|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Turning into Israel?
By Juan Cole, Salon.com, April 16, 2004
One year after Baghdad fell to victorious U.S. troops, the Americans had to conquer the country all over again. The great rebellion of April 2004 expelled the U.S. from much of the capital, humiliated coalition allies, cut supply and communications lines to the south, and revealed a reservoir of popular hatred for the U.S. among both some Sunni Arabs in Fallujah and some Shiites in their cities. But perhaps the most ominous development for the U.S. was that the events tied together two occupations and two intifadas, or popular uprisings -- Iraq and Palestine.
In his press conference of April 13, President Bush gave several reasons for cracking down on Iraqi insurgents. He said their motivation was the same as those who set off bombs in Jerusalem; he tied them to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, executed by al-Qaida in part for being Jewish. He also cited Shiite radical Muqtada al-Sadr's support for the Palestinian Hamas organization and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah party. He gave as one reason for having gone to war against Saddam Hussein the former dictator's support for Palestinian terrorists. In this speech, he presented the Iraq war and its violent aftermath as an extension of the Israeli struggle to subjugate the Palestinians and Hezbollah.
Before the war, Bush connected nonexistent dots between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. Now he and his neoconservative brain trust are mapping the Iraq conflict onto the Likud Party agenda in Palestine. This time, however, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy -- and one that will have devastating repercussions for U.S. interests in both Iraq and the entire Arab world. [complete article]
Who will speak out?
By Ronan Bennett, The Guardian, April 17, 2004
What does it take to get a New Labour politician to speak out on Iraq? I'm not talking about the likes of Blair, Hoon and Straw - key players so deeply implicated in the cruel tragedy of conquest and occupation that they have no option but to stay the course, even as it spirals into slaughter and chaos. But there are ministers and backbenchers with a history of commitment to human rights. What does it take to shock them out of their baffling silence?
Not the 600 or 700 Iraqis killed over the last fortnight in Falluja, it seems. Perhaps they believe, like the prime minister, that those attacking coalition troops are Saddam loyalists, al-Qaida fighters or religious fanatics, and deserve everything they get. Perhaps they have been reassured by General John Abizaid, head of the US Army's central command, who spoke of the coalition's "judicious use of force". Maybe they accept the reassurance of the commander of the US marines besieging the city that his men are "trained to be precise in their firepower", and that "95% of those killed were legitimate targets".
Let's accept for the moment that the commander is right and accept that the AC-130 gunships and F16 fighter-bombers unleashed against the people of Falluja are precise, that the 500lb bombs falling on the city come under the definition of judicious. Let's look at just a handful of the 5% of civilian casualties the Americans concede they have inflicted. [complete article]
Iran gets its hands dirty
By Safa Haeri, Asia Times, April 17, 2004
It took a hail of bullets into the car of Iranian envoy Khalil Naimi in Baghdad on Thursday to jeopardize Tehran's attempts to become an influential mediator in Iraq, with the strong hope of seeing itself removed from George W Bush's "axis of evil". [...]
Against all odds, Iran had embarked on an unlikely diplomatic mission to get the American "Satan" out of its difficulties in Iraq. A five-man Iranian foreign ministry delegation, headed by the ministry's director for Persian Gulf affairs, Hossein Sadeqi, is in Najaf to assist in the crisis over the rebel leadership of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Shi'ite followers have been engaged in week-long battles with US-led occupation forces. [complete article]
BUSH BACKS SHARON
Bush legitimizes terrorism
By Robert Fisk, The Independent (via CounterPunch), April 16, 2004
So President George Bush tears up the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and that's okay. Israeli settlements for Jews and Jews only on the West Bank. That's okay. Taking land from Palestinians who have owned that land for generations, that's okay. UN Security Council Resolution 242 says that land cannot be acquired by war. Forget it. That's okay.
Does President George Bush actually work for al-Qa'ida? What does this mean? That George Bush cares more about his re-election than he does about the Middle East? Or that George Bush is more frightened of the Israeli lobby than he is of his own electorate. Fear not, it is the latter. [complete article]
Beyond Israel: ripple effect of Bush's stand
By Howard LaFranchi and Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2004
One thing is clear: By endorsing three aspects of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral approach to dealing with the Palestinians - Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, permanent retention of some Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and an end to the "right of return" of millions of Palestinian refugees to homes and lands they held in Israel before 1948 - Mr. Bush has upended two decades of U.S. policy. [...]
"With Arabs and Muslims already so suspicious of the U.S. and with the situation in Iraq reaching a critical point, this change could not have come at a worse time," says Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. "This is a flat rejection of the standpoints of moderate Arabs and as such plays into the hands of the radicals and extremists." [complete article]
A handshake that doesn't help Israel
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, April 16, 2004
President Bush is on a roll in the Middle East . . . backward. His embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's positions on settlements and Palestinian refugees has needlessly squandered U.S. leverage in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. [...]
Bush is not a man for diplomatic ambiguity. He famously prefers to see things in simpler, black-or-white terms. In particular, he tends to view the world through the narrow and sometimes distorting prism of the war on terrorism. Asked Wednesday whether Israeli settlements are an impediment to the peace process (which is the position taken by his predecessors for the past 20 years) Bush answered: "The problem is, is that there's terrorists who will kill people in order to stop the process." [complete article]
BUSH-BLAIR: SIGNS OF STRAIN
The Guardian, April 16, 2004
It is hard to know which was the more astonishing: the White House's endorsement of Ariel Sharon's ill-conceived peace plan, or Downing Street's decision to back it without hesitating for even the blink of an eye. Either way, the Israeli government's plans to retain settlements in the West Bank for itself and deny outright Palestinians' right of return should be rejected as a dangerous abrogation of the basis upon which negotiations for a peace deal in the region have aimed towards for so many years.
President Bush described the Sharon plan as both historic and courageous - but in truth it is neither of these, and nor is it likely to be accepted by any of the other parties involved. Based on Yasser Arafat's reaction yesterday, this plan will only be a recipe for further conflict. [complete article]
British-U.S. tie loosens over Iraq
By Mark Rice-Oxley, Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2004
"Behind the scenes there are quite a lot of misgivings in the Blair camp about the direction things are going in Iraq," says David Mepham, a former government adviser and head of the international program at the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research, a progressive think-tank. "Publicly they will say there's not a matchstick between us, but privately there are differences."
A robust U.S. response to the Sunni and Shiite uprisings, which has left hundreds dead, has unsettled British military and political chiefs, who fret that it will alienate locals and the international community, both of whom are vital to the success of Iraqi transition. [complete article]
New demands test troop stamina
By Ann Scott Tyson, Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2004
"Hey Mom and Dad, as you know I am back in this [expletive] hole," Sergeant Syverson wrote from Baghdad, as his unit prepared to head south to put down rebellious Shiite militia. "Sounds like there will be some shootouts with the bad guys," he said, adding, "I just hope that we are the good guys."
Facing the deadliest period of fighting in Iraq since the war began, US commanders this week ordered 20,000 seasoned but war-weary US troops from the 1st Armored Division and 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment to remain in that country for three to four months to help put down Sunni and Shiite unrest that has spiraled with the approach of the June 30 transfer of power to Iraqi authorities. [complete article]
Torn between money and safety, some US workers flee Iraq
By Kris Axtman, Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2004
"We were in the middle of an attack, with the alarms sounding and people heading for cover, and they told us to continue working. At that point, I knew it was time to come home," [civilian contractor Clarence Fountain] says. "At first, it was about the money. Then it got to the point where I started questioning myself, 'When does it stop being about the money? When does my family start taking the front seat again?' " [...]
Under its contract with the Defense Department, Halliburton has 24,000 employees in the Iraq-Kuwait region. Some 30 employees and subcontractors have been killed since the company arrived last spring. Now, as the first two weeks of April mark the deadliest of the war - with 87 US soldiers and contractors killed, and seven civilian contractors missing - many civilian workers say the money is not worth their lives.[complete article]
Death lurks in the groves on the road toward Najaf
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, April 15, 2004
The nighttime ambush had left one soldier dead, another wounded. When it was over, Sgt. James Amyett calmly lit a cigarette, leaned over, and in a stage whisper drawled, "Don't be alarmed, but somebody here is trying to kill us."
In the biggest Army operation in central Iraq since last spring's invasion, dozens of convoys made up of hundreds of tanks and trucks moved into an area where Shiite Muslim militias had battled with occupation troops several times this month. Along the way, nearly every convoy was fired on, weary soldiers said afterward. Iraqi insurgents blew up bridges on the convoy routes, doubling or tripling the duration of trips scheduled to take six to 12 hours. And the U.S. military operation in Iraq began to feel less like a troubled occupation and more like a small war.
"There's a 99 percent chance we're going to get hit," said Amyett, from Searcy, Ark., sitting on the hood of a Humvee and facing a cluster of soldiers who stood around him in the dark. "If they shoot, kill them. Shoot them in the face." [complete article]
A word in your ear: what Tony should tell George tomorrow
Research by Amy Iggulden and Matthew Falloon, The Guardian, April 15, 2004
"Listen, George, I think I can see a way out of this mess that you haven't made. After 9/11, at the Labour party conference in Brighton, I outlined a vision of a world in which the richest countries were committed to helping "the starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of northern Africa to the slums of Gaza, to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan". And I got applause when I called for Palestinians to receive "justice, the chance to prosper and in their own land". So, George. We can make a start by ditching unilateralism and sticking to the path of multilateralism and international legality. We need to implement UN resolutions and give the Palestinians their own state. And if the Israelis won't go for it, then let's help create one democratic state for both the Jews and the Palestinians. [...]
"Let's try and win more friends, George." [complete article]
END OF THE ROADMAP TO PEACE
Sharon coup: U.S. go-ahead
By James Bennet, New York Times, April 15, 2004
[Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon wanted three commitments: backing for the Gaza withdrawal, American recognition that Israel would hold on to parts of the West Bank, and an American rejection of the right of millions of Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and their descendants to return to their lands in what is now Israel. He got them all by promising to trade something Israelis overwhelmingly do not want any more: the Gaza settlements and a handful of settlements in the West Bank. And he got them without having to negotiate with the Palestinians. [...]
"Imagine if Palestinians said, `O.K., we give California to Canada,' " said Michael Tarazi, a legal adviser for the Palestine Liberation Organization. "Americans should stop wondering why they have so little credibility in the Middle East." [complete article]
Bush rips up the road map
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, April 15, 2004
President George Bush swept aside decades of diplomatic tradition in the Middle East yesterday, saying it was "unrealistic" to expect a full Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied during the 1967 war or the right of return for Palestinian refugees. [complete article]
Arafat: Palestinians won't give up goal of sovereign state
By Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman, Haaretz, April 15, 2004
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat declared Thursday that the Palestinian people will not retreat from their goal of achieving liberty, national sovereignty and a state with "Holy Jerusalem" as its capital. [complete article]
Seen one killer, seen 'em all?
By Adam Shatz , Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2004
"The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar," President Bush argued, with seductive simplicity, in Tuesday's press conference.
"The terrorist who takes hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad," he continued, "is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid and murders children on buses in Jerusalem and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew. We've seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two embassies in Africa, in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on Sept. 11, 2001."
Bush's argument boiled down to this: A terrorist is a terrorist, whether he is a member of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas or of an Iraqi resistance organization fighting American troops — and, whatever their differences, they are all inflamed by the "same ideology of murder." Intended as an expression of "moral clarity," it's likely to convince many Americans. But does it hold up? Are such groups all the same, and are they actually driven by an identical ideology? [complete article]
Marines use low-tech skill to kill 100 in urban battle
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, April 15, 2004
American forces killed more than 100 insurgents on Tuesday in close combat in a small village in central Iraq, Marine commanders said Wednesday.
The battle, classic urban combat that raged for 14 hours, was one of the heaviest engagements since the invasion of Iraq last year. It showed not only the intensity of the resistance but an acute willingness among insurgents to die.
"A lot of these guys were souped up on jihad," said Lt. Col. B. P. McCoy, commander of the Fourth Battalion, Third Marines. "They might as well been suicide fighters." [complete article]
The Guardian, April 15, 2004
Gillo Pontecorvo's brilliant 1965 film The Battle of Algiers - which details the brutal Algerian war of independence against France - was recently screened at the Pentagon, billed as "How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas". The evidence so far is that U.S. military policy-makers learned nothing from it. The deeply troubling events of the last two weeks in Iraq, including the indiscriminate killing of several hundred Iraqis by U.S. forces in Falluja, raise serious doubts about the methods currently adopted by the coalition. The heavy-handed tactics being used bear little resemblance to peace-keeping, and far more to those of an occupying army seeking to crush all resistance.
A more recent parallel to the events in Falluja is the bloodletting in Jenin almost exactly two years ago, when Israeli forces destroyed a Palestinian refugee camp in the middle of the town. Although the first casualty figures in Jenin were overestimated, the Israeli action was condemned worldwide. Now, the U.S. military itself estimates that 600 Iraqis have been killed so far during the fighting in the Iraqi town, where many of Falluja's 300,000 civilians have been caught in the middle of a ring of U.S. soldiers, and where fierce fighting still rages. The New York Times reported yesterday that U.S. marines had orders to shoot any males who look of military age out after dark, whether armed or not. "Sometimes the gunfire was so long and steady it sounded like rain," the Times observed. This is a massacre in the making. The United Nations should investigate the deadly events in Falluja, as it did in Jenin, as soon as possible. [complete article]
U.S. turns to former Saddam officers
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, April 15, 2004
The United States is about to appoint a large number of senior officers from the former army of Saddam Hussein to top jobs in the new Iraqi security forces in an attempt to prevent a repetition of last week's mutiny by several hundred Iraqi soldiers.
The newly trained Iraqi battalion refused to join the US Marines' attack on Falluja, saying its job was to defend the country, not to kill other Iraqis. The action cast doubt on the US aim of building up Iraqi forces to let US troops withdraw from the front line. [complete article]
Annan adviser attacks American occupation and Bremer's tactics
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, April 15, 2004
The UN's adviser on Iraq made a surprising attack on Washington's handling of its year-long occupation last night, condemning the detention of prisoners without trial or charge and offering a withering analysis of America's governance of the country.
Lakhdar Brahimi, a respected veteran diplomat who used to be the senior UN representative in Afghanistan and now serves as special adviser on Iraq to the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, also criticised the Americans for their onslaught on Falluja.
"The cordoning off and siege of a city is not acceptable," he said. His comments, on a day when the US said that another eight of its soldiers had died, were unexpectedly sharp. [complete article]
Hear no evil, read no evil, speak drivel
By Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian, April 15, 2004
On April 21, 1961, President Kennedy held a press conference to answer questions on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles that he had approved. "There's an old saying," he said, "that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan ... I am the responsible officer of the government and that is quite obvious."
On Wednesday, President Bush held only his third press conference and was asked three times whether he accepted responsibility for failing to act on warning before September 11. "I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't [sic] yet," he said. "I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick - as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."
Bush's press conference was the culmination of his recent efforts to staunch the political wounds of his bleeding polls since the 9/11 commission began public hearings and violence spiralled in Iraq. Bush had tried to divert blame by declaring that the August 6 memo he was forced to declassify at the commission's insistence contained no "actionable intelligence", even though it specifically mentioned the World Trade Centre and Washington as targets. [complete article]
Nationalism grows in Iraq
By Annia Ciezadlo, Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 2004
He saw it with his own eyes: a young boy with a Kalashnikov in one hand and a rocket launcher in the other, fighting an American tank. "He was only 10 years old," says Hussein Subhi with reverence, "but he was a man."
Mr. Subhi just got back from Fallujah. A polite, soft-spoken youth from the Shiite slum of Hurriya in Baghdad, he went with a convoy of cars and trucks delivering aid. But his real reason, he says, was to join the Fallujans in fighting American forces. "[The US was] counting on a Sunni-Shiite split in Iraq," but that hasn't happened, he says. "We will be victorious, God willing."
Subhi has no reason to fight for Fallujah. After all, the hardcore Sunni Triangle city is a hotbed of foreign insurgents and former government agents who would - and often did - gladly kill hundreds of thousands of Shiites like him when Saddam Hussein was still in power. But the US siege of Fallujah has awakened newly militant nationalism among Shiites now eager to fight the American occupation, based on Muslim religious identity and feelings of Arab unity. This Baghdad neighborhood is a microcosm of what may happen around Iraq if the situation if Fallujah continues. [complete article]
Purported Bin Laden tape offers 'truce'
By Mohamed Khalifa, Associated Press (via The Guardian), April 15, 2004
In a recording broadcast on Arab satellite networks Thursday, a man who identified himself as Osama bin Laden offered a ``truce'' to European countries that do not attack Muslims, saying it would begin when their soldiers leave Islamic nations. [complete article]
Italy vows to stay in Iraq despite hostage killing
By Fiona O'Brien, Reuters (via Yahoo! News), April 14, 2004
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi vowed on Thursday to keep troops in Iraq despite the killing of an Italian hostage in scenes Al Jazeera said were too bloody to screen. [complete article]
U.S. military 'pressuring' journalists
By Patrick Barrett, The Guardian, April 14, 2004
The U.S. military has been accused of threatening the media covering the conflict in Iraq and pressuring journalists into presenting a one-sided picture of events.
Al-Jazeera, the Arab TV channel, made the accusations after a U.S. army spokesman, Brigadier General Kimmitt, accused the station and the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel, of taking an "anti-coalition" stance in their reporting.
The already fractious relationship between the U.S. military in Iraq and Arab media has been made more difficult by pictures of wounded civilians within the besieged town of Falluja. The American administration in Iraq accused al-Jazeera of exaggerating the number of civilian casualties and helping to boost anti-coalition sentiment. [complete article]
Refugees tell of rising anger in Fallujah
By Christina Asquith, Christian Science Monitor, April 14, 2004
With a US Apache helicopter hovering above, Kadher Fudella took her children and began to run. She did not stop until she reached the highway, along with scores of other refugees, flagging down cars headed to Baghdad.
"My children tried to run away and the helicopters chased them," says Ms. Fudella, breaking into tears. "Families were running through the streets.... Windows were broken, and many, many people were dead."
Fudella is one of tens of thousands of refugees to have fled the besieged city of Fallujah, where a US assault left 600 dead last week. The victims include hundreds of women and children, according to hospital and clinic records in Fallujah, before a cease-fire was carved out over the weekend. [...]
Fudella told her story from a crowded, dank, bomb shelter in Baghdad, alongside some 60 other Fallujan women and children. With tattooed hands and black veils wrapped around their faces, the women shouted out accusations of reckless killings by the US forces the say they witnessed: a neighbor's house bombed, killing all 19 people inside; a 5-year-old gunned down by a sniper on a minaret; an old man mowed down by helicopter fire. [complete article]
Falluja truce near collapse
Associated Press (via International Herald Tribune), April 14, 2004
U.S. warplanes and helicopters firing heavy machine guns, rockets and cannons hammered insurgents Wednesday in the besieged city of Fallujah, and the commander of U.S. Marines here warned that a fragile truce was near collapse.
With officials reporting four more Marines killed, the death toll of 87 U.S. troops in April made it the deadliest month since the military set foot in Iraq.
In the south, 2,500 U.S. troops were digging in outside the Shiite holy city of Najaf, preparing for a possible assault against radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. An attack on the city would likely outrage Iraq’s Shiite majority, a community that -- aside from al-Sadr’s militia -- has so far shunned anti-U.S. violence. [complete article]
When resistance escalates to intifada
By H.D.S. Greenway, The Boston Globe (via International Herald Tribune), April 13, 2004
American officials in Baghdad insist this is not a general uprising, that the militant mullah Moktada al-Sadr does not represent the opinion of most Shiites, that events in Falluja were carried out by thugs and miscreants, not mainstream Sunnis - and one hopes they are right. But the American insistence that their troubles stem only from Saddam's bitter-enders and foreign fanatics is no longer believable.
Both the Israeli and American administrations like to say that it isn't occupation that's the problem. It is simply terrorism, they say, which both need to fight. And there is real terrorism involved, no doubt. But the central issue in the territories that Israel occupies is the Israeli occupation, and always has been.
The vast majority of Arabs see little difference between the two struggles. Whether it be Americans or Israelis supported by Americans, it is Arabs who are living and dying under the occupations. [complete article]
Bush endorses Sharon's withdrawal plan
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, April 14, 2004
President Bush this afternoon embraced a new Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, applauding a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and declaring that Israel can keep some of the occupied West Bank permanently and that Palestinian refugees would not have the right to return to Israel. [complete article]
U.S. to extend duty tours of 10,000 troops in Iraq
By Charles Aldinger, Reuters (via Yahoo! News), April 14, 2004
Faced with rising violence in Iraq, the U.S. military plans to keep more than 10,000 troops from the 1st Armored Division and 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment there this summer beyond their promised yearlong tours, defense officials said on Wednesday. [complete article]
Wanted: A new Saddam
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, April 15, 2004
"Of course they don't like being occupied. I wouldn't like being occupied either."
President George W Bush, April 13 White House press conference
Forget about George W Bush's scripted press conference, where, according to CNN, the president was "quite forceful in rebutting the attacks on his Iraq policy". Forget that Bush admitted to no mistakes in his "war on terror" and complained to a reporter: "You should have submitted that question in writing so I could have prepared." Let's go back to the real world, in Iraq.
"Occupying power needs full-spectrum-dominance Middle East dictator. Must have excellent connections with neo-conservatives in Washington and experience in quelling any kind of dissent by whatever means necessary. Ability to work under pressure essential. Democratic credentials will be provided by the employer. Send detailed CVs to L Paul Bremer, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), Green Zone, Baghdad. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential."
This ad has not been posted - not yet. But it just about sums it all up in terms of American isolation in Iraq, after the Pentagon and the CPA's neo-con policies have managed to lead to the unthinkable: Sunni and Shi'ite united against the occupation in a war of national resistance. [complete article]
Iraq hostage crisis signals turning point for Japan
By J Sean Curtin, Asia Times, April 15, 2004
The dramatic abduction of three Japanese civilians in Iraq - hostage bargaining chips - is reverberating throughout Japan, casting a long shadow over the future of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his Iraq policy of dispatching troops on a humanitarian mission to help the United States there. It evokes memories of hostage-taking during Lebanon's civil war, cases that dragged on for years with scant progress and abundant tears.
Koizumi is facing his darkest hour, and as one of the US' closest allies, is coming under tremendous pressure to withdraw Japan's 550 troops from Iraq, a move that would further, and very significantly erode the already shaky credibility of the US-led coalition in Iraq. Japanese public opinion - divided over dispatching troops in the first place - currently is split over whether Japanese soldiers should quit Iraq. Meanwhile, Japanese and most other foreigners are fleeing Iraq en masse as the country descends into what some fear may become a Lebanese-style quagmire of hostage-taking.
To most Japanese, the sudden explosion of violence and hostage-taking has made their country's strictly humanitarian mission seem futile, since nearly all their troops are now tightly barricaded in a heavily protected fort about 10 kilometers outside the southern city of Samawah. Some commentators are even describing the current situation as Lebanon, Vietnam and the Palestinian intifada all rolled into one. [complete article]
Tehran pushes its own agenda
By Safa Haeri, Asia Times, April 15, 2004
As confrontations between Iraqis opposed to the US-led coalition forces in Iraq continue unabated and spread, the Islamic Republic of Iran is watching the situation with both joy and fear, as expressed by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime's second-in-command after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Talking to worshippers during the Friday prayers in Tehran, the former Iranian president said that the presence of the US in Iraq was a matter of both "opportunity and threat, for this wounded qool, or giant, blessed with all the huge possibilities it possesses, can take very dangerous actions that would cost itself and others direly, but if it is taught a lessen here, neither the United States nor any other superpower would ever think of engaging in military adventures by occupying other nations." [complete article]
Reassuring the U.S. -- how long will it work?
By Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 2004
President Bush's unapologetic defense of the White House policy in Iraq in Tuesday's televised press conference drew praise from his supporters, but political analysts questioned whether his upbeat predictions for the country would reassure an anxious American public against the backdrop of an increasingly violent rebellion.
The president took the unusual step of holding a prime-time press conference -- a forum he is known to dislike -- to address concerns about a surge in violence in Iraq that has led to mounting casualties. More than 80 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the start of this month, and more than 560 have been injured.
Bush insisted that American forces would not be driven out of Iraq by the recent violence and predicted that the insurgency would subside. But political observers said Bush's predictions would have only a short-term effect on the public if the violence doesn't ease quickly.
"Real events always overtake the yak-yak-yak of a presidential press conference. In the end, it's just talk," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "In a television age, it's the images that run politics. Even if he gets a good headline (today), it's one headline on one day. What about the other 203 days until the election?" [complete article]
What we learn from Fallujah
By Tony Karon, TIME.com, April 12, 2004
As the dust settles on what may only be the first phase of the battle of Fallujah, the emerging picture holds telling clues on the prospects for the U.S. mission in Iraq. Much has clearly gone badly wrong in what the U.S. military had announced would be a precise, targeted operation to capture or kill the men responsible for a grisly attack two weeks ago on four U.S. private security men. Five days of fighting between Marines and insurgents holed up in the town has left some 600 Iraqis dead, according to local hospitals. And U.S. spokesman have reported that around 70 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq over the past 12 days. The fighting in Fallujah has ebbed since Sunday because of a cease-fire brokered between the Marines and the insurgents by Iraqi intermediaries -- a cease-fire that U.S. commanders on the ground are not particularly confident will hold, or yield the objective of securing the surrender of the insurgents responsible.
But the very fact of the U.S. decision to suspend offensive action in order to allow what Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt called "the political track and the discussion track to go forward" speaks volumes about the nature of the problem confronting the U.S. in Fallujah and elsewhere. U.S. officials have tended to characterize the Sunni insurgency as the work of Baathist "bitter-enders" and expatriate terrorists -- not the sort of folks with whom the U.S. maintains a "discussion track." But the reality of Fallujah is plainly a lot messier: Brig.-Gen. Kimmitt insists the Iraqis killed there are almost all insurgents, but local hospital sources insist most were civilians. The scale of the casualties, and the pause for negotiations suggests that instead of isolating a group of desperadoes, the U.S. has confronted broad opposition in Fallujah. [complete article]
President is long on resolve but short on details
By Dan Balz, Washington Post, April 14, 2004
An unapologetic President Bush stood before the nation last night.
Robustly defending the principles behind his policies in Iraq and the war on terrorism, Bush steadfastly refused to admit mistakes and passed up opportunities to explain what it will take to achieve his goal of a free and stable Iraq.
From his opening statement to his final answer an hour later, it was clear that the president's objective was less to lay out new details of the path forward, suggest any change in direction or acknowledge any rethinking of his decisions in the face of recent setbacks. Instead, it was to restate his determination to stay the course and to argue anew that the war in Iraq will make America more secure.
But for Americans looking for an insight into what the president has learned from an occupation of Iraq that has been far bloodier and more difficult than the administration had suggested, or from the government's failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush had less to offer. He repeatedly did not answer pointed questions about his policies and was better at describing his vision of a democratic Iraq than in explaining how he will overcome the mounting obstacles to achieve that vision. [complete article]
No end in sight as Fallujah death toll approaches 700
By Dahr Jamail, NewStandard, April 13, 2004
United States Marines have killed more than 600 Iraqis in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, according to reports gathered from local clinics. The reports do not appear to be disputed by occupation authorities or other US officials.
Local medical authorities say over 600 bodies have actually been counted at area emergency facilities, but it is widely believed that a significant number of victims have been buried without ever receiving care at a clinic or hospital. Locals say two entire football fields have been converted into cemeteries and mass funerals have been conducted during brief, local lulls in the fighting.
What are being called medical clinics here are essentially makeshift emergency facilities, one of which is a converted mechanics' garage.
A physician working at one of the makeshift clinics said of the violence in Fallujah, "How can this be considered anything other than genocide when Iraqi women and children are being shot just because of their skin color?"
There is a seemingly constant stream of wounded Iraqis -- mostly women and children -- being delivered on rudimentary stretchers into the clinics. Cars squeal up on to the curb in front of the clinic, wailing family members drag or carry their loved ones inside, and overstretched aid workers scramble to accommodate the influx of casualties.
Two of the victims, woman and small child, were brought in simultaneously. Both had been shot in the neck by what witnesses said was a US sniper. Medical personnel expected neither to survive the injuries. [complete article]
U.S. workers, lured by money and idealism, face Iraqi reality
By Andrew Jacobs and Simon Romero, New York Times, April 14, 2004
There are no concrete figures on the number of civilians who have been killed or wounded in Iraq, but Halliburton has acknowledged that 30 of its employees and contractors have died since the war began last year. Several workers from the United States and other countries were still missing last night -- like Thomas Hamill, a former dairy farmer who worked for Halliburton as a fuel truck driver and was captured last week on a highway outside Baghdad.
In interviews yesterday, several civilian workers who have spent time in Iraq said the experiences they routinely faced had grown more harrowing. Whether employed as truck drivers, ferrying food and supplies, or as engineers, repairing roads and bridges, they are aware that the risks may in some ways now outweigh the lucrative salaries or jobs they accepted to help send children to college or to build a first home for their families.
"We get attacked day and night," said Lee Medina, a technician from North Carolina who repairs warfare equipment for the military. "All you can do is find a safe place to sit out the attack." [complete article]
General requests additional troops
By John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2004
As his troops regrouped after the deadliest week since the fall of Baghdad, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq acknowledged Monday what many critics had been saying for months: The American-led force needs more troops.
An expected deployment of thousands more troops for duty in Iraq answers congressional calls for backup and comes as administration officials work to prevent allies from following Spain's planned withdrawal of its forces.
But the request Monday also revealed the Pentagon's lack of options for finding reinforcements. Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of the Central Command, called Iraqi security forces a "great disappointment." As a result, most of the new troops are almost certain to come from the thinly stretched U.S. Army.
The request for more soldiers is likely to bolster critics who have accused the president's team of underestimating the amount of American blood and money needed to successfully occupy Iraq. [complete article]
Halliburton suspends some Iraq supply convoys
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2004
Halliburton Co. has suspended some convoys delivering supplies to the military in Iraq due to escalating violence, U.S. Army and company officials said Monday, raising the danger of shortfalls in food, fuel and water supplies if the situation continues.
The company said the decision was made after supply trucks protected by U.S. soldiers were attacked Friday by Iraqi insurgents just outside Baghdad, resulting in the death of one employee from Halliburton subsidiary KBR, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root. Seven other employees are missing or held hostage. A soldier was also killed in the incident, and two others are missing.
Privately, company officials expressed concerns about the level of security provided to the convoy. Halliburton's fuel convoys are protected by U.S. soldiers under the terms of a contract signed in December 2001.
"For the safety and security of convoys, the Army and KBR jointly made the decision to suspend some convoys at this time until additional security efforts can be put in place by the military to provide the new level of security necessary to move supplies into Iraq," said Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman. "KBR is resolved to continue support of the U.S. troops and to fulfill all contract obligations."
Halliburton's inability to move about the country offers evidence of how the rapidly declining security situation in Iraq -- and the military's reliance on private contractors to supply troops and rebuild the country -- could hurt the U.S. mission. [complete article]
Ashcroft's pre-9/11 priorities scrutinized
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, April 13, 2004
On Aug. 9, 2001, three days after President Bush was given a memo outlining Osama bin Laden's intent to mount attacks on U.S. soil, the Justice Department completed a draft of its seven strategic goals and 36 main objectives for the next four years.
The internal document, which mirrored many of the priorities in previous memos and statements by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, focused on drugs, violent crime and civil rights. Combating "terrorist activities" was mentioned once -- as the third objective under enforcement of criminal laws.
Aides characterize the list as a preliminary report never seen by Ashcroft and say it reflected the priorities of the previous attorney general, Janet Reno. But according to some members of the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and others familiar with its findings, the memo reflects the low priority that Ashcroft placed on terrorism during his first seven months in office. [complete article]
New 9/11 Commission reports
Domestic Security (PDF format)
Summer 2001 (PDF format)
Drug war led Bush astray before 9/11
By Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2004
Why won't they just admit they blew it? It is long past time for the president and his national security team to concede that before the Sept. 11 attacks they failed to grasp the seriousness of the Al Qaeda threat, were negligent in how they handled the terrorist group's key benefactors and did not take the simple steps that might well have prevented the tragedy. While they are at it, they might also explain why, for more than two years, they have been trying so hard to convince us that none of the above is true.
Most recently, we learned that President Bush decided to stay on vacation for three more weeks despite receiving a briefing that told him about "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks" by Osama bin Laden's thugs, who were described as determined and capable enough to pull off devastating attacks on U.S. soil. We also now know that the Bush administration coddled fundamentalist Saudi Arabia and nuclear-weapons-dealing Pakistan, the only nations that recognized the Taliban, both before and after the Sept. 11 murders.
But what is perhaps even more astonishing is that, because the Bush administration's attention was focused on the "war on drugs," it praised Afghanistan's Taliban regime even though it was harboring Bin Laden and his terror camps. The Taliban refused to extradite the avowed terrorist even after he admitted responsibility for a series of deadly assaults against American diplomatic and military sites in Africa and the Middle East. [complete article]
By Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books, April 29, 2004
The war in Iraq is described as an "entirely irrelevant military adventure" by Richard A. Clarke, a career government official in charge of White House efforts to fight terror under both President Clinton and President Bush. In his new book charging that the Bush administration was slow to grasp the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, Against All Enemies (to be reviewed at length in a future issue of The New York Review), Clarke writes that President Bush made a bad situation immeasureably worse by his "unprovoked invasion" of Iraq, taking the United States down "a path that weakened us and strengthened the next generation of al Qaedas."
The most troubling question raised by Clarke is how the CIA, which warned the Bush White House urgently and often of an impending terror attack over the summer of 2001, could have followed that professional triumph with repeated and explicit claims to have found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which weren't there. Clarke's answer ought to give every American pause. The day after al-Qaeda's devastating attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Clarke says he "walked into a series of discussions about Iraq" in the White House, which were not about "getting al-Qaeda." Instead "I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq." The implication is clear: "getting Iraq," in Rumsfeld's words, came first, followed many months later, in the fall of 2002, by the CIA's evidence of weapons of mass destruction. [complete article]
Blogging from Baghdad
Empire Notes, A Blog by Rahul Mahajan, April 13, 2004
The mosque was full of people, including 90 down from Kirkuk (many with the Red Crescent). They were all pushed down on the floor, with guns put to the backs of their heads. Another person associated with the mosque, Mr. Alber, who speaks very good English, told us that he repeatedly said, "Please, don't break down doors. Please, don't break windows. We can help you. We can have custodians unlock the doors." (Alber, by the way, was imprisoned by Saddam for running a bakery. As he said, "Under the embargo, you could eat flour, you could eat sugar, you could eat eggs, all separately. But mix them together and bake them and you were harming the economy by raising the price of sugar and you could get 15 years in prison.)
The Americans refused to listen to Alber's pleas. We went all around the mosque and the adjacent madrassah, the Imam Aadham Islamic College. We saw dozens of doors broken down, windows broken, ceilings ripped apart, and bullet holes in walls and ceilings. The way the soldiers searched for illicit arms in the ceiling was first to spray the ceiling with gunfire, then break out a panel and go up and search.
They even went and rifled through students' exam papers (in Arabic), messed up offices. An old man who is a "guard" at the mosque (actually a poor man with a large family who is slightly lame and is missing several teeth) was hit in the head with a rifle butt and then kicked when he was down -- all because he was a little slow in answering the door. He says he never carries a weapon -- the whole mosque has only three Kalashnikovs, for security, kept in the imam's room. The Americans took the ammunition there too. And, of course, they entered the mosque with their boots on.
The American commanders will say this was a necessary precaution to make sure no military goods got into Fallujah and that this was legal under the laws of war. But the Abu Hanifa mosque was not involved in this -- they found nothing. They didn't bother to ask. They didn't go to the Imam and see if they could search to mosque. And, after a year of being stationed in Aadhamiyah, they didn't know the people well enough to know there would be nothing -- even though they were told repeatedly that even the resistance in that area never fired from near the mosque because they were afraid of drawing return fire that would hit the mosque.
You can guess how many hearts and minds were won by this little operation -- the third time that the mosque has been raided since the war. [complete article]
For Iraqis, a growing insecurity
By Annia Ciezadlo, Christian Science Monitor, April 13, 2004
In Firdos Square, where the world watched Saddam's statue toppled on live television last year, a Humvee prowled the streets, blasting a warning at psy-ops-level volume that "ANYONE WHO ENTERS THIS AREA WILL BE SHOT."
In Hurriya, a working-class Shiite slum with a sizable Sunni minority, most of the schools have been either closed or moribund since Monday, April 5. That morning, 17-year-old Ali Mohammed was on his way to school when he ran into five men, dressed all in black, blocking the road with a car and some razor wire. "Go back home," they told him. "There is no studying today - this is a day of denunciation."
"It reminded me of the old regime," says Mohammed, glumly slumped in an armchair. "They used to do the same thing." complete article]
Part 1: The war front
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, April 11, 2004
If Iraq comes to be seen as President George W Bush's Vietnam, this past week may be the equivalent of the 1968 Tet offensive - the moment when America discovered that, for all its overwhelming military superiority, it is not winning the war.
The US civil and military leaders in Iraq discovered that their authority was a house built on sand. It crumbled with extraordinary speed in the face of poorly armed and ill-organised opposition in Fallujah and southern Iraq. The message was that the opponents of the US in Iraq are not very strong, but that the coalition itself is very weak. [complete article]
Part 2: The White House
By Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, April 11, 2004
... if the chaos continues, something will have to give. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the neo-conservatives maintain that this upsurge of violence was expected, and that the insurgents are a small minority. But the endless pictures of smoke plumes rising over Iraqi cities and gunmen in the streets give the lie to the Pentagon's claims that foreign terrorists and "dead-enders" loyal to the vanished Baathist regime alone were behind the resistance.
As Fallujah, Najaf and Kut turn into battle zones, as Sunnis and Shias start to make common cause and nervous GIs no longer know who is friend and who is foe, the question soon will be unavoidable: what on earth is America doing there?
As he mulls the crisis this weekend, with the November election less than seven months off, Mr Bush has nothing but bad and less bad military and political options. He can stick to the 30 June deadline for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, but to which Iraqis? And how will they maintain security, when the newly trained Iraqi security force the Americans have set up is unwilling or unable to restore order? Or Mr Bush can put back the date - and extend an occupation that many Iraqis plainly detest. [complete article]
Part 3: The home front
By Tom Carver, The Independent, April 11, 2004
On this Easter weekend [in Washington], there is a relaxed mood among the families sitting on the grass under the cherry blossom soaking up the spring sunshine. A hut near the Vietnam Memorial sells military memorabilia, including a poster saying "terrorist hunting permits available". Most Americans here seem to have no difficulty accepting the idea that the invasion of Iraq was a justified response to 9/11.
Craig Erman, a construction manager from Columbus, Ohio, has just found his brother's name on the Vietnam War Memorial. Asked if he supports the war in Iraq, he replies, "Absolutely. You've got to look at 9/11 and remember what happened." He reveals that one of his employees is in the Marines fighting in Fallujah. "He says they've found so many weapons. I'm sure the weapons of mass destruction are there somewhere - they've just been moved." [complete article]
70 troops, 700 Iraqis killed in recent fighting
Associated Press (via WP), April 12, 2004
Gunfire was largely silenced Monday in the second day of a truce in Fallujah, where Iraqi doctors said 600 people, including many civilians, were killed. The top U.S. military spokesman said about 70 Americans and 700 insurgents had been killed since April 1.
Additional U.S. forces have been maneuvering into place, and the military has warned it will launch an all-out assault on Fallujah if talks there between pro-U.S. Iraqi politicians and city officials -- which were continuing Monday -- fall through. [complete article]
Images of civilian dead, wounded in Fallujah become anti-American rallying point
By Matthew Schofield, Knight Ridder, April 10, 2004
On television, the children are unmoving, dead in the streets, blood pooling and spreading underneath them.
On radio, announcers accuse Americans of attacking helpless civilians, not even allowing them to move for treatment of their bullet wounds.
In newspapers, the stories ask if the deaths of perhaps hundreds of innocent civilians is not a greater crime than the horrific deaths and mutilations of four Americans.
For the past week, those have been the images, sounds and words that Iraqis have been taking in as everything here has focused on Fallujah.
In this one week, Fallujah has come to symbolize for Iraqis everything that is wrong with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. [complete article]
'Shells and rockets were falling like rain'
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, April 12, 2004
Umm Samir sits in a Baghdad garden in the shade of two palm trees, worrying about the sons and grandchildren she left behind in Falluja.
On a balmy spring evening, with the smell of freshly mown grass around her, her present refuge with relatives seems a world away from the nightmare city she left on Saturday morning.
"It was the bombing, the constant bombing, and the children being so afraid, and the journey across the open desert to escape," she said when asked what was the worst thing about the week under siege.
Hundreds of families have driven out of Falluja over the last two days, taking advantage of the ceasefire the Americans offered. Families in Baghdad have provided food and money at mosques to help them, and many have taken refugees in.
The stories they tell have a common theme: how the Americans used to be good when they first arrived in Falluja, how arrogance and in sensitivity gradually alienated people, and how now under the pressure of so many deaths almost everyone supports the resistance, the mojahedin. [complete article]
Defiant U.S. says Falluja dead were rebels
By Rory McCarthy and Julian Borger, The Guardian, April 12, 2004
The United States last night robustly defended its controversial siege of Falluja which has cost the lives of more than 600 people over the past week, by claiming most of those who died were militants picked off with precision by US marines.
As a tense ceasefire held in the turbulent city west of Baghdad and an international hostage crisis persisted across Iraq, the US marine commander in charge of the siege of Falluja claimed 95% of those killed were legitimate targets.
The death toll in Falluja has sparked widespread international concern and has led to condemnation by the US-appointed Iraqi governing council.
Yesterday, the director of the town's general hospital, Rafie al-Issawi, said the vast majority of the dead were women, children and the elderly. [complete article]
Japan frantic over hostage crisis
BBC News, April 12, 2004
Japanese newspapers are treating the country's hostage crisis the way they would cover the death of an emperor. Broadsheets have published special multi-page sections covering the emotional roller coaster the country has ridden over the past 24 hours.
After initial threats that the hostages would be killed if Japan did not pull its troops out of Iraq, there were reports they would be freed on Sunday.
But the day passed with no release, and their fate is now unknown. [complete article]
Iraqi kidnappings give China and Japan rude awakening
Agence France Presse, April 12, 2004
With their citizens taken hostage in Iraq, Asian powers China and Japan have had a rude awakening to the harsh realities of engaging with the world.
China is trying to come to terms with news that seven of their compatriots -- all presumed to be civilians -- had been kidnapped half a world away and were now caught up in a conflict their government had told them was someone else's problem.
The seven Chinese citizens abducted in Iraq are "civilians" who went there on their own without informing any official party, a political advisor at the Chinese embassy to Jordan told AFP.
"They are not officials, they are civilians, ordinary people, who travelled to Iraq by taxi from Jordan without informing (the embassy)," Li Chen said. [complete article]
U.S. hostage: From farm debt to Iraq
By Steve Rogers, Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2004
After years of trying to make it as a dairy farmer in rural Mississippi, Tommy Hamill finally decided last summer to do what virtually no one in agriculture ever wants to: sell the family farm.
He needed to pay off a mounting debt. Yet the sale didn't cover all the family's obligations. So Mr. Hamill, concerned about meeting his family's needs, and inspired by a sense of adventure and patriotism, took a job with a US contractor in Iraq that provided food, fuel, and clothing for US troops.
Now his well-intentioned decision has landed him in the middle of an international crisis with wrenching repercussions for his family and friends and posing new political challenges for the US occupation of Iraq. [complete article]
Iraqi Kurds may want to go their own way
By Rajan Menon, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2004
With the November presidential election looming, George W. Bush, who ignored the United Nations and went to war, now desperately wants the U.N. to help keep the peace. And he is eager to turn over the house keys to an Iraqi government on June 30 to show American voters that progress is being made. But what Kurd would believe that an Iraqi authority can keep order when the United States could not? And can Kurds be confident that U.S. troops would stay on in force if the current violence escalates?
Kurdish leaders hoped a pact with the Shiites might make it possible for Kurds to remain within Iraq on acceptable terms. The Kurds had dreamed about their own state but settled on autonomy because it was practical. Not even the Kurds' biggest champions, the Americans, would deliver on the dream -- and for obvious reasons.
Iraq's breakup would enrage Turkey, which fears that an independent Iraqi Kurdish state would attract its own 12 million to 14 million Kurds. Iraq's fragmentation also would prove that Washington's vision of a united and democratic Iraq was a pipe dream. It would make the war an even bigger political problem for Bush by destroying the argument his administration has now fallen back on -- that even if no weapons of mass destruction are found, a united, free Iraq justifies the war. It would set off a free-for-all among Iraq's neighbors to pick off parts of its carcass.
Kurdish leaders understand all this and know that choosing independence remains a risky gambit. But if Iraq continues its downward spiral, they will find the downsides less daunting. [complete article]
Some in military fear a return to Iraqi battles already fought
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, April 12, 2004
In interviews and e-mail exchanges, a number of high-ranking Pentagon officials and military officers in Baghdad described what they see as an increasing mismatch between what American troops are being asked to do in Iraq and what is being accomplished in the political field there.
"We can beat these guys, and we're proving our resolve," said one military officer. "But unless the political side keeps up, we'll have to do it again after July 1 and maybe in September and again next year and again and again."
Those critical assessments of the political process in Iraq differ from the Bush administration's public descriptions of steady movement toward sovereignty in Iraq, and the upbeat briefings offered by top American civilian and military officials in Washington and Baghdad, in advance of the transfer of control to an Iraqi civilian government. President Bush has insisted that the transfer will take place as scheduled.
The Pentagon officials and military officers who discussed their views declined to do so for attribution for fear of being viewed as openly critical of the Bush administration. [complete article]
Moderate Shiites gaining new clout
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2004
The city of Karbala observed the holiday of Arbain this weekend. It marks the end of a 40-day period of mourning for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein 1,350 years ago, in the power struggle that created Islam's Sunni-Shiite divide.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims celebrated by marching on foot to the city, praying at Hussein's tomb, ritually whipping themselves, and recreating the story of his defeat and death.
But most telling in Karbala this weekend was who was not in charge: the militia of radical cleric Moqatad al-Sadr. Instead, two moderate, cooperating Shiite militias set up layered cordons throughout the city. [complete article]
From briefing, new questions on 9/11
By Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2004
Disclosure of a top-secret presidential briefing is fueling new questions, just as the White House was hoping to set the issue to rest in an election year, about how seriously the Bush administration took the terrorist threat before 9/11.
In the document, the President's Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence officials raised concerns about Al Qaeda activities - including the threat of hijackings - in the US.
It is true, as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testified last week, that this "PDB" did not contain specific warning of the strikes that were to occur weeks later.
But the memo appears likely to amplify concerns that the White House responded passively when warned of a dire threat. [complete article]
And after Bush saw the memo?
Editorial, Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2004
The release of the classified Aug. 6, 2001, presidential briefing on terrorism was an unusual, but necessary step. Given the spike in terrorist "chatter" that summer, and the scale of attack that followed, the public has a right to know what was being communicated to its commander in chief.
But in judging George Bush's handling of terrorism, the public needs to know how he responded to the memo, known as the presidential daily briefing. By pointedly refusing to tell reporters this half of the story, the White House does the nation a disservice. [complete article]
FBI must explain 70 probes before 9/11-panelists
By Lori Santos, Reuters, April 11, 2004
The FBI this week will be pressed to explain why 70 separate investigations did not uncover the Sept. 11 hijacked airliner plot, members of the commission investigating the attacks said on Sunday.
Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, seizing on the revelation that so many probes were under way weeks before the deadly attacks, also said former President Bill Clinton told the panel he was frustrated by his inability to give the FBI direct orders. [complete article]
Sharon seeks U.S. backing to go it alone
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, April 12, 2004
The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, flies to Washington today, where he expects President George Bush to back his plan to unilaterally draw the frontiers of an emasculated Palestinian state, a move which could redefine the conflict for a generation or more.
After weeks of wrangling over how Israel is to be "rewarded" for its pledge to pull Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip, officials in Jerusalem say Mr Bush has largely given Mr Sharon a free hand to carve out a semi-autonomous state in the occupied territories, without consulting the Palestinians, provided he meets certain conditions.
These include demands that he call the borders temporary, and maintains the public position that Israel will adhere to the US-led "road map" peace plan when a different Palestinian leadership emerges. Washington has also refused to allow Israel to formally annex the major West Bank settlement blocks, but the White House is expected to recognise that they will remain by declaring that the 1967 border is "not a sacred line". [complete article]
Factional fighting spreads in Afghanistan
By Stephen Graham, Associated Press (via Yahoo), April 11, 2004
Factional violence spread across Afghanistan on Sunday, with gunbattles in the north between militias of two powerful warlords leaving up to three fighters dead, rival groups said Sunday.
Forces loyal to Abdul Rashid Dostum and his rival, Atta Mohammed, battled overnight in Kod-e-Barq, an area about 190 miles northwest of the capital, Kabul.
About 500 fighters from Mohammed's faction looted houses belonging to Dostum and leaders of his faction, a spokesman for Dostum said. Three of Dostum's men were killed and about 15 were injured, the spokesman, Akbar Boy, said. [complete article]
Rebellious warlords, crime threaten Afghan stability, elections
By Malcolm Garcia, Knight Ridder, April 11, 2004
With the United States preoccupied by the insurgency in Iraq, Afghan and Western officials here are warning that rebellious warlords and a rise in crime are threatening the security of this country and could undermine efforts to hold national elections in the fall.
The violence still plaguing Afghanistan almost three years after coalition forces toppled the hard-line Taliban regime illustrates the kinds of problems that the United State could face in Iraq even if it subdues the current insurgency and transfers power in June.
The Afghan capital, Kabul, is considered the most stable city in the country and a bastion of pro-Western democratic reforms. A force of international peacekeepers is in the capital and will prevent it from descending into chaos, most officials agree.
But even that control is tenuous; militias associated with warlords are a growing presence, particularly in Kabul's western suburbs. Soldiers with the international security force in Kabul regularly find heavy weapons and ammunition hidden throughout the city. To date, they have destroyed more than 200,000 anti-tank weapons, guided missiles, mines and other explosives. [complete article]
Fugitive warlord urges Afghan uprising
By Janullah Hashimzada, Associated Press (via Yahoo), April 11, 2004
Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of America's most-wanted men, has urged his compatriots to rise up against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.
In a statement obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday, Hekmatyar calls for an Afghan uprising in a competitive spirit with Iraq. He welcomed the uprising by supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who have been battling U.S. forces in Iraq.
Afghans "like Iraqi mujahedeen, will choose the way of uprising against the occupiers," said the Pashtu-language statement, translated by the AP. [complete article]
How G.I. bullies are making enemies of their Iraqi friends
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, April 12, 2004
In the last week the Americans have managed what the Iraqis have been unable to achieve in a year - a sense of national unity. But the glue is outrage and anger as Iraqis who have stood back from Washington's attempt to remake the country have found voice and weapons to challenge the US occupation.
The Americans have isolated themselves by mistakenly believing they could challenge the Mehdi Army of the radical Shiite Moqtada al-Sadr at the same time as it mounted a punishing attack on the vexing Sunni city of Falluja, west of Baghdad.
The Iraqi Governing Council, the ineffectual body Washington stacked with friendly exiles, turned against the US for the first time; many in the new Iraqi police force fled their posts; an entire battalion of the new Iraqi army is said to have refused to join the assault on Falluja.
By some estimates, as many as 25 per cent of the new Iraqi security forces, on which the US is depending to impose law and order after June 30, has quit or simply melted away. [complete article]
While our troops remain on Iraq's streets there is no hope
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, April 12, 2004
One thing is even clearer at the end of the heaviest week of American casualties in Iraq since the invasion was launched. The current combat is nothing to do with Saddam Hussein. His hollow regime did not have the muscle or the loyalty to summon up the urban guerrilla resistance that we have seen over the past seven days. His conscript army split and ran.
In its place a year later thousands of volunteers, Shia and Sunni, are fighting to regain the honour they feel they lost when their ancient capital and the rest of the country fell to foreign invaders with relatively few successful shots fired against them.
Where does that leave the occupation forces, or the coalition as it prefers to be called? The opposite ends of the spectrum are stark enough: cut and run, or go in even harder with more guns blazing and more bloodshed. But is there a middle way? Can the coalition find a path back to stability and acceptance? [complete article]
'Damn the U.S. and damn the resistance'
By Patrick Graham, The Observer, April 11, 2004
When we arrived at the bridge outside Falluja at noon on Friday, the Iraqi Red Crescent handed us an old white T-shirt, led us through the crowd and asked us to talk to the soldiers. The US Marines approached carefully, but soon opened the bridge. After a few hundred children and women crossed, crowds on both sides disappeared in less than a few minutes, leaving the soldiers alone.
'Where the fuck'd they go? Hey you, where you going?' the sergeant asked as seven mortar rounds drop a few hundred yards on either side of the bridge. 'They're going to hit us - you watch.'
In the areas outside Falluja, the American army controls only what it can shoot. Everything else is up for grabs. In three days of travelling between Falluja and the nearby city of Ramadi, we saw more resistance fighters, often carrying several RPGs and heavy machineguns, than American soldiers. Few bothered to cover their faces.
On Thursday, a group of 40 fighters or so pulled us over. They were angry and aggressive, hunted by helicopters and US bombers.
The thought of being near them during an American attack was terrifying. A few minutes later, it came. The resistance sped off and we followed, passing a burning humvee and the wreckage of an SUV, leaving passports and flak jackets behind.
Last week's open rebellion in a large area around the encircled city of Falluja showed American propaganda to be just that. [complete article]
More than 600 Iraqis killed in Fallujah fighting over past week
By Abdul-Qader Saadi, Associated Press (via Boston Globe), April 11, 2004
More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in the fighting in Fallujah over the past week, the head of the city's hospital said Sunday.
Statistics on deaths were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Fallujah General Hospital, hospital director Rafie al-Issawi told The Associated Press. They totaled more than 600 dead since the siege of Fallujah began early Monday, he said.
The actual number of dead in the city may be higher, he said.
''We have reports of an unknown number of dead being buried in people's homes without coming to the clinics,'' al-Issawi said. [complete article]
U.S. hostage faces execution
By Justin McCurry and Martin Bright, The Observer, April 11, 2004
Iraqi kidnappers last night paraded an American before television cameras, threatening to kill him unless US forces lifted the siege of Falluja. Thomas Hamill had earlier been taken prisoner and driven off in a car by masked insurgents, adding a new twist to the growing crisis over foreign hostages in Iraq.
In a tape shown on Qatar- based al-Jazeera last night, the kidnappers revealed Hamill in front of an Iraqi flag. 'Our one request is to break the siege of the City of Mosques [Falluja] during the 12 hours from six o'clock on Saturday evening,' a voice said. 'If not, he will be dealt with worse than those who were killed and burnt in Falluja.'
Earlier, Hamill, who spoke with a southern American accent and had a bandage on his arm and blood on his jeans, was shown sitting in the back seat of a car with a masked gunman next to him waving an automatic rifle, on the main highway on Baghdad's western edge where fighting took place last Friday. [complete article]
We'll kill hostages, one by one, rebels vow
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, April 12, 2004
One of the three Japanese being held hostage in Iraq will be executed at an unspecified time today - and the other two within 12 hours - unless Tokyo agrees to new demands, says an Iraqi go-between who claims to have seen them alive yesterday.
False hopes for the safety of the three were raised earlier when word spread from the Middle East to Japan that the Arab news network Al-Jazeera had reported they were to be released at mid-morning yesterday.
This was about the time of the original 72-hour deadline by which their abductors said they were to be burnt alive unless Japan withdrew its 550 troops from the American-led coalition occupying Iraq. [complete article]
New nationalism that unites Iraq
By William Pfaff, The Observer, April 11, 2004
Tony Blair and George W. Bush must come to grips with the fact that they are not fighting 'terrorism' in Iraq, they are fighting nationalism - a struggle they will lose sooner or later.
Whatever the mixture of religious and national passion that has gone into creating the crisis in Iraq - and whatever its component of jihadist exaltées from Afghanistan and apprentice mujahideen from Birmingham and the Paris suburbs - it is essentially a nationalist phenomenon. It is of limited effect as yet, but with explosive potential for the region.
The military effort to suppress the multiple uprising may succeed in driving it underground for a time.
This kind of war all but inevitably produces exemplary punishments of civilians, destruction of homes and reprisals against the families of men fighting the occupation. This can suppress resistance in a given place for a given time, but it promotes hatred and has a brutalising effect on the troops involved, who can be demoralised by serving in a moral climate of reprisals, 'wasting' civilians and an inability to distinguish between enemy combatants and non-combatants.
Such measures have a long and depressing history in guerrilla warfare and popular resistance against occupiers. They serve chiefly to reinforce the political claims of the resistance and discredit those of the occupier. [complete article]
Violence erupts in Baghdad
By Jonathan Steele, Jason Burke and Martin Bright, The Observer, April 11, 2004
Coalition authorities in Iraq faced a new threat last night as the violence that gripped parts of the country last week spread to the capital, Baghdad.
Despite an attempt by US military authorities - prompted by heavy pressure from senior clerics and politicians - to defuse tensions by ordering a unilateral ceasefire in the western city of Falluja, there appears to be no sign that the fighting is ebbing.
The attack by dozens of masked gunmen on a police station in a north-western Sunni Muslim area of Baghdad - the first of its kind in the capital - developed into a running gun battle with American soldiers. Elsewhere, a US tank was set on fire on a road west of Baghdad after, according to locals, it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by a 10-year-old boy. [complete article]
War's full fury is suddenly everywhere
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, April 11, 2004
Just the other day, on the outskirts of town, clouds of black smoke boiled up from the highway. A fuel truck was on fire, engulfed in flames.
Another day in Baghdad. Another hit on a military convoy.
But when a photographer and I stepped out of our car to take pictures, it was clear we were stepping into another Iraq.
Insurgents flooded onto the roadway, masks over their faces, machine guns in their hands. They began to fire at approaching Humvees. The neighborhood around us scattered into a mosaic of panic. Women slammed gates behind them. Cars shot gravel from their tires as they raced away. And we were just 20 minutes outside the city center in a place that up until the last few days was as safe as any.
In Kufa, a palm-lined town on the Euphrates, bearded Shiite militiamen who swear their allegiance to a rebel cleric are driving around in police cars. American officials had just bought those police cars. American soldiers had just trained the policemen who had been riding in them.
In the Khadamiya neighborhood, one of the prettiest spots in Baghdad, men passed out grenades where just days ago children sat under umbrellas, licking ice cream. It was stunning how natural it looked, how quickly armed men seemed the norm, how nobody seemed to bat an eye, even though the heart of Baghdad now looked like the heart of Kabul. [complete article]
Iraqi battalion refuses to 'fight Iraqis'
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, April 11, 2004
A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah earlier this week to support U.S. Marines battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army officers here said, disclosing an incident that is casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security matters to Iraqi forces.
It was the first time U.S. commanders had sought to involve the postwar Iraqi army in major combat operations, and the battalion's refusal came as large parts of Iraqi security forces have stopped carrying out their duties.
The 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces refused to fight Monday after members of the unit were shot at in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad while en route to Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who is overseeing the development of Iraqi security forces. The convoy then turned around and returned to the battalion's post on a former Republican Guard base in Taji, a town north of the capital. [complete article]
U.S. prepares a prolonged drive to suppress the uprisings in Iraq
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, April 11, 2004
American commanders are preparing for a prolonged campaign to quell the twin uprisings in Iraq, issuing orders to attack any members of a rebellious Shiite militia in southern cities relentlessly while moving methodically to squeeze Sunni fighters west of Baghdad until they lay down their arms.
Officials in Baghdad and at the Pentagon said the military was prepared, if no peaceful solution materializes, to use two distinct sets of tactics to counter what they viewed as two different insurgencies -- both of them dangerous and complex situations on difficult urban battlefields.
One campaign would entail retaking cities around Baghdad, if necessary block by block against an entrenched Sunni foe. The other would involve a series of short, sharp, local strikes at small, elusive bands of Shiite militia in southern cities, continuing until the militia was wiped out. Even as commanders offered a cease-fire to Sunnis in Falluja, allowing Iraqis to try to find a peaceful solution, and postponed any assault on Shiites in Najaf and elsewhere during religious holidays, they prepared for campaigns against foes who showed unexpected discipline and ferocity this week. [complete article]
As fighting continues, quest to bring democracy to Iraq nears failure
By Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder, April 9, 2004
President Bush invaded Iraq hoping to spread democracy across the Middle East, but after the worst week of violence since Saddam Hussein was overthrown, he's now struggling to avoid a costly, humiliating defeat.
"It was going to transform the Middle East, remember? Now all we want to do is save our butts," said former U.S. ambassador David Mack, vice president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute, a nonpartisan research center that concentrates on Arab states.
The president, like many of his predecessors in the White House, faces competing pressures over the course of a war. Polls show that Americans, while not demanding immediate withdrawal, are growing discontented with Bush's handling of Iraq and the rising tide of casualties. At least 45 U.S. soldiers were killed this week in spreading rebellions by a Shi'ia militia and Sunni Muslims.
Yet backing away now could leave Iraq worse off than it was before, many government officials and private experts believe. They fear a failed state, like Afghanistan was in the early 1990s, would spawn terrorism and destabilize its neighbors. Those neighbors could include pivotal U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf, such as oil-rich Saudi Arabia, where instability could pose troubling implications for the global economy. [complete article]
Series of U.S. fumbles blamed for turmoil in postwar Iraq
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, April 11, 2004
The array of challenges the United States now faces in Iraq seems to have emerged almost overnight but is actually the accumulation of mistakes, miscalculations and missed opportunities since Saddam Hussein's government collapsed a year ago, say U.S. officials and Iraq experts, including some who worked with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.
The miscalculations were reflected in the period of confusion when the United States flip-flopped on which Americans and which Iraqis would run postwar Iraq -- and how. The missed opportunities, the sources said, include the CPA's failure to identify powerful Muslim clerics who might influence politics, from moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to the radical young militia leader Moqtada Sadr, whose insurgents have been fighting coalition forces in Baghdad and in cities across southern Iraq. [complete article]
U.S. tactics condemned by British officers
By Sean Rayment, The Telegraph, April 11, 2004
Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.
One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.
The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".
Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.
"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them." [complete article]
U.S. targeted fiery cleric in risky move
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, April 11, 2004
"Bremer follows in the footsteps of Saddam," screamed the headline in al-Hawza, a tabloid newspaper run by firebrand Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr. With incendiary language, the article accused L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, of deliberately starving the Iraqi people.
A month later, on March 28, Bremer ordered the weekly paper shut down. According to U.S. officials, Bremer believed that after months of waiting, the moment was right to pressure Sadr to capitulate to American demands to disband his growing militia, which had attacked American troops in the past.
But instead of relenting, Sadr and his supporters responded with protests, the seizure of government buildings and a spate of violent attacks. He unleashed a major revolt in Shiite-dominated parts of Baghdad and southern Iraq that has become the gravest challenge to the U.S. occupation.
Several American and Iraqi officials now regard Bremer's move to close the newspaper as a profound miscalculation based on poor intelligence and inaccurate assumptions. Foremost among the errors, the officials said, was the lack of a military strategy to deal with Sadr if he chose to fight back, as he did. [complete article]
Surprise: Some Iraqi gunmen have held their fire
By John H. Cushman Jr., New York Times, April 11, 2004
If political power grows from the barrel of a gun, then every armed Iraqi has a stake in the transfer of authority that is supposed to take place there in 11 weeks. But so far, one of the most important armed groups in Iraq has not plunged into the wild uprisings that spread last week.
Even as the rebellious Mahdi militia of Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, took over government buildings and streets in several towns, and even as it claimed to have forged a common fight with rebellious Sunnis in central Iraq, another, larger, better trained and equally ardent Shiite force, the Badr militia, seemed mainly to stand aside. It could now play a profound role in setting Iraq's future.
If the Badrs continue to withhold support from the Mahdi insurrection, or act to block it, they might gain more power under constitutional rule. But their appearance on the battlefield as rebels would greatly complicate the task of restoring order. [complete article]
Trying to square a triangle of interests
By Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New York Times, April 11, 2004
Speaking in Berlin recently, Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser, said that trans-Atlantic relations were the worst he could remember, and that this itself was the gravest security problem of the age. Clearly he meant the consequences of the Iraq war, which was opposed, as polls showed, by almost every country in Europe.
Yet well before the crisis in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was already dividing the United States and Europe. Over the years, if you had followed that conflict through both the European and American media, you would have felt as if you were following two completely different stories.
This week, both the British and Israeli prime ministers Tony Blair and Ariel Sharon will visit the United States. Their separate meetings with President Bush will highlight what has become an acutely difficult triangular relationship of America, Europe and the Middle East. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
When U.S. aided insurgents, did it breed future terrorists?
By Hugh Eakin, New York Times, April 10, 2004
In the varied explanations for the 9/11 attacks and the rise in terrorism, two themes keep recurring. One is that Islamic culture itself is to blame, leading to a clash of civilizations, or, as more nuanced versions have it, a struggle between secular-minded and fundamentalist Muslims that has resulted in extremist violence against the West. The second is that terrorism is a feature of the post-cold-war landscape, belonging to an era in which international relations are no longer defined by the titanic confrontation between two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. But in the eyes of Mahmood Mamdani, a Uganda-born political scientist and cultural anthropologist at Columbia University, both those assumptions are wrong. Not only does he argue that terrorism does not necessarily have anything to do with Islamic culture; he also insists that the spread of terror as a tactic is largely an outgrowth of American cold war foreign policy. After Vietnam, he argues, the American government shifted from a strategy of direct intervention in the fight against global Communism to one of supporting new forms of low-level insurgency by private armed groups. "In practice," Mr. Mamdani has written, "it translated into a United States decision to harness, or even to cultivate, terrorism in the struggle against regimes it considered pro-Soviet." The real culprit of 9/11, in other words, is not Islam but rather non-state violence in general, during the final stages of the stand-off with the Soviet Union. Using third and fourth parties, the C.I.A. supported terrorist and proto-terrorist movements in Indochina, Latin America, Africa and, of course, Afghanistan, he argues in his new book, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror.
One year on: From liberation to jihad
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, April 9, 2004
For all purposes, an intifada is now going on. Local sources tell Asia Times Online there are pro-Muqtada posters all over Anbar - the richest, predominantly Sunni, Iraqi province. Ramadi - where marines have been under fierce attack - is in Anbar. Only a war of national liberation is the motive capable of explaining these posters. The concept - penned by the Pentagon - of a Shi'ite Mahdi Army fighting the marines in Sunni Anbar is positively ludicrous. This regional resistance is conducted by former officers of the Iraqi army, as tribal sheikhs in the Sunni triangle told this correspondent last year. Sunnis and Shi'ites are united in Baghdad, under the same nationalist impulse. Sheikh Raed al-Kazami, Muqtada's man in the Shi'ite-majority Kazimiya neighborhood, is not very far from the truth when he says: "All of Iraq is behind Muqtada al-Sadr; we are but one body, one people." On the other side of the Tigris, Sunni-majority Adhamiya is now aligned with Kazimiya, as well as Fallujah, Ramadi and even Mosul, against the "American invaders". The popular justification is always the same: this is now a jihad, regardless of whether one is Sunni or Shi'ite. People will fight in their neighborhoods, even if they don't join the Mahdi Army. Asia Times Online has learned that in an unprecedented move, 150 powerful Sunni tribal leaders and emissaries personally delivered a support message to Muqtada's key aides in the 2-million-plus slum of Sadr City, the former Saddam City: "We are all behind Muqtada al-Sadr, we are by his side because he awakened the Iraqi people to liberate the country from the infidel invaders." The message also said: "We are but one Muslim nation - no one can separate us, be it in Iraq or Palestine."
From nation-building to religion-building
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, April 7, 2004
One thing that can be said about U.S. neo-conservatives is they do not lack for ambition. ''We need an Islamic reformation'', Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz confided on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year, ''and I think there is real hope for one''. Echoing those views one year later, another prominent neo-conservative, Daniel Pipes of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum (MEF), recently declared that the ''ultimate goal'' of the war on terrorism had to be Islam's modernisation, or, as he put it, ''religion-building''. Such an effort needs to be waged not only in the Islamic world, geographically speaking, added Pipes, who last year was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP), but also among Muslims in the West, where, in his view, they are too often represented by ''Islamist (or militant Islamic)'' organisations.
In Iraq, without options
By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, April 7, 2004
So now the president's war of choice has led to an occupation with no good options. The Bush administration's plan is to hand over control of Iraq to the Iraqi Governing Council on June 30. Just how that council will sustain itself in power, however, is increasingly unclear after the upheaval of the past few days. Its own police force, which the United States has spent time and treasure recruiting and training, all but collapsed during the uprising of Moqtada Sadr's Shiite militia. In Kufa, Najaf and Baghdad's own Sadr City, the government's new cops handed over police cars and police stations to the militia without any reported resistance. In some instances, the cops actually joined forces with Sadr's militants. So much for our thin blue line. Within Iraq, there are thousands of current and potential gunmen willing to fight for their people and their creeds -- Kurdish automony, Sunni hegemony, Shiite control, an Islamic republic. But the force charged with defending a pluralistic, united Iraq just went AWOL under fire. It's not that there aren't lots of Iraqis committed to a democratic, relatively nonsectarian nation. But that is just one faith among many in post-Hussein Iraq. And by keeping sole control of the occupation, the White House has ensured that the cause of pluralistic nationhood has become disastrously intermingled with support for the U.S. occupation.
Al-Mahdi's ranks swell with young poor
By Colin Freeman, The Scotsman, April 7, 2004
Ahmed is a typical recruit [to Muqtadr al-Sadr's al Madhi army]: dirt-poor, uneducated, and, in the chaos of post-war Iraq, facing little better prospects than he did during Saddam’s time, when Shiites like him were deliberately discriminated against. He has spent most of his life in a village near the marshland town of Qurnah, where the toppling of Saddam offered nothing more than the chance to return to scraping a living selling fish. That was until a memorable day six months ago, when a local mosque received a visit from Sadr's deputy Sheikh Mohammad al-Yaqubi, whose arrest on suspicion of murder last week sparked the latest violence. With little else to do, Ahmed and around 150 of his friends and cousins went along to see what it was all about. They found themselves transfixed by Yaqubi's fiery oratory. "He was just a very simple guy, but he loves God and he told us to do the same," said Ahmed. "They said that we should join the al-Mahdi army if we wanted to save both Islam and our own country from the Americans. Who would not want to do that?"
The other war
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, April 5, 2004
In December, 2002, a year after the Taliban had been driven from power in Afghanistan, Donald Rumsfeld gave an upbeat assessment of the country's future to CNN's Larry King. "They have elected a government. . . . The Taliban are gone. The Al Qaeda are gone. The country is not a perfectly stable place, and it needs a great deal of reconstruction funds," Rumsfeld said. "There are people who are throwing hand grenades and shooting off rockets and trying to kill people, but there are people who are trying to kill people in New York or San Francisco. So it's not going to be a perfectly tidy place." Nonetheless, he said, "I'm hopeful, I'm encouraged." And he added, "I wish them well." A year and a half later, the Taliban are still a force in many parts of Afghanistan, and the country continues to provide safe haven for members of Al Qaeda. American troops, more than ten thousand of whom remain, are heavily deployed in the mountainous areas near Pakistan, still hunting for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader. Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed President, exercises little political control outside Kabul and is struggling to undercut the authority of local warlords, who effectively control the provinces. Heroin production is soaring, and, outside of Kabul and a few other cities, people are terrorized by violence and crime. A new report by the United Nations Development Program, made public on the eve of last week's international conference, in Berlin, on aid to Afghanistan, stated that the nation is in danger of once again becoming a "terrorist breeding ground" unless there is a significant increase in development aid. The turmoil in Afghanistan has become a political issue for the Bush Administration, whose general conduct of the war on terrorism is being publicly challenged by Richard A. Clarke, the former National Security Council terrorism adviser, in a memoir, "Against All Enemies," and in contentious hearings before the September 11th Commission. The Bush Administration has consistently invoked Afghanistan as a success story -- an example of the President's determination. However, it is making this claim in the face of renewed warnings, from international organizations, from allies, and from within its own military -- notably a Pentagon-commissioned report that was left in bureaucratic limbo when its conclusions proved negative -- that the situation there is deteriorating rapidly.
Afghanistan: One step forward, two steps back
By Bushra Asif, Foreign Policy in Focus, April 8, 2004
As donors met in Berlin last week to review Afghanistan's progress and reaffirm their commitment to its reconstruction, the Afghan National army was swiftly moving into the northern province of Herat. Its mission was to quell an upsurge in factional fighting, following the murder of Mirwais Sadeq, the Afghan aviation minister and son of the powerful warlord and governor Ismail Khan. Although the army may have prevented the escalation of violence, the episode highlights the weakness of the central government and the fragility of security in the country. Almost two years after the fall of the Taliban, peace and security in Afghanistan still remains elusive. The establishment of Hamid Karzai's interim Afghan government and the presence of U.S. forces had temporarily curbed factional infighting between warring ethnic militias, but did little to reduce the influence of regional warlords or improve security beyond Kabul. In the absence of effective central authority, different parts of Afghanistan continue to suffer from chronic insecurity and violence. More than 220 Afghan officials, civilians, and aid workers were killed in 36 separate armed attacks in and outside Kabul in August 2003 alone. 2004 was not much better. January was marked by a series of suicide bombings and ambushes, particularly in the Pashtun-populated east and south, where Taliban insurgents are staging a come back.
Afghan city falls despite troop dispatch
By David Brunnstrom, Reuters (via Yahoo), April 8, 2004
Forces of a renegade adviser to President Hamid Karzai overran the capital of a northern province of Afghanistan on Thursday, creating a fresh security headache for the government and its U.S.-led foreign backers. General Abdul Rashid Dostum's largely ethnic Uzbek militia invaded Faryab from neighboring provinces on Wednesday, prompting the central government to send national troops there on Thursday in an attempt to maintain control. The fighting in the north and another outbreak in the western province of Herat last month have been an unwanted diversion for Karzai and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan even as they battle Taliban and allied militants in the south and east. The latest unrest bodes ill for President Bush 's hopes for a successful election in Afghanistan later in the year to offset the mounting problems he faces in Iraq.
Bush loyalists pack Iraq press office
By Jim Krane, Associated Press (via SF Chronicle), April 4, 2004
Inside the marble-floored palace hall that serves as the press office of the U.S.-led coalition, Republican Party operatives lead a team of Americans who promote mostly good news about Iraq. Dan Senor, a former press secretary for Spencer Abraham, the Michigan Republican who's now Energy Secretary, heads the office that includes a large number of former Bush campaign workers, political appointees and ex-Capitol Hill staffers. [...] Earlier in his career, after Hebrew University and Harvard Business School, Senor was with the Carlyle Group, an investment firm with Bush family ties and big defense industry holdings. Senor jogged in a Thanksgiving Day race here wearing a "Bush-Cheney 2004" T-shirt. Known as the Green Room, the press office is inside coalition headquarters in the Republican Palace that used to belong to Saddam Hussein. The palace is in central Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. The office counts 21 Republicans -- 11 of whom have worked inside the Bush administration before their Iraq posting -- among its 58 U.S. civilian staffers, according to figures Senor provided. The political affiliation of the 37 others could not be determined. More than half a dozen CPA officials in the press office worked on Bush's 2000 presidential campaign or are related to Bush campaign workers, according to payroll records filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Republican figures also permeate the wider CPA staff, including top advisers to U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and the Iraqi ministries. The U.S. team stands in deep contrast to the British team that works alongside it, almost all of whom are civil or foreign service employees, not political appointees. Many of the British in Iraq display regional knowledge or language skills that most of the Americans lack.
Fallouja: No good options
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2004
In a peaceful country with a developed economy, two police officers per 1,000 people are enough to maintain calm, [Michael] Clarke [, professor of defense studies at King's College in London] said. In Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the police needed 20 per 1,000. But in Iraq, 20 security personnel per 1,000 people would translate to 500,000 security forces -- far more than the Iraqi personnel and coalition troops combined. The Marines who now surround Fallouja are the fourth set of U.S. forces to occupy the area in the last year. They had recently promised to try a model more similar to that used by British troops in the southern city of Basra: foot patrols and intensive interaction with locals to create trust. But last month's fatal firefight between Marines and residents that killed up to 20 Iraqis, followed by the attack on U.S. civilians, greatly complicates the prospects for such efforts. Commenting on British forces' efforts to reach out to the local population in Northern Ireland, Clarke made clear such battles are won over years, not months. "That was a pretty uphill struggle in the 1970s, but by the 1980s it caught on," he said. "It did take 20 odd years and 3,000 deaths." [Toby] Dodge, the Iraq expert [from Warwick University, Britain], agreed. "The first question is, can the U.S. troops control this area of the [Sunni] Triangle? The second question is, can U.S. troops control Iraq?" he said. "The answer to both questions is, painfully, 'No.' "
Bush and Blair made secret pact for Iraq war
By David Rose, The Observer, April 4, 2004
President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001. According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy. It was clear, Meyer says, 'that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions'. Elsewhere in his interview, Meyer says Blair always believed it was unlikely that Saddam would be removed from power or give up his weapons of mass destruction without a war. Faced with this prospect of a further war, he adds, Blair 'said nothing to demur'.
HOME | ABOUT | CONTACT | Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul Woodward
A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world
Researched, edited and sprinkled with occasional commentary by Paul Woodward
Sign up for weekly email updates
DIRECTORY OF LINKS
A resource for more information about Iraq, the Middle East conflict, Afghanistan, Korea, nuclear proliferation, war, peace, and the foreign policies of the Bush Administration.
SUPPORT THIS SITE!
Get a DVD!
USS Liberty Survivors: Our Story
:: Search Site :: Archives
archives prior to April 21, 2002
Not In Our Name
A Statement Of Conscience