|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Regarding the torture of others
By Susan Sontag, New York Times, May 23, 2004
For a long time -- at least six decades -- photographs have laid down the tracks of how important conflicts are judged and remembered. The Western memory museum is now mostly a visual one. Photographs have an insuperable power to determine what we recall of events, and it now seems probable that the defining association of people everywhere with the war that the United States launched pre-emptively in Iraq last year will be photographs of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans in the most infamous of Saddam Hussein's prisons, Abu Ghraib. The Bush administration and its defenders have chiefly sought to limit a public-relations disaster -- the dissemination of the photographs -- rather than deal with the complex crimes of leadership and of policy revealed by the pictures. There was, first of all, the displacement of the reality onto the photographs themselves. The administration's initial response was to say that the president was shocked and disgusted by the photographs -- as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict. There was also the avoidance of the word "torture." The prisoners had possibly been the objects of "abuse," eventually of "humiliation" -- that was the most to be admitted. "My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at a press conference. "And therefore I'm not going to address the 'torture' word." Words alter, words add, words subtract. It was the strenuous avoidance of the word "genocide" while some 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were being slaughtered, over a few weeks' time, by their Hutu neighbors 10 years ago that indicated the American government had no intention of doing anything. To refuse to call what took place in Abu Ghraib -- and what has taken place elsewhere in Iraq and in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay -- by its true name, torture, is as outrageous as the refusal to call the Rwandan genocide a genocide.
More carnage in Gaza as the U.S. mutters its disapproval
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, May 21, 2004
Israel's latest outrages in Gaza have produced a rare but tiny hint of American disapproval. For the first time since the Israeli assault on West Bank cities two years ago, the United States has abstained on a critical UN resolution rather than vetoing it. Colin Powell, the secretary of state, said Israel's actions "have caused a problem and worsened the situation". James Cunningham, representing the US at the UN, said the Israeli behaviour has "not enhanced Israeli security". But if Israeli forces pull back shortly, as many Israeli commentators assume, it will not be because the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is listening to Washington. It is more likely to be out of fear that more Israeli soldiers will die. Thirteen have been killed by the Palestinians' armed resistance in the Gaza Strip over the last three weeks. In spite of the Israeli army's vastly superior fire-power and its ruthless willingness to use it even in crowded city streets, it cannot avoid casualties on its own side. The Israeli propaganda machine is trying to blur the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Palestinians during the Gaza incursions as well as the nature of the struggle. Avi Pazner, a government spokesman, says: "This is a fight against terrorism. We are extremely careful not to hurt or damage in any way the civilian populations. We target the terrorists." Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, bizarrely links the issue of Gaza to that of missiles, as though this wretched and poverty-stricken corner of the illegally occupied territories is on a par with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the notorious 45-minute claim. Using the argument that Israel's army had gone in to root out workshops making rockets, he declared: "The whole of Gaza, and Rafah in particular, is on the verge of becoming a missile base aimed at Israel's cities and civilians. What would the international community have Israel do? Just sit back and wait for this horrific scenario to materialise?" This is hyperbolic nonsense. The record shows that for decades Gaza was not used as a base for suicide bombers. Apart from one attack that killed four soldiers at the Erez crossing out of Gaza in January this year and another that killed 10 civilians at Ashdod in March, the suicide bombers all came from the West Bank.
'Part of God's plan'
By Matthew Wells, The Guardian, May 19, 2004
Two weeks after [Specialist] Joel [Bertoldie] was killed, his battalion was brought home, and [his grandmother] Judy [Hampshire] remembered the moment a few months earlier when the president had declared his mission accomplished. "He said it was over, and we were all going to be safe, so we gave a huge sigh of relief ... We thought, two more weeks, and he would have been safe. It was a long way from over," she said. Thinking back, she had not known anyone who died in Vietnam and she never really engaged with it, but from the heart of middle America, the unwanted closeness she now feels to the Iraq conflict has brought the politics surrounding it into sharp focus. She fails to understand why the Bush administration did not allow images of soldiers' flag-draped coffins to be shown, but her loyalty to the commander-in-chief remained rock-solid. "Someone has got to stop these terrorists. How many more people are they going to kill? Why are they doing it? I believe al-Qaida was there in Iraq, and Saddam was letting them come in and out. I don't blame our government for Joel, I blame them," she said.
By Fred Kaplan, Washington Monthly, May 2004
On Oct. 4, 2002, officials from the U.S. State Department flew to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and confronted Kim Jong-il's foreign ministry with evidence that Kim had acquired centrifuges for processing highly enriched uranium, which could be used for building nuclear weapons. To the Americans' surprise, the North Koreans conceded. It was an unsettling revelation, coming just as the Bush administration was gearing up for a confrontation with Iraq. This new threat wasn't imminent; processing uranium is a tedious task; Kim Jong-il was almost certainly years away from grinding enough of the stuff to make an atomic bomb. But the North Koreans had another route to nuclear weapons--a stash of radioactive fuel rods, taken a decade earlier from its nuclear power plant in Yongbyon. These rods could be processed into plutonium--and, from that, into A-bombs--not in years but in months. Thanks to an agreement brokered by the Clinton administration, the rods were locked in a storage facility under the monitoring of international weapons-inspectors. Common sense dictated that--whatever it did about the centrifuges--the Bush administration should do everything possible to keep the fuel rods locked up. Unfortunately, common sense was in short supply. After a few shrill diplomatic exchanges over the uranium, Pyongyang upped the ante. The North Koreans expelled the international inspectors, broke the locks on the fuel rods, loaded them onto a truck, and drove them to a nearby reprocessing facility, to be converted into bomb-grade plutonium. The White House stood by and did nothing. Why did George W. Bush--his foreign policy avowedly devoted to stopping "rogue regimes" from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--allow one of the world's most dangerous regimes to acquire the makings of the deadliest WMDs? Given the current mayhem and bloodshed in Iraq, it's hard to imagine a decision more ill-conceived than invading that country unilaterally without a plan for the "post-war" era. But the Bush administration's inept diplomacy toward North Korea might well have graver consequences. President Bush made the case for war in Iraq on the premise that Saddam Hussein might soon have nuclear weapons--which turned out not to be true. Kim Jong-il may have nuclear weapons now; he certainly has enough plutonium to build some, and the reactors to breed more.
Fallujah: In the hands of insurgents
By Joshua Hammer, Newsweek, May 24, 2004
The mujahed named Mohammed who detained us [inside Fallujah's Jolan neighborhood] is a stocky, handsome man in his early 20s from a well-to-do Fallujah family. He had been studying foreign languages at Baghdad University when the U.S. military toppled Saddam Hussein last year, and he says he initially supported Saddam's overthrow, but "the Americans should have left Iraq immediately [after the war]." When the Marines invaded last month, Mohammed was one of hundreds of neighborhood men and teenagers -- including many former Iraqi soldiers -- who answered the call to arms from local mosques. "How would you feel if French soldiers or Arab soldiers invaded your city, and killed your friends, your family?" he asks as he and his brother serve us kebab, pita and tea on the richly carpeted floor of a cousin's spacious home. "We fought in the streets, in the houses, on the rooftops. Even the Marines' tanks and helicopters could not stop us. My closest friends died beside me." He says that his mother and his brother were shot dead by Marine snipers, and he scoffs at the portrayal of insurgents as "terrorists." Mohammed and his comrades tell us that the prisoner-abuse scandal wasn't a surprise. "We knew what was going on inside Abu Ghraib all along," claims one young fighter with a badly burned hand. "You Americans can't do anything good."
Torture and truth
By Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, June 10, 2004
Last November in Iraq, I traveled to Fallujah during the early days of what would become known as the "Ramadan Offensive" -- when suicide bombers in the space of less than an hour destroyed the Red Cross headquarters and four police stations, and daily attacks by insurgents against US troops doubled, and the American adventure in Iraq entered a bleak tunnel from which it has yet to emerge. I inquired of a young man there why the people of that city were attacking Americans more frequently each day. How many of the attacks, I wanted to know, were carried out by foreign fighters? How many by local Islamists? And how many by what US officers called "FRL's" -- former regime loyalists? The young man -- I'll call him Salih -- listened, answered patiently in his limited but eloquent English, but soon became impatient with what he plainly saw as my American obsession with categories and particulars. Finally he interrupted my litany of questions, pushed his face close to mine, and spoke to me slowly and emphatically: For Fallujans it is a shame to have foreigners break down their doors. It is a shame for them to have foreigners stop and search their women. It is a shame for the foreigners to put a bag over their heads, to make a man lie on the ground with your shoe on his neck. This is a great shame, you understand? This is a great shame for the whole tribe. It is the duty of that man, and of that tribe, to get revenge on this soldier—to kill that man. Their duty is to attack them, to wash the shame. The shame is a stain, a dirty thing; they have to wash it. No sleep -- we cannot sleep until we have revenge. They have to kill soldiers. He leaned back and looked at me, then tried one more time. "The Americans," he said, "provoke the people. They don't respect the people."
America and Arabia after Saddam
By Fred Halliday, Open Democracy, May 13, 2004
The crisis in Iraq, and the broader post-9/11 crisis that surrounds it, will clearly last for many a year yet. It will affect many areas of life – security (interstate, internal and personal), economy (its effects on the world oil market, business confidence and broader macro-economic change), domestic politics, and on inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in Europe and the Middle East. This combination of impacts across a wide arc of nation-states -- the Arab world, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- amounts to what I called three years ago the "greater west Asian crisis". In short, in the spring of 2004 we are in the midst of one of the greatest, most intractable and global crises of modern times. It is not a world war, a strategic military conflict between major states -- the form of conflict that, with two world wars and the cold war, dominated the 20th century; nor is it a major international economic crisis, as was 1929 and (less seriously) 1973. But at every level of social and political life, we confront a situation that is likely to affect everyone on earth and have serious global consequences.
A new American dream
By William Pfaff, The Observer, May 16, 2004
The United States and Britain have an Iraq crisis on their hands, but the US has something worse, a crisis of thought and assumption in the mainstream intellectual community over foreign policy. The second crisis involves much more than the derailment of US policy in Iraq. It concerns what has been done and said to redefine America's place in global society and, by implication, in contemporary history, since 11 September - after which, as Americans said, nothing could ever be the same. A 'new America' was said to have emerged, but it would be better to say an old one found new empowerment. It was recently described by former US ambassador to France Felix Rohatyn as 'more radical and more committed than ever to the need for unchallenged military dominance. It is more individualistic than Europe, more religious, conservative and patriotic ... [These factors] will influence everything America does from now on, both in its foreign and its domestic policies.' This is undoubtedly true, but this 'new' America amazingly resembles the isolationist and xenophobic America between 1920 and 1941. What is new is that it has become the most heavily-armed nation on Earth and believes it is, and should remain, number one.
Agency: Chalabi group was front for Iran
By Knut Royce, Newsday, May 22, 2004
The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.
"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.
The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years. [complete article]
Officials investigate how INC's Chalabi obtained U.S. intelligence
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, Knight Ridder, May 21, 2004
The U.S. government has launched an investigation to determine how Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi obtained highly classified American intelligence that was then passed to Iran, Bush administration officials said Friday.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity, said the compromised intelligence was "highly classified and damaging."
He declined to specify what it was.
The officials spoke a day after Iraqi police, backed by U.S. soldiers, raided the home and offices of Chalabi, a one-time favorite of civilian Pentagon officials who played a key role in building support for invading Iraq.
Two U.S. officials said that evidence suggests that Arras Habib, Chalabi's security chief, is a longtime agent of Iran's intelligence service, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, or MOIS.
The investigation is likely to be extremely sensitive because Chalabi's most ardent supporters have included not only top civilians in the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, but also officials in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and members of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory group. [complete article]
Regarding the torture of others
By Susan Sontag, New York Times, May 23, 2004
For a long time -- at least six decades -- photographs have laid down the tracks of how important conflicts are judged and remembered. The Western memory museum is now mostly a visual one. Photographs have an insuperable power to determine what we recall of events, and it now seems probable that the defining association of people everywhere with the war that the United States launched pre-emptively in Iraq last year will be photographs of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans in the most infamous of Saddam Hussein's prisons, Abu Ghraib.
The Bush administration and its defenders have chiefly sought to limit a public-relations disaster -- the dissemination of the photographs -- rather than deal with the complex crimes of leadership and of policy revealed by the pictures. There was, first of all, the displacement of the reality onto the photographs themselves. The administration's initial response was to say that the president was shocked and disgusted by the photographs -- as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict. There was also the avoidance of the word "torture." The prisoners had possibly been the objects of "abuse," eventually of "humiliation" -- that was the most to be admitted. "My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at a press conference. "And therefore I'm not going to address the 'torture' word."
Words alter, words add, words subtract. It was the strenuous avoidance of the word "genocide" while some 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were being slaughtered, over a few weeks' time, by their Hutu neighbors 10 years ago that indicated the American government had no intention of doing anything. To refuse to call what took place in Abu Ghraib -- and what has taken place elsewhere in Iraq and in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay -- by its true name, torture, is as outrageous as the refusal to call the Rwandan genocide a genocide. [complete article]
Punishment and amusement
By Scott Higham and Joe Stephens, Washington Post, May 22, 2004
Prisoners posed in three of the most infamous photographs of abuse to come out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were not being softened up for interrogation by intelligence officers but instead were being punished for criminal acts or the amusement of their jailers, according to previously secret documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Several of the photographs taken by military police on the cellblock have become iconic, among them the naked human pyramid, the hooded man standing on a box hooked up to wires, and the three naked prisoners handcuffed together on the prison floor. The documents show that MPs staged the photographs as a form of entertainment or to discipline the prisoners for acts ranging from rioting to an alleged rape of a teenage boy in the prison.
The documents include statements by four of the seven MPs now charged in the abuse scandal: Spec. Sabrina Harman, Spec. Jeremy Sivits, Sgt. Javal S. Davis and Pfc. Lynndie England. Their statements provide new insights into the unfolding case.
For instance, they contain tantalizing hints about the role of military intelligence officers who operated in the shadows of Tier 1A at the prison. One military police officer said in a sworn statement that civilian and military intelligence officers frequently visited Tier 1A at night, spiriting detainees away for questioning out of sight of the MPs inside a "wood hut" behind the prison building. The documents also offer the first detailed account of how the abuse scandal unraveled. [complete article]
Comment -- While the Pentagon's efforts to contain the abuse scandal were rocked by the initial release of photos shown on 60 Minutes, the existence of the photos and videos might actually be serving as a means to limit the scope of public attention. The "issue" is what the photos reveal. But if it turns out that even worse acts were carried out outside the view of a camera, we may have to ask whether even while we were being shocked we were also being manipulated.
Continuing the cover-up?
By Brian Ross and Alexandra Salomon, ABC News, May 21, 2004
A witness who told ABC News he believed the military was covering up the extent of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison was today stripped of his security clearance and told he may face prosecution because his comments were "not in the national interest."
Sgt. Samuel Provance said in addition to his revoked security clearance, he was transferred to a different platoon, and his record was officially "flagged," meaning he cannot be promoted or given any awards or honors.
Provance said he was told he will face administrative action for failing to report what he knew at the time and for failing to take steps to stop the abuse.
"I see it as an effort to intimidate Sgt. Provance and any other soldier whose conscience is bothering him, and who wants to come forward and tell what really happened at Abu Ghraib," said his attorney Scott Horton. [complete article]
Memo gave intelligence bigger role
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, May 21, 2004
Shortly before the physical abuses of Iraqis were photographed in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad last year, the top U.S. military official in Iraq signed a classified memorandum explicitly calling for interrogators to assume control over the "lighting, heating . . . food, clothing, and shelter" of those being questioned there.
The Oct. 12, 2003, memorandum signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez called for intelligence officials at the prison to work more closely with the military police guarding the detainees to "manipulate an internee's emotions and weaknesses."
This memo and the deliberations that preceded it were completely shrouded from public view at the time, but now lie at the heart of the scandal that erupted last month over the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Under congressional prodding, the administration has provided a fuller chronology of the events leading up to its approval. [complete article]
Number of Army probes of detainee deaths rises to 33
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, May 22, 2004
The Army announced yesterday a jump in the number of criminal investigations it has launched into detainee deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, among them a case involving one of Saddam Hussein's top generals, who died last November while being interrogated by U.S. soldiers.
A senior military official, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said the Army has completed or is still conducting criminal probes into 33 cases involving the deaths of 32 detainees in Iraq and five in Afghanistan.
The new tally amounts to an increase of eight cases over the 25 reported on May 4 by the Army's top criminal investigator as the scandal over abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison was erupting.
It also pointed to wider problems beyond the Abu Ghraib facility, raising the possibility that coercive interrogations and other mistreatment by U.S. soldiers may have resulted in the deaths of some detainees. [complete article]
U.S. troops in fierce clashes in holy cities
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, May 22, 2004
American troops called in an AC-130 Spectre gunship yesterday in fresh clashes with a rebel Shia militia in the holy Iraqi city of Kerbala.
The US military said it killed 18 fighters loyal to the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in fighting before dawn yesterday. Two Iranian pilgrims and a driver for the Arabic television channel al-Jazeera were also killed.
In the city of Najaf, 50 miles to the south, Mr Sadr's militia held a Spanish radio reporter captive for four hours before releasing him unharmed.
Commanders said American forces in Kerbala postponed a major push into the city to give more time for diplomatic negotiations to end the nearly two-month stand off with Mr Sadr, whose forces led uprisings across southern Iraq. Instead, under the cover of heavy fire, American troops withdrew from a mosque in Kerbala that was formerly a militia base and which the US military had occupied for two weeks. It had been the scene of intense fighting in recent days. [complete article]
See also Sudden quiet in Karbala is puzzling to U.S. forces
U.S. to grant 'full sovereignty' to Iraqis at June 30 hand-over
By Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2004
Seeking to convince Iraqis that the U.S.-led occupation authority is truly handing over power on June 30, Washington says it will ease its grip on Iraqi military forces and police, and is declaring that it will hand over "full sovereignty" rather than a limited version U.S. officials described just weeks ago.
Iraq's new leaders will be invited to help define the boundaries of their power and craft a new Security Council resolution mapping out the transition.
"Many Iraqis have expressed their desire to have limits on the authorities of this interim government, reflecting their view that some issues are best left to an elected Iraqi government for decision," U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham told the Security Council this week. "We note that it is for Iraqis to decide what those limits might be."
U.S. officials raised hackles here and in Iraq last month when they used the phrase "limited sovereignty" to describe the authority of an interim government that would hold power until elections in January 2005. Now, they are taking pains to assure the world that the transfer of power is real and not merely cosmetic, despite the continued presence of 135,000 foreign troops and the United States' largest embassy. The diplomats will include 620 officials of the occupation authority who will stay on, many as "liaison" personnel to Iraqi ministries. [complete article]
Beheading suspects 'led by Saddam's nephew'
By Luke Harding, The Guardian, March 22, 2004
The mystery of who killed Nick Berg, the freelance contractor beheaded on video, took a new twist last night when Iraqi police claimed they had arrested four suspects with links to Saddam Hussein's family.
Iraqi security officials said Berg's alleged killers were part of a group led by a close relative of Saddam - his nephew Yasser al-Sabawi.
The men were seized a week ago after a tip-off, they said. All were former members of the Fedayeen Saddam, the para military group notorious for its loyalty to Iraq's ex-president.
But last night the US military spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, said American forces had arrested four men linked to the Berg case after a raid in Baghdad. Two had been released and two were still being questioned.
He said: '"I don't know their prior affiliations or prior organisations. We have some intelligence that would suggest they have knowledge, perhaps some culpability."
It was not clear whether the two raids were related. The contradictory revelations add to the confusion in the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and execution of Berg, who disappeared after checking out of his Baghdad hotel on April 10. [complete article]
Comment -- If it turns out that Abu Musab al-Zaqawi -- who the CIA allege beheaded Nick Berg -- was not actually involved, the "al Qaeda connection" will have followed it's usual metamorphosis in Iraq. It will have gone from the actual to the metaphorical -- from something they did, to the kind of thing they would do. This is perhaps inevitable in a war against a technique.
What has the Pentagon's third man done wrong? Everything
By Chris Suellentrop, Slate, May 20, 2004
Of all the revelations that have surfaced about the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal so far, the least surprising is that Douglas Feith may be partly responsible. Not a single Iraq war screw-up has gone by without someone tagging Feith -- who, as the Defense Department's undersecretary for policy, is the Pentagon's No. 3 civilian, after Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz -- as the guy to blame. Feith, who ranks with Wolfowitz in purity of neoconservative fervor, has turned out to be Michael Dukakis in reverse: ideology without competence.
It's not that the 50-year-old Feith is at fault for everything that's gone wrong in Iraq. He's only tangentially related to the mystery of the missing weapons of mass destruction, for example. (Though it's a significant tangent: An anonymous "Pentagon insider" told the Washington Times last year that Feith was the person who urged the Bush administration to make Saddam's WMD the chief public rationale for going to war immediately.) Nor was it Feith who made the decision to commit fewer troops than the generals requested. (Though Feith did give the most honest explanation for the decision, saying last year that it "makes our military less usable" if hundreds of thousands of troops are needed to fight wars.) But if he isn't fully culpable for all these fiascos, he's still implicated in them somehow. He's a leading indicator, like a falling Dow -- something that correlates with but does not cause disaster. [complete article]
Why the U.S. turned against their former golden boy: He was preparing a coup!
By Andrew Cockburn, Counterpunch, May 20, 2004
In dawn raids today, American troops surrounded Ahmed Chalabi's headquarters and home in Baghdad, put a gun to his head, arrested two of his aides, and seized documents. Only five months ago, Chalabi was a guest of honor sitting right behind Laura Bush at the State of the Union. What brought about this astonishing fall from grace of the man who helped provide the faked intelligence that justified last year's war?
The answer lies in Chalabi's reaction to his gradual loss of US support in recent months and the realisation that he will be excluded from the post June 30 Iraqi "government" being crafted by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Lashing out against his exclusion from power, he has in effect been laying the groundwork for a coup, assembling a Shia political coalition with the express aim of destabilising the "Brahimi" government even before it takes office. "He has been mobilising forces to make sure the UN initiative fails," one well connected Iraqi political observer, who knows Chalabi well, told me today. "He has been tellling these people that Brahimi is part of a Sunni conspiracy against the Shia."
This scheme is by no means wholly outlandish. Chalabi has recruited significant Shia support, including Ayatollah Mohammed Bahr al Uloom, a leading member of the Governing Council and two other lesser known Council members. Significantly, his support also includes a faction of the Dawa Party that has been excluded from the political process by the occupation authority and which also supports rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Other recently recruited allies include Iraqi Hezbollah. All are joined in a Chalabi dominated Supreme Shia Council, similar to a sectarian Lebanese model. "Sooner rather than later," the Iraqi observer, a close student of Shia politics, points out, "Moqtada al Sadr is going to be killed. That willl leave tens, hundreds of thousands of his supporters looking for a new leader. If Ahmed plays the role of victim, he can take on that role. His dream has always been to be a sectarian Shia leader." [complete article]
More articles on Chalabi below.
The other prisoners
By Luke Harding, The Guardian, May 21, 2004
The scandal at Abu Ghraib prison was first exposed not by a digital photograph but by a letter. In December 2003, a woman prisoner inside the jail west of Baghdad managed to smuggle out a note. Its contents were so shocking that, at first, Amal Kadham Swadi and the other Iraqi women lawyers who had been trying to gain access to the US jail found them hard to believe.
The note claimed that US guards had been raping women detainees, who were, and are, in a small minority at Abu Ghraib. Several of the women were now pregnant, it added. The women had been forced to strip naked in front of men, it said. The note urged the Iraqi resistance to bomb the jail to spare the women further shame.
Late last year, Swadi, one of seven female lawyers now representing women detainees in Abu Ghraib, began to piece together a picture of systemic abuse and torture perpetrated by US guards against Iraqi women held in detention without charge. This was not only true of Abu Ghraib, she discovered, but was, as she put it, "happening all across Iraq".
New details of prison abuse emerge
By Scott Higham and Joe Stephens, Washington Post, May 21, 2004
Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.
The fresh allegations of prison abuse are contained in statements taken from 13 detainees shortly after a soldier reported the incidents to military investigators in mid-January. The detainees said they were savagely beaten and repeatedly humiliated sexually by American soldiers working on the night shift at Tier 1A in Abu Ghraib during the holy month of Ramadan, according to copies of the statements obtained by The Washington Post.
The statements provide the most detailed picture yet of what took place on the cellblock. Some of the detainees described being abused as punishment or discipline after they were caught fighting or with a prohibited item. Some said they were pressed to denounce Islam or were force-fed pork and liquor. Many provided graphic details of how they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers. [complete article]
New front in Iraq detainee abuse scandal?
By Campbell Brown, NBC News, May 20, 2004
With attention focused on the seven soldiers charged with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. military and intelligence officials familiar with the situation tell NBC News the Army's elite Delta Force is now the subject of a Pentagon inspector general investigation into abuse against detainees.
The target is a top-secret site near Baghdad's airport. The battlefield interrogation facility known as the "BIF" is pictured in satellite photos.
According to two top U.S. government sources, it is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq's prisons. A place where the normal rules of interrogation don't apply, Delta Force's BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists -- but not the most wanted among Saddam's lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards. [complete article]
Afghan policies on questioning prisoners taken to Iraq
By Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, May 21, 2004
The interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison was run by a military intelligence unit that had served in Afghanistan and that had taken to Iraq the aggressive rules and procedures it had developed for the Afghan conflict, according to documents and testimony.
Some members of the unit, part of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C., have already been quietly punished in connection with the abuse of an Iraqi woman at the prison, according to documents recently released by the Army. [complete article]
One incident. Forty dead. Two stories. What really happened?
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, May 21, 2004
A tiny bundle of blankets is unwrapped; inside is the body of a baby, its limbs smeared with dried blood. Then the mourners peel back the blanket further to reveal a second dead baby.
Another blanket is opened; inside are the bodies of a mother and child. The child, six or seven years old, is lying against his or her mother, as if seeking comfort. But the child has no head.
These are the images that American forces in Iraq had no answer to yesterday. They come from video footage of the burials of 41 men, women and children. The Iraqis say they died when American planes launched air strikes on a wedding party near the Syrian border on Wednesday.
US forces insist that the attack was on a safe house used by foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria. They do not dispute that they killed about 40 people, but claim American forces were returning fire and the dead were all foreign fighters. For the video footage that shows dead women and children they have no explanation. [complete article]
'U.S. soldiers started to shoot us, one by one'
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, May 21, 2004
The wedding feast was finished and the women had just led the young bride and groom away to their marriage tent for the night when Haleema Shihab heard the first sounds of the fighter jets screeching through the sky above.
It was 10.30pm in the remote village of Mukaradeeb by the Syrian border and the guests hurried back to their homes as the party ended. As sister-in-law of the groom, Mrs Shihab, 30, was to sleep with her husband and children in the house of the wedding party, the Rakat family villa. She was one of the few in the house who survived the night.
"The bombing started at 3am," she said yesterday from her bed in the emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.
She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.
"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."
Mrs Shibab's description, backed by other witnesses, of an attack on a sleeping village is at odds with the American claim that they came under fire while targeting a suspected foreign fighter safe house. [complete article]
More carnage in Gaza as the U.S. mutters its disapproval
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, May 21, 2004
Israel's latest outrages in Gaza have produced a rare but tiny hint of American disapproval. For the first time since the Israeli assault on West Bank cities two years ago, the United States has abstained on a critical UN resolution rather than vetoing it. Colin Powell, the secretary of state, said Israel's actions "have caused a problem and worsened the situation". James Cunningham, representing the US at the UN, said the Israeli behaviour has "not enhanced Israeli security".
But if Israeli forces pull back shortly, as many Israeli commentators assume, it will not be because the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is listening to Washington. It is more likely to be out of fear that more Israeli soldiers will die. Thirteen have been killed by the Palestinians' armed resistance in the Gaza Strip over the last three weeks. In spite of the Israeli army's vastly superior fire-power and its ruthless willingness to use it even in crowded city streets, it cannot avoid casualties on its own side.
The Israeli propaganda machine is trying to blur the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Palestinians during the Gaza incursions as well as the nature of the struggle. Avi Pazner, a government spokesman, says: "This is a fight against terrorism. We are extremely careful not to hurt or damage in any way the civilian populations. We target the terrorists."
Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, bizarrely links the issue of Gaza to that of missiles, as though this wretched and poverty-stricken corner of the illegally occupied territories is on a par with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the notorious 45-minute claim.
Using the argument that Israel's army had gone in to root out workshops making rockets, he declared: "The whole of Gaza, and Rafah in particular, is on the verge of becoming a missile base aimed at Israel's cities and civilians. What would the international community have Israel do? Just sit back and wait for this horrific scenario to materialise?"
This is hyperbolic nonsense. The record shows that for decades Gaza was not used as a base for suicide bombers. Apart from one attack that killed four soldiers at the Erez crossing out of Gaza in January this year and another that killed 10 civilians at Ashdod in March, the suicide bombers all came from the West Bank. [complete article]
Palestinian leader convicted in Israel
By Robin Shulman, Washington Post, May 21, 2004
Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader once seen as a potential successor to Yasser Arafat, was convicted Thursday in a Tel Aviv court of five counts of murder stemming from three terrorist attacks. [...]
Barghouti, the West Bank leader of Arafat's Fatah movement, has said he opposes the killing of innocent civilians but that Palestinians under occupation have the right to defend themselves. He refused to refute the charges against him, instead charging Israel with breaching international law and Palestinian-Israeli accords.
In an unusual move, the court answered some of his accusations in its decision, saying Israeli law allows an Israeli court to try a Palestinian for crimes against state security and that interim accords with Palestinians do not change that. Israeli and Palestinian analysts said that if the court felt compelled to defend its jurisdiction, Barghouti had to some extent succeeded in making the case a question of the Israeli occupation.
"He is a freedom fighter for the Palestinians and a murderer for many Israelis," said Hebrew University political scientist Yaron Ezrahi. "And Sharon is a murderer for the Palestinians and a freedom fighter for the Israelis. In this world, the legal process appears very partisan." [complete article]
U.S. rights report spurs outrage in Philippines
By Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, May 20, 2004
The United States has lost the moral high ground and the right to preach human rights around the world in light of the torture of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, critics and human rights advocates here said Thursday.
The criticism came in the wake of a U.S. State Department report released this week that identified 101 countries, including the Philippines with the worst human rights records. These countries, the report said, are known for extrajudicial killings, torture and other serious violations of human rights.
The report, titled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004," details U.S. efforts to promote human rights and democracy in 101 countries.
The report said the Philippine government generally respected human rights, but added: "There were serious problems in some areas." Security forces, it said, were responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. There were also reports of physical abuse of suspects and detainees, it said.
Human rights groups took umbrage at the report. "It is the height of hypocrisy that the U.S. should be lecturing about the Philippines' human rights records amid the abuses its own forces inflict on other citizens of the world," said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary-general of Karapatan, a human rights group. [complete article]
WHO'S THE TRAITOR?
America's 'best friend' a spy?
CBS News, May 21, 2004
In the latest setback for a man once seen as the possible leader of a free and democratic Iraq, Iraqi police backed by U.S. troops raided the Baghdad home and offices of Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi.
American soldiers and armed U.S. civilians could be seen milling about Chalabi's compound in the city's fashionable Mansour district. Some people could be seen loading boxes into vehicles. Aides said documents and computers were seized without warrants.
A senior coalition official said several people were arrested and that arrest warrants were issued for "up to 15 people" on allegations of "fraud, kidnapping and associated matters."
Senior U.S. officials told 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl that they have evidence Chalabi has been passing highly-classified U.S. intelligence to Iran.
The evidence shows that Chalabi personally gave Iranian intelligence officers information so sensitive that if revealed it could, quote, "get Americans killed." The evidence is said to be "rock solid." [complete article]
In Iraq, key U.S. ally falls from grace
By Annia Ciezadlo, Christian Science Monitor, May 21, 2004
A year ago, Ahmed Chalabi was the darling of American policymakers, a political powerhouse with unprecedented access to the highest levels of the Pentagon.
It's hardly an exaggeration to say that he changed the course of Iraqi history: the information he and his party gave to the US about weapons of mass destruction - much of which proved to be false - was central to Washington's decision to launch the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.
But Thursday, US troops raided his house and the offices of his Iraqi National Congress political party. Earlier this week, his party's monthly US stipend of $340,000 was abruptly cut off.
Mr. Chalabi's standing is a marker of sorts showing the philosophical shift in the US effort to create an Iraqi body politic. [complete article]
From ally to outcast in U.S. Eyes
By Paul Richter and Mary Curtius, Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2004
Though some U.S. officials denied that they were behind the raid, White House officials acknowledged privately that they had known such an action was coming, and they expressed dissatisfaction with their erstwhile ally.
"I don't think anyone in the White House was taken by surprise," one official said. "Chalabi, in terms of people's esteem for him here, has been losing altitude for several months. His actions and past comments have raised serious questions as to what kind of associations we as a government wish to have with him." [complete article]
Chalabi's seat of honor lost to open political warfare with U.S.
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 21, 2004
[Chalabi] also made many enemies. Richard N. Perle, one of his strongest supporters here, another signatory of the [Project for the New American Century] letter [that advocated regime change in Iraq] and a highly influential figure in defense circles, alluded to that Thursday after calling the raid on the Iraqi National Congress operations "bizarre."
"It is far from obvious how we advance American interests by acting against someone who shares our values and is highly effective," Mr. Perle said in an interview. "They have gone in recent days, at the C.I.A. and the State Department, from saying he has no influence in Iraq to a panic that he is really quite effective and could emerge with great influence" when the occupation ends. He predicted that "the crude nature of this action will actually have the reverse effect, and bolster Ahmad."
Among Mr. Chalabi's other vociferous defenders over the last three years have been Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, who could often be overheard describing Mr. Chalabi's love of both the Iraqi people and the land he left at age 13. But both men were careful never to state outright what role they thought Mr. Chalabi should play, beyond a confidence he would rise to the top. [complete article]
Comment -- The Baghdad rumor mill has it that the raid on Chalabi's home was staged to make him look like a threat to America and thus a champion of Iraqi nationalism. The suspicion, though fanciful, speaks volumes about the level of contempt that fellow Iraqis have for the man who still dreams of becoming their leader.
Comments from the White House suggest that Chalabi is now being punished for disloyalty in the face of allegations that he relayed classified information to Iran. As a useful source of bogus information that buttressed the case for war, Chalabi was a loyal ally of the administration. Now that his interests and those of the administration clearly diverge, it's become time to cut him loose.
But perhaps the most interesting question of all is not whether Chalabi divulged state secrets to Iran but who in the Bush administration (or Defense Planning Board) passed classified information to Chalabi? Richard Perle? Dick Cheney? Douglas Feith? Did Chalabi have a security clearance or was his source the actual traitor?
The ugly face of power
By Philip James, The Guardian, May 21, 2004
Every once in a while, ordinary voters get a chance to peek behind the curtain that hides the real face of power. Such a moment happened last weekend, during an interview with the secretary of state, Colin Powell, on America's most watched Sunday political talk show, Meet the Press.
The veteran interviewer Tim Russert was asking his last question of Powell, who was joining him via satellite from Jordan, when the camera suddenly swung away and viewers heard the voice of a State Department media minder off camera declare: "You're off."
The argument that ensued between Powell, the press aide and Russert was rebroadcast in its entirety and was more revealing of this administration's can-do-no-wrong attitude than any public campaign exchange.
Powell, who could still hear NBC's Russert in his ear, responded, "I am not off. He's still asking the questions." "He was going to go on for another five minutes," retorted the unrelenting staffer.
At this point Russert chimed in: "I would hope they would put you back on camera... I think that was one of your staff... I don't think that's appropriate." Powell finally shut down his aide, Emily Miller: "Emily, get out of the way. Bring back the camera please."
Russert got the chance to ask his last question of Powell, on how he felt now about all the bogus intelligence he was given to present as fact to the UN in the month before the war. But a much larger point had already been made: with the possible exception of Colin Powell, this administration believes itself to be beyond criticism.
The Soviet-style manner in which Republican operative Miller, who used to work for the majority leader, Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, tried to muzzle an interviewer once the questioning no longer pleased her betrayed an arrogance that goes to the core of this White House. [complete article]
HE SHOULD BE KNOWN BY HIS CONCEIT
Bush says Iraqis ready to take political power
By Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press (via Boston Globe), May 20, 2004
Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" and assume political power from the U.S.-led coalition, President Bush said Thursday as his administration began to roll out a rough plan for the June 30 transition of authority.
Bush went to Capitol Hill to brief anxious Republican lawmakers, warning of more difficult days in Iraq even after the transfer of sovereignty.
"This has been a rough couple of months for the president, particularly on the issues of Iraq, and I think he was here to remind folks that we do have a policy and this policy is going to be tough," said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. "Things, as I think he commented, are very likely to get worse before they get better." [complete article]
Comment -- Bush and his supporters have always insisted that it is their opponents who lack faith in the potential of Iraq to become a democracy, yet he betrays his condescending attitude towards Iraqis (and no doubt the Arab world as a whole) by using this bicycle-riding metaphor (used many times before by Bremer and others) that treats Iraqis as children and -- by implication -- Americans as the loving parents. Within this vain construction, the difficulties that America faces in Iraq are not of its own making, but are -- the Bush administration would have us believe -- all the result of a measure of reluctance among Iraqis to assume control over their own destiny, compounded by the destructive efforts of Baathists and "foreign" terrorists. Convinced of his own benign and lofty position, how is such a president going to recognize his pitiful incompetence?
ISRAEL'S SELF-RIGHTEOUS BRUTALITY
Palestinian doctors despair at rising toll of children shot dead by army snipers
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 20, 2004
The tiny hole buried under Asma Mughayar's thick black hair, just above her right ear, is an illusion, according to the Israeli army. So is her family's insistance that Asma, 16, and her younger brother Ahmed, were both shot through the head by an Israeli soldier as they fed their pigeons and collected the laundry from the roof of their home in Rafah refugee camp.
But their corpses tell a different story, as do the bodies of other children brought to Rafah's hospital and makeshift mortuaries even before yesterday's carnage, in which Israeli tanks and helicopters fired on a peaceful protest by Palestinians in the camp, killing 10 demonstrators, according to Palestinian paramedics.
Israel disputes the Mughayar family's account: that soldiers shot the children on Tuesday. Hours after their death, Israeli officials blamed the Palestinians, telling reporters that Asma and Ahmed had been killed in a "work accident" - a euphemism for bomb-makers blowing themselves up - or by Palestinian fighters who had left a landmine in the street.
"A preliminary investigation indicates they were killed by a bomb intended to be used against soldiers. It was set outside a building by Palestinians to hit an Israeli vehicle. This is probably what happened," a military spokesman said yesterday.
Dr Ali Moussa, head of Rafah hospital, is as furious at the claim as he is at Israel's assertion that almost all the 20 or more people killed during the army's seizure of the Tel al-Sultan district of the Rafah refugee camp were armed men.
"They are liars, liars, liars, because these children have bullet wounds to the head. There is no doubt about it," he says. [complete article]
An old refrain that stabs at the heart
By Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz, May 20, 2004
The sights of Rafah are too difficult to bear - trails of refugees alongside carts laden with bedding and the meager contents of their homes; children dragging suitcases larger than themselves; women draped in black kneeling in mourning on piles of rubble. And in the memories of some of us, whose number if dwindling, arise similar scenes that have been a part of our lives, as a sort of refrain that stabs at the heart and gnaws at the conscience, time after time, for over half a century - the procession of refugees from Lod to Ramallah in the heat of July 1948; the convoys of banished residents of Yalu and Beit Nuba, Emmaus and Qalqilyah in June 1967; the refugees of Jericho climbing on the ruins of the Allenby Bridge after the Six-Day War.
And perhaps the most shocking of all, the grandfathers and fathers of the Rafah refugees, abandoning the houses in Yibna in which they were born, in fear of the approaching Israeli army on June 5, 1948. "At dawn," reported the AP correspondent, "it was possible to see the civilians fleeing from the town [Yibna] in the direction of the coast, without the intervention of the Israeli attackers."
Some 56 years have passed, and they are again fleeing in fear of the Israeli attackers. [complete article]
Hostilities force Bush into deep hole
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, May 20, 2004
...in Congress even those instinctively sympathetic to the US military cause in Iraq were warning that America was facing a strategic disaster.
"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee.
The apocalyptic language is becoming increasingly common here among normally moderate and cautious politicians and observers.
Larry Diamond, an analyst at the conservative Hoover Institution, said: "I think it's clear that the United States now faces a perilous situation in Iraq.
"We have failed to come anywhere near meeting the post-war expectations of Iraqis for security and post-war reconstruction.
"There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw - quagmire."
The growing fear is that the US will able neither to defeat the insurgents in Iraq nor to find an honourable means of withdrawal, while every week there will be an haemorrhaging of US credibility in the Arab world and far beyond. [complete article]
Before it boils over
By Anthony H. Cordesman, Baltimore Sun, May 20, 2004
The United States faces a growing crisis in the Middle East.
The situation in Iraq is deteriorating. The United States is becoming steadily more unpopular and its moral position has been undermined because of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Much of the Arab and Islamic world sees America as imperialist and anti-Islamic, and friendly regimes are becoming steadily more uncertain about the risks in supporting Washington.
The United States has no simple or instant fixes, but three things need to be done immediately:
First, no issue drives Arab and Islamic perceptions of the United States as much as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. peace efforts are perceived as weak and dishonest, and the United States is viewed as having become little more than Israel's proxy. This perception alienates regional moderates and reformers, aids Islamist extremists and terrorists and undermines pro-U.S. governments.
The United States must understand it cannot improve its overall position in the region without giving the highest priority to revitalizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and demonstrating the credibility of its efforts to the Arab world and Europe.
This does not mean abandoning Israel's vital interests or tolerating Palestinian terrorism. But it does mean the United States must accept that it is dealing with failed Israeli and Palestinian regimes and that steady and visible U.S. pressure is needed on both governments. It also means decisive action to halt the expansion of Israeli settlements and those Israeli security measures that do more to make a Palestinian state impractical or impossible than truly aid Israeli security. [complete article]
U.S. troops raid Chalabi residence
BBC News, May 20, 2004
US and Iraqi forces have raided the Baghdad residence of a former key Washington ally, Ahmed Chalabi.
Troops surrounded Mr Chalabi's house in the upmarket Mansour district and removed computers and documents.
Mr Chalabi has become increasingly distanced from the US after openly challenging how much power the coalition was ceding to Iraqis.
After the 2003 war, the Iraqi National Congress leader was a favourite of the Pentagon and tipped to lead Iraq. [complete article]
Attacks by Israel, U.S. will likely fuel perception of war on Islam
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, May 19, 2004
In a single, awful day in the Middle East on Wednesday, Israeli forces killed unarmed Palestinian protesters and Arab news reports claimed that a U.S. Army helicopter killed 40 people at a wedding party in Iraq.
Other than the calendar, there was no connection between the two events, and the facts of the second one are very much in dispute. American officials acknowledge that some 40 people died near Iraq's border with Syria but said American forces had attacked suspected foreign fighters, not a wedding party.
In much of the Islamic world, however, three facts may help transform two mistakes into the "clash of civilizations" so desired by Osama bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists: Christian or Jewish troops killed Arabs, they used American-made weapons and the attacks were reported on television.
As a result, many ordinary Arabs are likely to see the events in Gaza and Iraq as one, helping fuel perceptions that Islam is under attack from the West, Middle East experts said. [complete article]
Forty killed after American helicopter opens fire on wedding party, claim Iraqis
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, May 20, 2004
An American helicopter fired on a wedding party in a remote village yesterday, killing more than 40 people, Iraqi officials claimed. If the reports are true, the mistake could prove disastrous for US forces as they try to stem rising Iraqi anger and fight off resistance to the occupation.
The Associated Press television news agency obtained a video tape which showed bodies piled in the back of a pick-up truck - allegedly those killed in the attack. One of the bodies was without a head. About a dozen were clearly visible, but the bodies were piled on top of each other and those underneath could not be seen clearly.
The incident was first reported by Iraqi officials in the city of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province where the attack allegedly took place. Between 42 and 45 people were killed, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Ziyad al-Jbouri, the deputy police chief in Ramadi. He said the dead included 15 children and 10 women. [complete article]
Iraqis say justice was not done
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2004
Many Iraqis interviewed here Wednesday were harshly critical of the court-martial proceeding against U.S. Army Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits and the one-year prison sentence handed down by a military judge, saying the punishment was light given the abuse of Iraqi detainees.
The Iraqis denounced the court-martial of Sivits, the first member of the 372nd Military Police Company tried in the prison scandal, as a show trial designed to convince them that the Americans were taking action.
"I thought it would be a fair trial and that it would be held in front of the detainees so that they could see they had rights," said Salim Kamal, 30, a money changer in the wealthy Mansour district. "But they did it just to satisfy American public opinion.
"Punishment should be done," he said, "and I prefer the death penalty." [complete article]
Comment -- Though Bush administration officials have mixed their expressions of regret about Iraqi prisoner abuse with proud statements about American justice and the transparency of the inquiry, what is thus far lacking is the suggestion that Rumsfeld or anyone else would choose to resign simply as a matter of honor.
Sergeant says intelligence directed abuse
By Josh White and Scott Higham, Washington Post, May 20, 2004
Military intelligence officers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq directed military police to take clothes from prisoners, leave detainees naked in their cells and make them wear women's underwear, part of a series of alleged abuses that were openly discussed at the facility, according to a military intelligence soldier who worked at the prison last fall.
Sgt. Samuel Provance said intelligence interrogators told military police to strip down prisoners and embarrass them as a way to help "break" them. The same interrogators and intelligence analysts would talk about the abuse with Provance and flippantly dismiss it because the Iraqis were considered "the enemy," he said.
The first military intelligence soldier to speak openly about alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib, Provance said in a telephone interview from Germany yesterday that the highest-ranking military intelligence officers at the prison were involved and that the Army appears to be trying to deflect attention away from military intelligence's role. [complete article]
The Jesus landing pad
By Rick Perlstein, The Village Voice, May 18, 2004
It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level" -- this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios. [complete article]
The religious warrior of Abu Ghraib
By Sidney Blumenthal, Guardian, May 20, 2004
Saving General Boykin seemed like a strange sideshow last October. After it was revealed that the deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence had been regularly appearing at evangelical revivals preaching that the US was in a holy war as a "Christian nation" battling "Satan", the furore was quickly calmed.
Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, explained that Boykin was exercising his rights as a citizen: "We're a free people." President Bush declared that Boykin "doesn't reflect my point of view or the point of view of this administration". Bush's commission on public diplomacy had reported that in nine Muslim countries, just 12% believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values". The Pentagon announced that its inspector general would investigate Boykin, though he has yet to report.
Boykin was not removed or transferred. At that moment, he was at the heart of a secret operation to "Gitmoize" (Guantanamo is known in the US as Gitmo) the Abu Ghraib prison. He had flown to Guantanamo, where he met Major General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of Camp X-Ray. Boykin ordered Miller to fly to Iraq and extend X-Ray methods to the prison system there, on Rumsfeld's orders.
Boykin was recommended to his position by his record in the elite Delta forces: he was a commander in the failed effort to rescue US hostages in Iran, had tracked drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia, had advised the gas attack on barricaded cultists at Waco, Texas, and had lost 18 men in Somalia trying to capture a warlord in the notorious Black Hawk Down fiasco of 1993. [complete article]
'Part of God's plan'
By Matthew Wells, The Guardian, May 19, 2004
Two weeks after [Specialist] Joel [Bertoldie] was killed, his battalion was brought home, and [his grandmother] Judy [Hampshire] remembered the moment a few months earlier when the president had declared his mission accomplished.
"He said it was over, and we were all going to be safe, so we gave a huge sigh of relief ... We thought, two more weeks, and he would have been safe. It was a long way from over," she said.
Thinking back, she had not known anyone who died in Vietnam and she never really engaged with it, but from the heart of middle America, the unwanted closeness she now feels to the Iraq conflict has brought the politics surrounding it into sharp focus.
She fails to understand why the Bush administration did not allow images of soldiers' flag-draped coffins to be shown, but her loyalty to the commander-in-chief remained rock-solid.
"Someone has got to stop these terrorists. How many more people are they going to kill? Why are they doing it? I believe al-Qaida was there in Iraq, and Saddam was letting them come in and out. I don't blame our government for Joel, I blame them," she said. [complete article]
The judge who converts terrorists
By Elisabeth Eaves, Slate, May 18, 2004
Over the last year or so, the government of Yemen has released 182 captured Islamist militants. Thus far, their rate of recidivism is zero.
The Justice Ministry in Sanaa is on Justice Street. I went there to talk to High Court Judge Hamood Al-Hitar, the man responsible for letting the prisoners go, because I'd heard about his unique way of dealing with violent fundamentalists. Sitting at a long table in the ministry's library, he looked distinguished beyond his 46 years, with metal-rimmed glasses that he removed as he spoke. His jambiya, the large curved dagger that in Yemen is as ubiquitous as the necktie, was sheathed neatly at his waist, and his tiny silver cell phone periodically emitted a synthesized tune. He related how he came to his work, which has earned him international attention -- he has recently spoken to British diplomats and Egyptian clergy about his methods -- but also elicited deep skepticism and death threats. [complete article]
By Fred Kaplan, Washington Monthly, May 2004
On Oct. 4, 2002, officials from the U.S. State Department flew to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and confronted Kim Jong-il's foreign ministry with evidence that Kim had acquired centrifuges for processing highly enriched uranium, which could be used for building nuclear weapons. To the Americans' surprise, the North Koreans conceded. It was an unsettling revelation, coming just as the Bush administration was gearing up for a confrontation with Iraq. This new threat wasn't imminent; processing uranium is a tedious task; Kim Jong-il was almost certainly years away from grinding enough of the stuff to make an atomic bomb.
But the North Koreans had another route to nuclear weapons--a stash of radioactive fuel rods, taken a decade earlier from its nuclear power plant in Yongbyon. These rods could be processed into plutonium--and, from that, into A-bombs--not in years but in months. Thanks to an agreement brokered by the Clinton administration, the rods were locked in a storage facility under the monitoring of international weapons-inspectors. Common sense dictated that--whatever it did about the centrifuges--the Bush administration should do everything possible to keep the fuel rods locked up.
Unfortunately, common sense was in short supply. After a few shrill diplomatic exchanges over the uranium, Pyongyang upped the ante. The North Koreans expelled the international inspectors, broke the locks on the fuel rods, loaded them onto a truck, and drove them to a nearby reprocessing facility, to be converted into bomb-grade plutonium. The White House stood by and did nothing. Why did George W. Bush--his foreign policy avowedly devoted to stopping "rogue regimes" from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--allow one of the world's most dangerous regimes to acquire the makings of the deadliest WMDs? Given the current mayhem and bloodshed in Iraq, it's hard to imagine a decision more ill-conceived than invading that country unilaterally without a plan for the "post-war" era. But the Bush administration's inept diplomacy toward North Korea might well have graver consequences. President Bush made the case for war in Iraq on the premise that Saddam Hussein might soon have nuclear weapons--which turned out not to be true. Kim Jong-il may have nuclear weapons now; he certainly has enough plutonium to build some, and the reactors to breed more. [complete article]
ABUSE AT GUANTANAMO
Some prisoners abused at Guantanamo: military
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), May 19, 2004
Several prisoners at the US navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba were abused by guards who have been charged, the warden told Congress.
"There was no systemic abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo at any time," General Geoffrey Miller told a Senate inquiry.
Miller was in March named to head US-run prisons in Iraq after revelations of physical and psychological abuse at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad came to light.
"I believe that there were three or four ... instances of minor abuse. [complete article]
'They tied me up like a beast and began kicking me'
By David Rose, The Observer, May 16, 2004
'I was in extreme pain and so weak that I could barely stand. It was freezing cold and I was shaking like a washing machine. They questioned me at gunpoint and told me that if I confessed I could go home.
'They had already searched me and my cell twice that day, gone through my stuff, touched my Koran, felt my body around my private parts. And now they wanted to do it again, just to provoke me, but I said no, because if you submit to everything you turn into a zombie.
'I heard a guard talking into his radio, "ERF, ERF, ERF," and I knew what was coming - the Extreme Reaction Force. The five cowards, I called them - five guys running in with riot gear. They pepper-sprayed me in the face and I started vomiting; in all I must have brought up five cupfuls. They pinned me down and attacked me, poking their fingers in my eyes, and forced my head into the toilet pan and flushed. They tied me up like a beast and then they were kneeling on me, kicking and punching. Finally they dragged me out of the cell in chains, into the rec yard, and shaved my beard, my hair, my eyebrows.'
Tarek Dergoul, a British citizen born and brought up in east London and released without charge after almost two years at Guantanamo Bay, was describing one of many alleged assaults he says he suffered in American custody. With the world still reeling from the photographs of prisoner abuse and torture at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, Dergoul's testimony suggests that Guantanamo hides another terrible secret - proof, in the shape of hundreds of videos shot by US guards, that here, too, America's war against terror has led to wanton brutality against helpless detainees. [complete article]
Rafah deaths spark international outrage
Reuters (via The Age), May 19, 2004
Israeli troops today pushed further into the besieged Rafah refugee camp despite international outrage at its killing of 33 Palestinians, many of them peaceful protesters.
The UN Security Council, convened at the behest of Arabs incensed at what they called Israel's "war crime" in Rafah, passed a resolution urging Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes.
Unusually, Washington did not use its veto to block the UN resolution, instead abstaining from the vote.
US President George W Bush urged restraint, but Israel, whose forces stormed Rafah after seven soldiers were killed by local militants last week, was undeterred. [complete article]
Israel seeks mass Gaza surrender
BBC News, May 19, 2004
Israeli troops on a raid in southern Gaza have called for a mass surrender of male residents in part of the Rafah refugee camp.
Reports say army loudspeakers told males aged 16 or over in the Tel Sultan area to gather at a local school or risk demolition of their family homes. [complete article]
Gaza raids: Israelis give their views
BBC News, May 19, 2004
Israel is pressing on with its raids in southern Gaza, which it says are aimed at rooting out Palestinian militants and destroying tunnels being used to smuggle weapons into the Rafah refugee camp.
At least 34 Palestinians have died since forces entered the camp on Tuesday and dozens of homes have been demolished since last week.
BBC News Online spoke to Israeli readers about their feelings on the Gaza raids and what they feel the impact will be on the peace process. [complete article]
At least 15 killed in Israeli missile strike on Rafah protest
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, May 19, 2004
At least 15 Palestinians, many of them said to be school students, were killed and dozens were wounded Wednesday afternoon when Israel Defense Forces helicopter gunships and tanks fired missiles and shells into a crowd of protestors in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
At least sixty people, including many women and children, were wounded in the incident, witnesses said. The incident brings the day's death toll in the area to at least 20.
An estimated 3,000 people were marching to the nearby Tel Sultan neighborhood of the camp, to protest the IDF invasion in that area.
The witnesses said four missiles were fired from the air into the crowd. [complete article]
Additional articles on the assault on Gaza below.
Fallujah: In the hands of insurgents
By Joshua Hammer, Newsweek, May 24, 2004
The mujahed named Mohammed who detained us [inside Fallujah's Jolan neighborhood] is a stocky, handsome man in his early 20s from a well-to-do Fallujah family. He had been studying foreign languages at Baghdad University when the U.S. military toppled Saddam Hussein last year, and he says he initially supported Saddam's overthrow, but "the Americans should have left Iraq immediately [after the war]." When the Marines invaded last month, Mohammed was one of hundreds of neighborhood men and teenagers -- including many former Iraqi soldiers -- who answered the call to arms from local mosques. "How would you feel if French soldiers or Arab soldiers invaded your city, and killed your friends, your family?" he asks as he and his brother serve us kebab, pita and tea on the richly carpeted floor of a cousin's spacious home. "We fought in the streets, in the houses, on the rooftops. Even the Marines' tanks and helicopters could not stop us. My closest friends died beside me." He says that his mother and his brother were shot dead by Marine snipers, and he scoffs at the portrayal of insurgents as "terrorists." Mohammed and his comrades tell us that the prisoner-abuse scandal wasn't a surprise. "We knew what was going on inside Abu Ghraib all along," claims one young fighter with a badly burned hand. "You Americans can't do anything good." [complete article]
U.S. must give up authority over security, Iraqi leaders say
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, May 18, 2004
Members of the Iraqi Governing Council said Tuesday that the council chief killed the day before in a car bombing may have been delayed at a checkpoint in the minutes before the blast by American soldiers who didn't recognize him.
The Governing Council members, speaking after a memorial service for Izzadine Saleem, said confusion at checkpoints endangers their lives and underscores the need for Iraqi security services to take control once the U.S.-led coalition returns limited autonomy to Iraqis by June 30. [...]
Iraqi Interior Minister Samir Shaker Mahmoud al Sumeidi said Tuesday that an Iraqi security force modeled after the U.S. Secret Service is being assembled to protect government officials. However, he said, the process has been slowed by problems vetting candidates for ties to Saddam's regime.
For now, council members rely mainly on relatives who act as bodyguards. Some have begun using body doubles and decoy cars to foil assassination attempts. The coalition provides flak vests, weapons, armored cars and training for security details, but council members stressed that vital decisions on personal protection should rest with Iraqis.
"The only solution is to recruit Iraqi police and security personnel, but we haven't been able to do that because of Americans' insistence on keeping security in their own hands," said Hamed al Kifaey, the top spokesman for the council. "We understand how the soldiers at checkpoints feel, and we never wanted any American to die. But this is how they run security, and they've paid for it. And we've also paid for it several times over." [complete article]
Behind the scenes, U.S. tightens grip on Iraq's future
By Yochi J. Dreazen and Christopher Cooper, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2004
Haider al-Abadi runs Iraq's Ministry of Communications, but he no longer calls the shots there.
Instead, the authority to license Iraq's television stations, sanction newspapers and regulate cellphone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were selected by Washington. The commissioners' five-year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month tenure of the interim Iraqi government that will assume sovereignty on June 30.
The transfer surprised Mr. Abadi, a British-trained engineer who spent nearly two decades in exile before returning to Iraq last year. He found out the commission had been formally signed into law only when a reporter asked him for comment about it. "No one from the U.S. even found time to call and tell me themselves," he says.
As Washington prepares to hand over power, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials are quietly building institutions that will give the U.S. powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make. [complete article]
Cleric tells fighters and occupiers to leave Iraq sacred cities
By Edward Wong, New York Times, May 19, 2004
The country's most influential cleric called Tuesday for the withdrawal of all armies from two holy cities, Karbala and Najaf, in an effort to end days of bloody fighting and preserve the sanctity of Shiite shrines.
The Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, demanded in a statement that "armed forces" must "leave the holy cities and open the way for the police and tribal forces." His remarks were directed at both American troops and militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, a young rebel cleric who ignited an insurrection against the occupation forces six weeks ago.
Ayatollah Sistani also asked people to stage peaceful protests in the cities against the fighting.
In a parallel development, two of Washington's strongest allies in Iraq, Italy and Poland, called for the transfer of real authority to the Iraqis on June 30. [complete article]
Fewer Iraqis working on reconstruction
By Matt Kelley, Associated Press (via Yahoo), May 18, 2004
Fewer than 25,000 Iraqis are working on projects in the U.S. reconstruction effort, tempering expectations that more than $18 billion in American spending would jump-start Iraq's economy and trigger a surge in goodwill toward the United States.
U.S. officials blame bureaucratic delays in contracting and the recent increase in violence for the low employment numbers, which represent less than 1 percent of Iraq's work force of more than 7 million. [complete article]
PRISONER ABUSE SCANDAL
'Definitely a cover-up'
By Brian Ross and Alexandra Salomon, ABC News, May 18, 2004
Dozens of soldiers -- other than the seven military police reservists who have been charged -- were involved in the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and there is an effort under way in the Army to hide it, a key witness in the investigation told ABC News.
"There's definitely a cover-up," the witness, Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. "People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet."
Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABC News despite orders from his commanders not to. [complete article]
Reuters and NBC staff abused in Iraq
By Andrew Marshall, Reuters (via Yahoo), May 18, 2004
U.S. forces beat three Iraqis working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention last January in a military camp near Falluja, the three say.
The three first told Reuters of the ordeal after their release but only decided to make it public when the U.S. military said there was no evidence they had been abused, and following the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
An Iraqi journalist working for U.S. network NBC, who was arrested with the Reuters staff, also said he had been beaten and mistreated, NBC said on Tuesday. [complete article]
Former Guantanamo chief clashed with army interrogators
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, May 19, 2004
The commander of Guantanamo Bay, sacked amid charges from the Pentagon that he was too soft on detainees, said he faced constant tension from military interrogators trying to extract information from inmates.
Brigadier General Rick Baccus was removed from his post in October 2002, apparently after frustrating military intelligence officers by granting detainees such privileges as distributing copies of the Koran and adjusting meal times for Ramadan. He also disciplined prison guards for screaming at inmates.
In one of the general's first interviews since his dismissal, he told the Guardian: "I was mislabelled as someone who coddled detainees. In fact, what we were doing was our mission professionally."
Gen Baccus's unceremonious departure offers a rare insight into how the Pentagon rewrote the rules of warfare to suit the Bush administration's view of a radically changed world following the terror attacks of September 11 2001. [complete article]
Abuse inquiry focuses on new head of Iraq jails
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2004
He was on the other side of the globe at the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when the now-infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib took place last fall and winter.
At the time, he had no authority in Iraq and was in charge of a different group of prisoners -- suspected terrorists and Taliban militants detained by U.S. authorities after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who only recently took command of U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq, now finds himself deeply embroiled in the prison abuse scandal that has rocked the Pentagon and the Bush administration. Critics have suggested that Miller's recommendations for overhauling detention and interrogation procedures in Iraq after an inspection tour here last summer created a climate for the abuses to occur. Others said he declared it was time to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib by introducing the kind of aggressive techniques used to grill suspects in Guantanamo. [complete article]
Officer says Army tried to curb Red Cross visits to prison in Iraq
By Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, May 19, 2004
Army officials in Iraq responded late last year to a Red Cross report of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison by trying to curtail the international agency's spot inspections of the prison, a senior Army officer who served in Iraq said Tuesday.
After the International Committee of the Red Cross observed abuses in one cellblock on two unannounced inspections in October and complained in writing on Nov. 6, the military responded that inspectors should make appointments before visiting the cellblock. That area was the site of the worst abuses.
The Red Cross report in November was the earliest formal evidence known to have been presented to the military's headquarters in Baghdad before January, when photographs of the abuses came to the attention of criminal investigators and prompted a broad investigation. But the senior Army officer said the military did not start any criminal investigation before it replied to the Red Cross on Dec. 24.
The Red Cross report was made after its inspectors witnessed or heard about such practices as holding Iraqi prisoners naked in dark concrete cells for several days at a time and forcing them to wear women's underwear on their heads while being paraded and photographed.
Until now, the Army had described its response on Dec. 24 as evidence that the military was prompt in addressing Red Cross complaints, but it has declined to release the contents of the Army document, citing the tradition of confidentiality in dealing with the international agency. [complete article]
U.S. barred legal review of detentions, lawyer says
By Adam Liptak, New York Times, May 19, 2004
ilitary lawyers, who had an active role in supervising interrogations in the first Gulf War, have been excluded from them in the current war in Iraq, a human rights lawyer who has studied the matter says.
The lawyer, Scott Horton, a former chairman of the Committee on International Human Rights of the City Bar Association in New York, said this might have played a part in the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
"In the interrogation process," Mr. Horton said, "the fact that lawyers were cut out just opened the door for abuse."
Mr. Horton said he learned of the changed procedures from senior military lawyers in two confidential meetings last year. Prompted in part by the meetings, the committee issued a report in April on the interrogation of detainees.
A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
In the Gulf War of 1991, members of the military's Judge Advocate General's Corps, known as JAG's, took an active role, experts said. [complete article]
Officers say U.S. colonel at Abu Ghraib prison felt intense pressure to get inmates to talk
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, May 19, 2004
As he took charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison last September, Col. Thomas M. Pappas was under enormous pressure from his superiors to extract more information from prisoners there, according to senior Army officers.
"He likened it to a root canal without novocaine," a senior officer who knows Colonel Pappas said of his meetings with his superiors in Baghdad. Often, the officer said, Colonel Pappas would emerge from discussions with two of them, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, without a word, but "clutching his face as if in pain."
Colonel Pappas, commander of the 205th Intelligence Brigade, relocated his headquarters from Camp Victory, near the Baghdad airport, to Abu Ghraib just days after a visit to Iraq last fall by another high-ranking Army officer, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller. General Miller encouraged the Army colonel to have his unit work more closely with military police to set the conditions for interrogations. [complete article]
3 witnesses at Iraq abuse hearing refused to testify
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2004
Three key witnesses, including a senior officer in charge of interrogations, refused to testify during a secret hearing against an alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves.
The witnesses appeared April 26 at a preliminary hearing behind closed doors for Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., who has been identified in court-martial documents as the leader of a band of military police guards who humiliated and abused Iraqi detainees and compiled a bizarre photographic record of their activities. The prospective witnesses' refusal to testify is described in court-martial documents obtained by The Times on Tuesday.
That all of the prospective witnesses called up by prosecutors invoked the military equivalent of the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination indicates that key players in the abuse scandal may be closing ranks to save themselves and one another. [complete article]
Divided mission in Iraq tempers views of G.I.'s
By Edward Wong, New York Times, May 17, 2004
Six weeks ago, soldiers of the First Armored Division were renovating schools. Now they are raiding them for hidden munitions.
Children wave to them along the roads, while insurgents with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades make them targets.
"Our mission is to rebuild this country, but the thing is, the bad guys won't let us do it," said Specialist Jennifer Marie Bencze, 20, of Santa Rosa, Calif. "At the same time we've got engineers rebuilding schools, fixing roads, doing all the humanitarian projects, we've got infantry fighting the bad guys. So the mission is really confused."
Here in the Shiite heartland, the division is caught up in the fiercest and deadliest fighting now under way in Iraq. That is a far cry from May 2003, when it rolled into Iraq thinking the war was all but over, ready to plant Western-style institutions in this arid land. Interviews with dozens of soldiers over the last two weeks suggest that their idealism has been tempered. [complete article]
Army may send special reserves to active duty involuntarily
By Joseph L. Galloway, Knight Ridder, May 18, 2004
The U.S. Army is scraping up soldiers for duty in Iraq wherever it can find them, and that includes places and people long considered off-limits.
The Army on Tuesday confirmed that it pulled the files of some 17,000 people in the Individual Ready Reserve, the nation's pool of former soldiers. The Army has been screening them for critically needed specialists and has called about 100 of them since January.
Under the current authorization from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Army could call as many as 6,500 back on active duty involuntarily.
"Yes we are screening them and, yes, we are calling some of them up," an Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, told Knight Ridder. "We need certain specialties, including civil affairs, military police, some advanced medical specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, psychological operations, military intelligence interrogators."
The Army has been forced to look to the Individual Ready Reserve pool and elsewhere for soldiers because it's been stretched so thin by a recent decision to maintain American troop levels in Iraq at 135,000 to 138,000 at least through 2005.
The Army is also considering a plan to close its premier training center at Fort Irwin in California so the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the much-vaunted Opposition Force against which the Army's tank divisions hone their combat skills, would be available for combat duty in Iraq. [complete article]
ASSAULT ON GAZA
Homes wrecked, lives destroyed: Israeli tactics that fuel the Intifada
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, May 19, 2004
Israel was accused yesterday of committing a war crime by its destruction of more than 3,000 Palestinian homes in Israel and the occupied territories since the intifada began three and a half years ago.
The damning report from Amnesty International came as the Israeli army killed up to 19 Palestinians - children as well as militants - in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip where General Moshe Ya'alon, the army chief of staff, warned at the weekend that hundreds more homes could be destroyed.
In its critique of the Israeli policy of destroying buildings and "vast areas" of agricultural land, the report challenges head-on the argument that the destruction is militarily necessary. It also warns that "punitive forced evictions and house demolitions" are a "flagrant form of collective punishment" that "violate a fundamental principle of international law". [complete article]
See Amnesty's full report, Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property
'140,000 people, 40 beds and a war'
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 19, 2004
The first day was not even over and Dr Raed Tafesh was despairing.
"One hundred and forty thousand people, 40 beds and a war. It makes you laugh," said the anaesthetist at Rafah's only hospital.
Except it is not a hospital. The tiny building was designed for primary healthcare and minor emergencies, before anyone imagined that Rafah would become the frontline in Israel's war on the Palestinians. Those who needed more serious care were dispatched up the road to the grander European hospital near Khan Younis.
But an Israeli tank now straddles the road, helping to seal off Rafah from the rest of Gaza as the Israeli army pursues those it calls terrorists and the Palestinians call "the resistance". The casualties have nowhere else to go but the Rafah clinic-cum-hospital. [complete article]
Children among 20 dead as Israeli army begins huge crackdown on Rafah
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 19, 2004
Israeli forces attacked Rafah refugee camp yesterday at the start of an operation to crush Palestinian armed resistance, before a planned fresh wave of house demolitions.
The army killed at least 20 people, including children, one of the highest death tolls in a single day of the present intifada, as it occupied the Tel al-Sultan district on the margins of the camp in preparation for an expected assault on the heart of Rafah.
Early this morning, Israeli armour also began moving into the west of the camp, near the al-Brazil area. Extended gunfire was heard but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Palestinians fear much greater bloodshed, however, once the Israelis attack areas of Rafah where resistance is usually stronger. [complete article]
Bush asserts Israel's right to self-defense
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, May 19, 2004
President Bush delivered a strong message of support for Israel to a pro-Israeli lobbying group on Tuesday, saying that Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorism and again backing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
Mr. Bush was greeted with chants of "four more years" as he was introduced to the organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, whose members went on to cheer him repeatedly as he reiterated his view that the primary impediment to peace in the Middle East was the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to renounce terrorism.
The president's appearance before the group, known as Aipac, continued the White House's efforts to capitalize on his strong support for Israel to win over Jewish voters, who traditionally support Democrats by a large margin in presidential contests, in this year's election.
"The Israeli people have always had enemies at their borders and terrorists close at hand," Mr. Bush said. "Again and again, Israel has defended itself with skill and heroism. And as a result of the courage of the Israeli people, Israel has earned the respect of the American people."
Mr. Bush alluded only in passing to the grievances of the Palestinians, and he only briefly mentioned the current fighting in Gaza, where Israeli forces reportedly killed at least 19 Palestinians on Tuesday in one of the biggest military operations there in years. [complete article]
Pakistan: After the hammer, now the screws
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, May 19, 2004
The "Hammer and Anvil" operation was designed by the United States to trap foreign and Afghan fighters between US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan troops across the border.
It proved a failure, with the recent high-profile deployment of the Pakistani army in the South Waziristan tribal area failing to send anyone of note scuttling from their sanctuaries into waiting US arms.
Indeed, the Pakistani army had to back off after sustaining heavy casualties from angered tribals, and a ceasefire was negotiated under which tribal elders promised to "register" foreigners, who would in turn be allowed to stay in the tribal area provided that they promised not to engage in resistance activities. This was widely perceived as a ploy.
The US was understandably not satisfied with this outcome, let alone that no foreigners have bothered to take advantage of the "amnesty", and it exerted more pressure on its "trusted ally" in the "war on terror" to do better.
So now there is plan B, in terms of which the US military, like the tribals, will treat the artificially created Durand Line that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan more as an inconvenience than as a legal barrier. At the same time, the Pakistan army is reported to be mobilizing for another military excursion into the tribal areas. And it, too, will cross the border as it sees fit. [complete article]
No security, no democracy
By Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, May 24, 2004
Larry Diamond is not going back to Iraq. One of America's foremost experts on building democracy -- a man who has spent years studying and helping countries from Asia to South America make the transition -- he had been working with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad over the last few months. Three weeks ago, when it was time to return to Iraq from his perch at Stanford, he decided not to do it.
Diamond has become increasingly gloomy about the situation in Iraq, and a meeting in April with a women's group there crystallized his feelings. "I'd met these amazing women a couple of times before and had been urging them to organize and get active politically," he explained. "Then one of them stood up and said, 'If we do all these things, who's going to protect us?' She was right. We're asking people in Iraq to do things that will get them killed. Without security, democracy is impossible. If we're trying to win people over in Iraq," he said, "the strategy is obvious: it's about security, stupid." [complete article]
Torture and truth
By Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, June 10, 2004
Last November in Iraq, I traveled to Fallujah during the early days of what would become known as the "Ramadan Offensive" -- when suicide bombers in the space of less than an hour destroyed the Red Cross headquarters and four police stations, and daily attacks by insurgents against US troops doubled, and the American adventure in Iraq entered a bleak tunnel from which it has yet to emerge. I inquired of a young man there why the people of that city were attacking Americans more frequently each day. How many of the attacks, I wanted to know, were carried out by foreign fighters? How many by local Islamists? And how many by what US officers called "FRL's" -- former regime loyalists?
The young man -- I'll call him Salih -- listened, answered patiently in his limited but eloquent English, but soon became impatient with what he plainly saw as my American obsession with categories and particulars. Finally he interrupted my litany of questions, pushed his face close to mine, and spoke to me slowly and emphatically:
For Fallujans it is a shame to have foreigners break down their doors. It is a shame for them to have foreigners stop and search their women. It is a shame for the foreigners to put a bag over their heads, to make a man lie on the ground with your shoe on his neck. This is a great shame, you understand? This is a great shame for the whole tribe.
It is the duty of that man, and of that tribe, to get revenge on this soldier—to kill that man. Their duty is to attack them, to wash the shame. The shame is a stain, a dirty thing; they have to wash it. No sleep -- we cannot sleep until we have revenge. They have to kill soldiers.
He leaned back and looked at me, then tried one more time. "The Americans," he said, "provoke the people. They don't respect the people." [complete article]
By Jake Tapper and Clayton Sandell, ABC News, May 16, 2004
Lawyers from the military's Judge Advocate General's Corps, or JAG, had been urging Pentagon officials to ensure protection for prisoners for two years before the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison came to light, current and former JAG officers told ABCNEWS.
But, the JAG lawyers say, political appointees at the Pentagon ignored their warnings, setting the stage for the Abu Ghraib abuses, in which military police reservists photographed each other subjecting Iraqi prisoners to physical abuse and sexual humiliation.
As the military's uniformed lawyers, JAG officers are in charge of instructing military commanders on how to adhere to domestic and international rules regarding the treatment of detainees.
"If we -- 'we' being the uniformed lawyers -- had been listened to, and what we said put into practice, then these abuses would not have occurred," said Rear Admiral Don Guter (ret.), the Navy Judge Advocate General from 2000 to 2002. [complete article]
Iraqi terrorism blamed on U.S. pact with rebels
By Geoffrey York and Orly Halpern, Globe and Mail, May 18, 2004
A senior Iraqi official lashed out at the United States yesterday after a spectacular assassination in Baghdad, saying a deal with insurgents has turned the city of Fallujah into a staging ground for attacks on the capital.
"The number of car bombs in Baghdad has gone up dramatically since the peace agreement in Fallujah," Defence Minister Ali Allawi told The Globe and Mail, hours after a suicide bomb blast killed Iraqi Governing Council president Izzadine Saleem.
Mr. Allawi said Fallujah, a city of 400,000 people 50 kilometres west of Baghdad, has become a haven for insurgents since the April 28 agreement between U.S. Marine commanders and rebel leaders that ended the siege of the city.
"They are forming a network, supported by guns and money, connected to insurgents in other parts of Iraq," he said. "And they are making a serious bid for power." [complete article]
U.S. forces, under attack, strike rebel cleric's fighters near shrine
By Edward Wong, New York Times, May 18, 2004
In its riskiest attack yet against the forces of a rebel Shiite cleric, the American military called in an airstrike early Monday morning to kill fighters standing about 160 feet away from one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam, military officials said.
The strike came after nearly a week in which tenacious insurgents supporting the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, fought daily battles in downtown Karbala against soldiers of the First Armored Division. The insurgents have killed 3 American soldiers and wounded at least 55, frustrating American commanders who had hoped to break the insurgency by raiding a mosque used as a rebel stronghold last Tuesday.
After hours of debate on Sunday, commanders called in an AC-130 gunship, which began pounding at insurgent positions with 40-millimeter cannon fire around 12:30 a.m. Monday. An American officer at the scene said the insurgents had clustered on a street corner about 160 feet from the golden-domed Shrine of Hussein, dedicated to the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. [complete article]
Iraqi leaders fear intra-Shiite conflict tensions rise over Najaf
By Annia Ciezadlo, Daily Star, May 18, 2004
While American tanks traded fire with Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army over the weekend, another battle was raging on the Shiite street: a war of words between the outlaw cleric's aides and Shiite religious leaders growing visibly more infuriated with Sadr by the day.
Delicate negotiations between Sadr aides and top Shiite leaders to disband the Mehdi Army have fallen apart. Meanwhile, Shiite tribal and religious leaders are beginning to worry that the monthlong standoff between Sadr and coalition forces might expand into an intra-Shiite conflict that could threaten Iraq's stability.
"We could have a bloody confrontation between Shiite groups in Najaf," said Sheikh Fatih Kashif al-Ghitta, a cleric from a prominent Najaf family.
"That would be a very dangerous escalation - it could cause deep divisions in the Shiite community."
Tensions have risen between Sadr and more moderate Shiite clerics in recent weeks, with some Sadr aides openly criticizing the more moderate leaders. [complete article]
As violence deepens, so does pessimism
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post, May 18, 2004
With stunning brazenness, pinpoint timing and devastating force, the suicide car bomber who killed the head of Iraq's Governing Council on Monday gave shape to a feeling among Iraqi and U.S. officials and common citizens that the country is almost unmanageable.
With the transfer of limited powers to a new Iraqi government scheduled to take place in six weeks, U.S. and allied forces have been unable to eradicate threats to Iraq's stability, and no one has predicted a reduction in violence before the June 30 handover.
U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is trying to create the caretaker government that will assume authority, but on Monday debate over the details of his plan took a back seat to a more basic question: If Iraq's titular president, Izzedin Salim, can be blown up at the gates of occupation headquarters, what kind of country is being handed over to Iraqis? [complete article]
Targeted killings demoralise Iraqi allies and limit handover options
By Rory McCarthy and Luke Harding, The Guardian, May 18, 2004
The patterns are ever more clear, the targets carefully chosen. Abdul Zahra Othman, the moderate and widely respected president of Iraq's governing council, yesterday became the latest victim of the violence that has plagued occupied Iraq.
Witnesses to the suicide bombing that claimed his life suggest his olive green Toyota Land Cruiser was specifically targeted. Colleagues from the governing council also insist it was no coincidence that their president was singled out.
Just six weeks before the US authorities hand over "sovereignty", insurgents have struck at the seat of Iraqi power, killing the country's most senior official.
"They are going to target those leaders who became prominent over the last year," said Hajim al-Hassani, deputy head of the Iraqi Islamic party. "The closer we get to sovereignty, the harder they are going to try to hit." [complete article]
'No one understands what we've been through'
By Matthew Wells, The Guardian, May 18, 2004
Debbie Roath and Rachel Trueblood are just two of the wives from the 129th Transportation Company who are waiting for their husbands to come home from Iraq.
The company numbers 295 people from five different states - the vast majority are men - and they are part of the US army reserve. Some, like Rachel's staff sergeant husband Rony, were in Iraq the last time round, as Operation Desert Storm raged, and then petered out.
Debbie's husband, Sergeant Jeff Roath, has never been a full-timer, but the two men left their homes in the Kansas City area of Missouri in January 2003, arrived in Kuwait in late April last year, and have been driving heavy supply equipment lorries up and down the dangerous roads of Iraq ever since.
They were told initially that deployment would be between three and six months. Three times they have been expected home by their families, and three times the tour has been extended at a late hour. Last Thursday, Debbie and Rachel received calls telling them to expect their men home sometime later this week:
"The worst thing is telling the kids. They've been disappointed so often in the past that we've started lying to them. We don't mention they might be coming home now," says Debbie.
"No one I know has told their kids anything," says Rachel. "We don't want to say a thing, but that means when they don't come, we have to suffer through that depression and rejection all by ourselves." [complete article]
The wastrel son
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, May 18, 2004
He was a stock character in 19th-century fiction: the wastrel son who runs up gambling debts in the belief that his wealthy family, concerned for its prestige, will have no choice but to pay off his creditors. In the novels such characters always come to a bad end. Either they bring ruin to their families, or they eventually find themselves disowned.
George Bush reminds me of those characters -- and not just because of his early career, in which friends of the family repeatedly bailed out his failing business ventures. Now that he sits in the White House, he's still counting on other people to settle his debts -- not to protect the reputation of his family, but to protect the reputation of the country.
One by one, our erstwhile allies are disowning us; they don't want an unstable, anti-Western Iraq any more than we do, but they have concluded that President Bush is incorrigible. Spain has washed its hands of our problems, Italy is edging toward the door, and Britain will join the rush for the exit soon enough, with or without Tony Blair. [complete article]
Memos reveal war crimes warnings
By Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 18, 2004
The White House's top lawyer warned more than two years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for "war crimes" as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue.
The concern about possible future prosecution for war crimes -- and that it might even apply to Bush adminstration officials themselves -- is contained in a crucial portion of an internal January 25, 2002, memo by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales obtained by Newsweek. It urges President George Bush declare the war in Afghanistan, including the detention of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, exempt from the provisions of the Geneva Convention.
In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes -- defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions -- such as that outlawing "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" of prisoners -- as "undefined."
One key advantage of declaring that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters did not have Geneva Conventio protections is that it "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote. [complete article]
Death of prisoner detailed in testimony
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2004
When CIA officers took the Iraqi detainee to Abu Ghraib prison, his head was covered with an empty sandbag and Army guards were ordered to take him directly to a shower room that served as a makeshift interrogation center at the overcrowded, shell-damaged facility outside Baghdad.
An hour later, during intensive questioning by intelligence officers, the prisoner collapsed and died. Only then did interrogators remove the hood to reveal severe head wounds that had not been treated.
The dead prisoner, whose identity has not been made public, would become famous around the world through a photograph of a body wrapped in plastic sheeting and packed in ice -- among the most indelible images yet made public in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. [complete article]
M.P.'s received orders to strip Iraqi detainees
By Eric Schmitt and Douglas Jehl, New York Times, May 18, 2004
The American officer who was in charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison has told a senior Army investigator that intelligence officers sometimes instructed the military police to force Iraqi detainees to strip naked and to shackle them before questioning them. But he said those measures were not imposed "unless there is some good reason."
The officer, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, also told the investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, that his unit had "no formal system in place" to monitor instructions they had given to military guards, who worked closely with interrogators to prepare detainees for interviews. Colonel Pappas said he "should have asked more questions, admittedly" about abuses committed or encouraged by his subordinates.
The statements by Colonel Pappas, contained in the transcript of a Feb. 11 interview that is part of General Taguba's 6,000-page classified report, offer the highest-level confirmation so far that military intelligence soldiers directed military guards in preparing for interrogations. They also provide the first insights by the senior intelligence officer at the prison into the relationship between his troops and the military police. Portions of Colonel Pappas's sworn statements were read to The New York Times by a government official who had read the transcript. [complete article]
U.S. to halt payments to Iraqi group headed by a onetime Pentagon favorite
By Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times, May 18, 2004
The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.
Mr. Chalabi, a longtime exile leader and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, played a crucial role in persuading the administration that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. But he has since become a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration, who say the United States relied on him too heavily for prewar intelligence that has since proved faulty.
Mr. Chalabi's group has received at least $27 million in United States financing in the past four years, the Iraqi National Congress official said. This includes $335,000 a month as part of a classified program through the Defense Intelligence Agency, since the summer of 2002, to help gather intelligence in Iraq. The official said his group had been told that financing will cease June 30, when occupation authorities are scheduled to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis.
Internal reviews by the United States government have found that much of the information provided as part of the classified program before American forces invaded Iraq last year was useless, misleading or even fabricated. [complete article]
White House released claims of defector deemed unreliable by CIA
By Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, May 17, 2004
The Bush administration helped rally public and congressional support for a preemptive invasion of Iraq by publicizing the claims of an Iraqi defector months after he showed deception in a lie detector test and had been rejected as unreliable by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al Haideri, claimed he'd worked at illegal chemical, biological and nuclear facilities around Baghdad. But when members of the Iraq Survey Group, the CIA-run effort to trace Saddam Hussein's illegal weapons, took Saeed back to Iraq earlier this year, he pointed out facilities known to be associated with the conventional Iraqi military. He couldn't identify a single site associated with illegal weapons, U.S. officials told Knight Ridder.
"The overall impression was that he was trying to pass information far beyond his area of expertise," said a senior U.S. official. He and another U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because some details of the defector's case remain classified. [complete article]
Faulty terror report card
By Alan B. Krueger and David Laitin, Washington Post, May 17, 2004
Are we winning the war on terrorism?
Although keeping score is difficult, the State Department's annual report on international terrorism, released last month, provides the best government data to answer this question. The short answer is "No," but that's not the spin the administration is putting on it.
"You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. As evidence, the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report says that worldwide terrorism dropped by 45 percent between 2001 and 2003. The report even boasts that the number of terrorist acts committed last year "represents the lowest annual total of international terrorist attacks since 1969."
Yet, a careful review of the report and underlying data supports the opposite conclusion: The number of significant terrorist acts increased from 124 in 2001 to 169 in 2003 -- 36 percent -- even using the State Department's official standards. The data that the report highlights are ill-defined and subject to manipulation -- and give disproportionate weight to the least important terrorist acts. The only verifiable information in the annual reports indicates that the number of terrorist events has risen each year since 2001, and in 2003 reached its highest level in more than 20 years. [complete article]
Wrong way in Gaza
Editorial, Washington Post, May 18, 2004
A month after promising President Bush that Israel would withdraw all of its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is overseeing the largest military operation there in years -- yet another of the unpleasant surprises he has delivered to the administration as it struggles with a major crisis in Iraq. Since obtaining big diplomatic concessions from Mr. Bush in exchange for his Gaza plan -- at the cost of a significant backlash among America's dwindling number of Middle Eastern allies -- Mr. Sharon has further inflamed Arab opinion by assassinating the two top leaders of the Hamas movement while allowing his withdrawal plan to be halted by hard-liners in his Likud Party. Now he has dispatched a large Israeli military force to the southern end of the Gaza Strip for an offensive that has so far destroyed scores of Palestinian homes, with hundreds of more to be razed. If he proceeds, the cost of Mr. Bush's commitment to Israel's reckless leader will escalate yet again -- so far, with no return. [complete article]
'There were rockets, shells. It was war. Then bulldozers destroyed everything'
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 18, 2004
Um Hisham Qishta stood at the spot where she cradled a dying Israeli soldier in her arms a few days ago and said she was going nowhere. But just in case the armoured bulldozers came too close, she bundled the entire contents of her immaculate flat into plastic sacks yesterday and sent the furniture off on the back of a donkey cart. On the street below almost every family left in the Saladin district of Rafah was hauling belongings on to wooden carts in advance of the coming storm.
Early this morning at least three Palestinian fighters were killed and five wounded as Israeli helicopters fired two missiles into the refugee camp in an attack feared by Mrs Qishta and other Palestinians, believing it to be the start of a full-scale assault over the following hours.
Hours earlier, word that Israeli tanks had sealed off Rafah was enough to stir those whose homes had survived the demolition by the army's bulldozers on Friday, which crushed about 200 houses in the name of the war on terror. [complete article]
U.S. report: Israel's record in territories remains poor
By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz, May 18, 2004
An annual U.S. State Department report released Monday in Washington leveled criticism at Israel's security forces, calling their record in the West Bank and Gaza Strip poor and noting that the interactions between troops and international activists have deteriorated in the past year.
The report's main points are similar to those made in last year's report. The State Department accuses Israel of excessive use of force, leading to "numerous deaths." Israel was also accused of employing strict closures and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians in the territories, of hindering Palestinian medical personnel and of detaining pedestrians and drivers at checkpoints located throughout the territories.
The State Department said 573 Palestinians and one foreign national were killed by Israeli security forces in the past year. [complete article]
Deadly April battle became a turning point for Fallouja
By Tony Perry, Patrick J. McDonnell and Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2004
The insurgents came at the Marines in relentless, almost suicidal waves. By the time the two-hour firefight in the Jolan district of this Sunni Muslim stronghold was over, dozens of anti-American fighters and one Marine were dead.
When the April 26 battle ended, Lt. Gen. James Conway, commanding officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, knew something else: It was, in a microcosm, what house-to-house fighting might look like if the Marines were forced to storm Fallouja and, possibly, level a city of 300,000 people. He didn't like the look of the future battlefield.
Conway had been given authority to cut a deal. He had long spoken about "putting an Iraqi face" on the security forces here. From unexpected quarters, a chance suddenly emerged to accomplish that goal in spectacular -- if far from ideal -- fashion. The April 26 firefight came during an uneasy, and often broken, cease-fire between the insurgents and the Marines who had surrounded the city earlier that month. At the time, the best hope for a peaceful resolution appeared to be the heavily publicized negotiations involving Sunni clerics, Fallouja civic leaders and sheiks, the Marines and U.S. occupation officials.
But behind the scenes, a back-channel communication between guerrilla envoys and the Marines was showing promise. It appears that several insurgent commanders -- former generals in Saddam Hussein's regime who had joined the armed resistance -- had made an overture through third parties in the days before the battle. [complete article]
Wider abuse inquiry sought
By Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2004
Members of Congress from both political parties called Sunday for additional investigations into the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal to determine whether responsibility lies higher up the chain of command than with the seven Army reservists who are facing criminal charges.
"We need to take this up as far as it goes, and we need to do it quickly," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He and other lawmakers were responding to two magazine reports suggesting that top-level administration officials made recommendations on interrogation policy that may have contributed to abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
The New Yorker is reporting in its May 24 edition that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld secretly approved a plan to use harsh interrogation methods on prisoners in Iraq. Members of Congress said they wanted to inquire further into the report, even though the Pentagon has labeled it "outlandish, conspiratorial and filled with error and anonymous conjecture."
The May 24 edition of Newsweek says that a memo written by White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales after the Sept. 11 attacks may have established the legal foundation that allowed for abusive treatment. [complete article]
See also Seymour Hersh's, The gray zone (The New Yorker) and The roots of torture (Newsweek)
Baghdad blast kills Iraq leader
BBC News, May 17, 2004
The current head of Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council has been killed in a car bomb blast near the headquarters of the US-led coalition in Baghdad.
Ezzedine Salim was waiting to enter the compound when the bomb went off at 0530 GMT, killing him and several others.
It is not yet clear whether Mr Salim was the target of what US officials say was a suicide attack. [complete article]
Community razed along with its homes in Gaza
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, May 16, 2004
Azizah Abu Anzah was watching an Arab soap opera on television when a 56-ton armored bulldozer ate its way to her house in this Palestinian refugee camp [Rafah] on the Gaza Strip's southern edge.
The 30-year-old woman recalls grabbing her children and hiding behind a house in the next alley. She stole peeks around the corner as a blade taller than a man began scraping away her three-room home.
"All the neighbors came and ran inside to collect my furniture -- the bed, TV, my new washing machine, some blankets -- and the bulldozer didn't stop," Abu Anzah said. "We were all crying. It was a day I will never forget."
She and her husband, Musa, moved their family deeper into the refugee camp -- farther from the encroaching bulldozers, spasms of gunfire and thunderous tank rounds. But the bulldozers kept coming, flattening the neighborhood, house by house. Last week, 16 months after their first house was demolished, the Abu Anzahs' second home was demolished by Israeli forces during a new outbreak of battles between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters. [complete article]
Count Bush's doctrine of preemption as a casualty of the Iraq war
By Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2004
Deterrence and containment defined U.S. security strategy for more than four decades. But preemption, less than two years after its debut, already looks frayed.
"As a doctrine, it's dead as a doornail," insists Ivo Daalder, a former national security aide under President Clinton and coauthor of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy." Even one GOP strategist familiar with White House national security thinking acknowledges that for any president looking to apply the doctrine again, "the bar is higher, the country would be more reluctant, and the case would be harder to make."
The reason, of course, is Iraq, the doctrine's first test. Initially, the war to depose Saddam Hussein seemed to strengthen the argument for preemption. Like the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the military's lightning run to Baghdad dramatized America's ability to eliminate regimes it considers hostile -- and to do so faster and with fewer U.S. casualties than once seemed imaginable.
The invasion freed Iraq from a brutal tyranny and might eventually produce a stable and humane country. But almost everything that has happened since the Hussein statues fell in Baghdad last spring has weakened the case for preemption as Bush defined it at West Point [in June, 2002].
Iraqis, desperately seeking detainees, meet frustration
By Annia Ciezadlo, Christian Science Monitor, May 17, 2004
She didn't want to be a troublemaker; she's a US citizen, after all. So when American soldiers came to Jeanan Moayad's house, looking for her father, she cooperated. She showed them his medical records and her own Texas birth certificate. Her father was in Jordan, she told them, undergoing surgery. So they took her husband instead.
As far as she knows, her husband is not accused of any crime. But Mrs. Moayad says US troops are holding him as a human bargaining chip, telling her repeatedly that they would detain her husband until her father surrendered.
"My husband didn't do anything," says Moayad, a 35-year-old Iraqi architect who lived in Austin until she was five. Her chin trembling, she digs a tiny picture of him out of her purse, packed with documents related to his case and photos of their three children. Her husband, an architect named Dhafir Ibrahim, smiles calmly out of the scalloped frame. "He's a hostage!" she exclaims, her eyes filling with tears. [complete article]
Iraq a land of opportunity for South Africa's apartheid-era troops
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Knight Ridder, May 16, 2004
From the Ivory Coast to Papua New Guinea, South African mercenaries have trained national armies, guarded politicians, protected oil and mining facilities - and, of course, fought on the frontlines.
They are widely known for their superior training, management skills and prowess with weapons and technology. They are also abundant and cost half as much to hire as ex-U.S. or British special forces soldiers.
With apartheid's demise, hundreds of white and black soldiers found themselves unemployed after their units were disbanded. Others quit rather than work for the black-majority government that swept into power in 1994. Whites worried about affirmative action policies. Blacks were seen as sellouts for fighting in the apartheid military.
Many were recruited by Executive Outcomes, a shadowy South African security company led by former special forces commanders of the infamous 32 Battalion, which spearheaded a covert war in Namibia and Angola in the 1970s and '80s.
In the mid-1990s, several hundred Executive Outcomes soldiers, using combat helicopters and fighter jets, protected Angola's oil-rich government from tens of thousands of UNITA rebels. And in Sierra Leone, they helped defeat the rag-tag rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.
Today Executive Outcomes is defunct. But South African mercenaries still roam the continent seeking to make money from the developing world's miseries. [complete article]
America and Arabia after Saddam
By Fred Halliday, Open Democracy, May 13, 2004
My central focus ... is Iraq – its people, its recent history, its sufferings and its future. Too much western discussion, in its concern with internal, domestic disputes and agendas, ignores this dimension, and pays scant attention to the 25 million people at the centre of Iraq's own experience. In the west, the tendency to a self-proclaimed anti-imperialism that fuels a relentlessly moralising posture is too often but the obverse of the arrogance and brutality of the occupying forces themselves.
Yet whatever our analyses and views may be in the west, there is now a vigorous debate taking place in the Arab world, in Iraq in particular, as well as in Iran, about their future. It is one which demands our attention far ahead of the fantasies, tergiversations and half-truths of London, Washington, and Paris.
In Iraq, and more broadly in western Asia – a term I use deliberately – a fire is burning and it is impossible to know how long it will rage, or who will emerge victorious.
But Iraq is not simply at the centre of that fire. It is at the core – historically, politically, intellectually, culturally – of much of the modern Arab world. Of all the intelligentsias of the Arab world, Iraq's is the most sophisticated, historically conscious and rooted in the real concerns of its society. I can attest from recent conversations that it has survived even the ravages of Ba'athist rule with its pertinent and mordant sense of humour intact. It will, if permitted by foreign occupiers and domestic insurgents alike, play a decisive role in the future of its country. [complete article]
There is one way to preserve Iraq - and give us a way out
By Peter Galbraith, The Guardian, May 17, 2004
Over the past 20 years, I have visited every corner of Iraqi Kurdistan and know well most of its leaders. I have never met an Iraqi Kurd who preferred Iraq to an independent Kurdistan, if that were a realistic alternative. Earlier this year, the Referendum Campaign, a coalition of Kurdish NGOs, collected 1.7 million signatures in Kurdistan (about two-thirds of the region's adults) demanding a vote on independence.
Iraq's Shia, some 60% of the population, express themselves primarily through their religious identity. During a recent trip to the south, I saw no sign of support for the secular parties, and the religious parties could well win an absolute majority in next year's elections. The Shia are not separatists, but rather feel their majority status gives them not only the right to govern all Iraq, but also to impose their version of an Islamic state.
Although a small minority, the Sunni Arabs have always run Iraq. Historically, they have been Iraqi nationalists, but they are also pan-Arabists. Arab nationalism (the core tenet of Ba'athism) connects the Sunni Arabs to the larger Arab world, and may become even more important as they come to terms with their loss of power and status.
Civil war is a more likely outcome in Iraq than democracy. There is growing tension between the secular Kurds and Shia religious leaders who want to make Iraq an Islamic state. The Shia have warned that they will not be bound by provisions of Iraq's transitional administrative law to ensure a role for the Kurds (and Sunni Arabs) in the writing of a permanent constitution. Kurdistan's leaders reply that their region will not stay in an Islamic state. [complete article]
Allies accused of breaking Geneva Conventions on civilian losses
By Kim Sengupta and Marie Woolf, The Independent, May 17, 2004
One year and 16 days after President George Bush declared the end to major hostilities in Iraq, the toll of American and British casualties continues to rise. Since the start of the invasion, 566 members of the American military and 211 US civilians have died. The British figures are 59 and 8.
But at the same time thousands of others men, women, the elderly and the very young have been killed or maimed with far less fanfare. No one knows how many. They are Iraqi civilians, and the Americans and the British do not bother to keep count of the people they have "liberated" and then killed.
This is not usual in modern warfare. In most past conflicts, attempts were made to keep a tally of civilian losses. Legal experts say that, particularly in the case of Iraq, it is the duty of occupying powers to do so under the Geneva Conventions. [complete article]
Iraqi silence indicts U.S. occupiers
By Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2004
Amid the angry condemnations across America, Europe and much of the Arab world over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, Iraqi voices have been, by and large, muted.
But the generally subdued response among mainstream Iraqis is a harsh indictment in its own right, Iraqi pollsters and outside experts say. To many Iraqis, the abuse of prisoners came as no surprise. To hear them tell it, the experience of the American occupation was already one of degradation, disappointment and discomfort, and despite months of steady complaints, few U.S. officials seemed to listen.
Saddoun Dulaimi, a pollster whose firm works with a number of U.S. contractors, is among those who said he forwarded information about mistaken arrests by American troops to the U.S.-led occupation authority.
"But I received no response," he said.
The widespread and increasing resentment toward the U.S. is reflected in polling results over the last several months. Support for the U.S. presence here eroded dramatically well before photographs of the Abu Ghraib prison abuses came to light, according to two reputable polling organizations, the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies and the Independent Institute for Research and Civil Society Studies.
Between October and April, the percentage of Iraqis viewing the United States as an occupier rather than a liberator or peacekeeper more than doubled -- from 43% to 88%, according to Dulaimi's Center for Research. The Independent Institute had almost identical numbers for the same question.
Similarly, the percentage of Iraqis wanting the U.S. troops to immediately leave the country rose from 17% in October to 57% in April, according to the Center for Research. [complete article]
The policy of abuse
Editorial, Washington Post, May 16, 2004
Until this month very little was publicly known about the Bush administration's procedures for handling and interrogating foreign detainees. Human rights groups had collected reports of abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan, reports that the administration dismissed or denied. Spokesmen pointed to President Bush's statement in June of last year that the United States would not violate an international convention against torture and to assurances that detainees in Guantanamo were being treated according to the principles of the Geneva Conventions. In the past two weeks, thanks to the furor over the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison and a series of congressional hearings, a disturbingly different picture has been revealed -- one that in its own way is shocking and damaging to America's place in the world.
What is now known is that official procedures for handling detainees permitted hooding, sleep and dietary deprivation, forced "stress" positions, isolation for more than 30 days and intimidation by dogs, and that these reflected judgments at the highest levels of the Bush administration. These decisions, taken in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, changed decades of previous U.S. policy and violated or radically reinterpreted existing regulations. Their adoption deeply disturbed legal professionals inside the military, so much so that some secretly took their complaints to outside watchdog organizations. The International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as many independent legal experts, has condemned the resulting questioning techniques as illegal under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. Yet Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has been saying that the United States considers such treatment of prisoners appropriate and legal -- and, presumably, sanctioned for use against detainees everywhere, including Americans. [complete article]
The roots of torture
By John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 24, 2004
It's not easy to get a member of Congress to stop talking. Much less a room full of them. But as a small group of legislators watched the images flash by in a small, darkened hearing room in the Rayburn Building last week, a sickened silence descended. There were 1,800 slides and several videos, and the show went on for three hours. The nightmarish images showed American soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison forcing Iraqis to masturbate. American soldiers sexually assaulting Iraqis with chemical light sticks. American soldiers laughing over dead Iraqis whose bodies had been abused and mutilated. There was simply nothing to say. "It was a very subdued walk back to the House floor," said Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "People were ashen."
The White House put up three soldiers for court-martial, saying the pictures were all the work of a few bad-apple MPs who were poorly supervised. But evidence was mounting that the furor was only going to grow and probably sink some prominent careers in the process. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner declared the pictures were the worst "military misconduct" he'd seen in 60 years, and he planned more hearings. Republicans on Capitol Hill were notably reluctant to back Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And Newsweek has learned that U.S. soldiers and CIA operatives could be accused of war crimes. Among the possible charges: homicide involving deaths during interrogations. "The photos clearly demonstrate to me the level of prisoner abuse and mistreatment went far beyond what I expected, and certainly involved more than six or seven MPs," said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former military prosecutor. He added: "It seems to have been planned." [complete article]
A new American dream
By William Pfaff, The Observer, May 16, 2004
The United States and Britain have an Iraq crisis on their hands, but the US has something worse, a crisis of thought and assumption in the mainstream intellectual community over foreign policy.
The second crisis involves much more than the derailment of US policy in Iraq. It concerns what has been done and said to redefine America's place in global society and, by implication, in contemporary history, since 11 September - after which, as Americans said, nothing could ever be the same.
A 'new America' was said to have emerged, but it would be better to say an old one found new empowerment. It was recently described by former US ambassador to France Felix Rohatyn as 'more radical and more committed than ever to the need for unchallenged military dominance. It is more individualistic than Europe, more religious, conservative and patriotic ... [These factors] will influence everything America does from now on, both in its foreign and its domestic policies.'
This is undoubtedly true, but this 'new' America amazingly resembles the isolationist and xenophobic America between 1920 and 1941. What is new is that it has become the most heavily-armed nation on Earth and believes it is, and should remain, number one. [complete article]
Divided Iraqi south posing new obstacles
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, May 16, 2004
The battle for Iraq's Shiite-populated south that engaged U.S. forces again Saturday is presenting U.S. officials with a more serious political challenge than the insurgency's still potent strongholds farther north, U.S. officials and Iraqi political leaders say.
In heavy fighting over the past week, U.S. forces have inflicted substantial casualties on the Shiite Muslim militia loyal to Moqtada Sadr, a breakaway cleric wanted by U.S. forces on murder charges. U.S. and British troops battled Sadr's forces Saturday in four southern cities, including new fighting in Amarah near the Iranian border. Firefights between U.S. forces and insurgents in the east Baghdad slum named for Sadr's assassinated father left 14 insurgents and two U.S. soldiers dead overnight Friday.
The fighting reflects the U.S. strategy of squeezing Sadr militarily while allowing a group of local Shiite leaders to broker a deal, much as Sunni Muslim leaders did this month in the western city of Fallujah. The Americans contend that Sadr is deeply unpopular among many Shiites in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, where his men are ruining the local economy and have spurred many residents to flee the growing violence.
But the same divisions among Shiites that U.S. officials had hoped would help persuade Sadr to end his insurrection are among the principal reasons that a negotiated solution has not emerged. The deal reached in Fallujah, U.S. officials and Iraqi political leaders say, has little application in the south. [complete article]
U.S. guards 'filmed beatings' at terror camp
By David Rose and Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer, May 16, 2004
Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp, an investigation by The Observer has revealed.
The disclosures, made in an interview with Tarek Dergoul, the fifth British prisoner freed last March, who has been too traumatised to speak until now, prompted demands last night by senior politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to make the videos available immediately.
They say that if the contents are as shocking as Dergoul claims, they will provide final proof that brutality against detainees has become an institutionalised feature of America's war on terror.
In the wake of the furore over the abuses photographed at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has continued to insist they were the work of a few rogue soldiers, and not a systemic problem. [complete article]
Abuse brings deaths of captives into focus
By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2004
An Afghan captive froze to death in a CIA-run lockup in Kabul in 2002 after he was doused with water and shackled overnight to a wall. The prisoner died, U.S. intelligence sources said, after Afghan guards apparently sought to punish him for being unruly.
At Iraq's Camp Bucca, a detainee was shot through the chest last year while throwing rocks at a guard tower. The Army ruled the killing a "justifiable shooting," but a Red Cross team that witnessed the incident at the facility in southern Iraq concluded that "at no point" did the prisoner pose a serious threat to guards.
At Camp Cropper, near Baghdad's airport, detainee 7166 was shot and killed in June as he tried to crawl under a barbed-wire fence in an escape attempt that commanders had known was being planned a day earlier.
All were deaths in U.S. custody, incidents and individuals largely ignored by outsiders at the time. Now they have emerged from the thicket of military, criminal and congressional investigations into abuse of U.S. captives overseas triggered by mistreatment of detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. [complete article]
Earlier jail seen as incubator for abuses in Iraq
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, May 15, 2004
An American-run detention center outside Baghdad known as Camp Cropper was reportedly the site of numerous abuses of Iraqi prisoners several months before the mistreatment of prisoners unfolded last fall at Abu Ghraib prison, according to documents and interviews.
The detention facility, on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport, appears to have served as an incubator for the acts of humiliation that were inflicted months later on Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. At both sites, the mistreatment has been linked to interrogations overseen by the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, based in Wiesbaden, Germany.
The alleged abuses at Camp Cropper last May and June were severe enough to have prompted formal complaints to American commanders from visiting officials of the International Committee for the Red Cross. After several visits to Camp Cropper, where they interviewed Iraqi prisoners, officials of the I.C.R.C. in early July 2003 cited at least 50 incidents of abuse reported to have taken place in a part of the prison under the control of military interrogators. [complete article]
Christian missionaries battle for hearts and minds in Iraq
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, May 16, 2004
Even as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and large numbers of contractors have pulled out of Iraq due to escalating violence, many Christian [aid] groups have chosen to remain.
Some call it bravery, others naiveté. More than a few of the missionaries say their willingness to stay the course is about faith. Volunteer Doug Wells, who went to Iraq this winter, for example, told a Christian newsletter that God led him out of some "sticky situations" that showed "us His faithfulness."
In sermons at mosques and in proclamations in newspapers, many Islamic leaders say Iraqis should welcome the assistance of the Christian aid groups. At the same time they have called for Christians to be banned from proselytizing in Iraq -- as they are in many other Middle Eastern countries. They say they remain suspicious that some aid workers have other motives, both religious and political. [complete article]
Israel 'to step up demolitions'
BBC News, May 16, 2004
The Israeli army has said it plans to destroy hundreds more homes in the Gaza Strip, after Israel's Supreme Court said demolitions could go ahead.
Chief of Staff Lt Gen Moshe Yaalon said the homes along the border with Egypt needed to be destroyed to prevent them being used by Palestinian militants.
The court earlier rejected an appeal by Palestinians against the destruction.
The US has joined a growing chorus of international condemnation, saying it opposes the demolition policy. [complete article]
Israelis call for Gaza withdrawal
BBC News, May 15, 2004
More than 100,000 Israelis have attended a rally calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
The rally in Tel Aviv was organised to show support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's pullout plan.
The controversial plan has been rejected by the ruling Likud party but polls show most Israelis support it. [complete article]
Saudi royal guards 'aided al-Qa'ida' in Riyadh bombings that left 35 dead
By Mark Hollingsworth, The Independent, May 16, 2004
Al-Qa'ida terrorists whose suicide bombs killed 35 people and injured 200 at a housing compound in Riyadh last May were secretly assisted by certain members of the Saudi National Guard which protects the royal family, military trainers employed by a US firm have claimed.
In exclusive interviews with The Independent on Sunday, the former trainers for the Vinnell Corporation, which has an $800m (£460m) contract to advise the Saudi National Guard, allege:
* Some members of the Saudi National Guard knew about the bombing in advance and gave inside help to al-Qa'ida, including possibly a detailed map of the target.
* An "exercise" organised by the national guard removed 50 of 70 security staff for the day of the bombing, thus leaving the compound "defenceless".
* Security was generally lax, with machine guns unloaded and guards unarmed.
* Vinnell and the Saudis were given detailed, repeated warnings that Islamic militants were planning an attack, but did nothing to upgrade security. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
The gray zone
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, May 15, 2004
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld's decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America's prospects in the war on terror. According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.. Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, "Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding." The senior C.I.A. official, asked about Rumsfeld's testimony and that of Stephen Cambone, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence, said, "Some people think you can bullshit anyone."
Our moral Waterloo
By Martin Jacques, The Guardian, May 15, 2004
Underpinning the argument in support of the invasion of Iraq has been the idea of the moral virtue of the west. In contrast to Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship, the "coalition" espouses the values of democracy and human rights. The invasion of Iraq represented the high watermark of western moral virtue. In retrospect, it is clear that the idea had been gaining momentum since two coincidental events in the 1970s: the end of the Vietnam war, which profoundly scarred the reputation of the United States, and the beginning of the modern era of globalisation. With Vietnam out of the way, and globalisation the new bearer of western and, above all, American values, the latter found an ever-expanding global audience, a process enormously boosted by the collapse of communism. Democracy and the market became the new western mantra, applicable to every society, wherever they might be and whatever their stage of development. Following its implosion, the former communist world, at least in Europe, gratefully embraced the new philosophy, even though in Russia it was to prove a disaster, as Roman Abramovich's monstrous, ill-gotten wealth only serves to illustrate. The process of globalisation came to be seen, during the 90s, as virtually synonymous with westernisation. There was one model of modernity - the western model - and globalisation was its natural vehicle. As East Asia has modernised at breakneck speed over the past three decades, its progress has almost invariably been interpreted as a simple process of westernisation. After the collapse of communism, the victorious US increasingly came to see itself as the saviour of the world, and the arbiter - in extremis - of each and every nation's future. If this proposition was less explicit during the Clinton era, it became the organising principle of the Bush regime. Where nations were not prepared to bend to the American will, they were classified as "rogue states" and threatened with force. Barely had the world entered the 21st century when it found itself returning to a century earlier and the exercise of naked imperialism - all in the name, as a century earlier, of western moral virtue.
Rise of an 'Iraq generation' in Europe?
By Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2004
While America's enemies flaunt photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib as evidence of US iniquity, her friends are expressing disbelief and disappointment. They are also wondering how far the images may loosen Washington's grip on its claim to global moral leadership. In the short term, European public disgust at the pictures probably rules out any chance that America's NATO allies will offer military help securing the transition to Iraqi rule in Baghdad. In the long run, some observers worry, the photographs could perpetuate a graver transatlantic rift. "They might help create an 'Iraq generation' in Europe like the 'Vietnam generation,'" suggests Bernhard May, an expert on European relations with the US at the influential German Foreign Policy Society in Berlin. "If a whole generation comes to think of America in terms of the Iraq war, then we are in trouble for years to come."
The doctrine of atrocity
By Nicholas Turse, Village Voice, May 11, 2004
"Kill one man, terrorize a thousand," reads a sign on the wall of the U.S. Marines' sniper school at Camp Pendleton in California. While the marines work their mayhem with M-40A3 bolt-action sniper rifles, most recently in Fallujah, a different kind of terror has been doled out in Iraq by the U.S. Army at Abu Ghraib prison, where, according to an army probe first reported by Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" were the order of the day between October and December of 2003. One of the many questions arising from the Abu Ghraib scandal is how widespread is the brutality and inhumane treatment of Iraqis. [...] During the Vietnam War, a U.S. officer infamously announced that a town had to be destroyed in order to save it. Today, the same logic is used in Iraq. "With a heavy dose of fear and violence . . . I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," U.S. battalion commander Nathan Sassaman was quoted as saying in a New York Times article in December 2003. The quote was buried deep in the article, but recent reports indicate that Sassaman's tough talk may have been backed up by wanton acts of terror. On April 5, The Washington Post reported that Sassaman, a lieutenant colonel, was recently punished for impeding an army investigation of the alleged killing of an Iraqi detainee, adding that it "marked the second time in recent months that a battalion commander in the Fourth Infantry Division has been disciplined in connection with mistreatment of Iraqis."
A portrait of who they were
By Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, May 12, 2004
At time of writing, the number of US military personnel killed in Iraq stood at 772. This is the longest, fiercest, sustained combat Americans have seen in a generation - since Vietnam. Compared with earlier major wars, the number of military fatalities there is not yet large. Still, it took four years in Southeast Asia for the toll of US military losses to reach 500; the number reached that level over 10 months in Iraq. And while each individual loss is profoundly tragic for the families affected, the ripple effect of such losses in Iraq - the number of family, friends, and colleagues, the impact on communities and the organizations and informal groups that form the fabric of American society at the hometown level - in fact may be greater this time. The cross section of American fighting men and women in Iraq, and especially those lost so far, hints at why. Their collective portrait shows a young man (a small fraction are women) who is 27 or 28 years old, quite likely to be married and to have children. This contrasts with Vietnam, where the typical enlisted soldier was drafted just out of high school or in his early 20s. In this way, those fighting - and dying - in Iraq are more like their grandfathers in World War II than their fathers in Vietnam.
Getting out of a quagmire
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, May 11, 2004
It's not clear anymore that there is a plausible way to turn the Bush administration's disastrous policy in Iraq into anything that would look remotely like success. That's why the conventional wisdom among policymakers has reached a tipping point over the past month. Until recently, the widely accepted view was that the United States would have to "see through" the commitment President Bush made. Now, thoughtful people -- including moderates, conservatives and foreign policy realists -- are discussing how to get the United States out of Iraq sooner rather than later, at the lowest possible cost to our own standing in the world and to Iraqis. This view is being taken seriously because of the incoherence of the administration's approach and its arrogance in dealing with its critics. If you think that word "arrogance" is too strong, consider the statement Vice President Cheney issued through a spokesman over the weekend: that "Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had," and that "people ought to get off his case and let him do his job." Let's see. A couple of congressional committees get roughly a half-day each to ask Rumsfeld about one the most appalling moral disasters in our military's history, at the Abu Ghraib prison, and now they should shut up. Cheney knows Rumsfeld is the best. That should be enough.
The price of arrogance
By Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, May 17, 2004
"America is ushering in a new responsibility era," says President Bush as part of his standard stump speech, "where each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life." When speaking about bad CEOs he's even clearer as to what it entails: "You're beginning to see the consequences of people making irresponsible decisions. They need to pay a price for their irresponsibility." "I take full responsibility," said Donald Rumsfeld in his congressional testimony last week. But what does this mean? Secretary Rumsfeld hastened to add that he did not plan to resign and was not going to ask anyone else who might have been "responsible" to resign. As far as I can tell, taking responsibility these days means nothing more than saying the magic words "I take responsibility." After the greatest terrorist attack against America, no one was asked to resign, and the White House didn't even want to launch a serious investigation into it. The 9/11 Commission was created after months of refusals because some of the victims' families pursued it aggressively and simply didn't give up. After the fiasco over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, not one person was even reassigned. The only people who have been fired or cashiered in this administration are men like Gen. Eric Shinseki, Paul O'Neill and Larry Lindsey, who spoke inconvenient truths. Rumsfeld went on in his testimony to explain that "these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number." That's correct, except the small number who are truly responsible are not the handful of uniformed personnel currently being charged for the prison abuse scandal. The events at Abu Ghraib are part of a larger breakdown in American policy over the past two years. And it has been perpetrated by a small number of people at the highest levels of government.
Like the Wehrmacht, we've descended into barbarity
By Richard Overy, The Guardian, May 10, 2004
Since the 1940s, all instances of asymmetrical warfare - where local populations have sustained irregular campaigns against an occupying army - have occasioned a brutal, sometimes atrocious, response. This was true of British forces fighting the Mau Mau in Kenya, US troops in Vietnam, Russian armies in Chechnya and, it now turns out, of coalition forces in occupied Iraq. The term used to describe the terrible behaviour of German forces in the Soviet Union, the "barbarisation of warfare", can be transferred to many other contexts, though none as grim or murderous. How does it happen? Some historians of the eastern front see the degeneration of military behaviour as something provoked by the fearful and dangerous reality of guerrilla warfare. When military forces are attacked by resistance movements using ambushes, bomb attacks and hostage-taking, they inevitably respond with accentuated violence. Others have argued that what matters is the set of assumptions - about race, about the occupied society, about what is permitted when troops are fighting irregular warfare - which soldiers bring with them. The predisposition to see the enemy as inferior, bestial, or outside the law, so the argument goes, produces a rapid descent into casual brutality and mistreatment. The dialectic of terror between the two sides - heavily armed soldiers on one side, and poorly resourced but desperate resistance on the other - has always proved hard to reverse. In Iraq, both elements are at work. Coalition soldiers and security men are the subject of random, repeated attacks which have resulted in many deaths. The arbitrary nature of those casualties, and the impossibility of seeing the enemy clearly, encourage armed forces to respond in ways that would be intolerable in conventional warfare. Many of the Iraqis who have been killed have been bystanders, rather than insurgents. Attacks against resistance targets have resulted in further destruction and the death of more civilians. The mistreatment of prisoners, common in Iraq as in occupied Russia or Vietnam, has horrified world opinion. But it is the standard behaviour of troops under pressure, fighting a war whose purpose is hard for them to understand.
The road to Abu Ghraib:
Part one: A prison on the brink
By Scott Higham, Josh White and Christian Davenport, Washington Post, May 9, 2004
For U.S. military police officers in Baghdad, the Abu Ghraib prison was particularly hellish. Insurgents were firing mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades over the walls. The prisoners were prone to riot. There was no PX, no mess hall, no recreation facilities to escape the heat and dust. About 450 MPs were supervising close to 7,000 inmates, many of them crowded into cells, many more kept in tents hastily arranged on dirt fields within the razor-wired walls of the compound. Around the perimeter, GIs kept wary eyes on Iraqi guards of questionable loyalty.
Part two: As insurgency grew, so did prison abuse
By Scott Wilson and Sewell Chan, Washington Post, May 10, 2004
In the fall of 2003, U.S. officials watched anxiously as a potent guerrilla resistance rose across broad swaths of northern and central Iraq. Insurgents assassinated diplomats, detonated car bombs and mounted daily hit-and-run strikes on U.S. soldiers. Fearful of reprisals, Iraqis shrank from collaborating with an occupation authority that appeared powerless to reverse the tide of violence and lawlessness. Less than two weeks after 1,000 pounds of explosives demolished U.N. headquarters here on Aug. 19, driving the organization from Iraq, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller arrived in Baghdad from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was warden of the U.S. detention facility for suspected terrorists. Miller's mission in Iraq signaled new zeal to organize an intelligence network that could hit back at the insurgents, but through unorthodox means. "He came up there and told me he was going to 'Gitmoize' the detention operation," turning it into a hub of interrogation, said Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, then commander of the military prison system in Iraq. "But the difference is, in Guantanamo Bay there isn't a war going on outside the wall."
Part three: Secret world of U.S. interrogation
By Dana Priest and Joe Stephens, Washington Post, May 11, 2004
In Afghanistan, the CIA's secret U.S. interrogation center in Kabul is known as "The Pit," named for its despairing conditions. In Iraq, the most important prisoners are kept in a huge hangar near the runway at Baghdad International Airport, say U.S. government officials, counterterrorism experts and others. In Qatar, U.S. forces have been ferrying some Iraqi prisoners to a remote jail on the gigantic U.S. air base in the desert. The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where a unit of U.S. soldiers abused prisoners, is just the largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers -- many of them secret and all off-limits to public scrutiny -- that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
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