the separation barrier Israel is building deep inside the West Bank and which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to turn into a boundary between Israelis and Palestinians is final evidence that Israel is not interested in allowing the creation of a viable Palestinian state. [complete article]

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Israel hems in a sacred city
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, February 10, 2004

Israel is close to finishing a decades-long effort to surround Jerusalem with Jewish settlements, walls, fences and roads that will severely restrict Palestinian access to the city and could reduce the chance of its becoming the capital of a Palestinian state, according to documents, maps and interviews with Israelis, Palestinians and foreign diplomats.

The status of Jerusalem -- a city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians -- is one of the most divisive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides claim Jerusalem as their religious and political capital, but most countries do not officially recognize it as such, and the United States and others keep their embassies in Tel Aviv. Under past Israeli-Palestinian accords, neither side is supposed to take any action to change the city's status, which is to be resolved through negotiation.

Projects to cut off access to Jerusalem to Palestinians living in the West Bank, which borders the city on three sides, have accelerated since the start of the current Palestinian uprising in September 2000. Today, Jewish settlements outside the city have been integrated with the urban core, redrawing the map of Jerusalem and complicating any negotiations over its future and the future of West Bank settlements, Israeli and Palestinian experts say. [complete article]

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Cheney, a little tarnished
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 10, 2004

"Dick Cheney," the president often says at campaign stops, "is the best vice president this nation has ever had." After the applause subsides, he quips: "My mother may not agree."

That joke may be at the elder George Bush's expense, but more often than not these days, Cheney is the one who has been the target of barbs. The word around town is the vice president, once revered as the regent behind the throne of George W. Bush, is becoming something of a liability for his boss. The chattering class is speculating about whether Cheney will be dumped from the ticket in '04, and who should replace him.

Of course, there is very little chance of that happening, assuming Cheney's health remains stable. Bush has committed to having him on the ticket, and Cheney has accepted. Undoing that would undermine Bush's famous loyalty. [complete article]

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Doubts hold back rising star of Iraqi politics
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, February 10, 2004

All week Siham Hattab had been planning to stand in the latest council elections, but at the last minute she had nagging doubts. "No, no. I've changed my mind," she told her astonished colleagues at the council meeting. They were taken aback. [...]

Ms Hattab, a lecturer in English literature at the Mustansiriya University in the capital, was chosen shortly after the war to be one of the few women on the American-created neighbourhood council in Sadr City, a Shia suburb in eastern Baghdad. Soon she was selected to a seat on the larger district council, and then on the more important Baghdad city council. [...]

The dilemma faced by a woman like Ms Hattab, who is so obviously the kind of figure the new Iraq desperately needs to foster, underlines the difficulties the country faces in filling the enormous political vacuum left by the collapse of the Ba'ath regime.

When does cooperation with the American authorities become collaboration with an unloved occupation? How does Iraq nurture a generation of politicians at a time of frustration, violence and disillusionment with reconstruction? [complete article]

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Rifts increase Iraqis' fear for the future
By Neela Banerjee, New York Times, February 10, 2004

The closer Iraqis get to sovereignty, the more they voice fears that ethnic and religious differences could fracture their nation.

Generations of colonialism followed by Saddam Hussein's rule drove fissures through Iraqi society that are now widening as politicians and clerics appeal to religion and ethnicity in advancing their demands. In the angry clamoring of Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and of Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds in the north, many Iraqis, foreign diplomats and allied military officers say they discern the first smoke of broad communal strife. [complete article]

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Bush aides testify in leak probe
By Mike Allen and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, February 10, 2004

A federal grand jury has questioned one current and two former aides to President Bush, and investigators have interviewed several others, in an effort to discover who revealed the name of an undercover CIA officer to a newspaper columnist, sources involved in the case said yesterday.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday that he talked to the grand jury on Friday. Mary Matalin, former counselor to Vice President Cheney, testified Jan. 23, the sources said. Adam Levine, a former White House press official, also testified Friday, the sources said.

None is suspected by prosecutors of having exposed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, but they were questioned about White House public relations strategy, the sources said. [complete article]

See also Top Bush aide is questioned in CIA leak (New York Times).

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Jones breaks cover again: Blair raised 'false expectations'
By Paul Waugh, The Independent, February 10 2004

Tony Blair undermined the global fight against weapons proliferation by raising "false expectations" about Iraq's arsenal and by marginalising intelligence experts, Brian Jones, the key witness of the Hutton inquiry, has warned.

Dr Jones said there was a real danger that the failure to find chemical and biological weapons would lead the public to conclude that Mr Blair's justification for war was "a political sleight of hand".

In his first media interview, Dr Jones also told The Independent that intelligence on the Government's 45-minutes claim was so threadbare that it was impossible to know whether it referred to battlefield or strategic weapons. [complete article]

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Bush's Vietnam service
By Richard Cohen, Washinton Post, February 10, 2004

During the Vietnam War, I was what filmmaker Michael Moore would call a "deserter." Along with President Bush and countless other young men, I joined the National Guard, did my six months of active duty (basic training, etc.) and then returned to my home unit, where I eventually dropped from sight. In the end, just like President Bush, I got an honorable discharge. But unlike President Bush, I have just told the truth about my service. He hasn't.

At least I don't think so. Nothing about Bush during that period -- not his drinking, not his partying -- suggests that he was a consistently conscientious member of the Texas or Alabama Air National Guard. As it happens, there are no records to show that Bush reported for duty during the summer and fall of 1972. Nonetheless, Bush insists he was where he was supposed to be -- "Otherwise I wouldn't have been honorably discharged," Bush told Tim Russert. Please, sir, don't make me laugh.

It is sort of amazing that every four or eight years, Vietnam -- that long-ago war -- rears up from seemingly nowhere and comes to figure in the national political debate. In 1988 Dan Quayle had to answer for his National Guard service. In 1992 Bill Clinton had to grapple with the question of how he avoided the Vietnam-era draft. Now George Bush, who faced this question the last time out, has to face it again. The reason is that this time he is likely to compete against a genuine war hero. John Kerry did not duck the war. [complete article]

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Antiwar forum in Iowa brings Federal subpoenas
By Monica Davey, New York Times, February 10, 2004

To hear the antiwar protesters describe it, their forum at a local university last fall was like so many others they had held over the years. They talked about the nonviolent philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., they said, and how best to convey their feelings about Iraq into acts of civil disobedience.

But last week, subpoenas began arriving seeking details about the forum's sponsor -- its leadership list, its annual reports, its office location -- and the event itself. On Monday, lawyers for the sponsor, the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, went to court in an effort to block the federal prosecutors' demands.

Those who attended the forum, at least four of whom said they had received subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury on Tuesday, said that they did not know what to make of the inquiry and that they feared it was intended to quash protest. [complete article]

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Democracy and robbery
By Naomi Klein, The Guardian, February 10, 2004

If you believe the White House, the future government of Iraq is being designed in Iraq. If you believe the Iraqi people, however, it is being designed in the White House. Technically, neither is true; Iraq's future government is being engineered in an anonymous research park in suburban North Carolina.

On March 4 last year, with the military campaign just 15 days away, the United States agency for international development asked three American firms to bid for a unique job; after Iraq had been invaded and occupied, one company would be charged with setting up 180 local and provincial town councils in the rubble.

This was newly imperial territory for firms that were more accustomed to the friendly NGO-speak of "public-private partnerships", and two of the three companies decided not to apply. The "local governance" contract, worth $167.9m in the first year and up to $466m in total, went to the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), a private non-profit-making body best known for its drug research. None of its employees had been to Iraq in years. [complete article]

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Salam Pax's father meets Ayatollah Sistani
By Salam Pax, Where is Raed?, February 7, 2004

What impressed my father was the fact that Sistani is much more moderate than the media portrays him. He is very flexible about the way these elections should look like, and sees no problem in them going along in stages. He is also ready to endorse a postponement of these elections if there is no agreement on how they should take place. What he does mind is any form of intermediate stage, if it didn't work out at the planned time we should keep the status quo until we find a way. He said something along the lines that increasing the Governing Council from 25 to 250 will change nothing, and if the Americans move what they have in their left hand to their right hand it is still in their possession. Basically, either do it right or don't, which sounds reasonable. [complete article]

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The wars of the Texas succession
By Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books, February 26, 2004

Here's a true story that came too late to make it into Kevin Phillips's American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, but it fits perfectly with its thesis. As all the world knows, Halliburton, the company that made Dick Cheney rich, has been given multibillion-dollar contracts, without competitive bidding, in occupied Iraq. Suspicions of profiteering are widespread; critics think they have found a smoking gun in the case of gasoline imports. For Halliburton has been charging the US authorities in Iraq remarkably high prices for fuel -- far above local spot prices.

The company denies wrongdoing, saying that its prices in Baghdad reflect the prices it has to pay its Kuwaiti supplier. That's not quite true; Halliburton's reported expenses for transporting gasoline are, for some reason, much higher than anyone else's. But the real question is why Halliburton chose that particular supplier -- a company with little experience in the oil business, mysteriously selected as the sole source of gasoline after what appears to have been a highly improper bidding procedure. Why did it get the job? We don't know. But it's interesting to note that the company appears to be closely connected with the al-Sabahs, Kuwait's royal family. And the al-Sabahs, in turn, have in the past had close business ties with the Bush family, in particular the President's brother Marvin.

In any previous administration -- at least any administration of the past seventy years -- this sort of incestuous relationship among foreign governments, private businesses, and the personal fortunes of people in or close to the US government would have been considered unusual and prima facie scandalous. What we learn from Kevin Phillips's new book, however, is that this kind of intertwining of public policy and personal self-interest has been standard operating procedure not just for George W. Bush, but for his entire family. [complete article]

Kevin Phillips' new book, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush is available here.

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Brothers in arms?
A chronology of the Kerry-Bush war years

Mother Jones, February 8, 2004

George W. Bush and John Kerry both spent their mid twenties in uniform. The similarities end there. [complete article]

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Letter: Bin Laden has recruiting problems
By Jim Krane, Associated Press (via Yahoo), February 9, 2004

A letter seized from an al-Qaida courier shows Osama bin Laden has made little headway in recruiting Iraqis for a holy war against America, raising questions about the Bush administration's contention that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.

The 17-page letter, cited as a key piece of intelligence that offered a rare window into foreign terrorist operations in Iraq, appealed to al-Qaida leaders to help spark a civil war between Iraq's two main Muslim sects in an effort to "tear the country apart," U.S. officials said Monday. [complete article]

See also U.S. says files seek Qaeda aid in Iraq conflict (New York Times).

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Gore says Bush betrayed the U.S. by using 9/11 as a reason for war in Iraq
By Katherine Q. Seelye, New York Times, February 9, 2004

In a withering critique of the Bush administration, former Vice President Al Gore on Sunday accused the president of betraying the country by using the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification for the invasion of Iraq.

"He betrayed this country!" Mr. Gore shouted into the microphone at a rally of Tennessee Democrats here in a stuffy hotel ballroom. "He played on our fears. He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place."

The speech had several hundred Democrats roaring their approval for Mr. Gore, the party's 2000 standard-bearer. [complete article]

Comment -- After November 2, 2004, we may well look back and see that Al Gore's role in the election turned out to be decisive. When Gore endorsed Howard Dean, some Democrats felt like Gore was pre-judging the outcome of the Primaries and attempting to anoint a winner before any votes had been cast. Whatever his intentions may have been, he added a significant thrust to the momentum of the Dean campaign with the effect of legitimizing dissent and invigorating the whole Democratic campaign. If Democrats now have greater confidence in de-throning Bush, it is thanks in large part to both Dean and Gore.

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Now they tell us
By Michael Massing, New York Review of Books, February 26, 2004

In recent months, US news organizations have rushed to expose the Bush administration's pre-war failings on Iraq. "Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper," declared a recent headline in The Washington Post. "Pressure Rises for Probe of Prewar-Intelligence," said The Wall Street Journal. "So, What Went Wrong?" asked Time. In The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh described how the Pentagon set up its own intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, to sift for data to support the administration's claims about Iraq. And on "Truth, War and Consequences," a Frontline documentary that aired last October, a procession of intelligence analysts testified to the administration's use of what one of them called "faith-based intelligence."

Watching and reading all this, one is tempted to ask, where were you all before the war? Why didn't we learn more about these deceptions and concealments in the months when the administration was pressing its case for regime change -- when, in short, it might have made a difference? Some maintain that the many analysts who've spoken out since the end of the war were mute before it. But that's not true. Beginning in the summer of 2002, the "intelligence community" was rent by bitter disputes over how Bush officials were using the data on Iraq. Many journalists knew about this, yet few chose to write about it. [complete article]

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Scalia travel sparks new questions about recusals
By Charles Lane, Washington Post, February 9, 2004

Recent socializing between Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Vice President Cheney -- who is a named party in a case before the court -- has sparked renewed scrutiny of the court's practices for deciding when justices should recuse themselves from hearing cases to avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

Though federal law prescribes disqualification in certain specific situations, the rules are in many instances open to interpretation and leave the final outcome up to each justice. And because the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, those decisions, unlike those of lower-court judges, can be reviewed by no other authority.

When members of the court recuse from cases, they almost never publicly explain their reasons for doing so. And rarely do they make public their reasons for deciding to sit on a case after considering recusal.

The justices "are the only judges in the country, maybe the whole world, who are the sole determiners of their own partiality," said Steven Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University. [complete article]

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Pentagon clip service's clips clipped
By Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, February 9, 2004

Senior Pentagon managers have repeatedly ordered the department's widely read clipping service to exclude articles critical of the military and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to officials familiar with the practice.

Staffers at the Early Bird, whose service is devoured by Pentagon brass, lawmakers, journalists and military personnel around the world, were told to eliminate all newsmagazine articles last October -- four days after the publication of a Newsweek cover story on Iraq that included "Rummy's New Headaches" and a Time piece titled "Is Rumsfeld Losing His Mojo?" [complete article]

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Bush, aides ignored CIA caveats on Iraq
By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest, Washington Post, February 7, 2004

In its fall 2002 campaign to win congressional support for a war against Iraq, President Bush and his top advisers ignored many of the caveats and qualifiers included in the classified report on Saddam Hussein's weapons that CIA Director George J. Tenet defended Thursday.

In fact, they made some of their most unequivocal assertions about unconventional weapons before the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was completed. [complete article]

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Bush's missing National Guard service partially resolved
By Kevin Drum,, February 8, 2004

As we all know, Bush failed to show up for his annual physical in July 1972, he was suspended in August, and the suspension was recorded on September 29. He was apparently transferred to ARF at that time and began accumulating ARF points in October.

ARF is a "paper unit" based in Denver that requires no drills and no attendance. For active guard members it is disciplinary because ARF members can theoretically be called up for active duty in the regular military, although this obviously never happened to George Bush.

To make a long story short, Bush apparently blew off drills beginning in May 1972, failed to show up for his physical, and was then grounded and transferred to ARF as a disciplinary measure. He didn't return to his original Texas Guard unit and cram in 36 days of active duty in 1973 -- as Time magazine and others continue to assert based on a mistaken interpretation of Bush's 1973-74 ARF record -- but rather accumulated only ARF points during that period. In fact, it's unclear even what the points on the ARF record are for, but what is clear is that Bush's official records from Texas show no actual duty after May 1972, as his Form 712 Master Personnel Record from the Texas Air National Guard clearly indicates: [complete article]

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Armor from home
By Keith Garvin, ABC News, February 7, 2004

Pene Palifka, a proud and protective mother, worries about her son, Billy, a specialist with the National Guard deployed in Iraq. She reads his letters home almost daily.

"I just can't wait for him to come home," she said. "We'll celebrate that day."

Concerned about her son's safety, Palifka recently spent $1,100 of her own money on armored chest plates to protect him and others from enemy fire.

"[By] purchasing something for my son, then that means hopefully somewhere down the line somebody else that's overseas will have adequate equipment," Pene Palifka said.

It's become an almost routine practice for deploying troops and their families. [complete article]

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Bush family values: war, wealth, oil
By Kevin Phillips, Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2004

Despite February polls showing President Bush losing his early reelection lead, he's still the favorite. No modern president running unopposed in his party's primaries and caucuses has ever lost in November.

But there may be a key to undoing that precedent. The two Bush presidencies are so closely linked, especially over Iraq, that the 43rd can't be understood apart from the 41st. Beyond that, for a full portrait of what the Bushes are about, we must return to the family's emergence on the national scene in the early 20th century.

This four-generation evolution of the Bushes involves multiple links that could become Bush's election-year Achilles' heel -- if a clever and tough 2004 Democratic opponent can punch and slice at them. Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, the clear Democratic front-runner, could be best positioned to do so. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he investigated the Iran-Contra and Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandals, both of which touched George H.W. Bush's Saudi, Iraqi and Middle Eastern arms-deal entanglements.

Washington lawyer Jack Blum, the ace investigator for Kerry's subcommittee back then, is said to be advising him now, which could be meaningful. Ironically, the Bush family's century of involvement in oil, armaments and global intrigue has never been at the center of the national debate since the Bushes starting running for president in 1980.[complete article]

Kevin Phillips' latest book, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush is available here.

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Israeli minister promotes missionary activity in Israel
By Ilil Shahar, Maariv International, February 9, 2004

Minister of Tourism Benny Elon has once again proven how correct the adage that politics makes strange bedfellows can be.

Last week he appealed to missionary organizations in the US to assist him in his peace program by increasing their activities in Israel among the Palestinians and Israeli Moslem populations, converting them to Christianity.

"Go from mosque to mosque and bring the Moslems the light", said Elon. "Go to all the Moslem murderers who have forgotten that it is forbidden to kill and turn them into believing Christians and good people". At the same time Elon warned them not to attempt to persuade Jews to convert to Christianity. [complete article]

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Undeserving of compassion
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, February 8, 2004

Whenever talk of evacuating settlements starts, it's immediately accompanied by the phrase "the painful price." Evacuation of settlements, we have been habituated to believe, is synonymous with "national pain" and "trauma." Yet why should this be so? It's understandable, of course, that people who are uprooted from their place of residence and who loved their home, will not leave joyfully. It's never pleasant to move from a beloved place to which we have grown accustomed to a new place. Not pleasant, but not so terrible, either, especially when it's possible to return to the place you came from not so long ago. True, it's possible to believe that some of the settlers will experience true grief, just as others will breathe a huge sigh of relief - but it's a long way from here to turning the evacuation into an object of national mourning. [complete article]

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The U.S. media and the Wall: Thomas Friedman and 60 Minutes
By David Bloom, Patrick Connors, and Tom Wallace, Electronic Intifada, February 4, 2004

Why do Americans understand so little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the damage created by Israel's colossal West Bank Wall?

The self-imposed US media blackout on the Wall's construction finally began to lift last August when President Bush mentioned the problems created by Israel's Wall "snaking its way through the West Bank." Last December, a year and half after bulldozers began cutting the Wall's path through Palestinian villages, Thomas Friedman hosted a Discovery Channel program in association with The New York Times, and Bob Simon anchored a CBS 60 Minutes segment introducing the controversy surrounding one of the world's largest construction projects.

The Friedman/Discovery program was muddled, but Simon's shorter yet stronger 60 Minutes segment presented a clear picture of the devastation resulting from the Wall's construction. All of the US media's failures in reporting on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict are played out to varying degrees within these two television productions. There are many reasons for the media blackout and failures, but the most important is probably fear that criticism of Israel, even reporting the truth about what Israel is doing, is quickly labeled anti-Semitic. [complete article]

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Not everyone got it wrong on Iraq's weapons
By Scott Ritter, International Herald Tribune, February 6, 2004

'We were all wrong," David Kay, the Bush administration's former top weapons sleuth in Iraq, recently told members of Congress after acknowledging that there were probably no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Kay insisted that the blame for the failure to find any such weapons lay with the U.S. intelligence community, which, according to Kay, provided inaccurate assessments.

The Kay remarks appear to be an attempt to spin potentially damaging data to the political advantage of President George W. Bush.

The president's decision to create an "independent commission" to investigate this intelligence failure only reinforces this suspicion, since such a commission would only be given the mandate to examine intelligence data, and not the policies and decision-making processes that made use of that data. More disturbing, the commission's findings would be delayed until late fall, after the November presidential election.

The fact, independent of the findings of any commission, is that not everyone was wrong. [complete article]

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Who was that at the shredder
By Richard Tomlinson, February 9, 2004, The Guardian

The Butler inquiry will irritate the secret intelligence service, the Foreign Office and the defence intelligence service, none of which will welcome such unprecedented delving into their procedures and integrity. But I am confident that Lord Butler's report will exonerate all three principal players in the intelligence bureaucracy. John Scarlett, the joint intelligence committee chairman, may, however, be sleeping less easily. [complete article]

Richard Tomlinson worked for MI6 from 1991 to 1995. He was jailed under the Official Secrets Act for attempting to publish his memoirs

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Blix says war leaders acted like salesmen
By Sarah Hall and Richard Norton Taylor, February 9, 2004, The Guardian

The former UN chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, weighed into the controversy over weapons of mass destruction yesterday when he accused Tony Blair and George Bush of behaving like insincere salesmen who "exaggerated" intelligence in an attempt to win support for war.

In a carefully worded attack, Dr Blix said intelligence communities were too ready to believe the "tales" of defectors, and the British prime minister and US president, while not acting in bad faith, were too preoccupied with spin.

Referring to the government's controversial dossier, with its suggestion that WMDs could be deployed within 45 minutes, he insisted: "The intention was to dramatise it, just as the vendors of some merchandise are trying to exaggerate the importance of what they have. [complete article]

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Terror by another name
By Mike Ferner (Veterans for Peace),, February 9, 2004

If a "rogue nation" or swarthy men with foreign accents did it, we know what we'd call it. What the world's most powerful military did to the village of Abou Siffa must be called the same thing: terrorism. [complete article]

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The real voice of America
By Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun, February 8, 2004

I've received a huge e-mail response from around the globe in reply to my last Sunday Sun column. In it, I contended that George Bush's fabricated war against Iraq was a far worse crime than Watergate, and said the president and his men were either liars or unbelievably inept.

Most messages, about seven in every 10 by my estimate, came from Americans.

These messages do not represent a reliable cross-section of U.S. public opinion, of course. They are simply what was known as a "convenience sample" when I worked in market research. But they reveal much about the changing mood in America. [complete article]

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The White House: a new fight over secret 9/11 docs
By Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, February 16, 2004

The White House is facing a new battle with the federal panel investigating 9/11. To mollify the panel chair, former governor Thomas Kean, President George W. Bush last week reversed course and agreed to a two-month extension that is supposed to ensure a final 9/11 report by July. But that might not be enough. Commission sources tell Newsweek that panel members are fed up with what one calls "maddening" restrictions by White House lawyers on their access to key documents. Unless the panel gets to see the docs, the report "will not withstand the laugh test," a commission official says. The panel is threatening to force a showdown soon -- by voting to subpoena the White House. [complete article]

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Bush concedes flaws in Iraq weapons data
By Edwin Chen, Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2004

President Bush on Sunday conceded for the first time that he relied on flawed assumptions and inaccurate information in launching the Iraq war, but he denied having intentionally misled the American people.

Sounding far from defensive, however, a forceful Bush said repeatedly that he had made the right decision to oust Saddam Hussein. "It's a war of necessity," the president said, declaring that he had "no choice" but to attack because the Iraqi dictator was a dangerous "madman." [complete article]

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Lost in credibility gulch
By Bob Herbert, New York Times, February 9, 2004

The question: What can we believe?

The president is genial enough, but it might be time for a bipartisan truth squad to follow him around, sorting out the facts from his musings, speculations, fantasies and mis-rememberings.

Iraq has shown us the trouble that can lurk in the gaps between reality and whatever it is that George W. Bush believes or says. Tim Russert, during his hourlong interview with Mr. Bush on NBC's "Meet the Press," displayed a quote from the president's address to the nation last March 17:

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

More than 500 American troops and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war that was launched on that faulty data. And the war goes on. [complete article]

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Confronting the nuclear threat America didn't want to be true
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, February 8, 2004

To many intelligence experts in Washington, [Pakistan's nuclear mastermind] Mr. Khan was a threat far more urgent and imminent than Mr. Hussein. For 15 years he peddled his recipes, and the equipment to do the mixing, to the highest bidders. There were many takers: Iran, North Korea, Libya and probably customers whose names have not surfaced yet. "He's the real-life Dr. No,'' a senior American intelligence official said the other day, referring to the evil antagonist of James Bond lore. "Only more terrifying.''

After years of denials, his own and the Pakistani government's, Dr. Khan finally confessed last week. George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, portrayed the unmasking of the Khan operation as a brilliant act of American spycraft. He said the C.I.A. had been tracking Dr. Khan for years, which is true.

But as in Iraq, the story of the intelligence is more complex, a puzzle whose pieces were scattered around the globe. Many were not found until the damage had been done. "We knew he was trading in missiles, and suspected he was getting into the nuclear business as well," Gary Samore, the head of nonproliferation in the Clinton Administration's national security council, recalled not long ago. "But I don't think we knew he was the supplier for Iran's program." Or for Libya's, a fact that emerged over the past year or so, and was not confirmed until inspectors sent bomb designs - for a Pakistani adaptation of a Chinese design - back to Washington two weeks ago.

And as with Iraq, a critical question is how intelligence was put to use. In his efforts to stem proliferation, Mr. Bush has threatened sanctions against Iran and Libya. He demanded that North Korea accept inspections. But General Musharraf has been allowed to play by different rules. [complete article]

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Treasure hunters need reliable maps
By William M. Arkin, Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2004

Every day, according to a recent National Security Agency briefing, the United States and its eavesdropping partners intercept more that 650 million "events": radar signals, radio and data transmissions, satellite, cell and land-line phone calls, faxes and e-mail and text messages.

The signals, in dozens of languages -- and sometimes encrypted with sophisticated codes -- flow into a dozen or so centers around the world where the majority are processed automatically by computers. Some of the information ultimately finds its way into the 10,000 thematic and geographic "product reports" that are sent each day to analysts at the NSA, CIA and military intelligence agencies and commands.

Add to this flood of information hundreds of thousands of reconnaissance photos, human agent and law enforcement reports, prisoner debriefings and document translations -- not to mention a cascade of "open source" newspapers and broadcasts -- and you begin to understand the intelligence failures of Iraq and Sept. 11. [complete article]

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'Sanctions worked'
By Lally Weymouth, Newsweek, February 9, 2004

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meant to be the watchdog of the nuclear world, has been shouldered aside by the Bush administration in Iraq and Libya and kicked out of North Korea by Kim Jong Il. Yet now that even Washington admits that Saddam didn't have an active nuclear program, and with the contours of a global black market in nuclear technology coming to light, the agency may soon resume its central role in the fight against nuclear proliferation. In an interview with newsweek's Lally Weymouth, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei discussed the challenges ahead. [complete article]

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The terrible human cost of Bush and Blair's military adventure: 10,000 civilian deaths
By David Randall, The Independent, February 8, 2004

More than 10,000 civilians, many of them women and children, have been killed so far in the Iraqi conflict, The Independent on Sunday has learnt, making the continuing conflict the most deadly war for non-combatants waged by the West since the Vietnam war more than 30 years ago.

The passing of this startling milestone will be recorded today by Iraq Body Count, the most authoritative organisation monitoring the human cost of the war. Since the invasion began in March, this group of leading academics and campaigners has registered all civilian deaths in Iraq attributable to the conflict. They do this in the absence of any counts by US, British, or Baghdad authorities.[complete article]

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The lie factory
By Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest, Mother Jones, January/February, 2004

Until now, the story of how the Bush administration produced its wildly exaggerated estimates of the threat posed by Iraq has never been revealed in full. But, for the first time, a detailed investigation by Mother Jones, based on dozens of interviews‚ -- some on the record, some with officials who insisted on anonymity‚ -- exposes the workings of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and of the Defense Department's war-planning task force, the Office of Special Plans. It's the story of a close-knit team of ideologues who spent a decade or more hammering out plans for an attack on Iraq and who used the events of September 11, 2001, to set it into motion. [complete article]

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The Vietnam vet will win
By Will Hutton, The Observer, February 8, 2004

Vietnam veterans now hold a particular place in US life. They may have fought in America's most controversial war before Iraq, but their physical and psychological wounds are testimony to the fact they served their country even in a futile cause. (Their war culminated in an ignominious scuttle but strategically it bought the rest of South-East Asia more than a decade in which to deliver the capitalist Asian miracle; the immediate war was lost but a bigger struggle for economic power was eventually won.)

It is testimony to the profound dominance of conservatism on the American national consensus, with the noxious charge of not being patriotic that is levelled by Bush against any critic, that the best way any liberal voice can fireproof himself against such a charge is to play the Vietnam vet card. As Kerry says, in order to be heard about the rollcall of domestic issues that concern ordinary Americans, any Democratic presidential candidate has to get past the security issue; being a decorated Vietnam vet offers Kerry the passport.

So now for one safe-ish forecast and one risky prediction, which I wish I had written last May when I first met the Kerry camp. Kerry is going to win the nomination to be the Democrat presidential candidate and I think he will go on to beat George Bush. American democracy may have its grievous defects - the role of money, the grotesquely gerrymandered congressional districts, the low turnouts and all the rest - but it still retains a core functionality.

Bush led his country into an illegitimate war for trumped-up reasons; the consequent morass is already costing more than $100 billion, many American lives and profoundly compromising US and Western interests. In a democracy, you pay for such fundamental misjudgments with your job and Bush will pay with his. [complete article]

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Vietnam steals Iraq war's thunder in U.S. campaign
By Paul Harris, The Observer, February 8, 2004

Mike Medeiros vividly remembers the fresh-faced, tall commander of his river patrol boat. He remembers the long days cruising the Mekong river in Vietnam. He remembers the boredom and also the deadly firefights.

Most of all he remembers the intense wartime bonds forged between the crew of Swift Boat No 94. 'We were a crew then and we are still a crew now. We always will be there for each other,' he said.

He is right. Now Medeiros's captain, a certain Yale student called John F. Kerry, is running for the presidency of the United States. Medeiros and the other crew members are campaigning hard for him. They appear at rallies and in campaign literature. 'It is kind of strange. I would never have thought we all would have ended up here,' he said, fresh from stumping for Kerry in Arizona. [complete article]

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How spies chose the intelligence that justified war
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, February 8, 2004

As inquiries get under way on both sides of the Atlantic into the failures of intelligence over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, inquiry members may want to read a little purple book.

Published in 1999 by the CIA's Centre for the Study of Intelligence, The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, by Richards Heuer is a crib sheet for how spooks and politicians get it wrong. Written by a career CIA official, who worked both in the Directorates of Operations and Intelligence, it frames a simple warning. In the widespread use by the CIA and other agencies of 'situational logic', writes Heuer, there is a risk. 'Most analysis is conducted in a manner very similar to the satisficing mode (selecting the first identified alternative that appears "good enough"),' he says.

'The analyst identifies what appears to be the most likely hypothesis - that is, the tentative estimate, explanation, or description of the situation that appears most accurate. Data are collected and organised according to whether they support this tentative judgment, and the hypothesis is accepted if it seems to provide a reasonable fit to the data.'

In other words, argues Heuer, unwittingly intelligence analysts can be fooled into assembling the case that appears 'most likely', rather than challenging the evidence to find out what is actually true. And according to recently retired intelligence professionals on both sides of the Atlantic, on the issue of Iraq's WMD that is precisely what occurred. [complete article]

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Britain spied on U.N. allies over war vote
By Martin Bright and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, February 8, 2004

Britain helped America to conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the United Nations in the run-up to the Iraq war, The Observer can reveal.

The operation, which targeted at least one permanent member of the UN Security Council, was almost certainly in breach of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations, which strictly outlaw espionage at the UN missions in New York.

Translators and analysts at the Government's top-secret surveillance centre GCHQ were ordered to co-operate with an American espionage 'surge' on Security Council delegations after a request from the US National Security Agency at the end of January 2003. This was designed to help smooth the way for a second UN resolution authorising war in Iraq. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Get your Bush docs here!
By Timothy Noah, Slate, February 6, 2004
The various revelations in Ron Suskind's book The Price of Loyalty are based largely on a trove of 19,000 documents that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gave him. Some have criticized Suskind for striking a Faustian bargain in which he accepted at face value O'Neill's often comically outsized self-regard in exchange for the information O'Neill was in a position to provide about the inner workings of the Bush White House (which might be summed up by the formula, "Crude Political Calculation + Discipline = Success"). But whatever his personal failings and shortcomings as Treasury secretary (some of them previously documented in Chatterbox's "O'Neill Death Watch"), O'Neill is a smart and principled man whose blunt storytelling, supplemented by Suskind's independent reporting, provides what is by far the most vivid and valuable accounting of this administration. And unlike the typical White House memoirist, O'Neill made sure the public would have the documents to back up his description of what he saw.

Hell walking on earth
By Mustafa Barghouti, Al-Ahram, February 5, 2004
The disastrous cycle of violence gripping Israel and Palestine receives plentiful news coverage. Largely unreported however, are the more insidious aspects of the conflict. Israel has committed a litany of atrocities during its occupation of Palestine, but the crimes visited daily upon the innocent civilians of Rafah are among the most heinous. Even in the wider context of the occupation as a whole, Rafah's situation is particularly tragic, and the conditions imposed on its citizens increasingly desperate. There can be no doubt that Israeli policy in Rafah amounts to a process of ethnic cleansing, and, as has been so often the case throughout history, a humanitarian catastrophe is being allowed to continue unimpeded. The world sits idly by.

Pakistan's nuclear aces win the day
Asia Times/Inter Press Service, February 6, 2004
Washington certainly knows that the Pakistani government is implicated in the clandestine [nuclear] commerce, but Musharraf is a far too valuable an ally at the moment to be compromised. The United States needs him to curb the Taliban, to catch Osama bin Laden and the remnants of al-Qaeda who are hiding out in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, and as a potential leader of a moderate Islamic state at a strategic location. As is so often the case, Washington appears to be driven more by its short-term tactical needs than the truth.

Trimming the fat
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, February 3, 2004
To grasp the magnitude of President Bush's $420.7 billion military budget request, which he submitted to Congress on Monday, let's compare it with the military budget for 1968, the peak year of the Vietnam War. Adjusted for inflation, the budget that year -- when a half-million soldiers were fighting in Southeast Asia and a garrison of armored divisions in Europe were still facing Soviet forces along the East-West German border -- totaled $428 billion. It's remarkable enough that Bush's budget seems to be only slightly smaller than that earlier wartime budget, but in fact it's much larger.

Gun-barrel democracy has failed time and again
By George W. Downs and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2004
When it involves itself in the affairs of others, the United States likes to say that it is doing so in defense of freedom and democracy. That's what we said in Iraq, among other things, when we toppled Saddam Hussein. That was part (though not all) of our argument for going after the Taliban in Afghanistan. But it's also what we said in Vietnam in the 1960s, in Grenada in 1983, in Panama in 1989 and in numerous other interventions during the 20th century.

Bush's inquiry into Iraq intelligence must include Cheney, Pentagon
By Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Joseph L. Galloway, Knight Ridder, February 2, 2004
What went wrong with intelligence on Iraq will never be known unless the inquiry proposed by President Bush examines secret intelligence efforts led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon hawks, current and former U.S officials said Monday.

We had good intel -- the U.N.'s
By Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, February 9, 2004
"We were all wrong," says weapons inspector David Kay. Actually, no. There was one group whose prewar estimates of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities have turned out to be devastatingly close to reality -- the U.N. inspectors.

Bush and the ayatollah
By Salim Lone, The Guardian, February 3, 2004
Having made bitter enemies of the Sunnis early in the occupation and more recently through Israeli-style tactics in their civilian areas, [Paul Bremer's team] was reckless to challenge Sistani, whose implicit acquiescence in the occupation has been instrumental in restraining an open Shia revolt. But this support was explicitly predicated on speedy elections. Astonishingly, this powerful cleric's concern was ignored. So he has now added an even tougher demand: that any decision on asking coalition forces to stay after the handover can be taken only by an elected body. Sistani is in effect incrementally challenging the whole range of occupation policies, riddled as they have been with blunders of breathtaking magnitude.

Restoring trust in America
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post, February 2, 2004
Whether or how our national leadership should be held accountable for having inaccurately asserted, at war's outset, that Iraq was armed with weapons of mass destruction is ultimately a matter for the politicians to debate and the electorate to resolve. But two consequences with ominous implications for our national security call for a more urgent response: U.S. credibility worldwide has been badly hurt by the WMD affair, and U.S. intelligence capabilities have been exposed as woefully inadequate.

A half-truth may not be a lie, but it is still dishonest
By David Clark, The Guardian, February 2, 2004
It may be impossible to pin the prime minister down to a straight lie, but it isn't necessary either. We know from Hutton (the inquiry, not the report) the numerous ways in which Downing Street officials subtly altered the dossier to make Iraq seem a bigger threat than they knew it to be. A sentence revealing that Saddam could not attack Britain was simply deleted. The key judgment that Saddam would be prepared to use chemical and biological weapons "if he believes his regime is under threat" was altered by the removal of those words after Blair's chief of staff spotted the obvious difficulty they posed. A defensive intention thus assumed the appearance of an offensive threat. Even the original title of the document, Iraq's Programmes for Weapons of Mass Destruction, was made to sound more menacing with the removal of "programmes for".

The mess in Afghanistan
By Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books, February 12, 2004
Late in the summer of 2003, with American forces bogged down in Iraq and Saddam Hussein still at large, the Bush administration appeared to have what one senior US official in Kabul described to me as an epiphany. With no turning point in Iraq in sight, he said, no accomplishment that might help the President's approval rating as the country entered an election year, Bush's advisers decided that Afghanistan needed to be turned into a success story.

What went wrong
By John Barry and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, February 9, 2004
[What members of the Arms Control & Non-Proliferation Advisory Board found in 1998] was that the CIA's intel on Iraqi WMD was largely speculative. "There were suspicions, hints, but nothing hard," says one member. "The agency analysts' basic argument was: 'Saddam must be hiding something, or why would he be putting his people through all this?' " The absence of hard evidence was so striking, in fact, that panel members recall discussing "the Wizard of Oz theory: that the whole Iraq WMD program was smoke-and-mirrors, and Saddam was just a little guy behind a curtain."

U.S. officials knew in May Iraq possessed no WMD
By Peter Beaumont, Gaby Hinsliff and Paul Harris, The Observer, February 1, 2004
Intelligence sources, policy makers and weapons inspectors familiar with the details of the hunt for WMD told The Observer it was widely known that Iraq had no WMD within three weeks of Baghdad falling, despite the assertions of senior Bush administration figures and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

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