|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Pope lectures Bush on America's duties
By Peter Popham, The Independent, June 5, 2004
Pope John Paul II read President George Bush a stiff public lecture on America's duties in the world during an audience at the Vatican yesterday. The American President was in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the city by the Allies. [...]
On the edge of his high-backed chair, Mr Bush listened to the Pope's words with eyebrows raised and an expression of frozen geniality on his face. He made no attempt at an extended defence of his government's actions, but presented the Pope with the Medal of Freedom, the highest honour the US can confer. Exactly 60 years ago yesterday, after more than 50 aerial bombardments of the city by the Allies, units of the US Fifth Army marched from the south into the city only recently evacuated by the Germans. When the Romans came out of their homes, they "literally bombarded the American soldiers with flowers", according to Robert Katz, an American historian specialising in the war in Italy.
"Everybody was in the streets, happy and joyful," remembered Spartaco Scaramella, 76, who was there, "singing and greeting the Americans. There were lorries full of people waving red, green and white-striped Italian flags ... I remember the day with deep joy. I was only 17, I had my whole life ahead of me".
Rome yesterday, by contrast, was a sullen, shuttered city, as Mr Bush and his 500-strong entourage swept through. Though not a public holiday, the enormous police and paramilitary presence on the streets convinced most businesses to stay closed all day, and once again Rome wore the look of a city under hostile occupation. [complete article]
Cheney reportedly interviewed in leak of CIA officer's name
By David Johnston, New York Times, June 5, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney was recently interviewed by federal prosecutors who asked whether he knew of anyone at the White House who had improperly disclosed the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer, people who have been involved in official discussions about the case said on Friday.
Mr. Cheney was also asked about conversations with senior aides, including his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, according to people officially informed about the case. In addition, those people said, Mr. Cheney was asked whether he knew of any concerted effort by White House aides to name the officer. It was not clear how Mr. Cheney responded to the prosecutors' questions.
The interview of the vice president was part of a grand jury investigation into whether anyone at the White House violated a federal law that makes it a crime to divulge the name of an undercover officer intentionally. [complete article]
Tenet leaves CIA's reputation in tatters
By Scott Ritter, Newsday, June 4, 2004
I was an intelligence officer for many years, and I had always been instructed to abide by the adage that "an intelligence officer tells his boss not what they want to hear, but rather what the facts are." George Tenet repeatedly violated that principle during his time as director - most egregiously on Iraq.
In Tenet's haste to please his bosses in both the Clinton and Bush White House (he served both presidents as the CIA director), he oversaw the politicization of the intelligence process to the extent that today the CIA lacks credibility as an institution not only in the United States, but around the world as well.
Perhaps the most glaring example of this can be found in Tenet's February 2004 speech at his alma matter, Georgetown University. In a rambling defense of the CIA's pre-war estimate on Iraqi WMD capabilities, Tenet hedged on his agencies' earlier assertions. For the most part, he provided little or no substance to back up his remarks. But midway through his presentation, Tenet mentioned the 1995 defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, who had controlled Iraq's biological weapons program.
"Only then was the world able to confirm that Iraq indeed had an active and dangerous biological weapons program," Tenet said. "Indeed, history matters in dealing with these complicated problems."
The irony of this statement by Tenet is that he, of all people, should have known it to be false. During the course of Hussein Kamel's debriefings with the CIA, British MI-6 and with UNSCOM, he repeatedly talked about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, and his role not only in their manufacture, but also in their destruction following the onset of UN weapons inspections in Iraq in the summer of 1991.
"Nothing remained," Kamel told UN inspectors. "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear - were destroyed."
Tenet knew this was the case. As deputy director of the CIA in August 1995, he was directly involved with the CIA's debriefing of Hussein Kamel. [complete article]
Republicans struggling with insecurity
By Philip James, The Guardian, June 4, 2004
To the outside world, it is looking more and more as though Mr Bush cannot keep his house in order. What is more, his national security credentials - which he was hoping would safeguard his re-election - look increasingly shaky.
John Kerry now has the chance to press home a theme he has carefully exploited over the last few days. It is one going against conventional political wisdom: that the US is safer with a Democrat in office than a Republican. [complete article]
Bush backing seen eroding in defense professions
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, June 5, 2004
An increasing number of current and former military officials, defense industry executives, and homeland security professionals have grown disenchanted with the direction of President Bush's national security policies, and some are rallying around John F. Kerry, according to interviews with military and industry officials.
Republican presidential candidates historically have drawn strong support from Americans who make a career out of protecting the nation's security, so escalating dissent within that constituency offers an unusual opportunity for Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, according to political analysts. A new group called Americans for Strong National Security, whose membership of about 50 people includes defense executives, former senior Pentagon officials, and diplomats, is raising money for Kerry and providing policy advice to the Democrat's presidential campaign. [complete article]
Comment -- If Bush's support is slipping inside the defense industry, in all likelihood it has nothing to do with a genuine critique of his policies. An election campaign in which national security is the primary issue sounds like music to the ears of anyone who can capitalize on fear. Whether Bush or Kerry is the next president is of far less importance than that the next president gets a mandate for massive defense spending. The industry thus has more interest in influencing people's motives for voting than in how they cast their vote.
Senate committee still missing key documents in prisoner abuse case
By Sumana Chatterjee and Shashank Bengali, Knight Ridder, June 4, 2004
The Senate Armed Services Committee is still missing key documents from the Army investigation into the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, including information on interrogation procedures that could clarify whether soldiers thought they were acting under orders.
Among the missing documents is a report to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the head of prison operations in Iraq, on rules for interrogating prisoners. Miller toured the prisons in Iraq last summer, when he was commander of the prison camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and recommended changes to interrogation procedures.
Among Miller's recommendations was using military police "to support interrogations," said a Senate aide who had access to the classified Army report and who spoke on condition of anonymity. It's unclear what Miller's other recommendations were or whether Rumsfeld ever received them. [complete article]
Beating Specialist Baker
By Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, June 5, 2004
The prison abuse scandal refuses to die because soothing White House explanations keep colliding with revelations about dead prisoners and further connivance by senior military officers -- and newly discovered victims, like Sean Baker. [complete article]
Washington will prop up the House of Saud - for now
By Mai Yamani, The Guardian, June 5, 2004
Long before the latest violence erupted, Saudi Arabia's immaculately suited spokesmen were out on the stump, telling anyone who would listen that the situation in the country was completely under control. They're now doing it again - only this time nobody believes them.
All the signs suggest that in the face of mounting violence and international pressure, the House of Saud has sunk into terminal denial and paralysis. Convinced that their enemies are all around them, they are nevertheless unable to locate them. Even when gunmen are totally surrounded in a building, three of them succeed in escaping. Last year the aged King Fahd threatened militants with his "iron fist", but they have gone on killing regardless. While the princes have insisted reforms are in progress, they continue to fling reformists themselves into jail - and intimidate others into keeping quiet. The government maintains its oil installations are completely safe from attack - and yet high-level oil analysts insist the Saudi security forces which guard them are infiltrated by extremists.
Such contradictions suggest that very little is currently under control in the Saudi kingdom.
While expatriates consider whether to depart en masse, reports from the Gulf say that staff members of one of the more entrepreneurial princes have asked officials in Dubai to find them living space. They might well be re-locating in the near future.
But it would be wrong to predict any immediate collapse of the state. Despite a marked cooling in relations, Saudi Arabia remains the key ally of the US in the region. With continuing violence in Iraq, Washington's priority is to prevent Saudi Arabia descending into similar anarchy, even if it means propping up a regime it no longer likes or trusts. [complete article]
It's been a bad week for the Bushies
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, June 3, 2004
The walls haven't collapsed around George W. Bush, but the pillars are buckling, the floorboards are rattling, the inspectors are probing, and it doesn't look good.
In the White House and the Pentagon, senior officials face the prospect of criminal charges. The vice president is accused of malfeasance, at best. A key erstwhile ally in the war on terrorism has apparently turned against us in an act of criminal perfidy. And now the nation's spymaster has turned in his cloak -- it's not yet clear whether he jumped or got pushed; either way, Bush's risk-rating has just soared. [...]
The question, then, is not, "Why is Tenet leaving?" but, "Why now?" It may take several rounds of press leaks before we know the answer. (Bush's citation of "personal reasons" is the traditional boilerplate.) Whatever the real reason, a team player is now a free agent, and those left on the bench must be nervous about that. All presidents learn quickly that spy chiefs are dangerous creatures if let loose or treated harshly. John F. Kennedy was held in constant check by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's knowledge of his sexual peccadilloes. Lyndon B. Johnson kept Hoover on, telling a friend, "I'd rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in." [complete article]
Chalabi: What really happened
By Robert Dreyfuss, TomPaine.com, June 3, 2004
Here's what apparently happened in the Chalabi case. My story is based in part on a conversation with a well-connected intelligence veteran.
Chalabi had been blabbing about anything and everything to the Iranians for months, especially to the Iranian intelligence chieftain in Baghdad. Because the United States had broken the Iranians' code, the Iranian official's reports of his talks with the gabby Chalabi routinely started showing up on the desk of intel officers around Washington, and Chalabi starting becoming even more of a laughingstock than usual among insiders. Then, the gaggle of neocon, pro-Chalabi backers decided to tell Chalabi to shut up, and they warned him that reports of his talks were being picked up by the National Security Agency, which was monitoring the cable traffic from the Iranian intelligence station in Baghdad to Teheran. In doing so, they made the mistake of telling Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken.
So Chalabi, in a panic, went to the Iranian spy, saying something like, 'Look, I can't talk to you anymore, at least not openly, because the CIA is listening to your cable traffic.' Now Chalabi is a notorious fabricator, and there's no reason to think that the Iranians would take him any more seriously than the CIA does. Then one of two things is possible: either the Iranian intelligence chief in Baghdad didn't believe Chalabi, and once again just sent an account of Chalabi's blathering to Iran; or, the Iranians decided to burn Chalabi on purpose, and sent the message knowing it was going to be picked up and that Chalabi would be trashed. In either case, the message was picked up, Chalabi was caught by the NSA, and now the investigation is underway. [complete article]
See also Washington Post cartoonist, Tom Toles' comic take on the Chalabi shenanigans.
Comment -- So far, it remains an open question whether the Iranians exposed Chalabi by accident or on purpose. I'd be willing to assume that they have a competent intelligence service (free of the hubris that burdens some others), but to suggest that they intended to "burn" Chalabi implies that they had more interest in him than in who else might suffer from his downfall. Rather than imagine that the Iranians hold a special grudge against Chalabi, I'd imagine that they knew full well that if he fell, a whole string of Iran's enemies might suffer from the consequences, namely: Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, James Woolsey and above all, Dick Cheney.
Unfit to print?
By Michael Massing, New York Review of Books, May 27, 2004
The recent upsurge in violence has turned much of Iraq into a no-go zone for US news organizations, and American reporters have found it difficult to leave Baghdad (and in some cases their hotels). To try to compensate, US news organizations have relied increasingly on Iraqi journalists, who are able to move about more freely, especially in conflicted areas. Even they, though, have faced growing hostility and threats. In covering a volatile place like Fallujah, many US correspondents have chosen to become embedded with the military. One result is severely limited access. As [the Washington Post's, Pamela] Constable noted, she could see little of what was going on inside the city, had little contact with those fighting the US, and could not determine the impact the fighting was having on local residents. Compounding the problem was her lack of knowledge of Arabic -- a handicap shared by all but a handful of US correspondents. As a result, the muezzin chants were "indecipherable."
Apart from such practical considerations, however, US news organizations in Iraq suffer from a more engrained problem. As American institutions covering an American occupation, they invariably share certain premises and presumptions about the conflict. Even as reporters rush to chronicle Iraqi resentment of the occupation, they still tend to frame the conflict in much the same way that US officials do. Often, American journalists seem embedded with the military not only physically but also mentally. [complete article]
By Graham Usher, Al-Ahram, June 3, 2004
To read the headlines bannered across last weekend's Israeli papers would be to think that Ariel Sharon's time as Israeli prime minister was coming to a close. "Government in crisis", read one. "The end of Sharon" editorialised another. They were referring to his failure to muster a government majority in favour of his so- called "disengagement plan", in which Israel would withdraw from 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza plus four more in the northern West Bank.
Five days on reports of Sharon's demise have turned out to be greatly exaggerated. The safer bet now is that, by hook or by crook, he will be able to bulldoze the plan through his cabinet, though it may no longer resemble the present one. Whether it will ever be implemented, though, is another question. [complete article]
U.S. training a new Iraqi military force to battle guerrillas at their own game
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, June 4, 2004
American military advisers are forming an all-Iraqi counterinsurgency force and training it in guerrilla tactics like ambushing trucks and hiding alongside the road camouflaged as bushes.
The new force, called the Iraqi National Task Force, is the most ambitious effort yet to fight the uprising using Iraqis, and it already has 1,000 soldiers, with plans to grow to 7,000.
It is being created as a response to the refusal of a group of regular Iraqi soldiers to face insurgents in Falluja two months ago. That breakdown culminated in a tense standoff on an airfield with eight American marines surrounded by an angry group of 200 armed Iraqis who refused to board helicopters. [complete article]
Comment -- Picture Iraqi fighters (probably masked) riding round Baghdad in SUV's brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Will US training and an oath (or "informal agreement") make this a reliable counterinsurgency force, or is the beginning of a US-backed militia?
Chalabi changes role after U.S. fallout
By Mariam Fam, Associated Press (via Newsday), June 4, 2004
Shunned by his former American backers, Ahmad Chalabi is reinventing himself, bowing out of high-power bargaining over a new Iraqi government to attempt to play the role of peacemaker in this holy Shiite city [Najaf].
The goal of the former exile seems to be to garner support among Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and win friends among the powerful religious hierarchy ahead of a possible run in national elections in January.
Chalabi could also profit from criticism from Washington -- including allegations he passed secret information to Iran -- by bolstering his image among Iraqis fed up with the U.S. occupation. [complete article]
See also, Coded cable in 1995 used Chalabi's name (Washington Post)
Al-Sadr rejects interim government
By Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters (via Yahoo), June 4, 2004
Rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rejected Iraq's new interim government on Friday but agreed to shore up a shaky truce with American forces after weeks of clashes.
Sadr's men have fought fierce battles with U.S. troops in and around the holy city of Najaf, but the area was quiet for the first time in days on Friday after Shi'ite leaders helped broker a fresh truce attempt.
A new interim government was appointed by the United Nations on Tuesday after consultation with the U.S.-led administration and Iraqi leaders, and is due to take over from U.S. occupiers on June 30.
"I do not want to have anything to do with this government," said a statement issued by Sadr and read out by Sheikh Jader al-Khafaji at Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, near Najaf.
"I don't believe any Iraqi would accept this appointment of a government by the occupier. There is no freedom or democracy without independence," he said, speaking to several thousand worshippers gathered at the mosque where Sadr normally preaches. [complete article]
Traditions, terrorism threaten Afghan vote
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, June 4, 2004
At a village mosque, a leaflet printed in neat Pashto script was found last week, instructing "all good Muslim citizens" to stay away from government buildings, foreign troops and official funerals. If anyone disobeyed, the pamphlet warned, "your bodies will join theirs."
At a university compound, a group of armed and masked men recently broke into the home of a teacher active in promoting women's voting rights, threatening to kill her if she resumed her activities. She is now guarded by soldiers at home and en route to work.
"Elections are new and unfamiliar here. People are uneducated, so others can deceive them and make them do destructive things," said Sahira Zadran, 40, the teacher. "We have two problems: culture and terrorism. Culture may take time to change, but it can't kill you. Terrorists can kill you."
As Afghanistan prepares to hold its first elections in September, a flurry of attacks by armed Islamic groups on aid workers, election preparation teams and foreign troops have raised concerns that anti-democratic forces will sabotage the vote, stymie Afghanistan's economic progress and undermine its relations with the West. [complete article]
Did al-Qaida trainee warn FBI before 9/11?
By Lisa Myers, Jim Popkin and the NBC Investigative Unit, NBC News, June 3, 2004
More than a year before 9/11, a Pakistani-British man told the FBI an incredible tale: that he had been trained by bin Laden's followers to hijack airplanes and was now in America to carry out an attack. The FBI questioned him for weeks, but then let him go home, and never followed up. Now, the former al-Qaida insider is talking. [...]
Khan said that [after being recruited in England and then flown to Pakistan,] at the Lahore training compound he and up to 30 other men were taught hijacking basics, including how to smuggle guns and other weapons through airport security, techniques to overpower passengers and crew and how to get into a cockpit.
Khan says he did not think about all the other people he might have killed and, at the time, didn't care. "Not that time," he said. "If I die, it doesn't matter because this life anyway, it's no good."
After about a week of training, Khan said he was given money to fly a circuitous route from Pakistan to Doha, Qatar, to London, to Zurich, Switzerland, back to London, and then off to New York. The purpose, he said, was to allow him to observe flight operations and on-board security measures.
Upon landing at JFK airport, Khan says he was supposed to go to a taxi stand, find a man in a white prayer cap and use a code. "He say, 'Your name Babu Khan?' " said Khan. "And you will be saying, 'Yes, my name Babu Khan.' 'Your name Babu Khan?' You say, 'Yes, my name Babu Khan.'"
But Khan claims he got cold feet. Instead of meeting his contact, he slipped away, retreated to New York, then took a bus to Atlantic City and gambled away almost all his money. Fearful that he had blown al-Qaida's cash, and aware that his terrorist trainers had copied his passport information and easily knew how to find him, Khan turned himself in and confessed. "I've been to Pakistan," he said. "I know about this hijacking, something going on." [complete article]
Sistani backs new Iraqi government's demand for full sovereignty
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 4, 2004
The most influential leader of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, endorsed the country's new government Thursday and demanded that it swiftly assume "full and unflawed" national sovereignty with power to end the U.S. military occupation.
The endorsement from Sistani, in a statement, was seen as a boost to the legitimacy of the interim government that was sworn in Tuesday behind a U.S. security perimeter and assigned to lead Iraq to its first democratic elections by January. But the demand that it obtain complete sovereignty foreshadowed difficult times ahead for the Bush administration, which has insisted on retaining command over the 138,000 U.S. troops still engaged in fighting a persistent insurgency.
Apparently with that in mind, Sistani declared that one of the interim government's most urgent tasks is trying to obtain "a clear resolution from the Security Council returning to Iraqis sovereignty over their land, full and unflawed in any of its political, economic, military or security aspects, as well as to strive to remove all the consequences of the occupation." [complete article]
Comment -- The Washington Post's actual headline reads "Influential Cleric Backs New Iraqi Government." Those inside the CPA and the Bush administration who still refuse to remove their rose-tinted glasses will be tempted to go no further than the headline and think that if Sistani's on board, they're half way home. Nevertheless, while George Bush has yet to figure out how to "do nuances," Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is the master of nuance. In a single breath he offers conciliatory support for the interim government but remains unwavering in his demand that Iraqis quickly regain complete political, economic, and military control of their country. Sistani's support will only increase the pressure the US now faces as it struggles to persuade the UN Security Council that the presence in Iraq of 138,000 American troops under the control of US commanders is compatible with an Iraqi interim government that has "full sovereignty."
Allawi's ascent follows extensive PR campaign
By Jim Drinkard, USA Today, June 2, 2004
Iraq's new prime minister waged an expensive lobbying and public relations campaign beginning last year to build political support -- not in Baghdad, but in Washington.
Iyad Allawi benefited from at least $340,000 in spending for Washington lawyers and lobbyists and New York PR agents, all paid for by a wealthy Iraqi expatriate who lives in London.
Allawi's selection last week by his colleagues in the interim Iraqi Governing Council testified to his political skills. But some analysts said his campaign in Washington also had been a major help.
"It was a bid for influence, and it was money well spent," said Danielle Pletka, a Middle East analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "Allawi has always assumed, in many ways correctly, that he didn't need a constituency in Iraq as long as he had one in Washington." [complete article]
Worst is yet to come as U.S. pays price of failure
By David Hirst, The Guardian, June 4, 2004
For the Bush administration's neo-conservatives, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was to be nothing if not region-wide in ultimate purpose, "transforming" the entire Middle East, and bringing a final Arab-Israeli settlement.
The neo-cons were right about one thing: the Arab world, however fractious otherwise, is bound by strong psychological and cultural ties, and whatever happened in Iraq would profoundly affect the whole. The trouble is that just as American success in Iraq would have made it likelier elsewhere, so the failure that now so ominously threatens will breed it elsewhere.
Not merely does the situation in Palestine get worse because of Iraq, so it does via the rebound in Iraq too. An American disaster in Iraq always had the built-in propensity to become a regional one. [complete article]
'They have no humanity. They didn't even give us two minutes to get out'
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 4, 2004
Last month, Israeli troops swept into the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, bulldozing hundreds of homes and leaving around 60 dead. Israel says it was looking for terrorists, but by the time the army withdrew, 1,600 people were homeless. What happens to the people whose houses are destroyed? Chris McGreal asked six families to show him what they salvaged from the rubble.
There is nothing left of the Akhras' family's home. Even the cloths blowing in the breeze above their heads, providing a pathetic, makeshift tent to the once nomadic Bedouin family, are borrowed from luckier neighbours. A large round metal bowl is all that they recovered from the rubble of their house after it was bulldozed by the Israeli army.
"There were 10 rooms here," says the 50-year-old patriarch, Ghazi. "Thirty-three people lived in the house. There was me, my wife, my seven brothers and their wives, and all our sons and daughters."
It was 10pm when the bulldozers came. "All the people were fleeing their houses, but one of my brothers is handicapped and was trapped in the house. We had to carry him out as the bulldozer was hitting the building."
All that remains of the house is a mound of concrete and dirt. The destruction by the bulldozer was so complete that some of the walls have been ground to a rubble reminiscent of the rocky desert beyond the fence. [complete article]
You have rights -- if Bush says you do
By Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2004
This week, the U.S. Justice Department held an extraordinary news conference. After insisting for two years that details of the case of Jose Padilla, an American citizen accused of being an "enemy combatant," had to be kept secret even from the federal courts, the Justice Department suddenly released detailed information on his interrogations and their results. What made this press conference particularly notable was its intended audience: the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court is currently reviewing the Padilla case, with a decision expected in the next few weeks, and there is a growing question of whether a majority can be found to support President Bush's claims of absolute authority to hold a U.S. citizen indefinitely without filing charges.
It is, of course, considered highly improper to stage such a news conference while a case is pending. Indeed, such a stunt is likely to outrage some members of the court. But the administration appeared to be playing for the one swing justice: Sandra Day O'Connor, who, during the arguments in April, was openly struggling to find any plausible rationale for giving a president absolute power over citizens. With the record now closed, the only realistic chance of getting such information to O'Connor was her morning newspaper. [complete article]
Tenet ends up as Bush's fall guy after all the flaws and falsehoods
By Rupert Cornwell and Anne Penketh, The Independent, June 4, 2004
"Don't worry, it's a slam dunk." George Tenet may come to rue his confident prediction to George Bush about the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
His abrupt resignation yesterday crowns a track record of faulty intelligence-gathering on his watch that blinded the world's most powerful espionage agency to the dramatic events since the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
"Who lost Russia?" was the cry after the Central Intelligence Agency failed in the 1980s to predict the demise of the Soviet Union. "Who lost Iraq and the war on terror?" may be a similar refrain of the early 21st century. The Bush administration would prefer America and the world to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Mr Tenet, who headed the agency from 1997, rather than the administration ideologues who made the political case for toppling Saddam. [complete article]
George Tenet steps down
By Tony Karon, Time.com, June 3, 2004
CIA Director George Tenet's resignation on Thursday may have preempted bipartisan calls for his head. As TIME reported last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing a report on the failures of the CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq that will be so scathing as to undermine Tenet's credibility as an effective Director of Central Intelligence. So, although the second-longest-serving CIA director in history cited personal reasons for his resignation, and went with the blessing of President Bush, his job situation may have become untenable. [...]
The political effects of Tenet's decision could be double-edged: By falling on his sword, the popular CIA director could insulate the White House from some of the heat generated by the failure to find the WMD evidence that formed the basis of its case for invading Iraq -- it could be read as an implicit acceptance of responsibility for providing the President with bad information. On the other hand, his resignation may amplify the electorate's awareness of a major intelligence failure over Iraq, at a time when polls showing growing numbers of Americans beginning to question the administration's handling of the war. To the extent that Tenet is perceived as a political casualty of the decision to invade Iraq, he's unlikely to be the last. [complete article]
THE AMERICAN WAY
It's not the American way
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, June 3, 2004
I am obligated as a journalist to use the word "alleged" when writing about Jose Padilla, the former Chicago gangbanger the government says turned terrorist. He allegedly received terrorist training in Afghanistan. He returned to the United States as an alleged al Qaeda operative. He allegedly planned to detonate a dirty bomb and also allegedly hoped to use natural gas to bring down some apartment buildings in New York or another city. There, I have done my journalistic duty.
The government, on the other hand, is not similarly constrained. Although it has locked up Padilla for two years, although for a long time he was held in isolation and not allowed to see a lawyer or anyone else, he has never been charged with a crime or found guilty in a court of law. The worst I can do is libel the man. The government, though, has cast him into the contemporary version of a dungeon.
This is not to say that Padilla is innocent. The government not only maintains he is a dangerous terrorist but now says he has confessed to much of the above -- and, if it matters any, I believe the feds. But while I accept the government's case, I cannot accept the insistence that it can, when it so chooses, keep a U.S. citizen -- and Padilla is one -- detained for as long as it sees fit. If the man committed a crime, then try him. It's the American way. [complete article]
Comment -- As the civil liberties and constitutional debate focuses on the case of Jose Padilla, by making this the litmus test for our understanding of the balance between freedom and governmental power, the implication is that his case should concern Americans principally because Padilla is an American. Yet "equal before the law" becomes a hollow principle if we believe that a special class of rights should be protected for citizens even while such rights are being denied to others. The divide that so often seperates America from the rest of the world comes down to this: Americans are perceived as having a higher regard for their own freedom than that of anyone else.
STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
Iraq demands say in U.N. resolution
BBC News, June 3, 2004
Iraq's interim leaders are demanding input to a UN draft resolution, which will set out how much power a new Baghdad government will have.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, speaking in New York, said he expected to "definitely" help shape the motion.
Security Council members have expressed concerns about the US-UK plan, and are set to discuss it further on Thursday.
But top US diplomat Colin Powell said again that Iraq's new rulers would have no veto over US-led foreign forces. [complete article]
Most Iraqis wary of nation's new government
By Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 2004
Although the new Iraqi interim government that took office Tuesday will not have full authority for another month, it already has the headaches of a formidable task -- gaining enough credibility among Iraqis to be able to exercise at least a minimum degree of power.
After days of bruising, behind-the-scenes negotiations involving U.S. officials and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, members of the Iraqi Governing Council -- the 25-member body viewed by a wide spectrum of Iraqis as American puppets -- emerged victorious in re-establishing themselves in the new government.
This very success will make it difficult for the leaders who took over on Tuesday, many analysts and Iraqis say. They point to the choice for prime minister of Iyad Allawi, a controversial businessman and recipient of CIA largesse, as particularly likely to spur public dissent. [complete article]
To many, mission not accomplished
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 3, 2004
For many Iraqis, the 13-month-old U.S. occupation has failed to live up to its billing as an exercise in reconstruction and democracy-building. Like [Ali Abdul Kareem] Madani [a senior Shiite Muslim cleric], they are glad that former president Saddam Hussein has been overthrown and a new interim government has been installed in Baghdad. But most of Baqubah's approximately 250,000 people -- and most Iraqis around the country -- have experienced the U.S. presence here mainly at the wrong end of a gun. It is that, and not the news from Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, that informs their views.
"We don't see any civilians," Madani complained. "All we see are soldiers."
A relentless campaign of bombings and ambushes by insurgents determined to drive out the U.S. occupation has forced the military to continue a battle that soldiers thought was finished more than a year ago, when President Bush announced the end of major combat operations. The result has been persistent clashes, nighttime raids, armored patrols and detentions -- the blunt instruments of war -- that have led many Iraqis of different political and religious persuasions to resent the occupation they once welcomed. [complete article]
Dying devotion to young cleric springs from poverty, patriotism
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post, June 3, 2004
Branded by the Bush administration as a criminal and a thug who has minimal support among Iraq's Shiite majority, Sadr is viewed very differently from the garbage-carpeted streets of Sadr City. Here, the brash leader of an eight-week-old Shiite revolt is seen as a leading voice of the poor, a patriot fighting foreign occupation and the heir to a tradition of speaking out against injustice and tyranny. His tactics may be foolhardy, his militia might get crushed, but the message he carries reverberates deeply in Iraqi society and will not easily go away, Iraqi observers and common citizens argue.
"I don't like Moqtada personally. Look at what he's done -- gotten a lot of people killed by sending them out against American tanks," [Haidar] Abbas [a produce seller in Sadr City] said. "But of course what he says, it's true. What have the Americans brought us? We are worse off than ever. Moqtada wants them out, and who can argue with that?" [complete article]
How honest broker was defeated - and with him hopes of credibility
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, June 3, 2004
Hussain al-Shahristani, a nuclear scientist jailed by Saddam Hussein for 10 years, was due to get the prime minister's job. He was the ideal technocrat. A secular Shia whose criticisms of the Americans were close to those of the main Shia religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, he had declined a post on the governing council last year on the grounds that it would be seen as a US puppet.
Smarting at their imminent demise, leading members of the council revolted. They pre-empted Mr Brahimi's choice of prime minister by publicly announcing they had picked Ayad Allawi, a well-known exile politician with close links to the CIA and MI6. Mr Allawi was an ardent supporter of the US invasion and, according to the opinion polls, has almost no backing in Iraq. Mr Brahimi was said to be furious. Trying to be as diplomatic as possible, Fred Eckhard, the UN spokesman in New York, called the way the announcement had been made "a surprise".
The problem was that the Americans, after first agreeing to the idea of a technocratic government, had changed their minds. They accepted the complaints of their friends on the governing council that they could not all be shunted aside. The Americans were also afraid that genuine independents might call for a US troop pullout. [complete article]
U.N. envoy wants new Iraq government to court foes of occupation
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, June 3, 2004
The United Nations special envoy called on the new Iraqi government on Wednesday to broaden discussions to include Iraqis who oppose the American occupation, and he suggested that his own authority in shaping the new government had been sharply limited by American officials.
Lakhdar Brahimi, at a news conference wrapping up a nearly monthlong visit here, suggested that the Americans were pursuing a strategy in Iraq that relied too heavily on force and not enough on subtlety and persuasion.
Mr. Brahimi, who called L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator here, a "dictator," seemed to stop just short of calling on the United States to open talks with the insurgents.
"Why is there what is, I think, to use a neutral term, there is this insurgency?" Mr. Brahimi said, addressing reporters in both Arabic and English. "I think it's a little bit too easy to call everybody a terrorist. And I think if you find out that there are people who are not terrorists who are respectable, genuine Iraqi patriots you must find a way of talking to them." [complete article]
U.S. frantic to soften harsh language in U.N. rights report on Iraq
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), June 2, 2004
The United States is scrambling to soften allegedly harsh and inflammatory criticism of the US-led coalition in Iraq that is expected to be contained in a UN human rights report to be released this week, US officials said.
The officials said US diplomats are lobbying for language in a report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be toned down in a bid to prevent a new firestorm of controversy over the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by US troops at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
The final version of the report is to be released Friday at UN human rights headquarters in Geneva and Washington fears that, without changes, its publication could complicate efforts to secure passage of a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity. [complete article]
Polygraph testing starts at Pentagon in Chalabi inquiry
By David Johnston and James Risen, New York Times, June 3, 2004
The F.B.I. is looking at officials who both knew of the code-breaking operation and had dealings with Mr. Chalabi, either in Washington or Baghdad, the government officials said. Information about code-breaking work is considered among the most confidential material in the government and is handled under tight security and with very limited access.
But a wider circle of officials could have inferred from intelligence reports about Iran that the United States had access to the internal communications of Iran's spy service, intelligence officials said. That may make it difficult to identify the source of any leak.
Government officials say they started the investigation of Pentagon officials after learning that Mr. Chalabi had told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's intelligence service that the United States was reading their communications. Mr. Chalabi, American officials say, gave the information to the Iranians about six weeks ago, apparently because he wanted to ensure that his secret conversations with the Iranians were not revealed to the Americans.
But the Iranian official apparently did not immediately believe Mr. Chalabi, because he sent a cable back to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, American officials said. That cable was intercepted and read by the United States, the officials said. [complete article]
Comment -- The problem with this story thus is this: If Chalabi was providing Iran with classified information, why would they put their source in jeopardy? Intelligence agencies are always dealing with informants who may turn out to be duplicitous, but for as long as the source remains useful he will be protected. What seems more likely is that rather than seeing Chalabi as "our man in Baghdad," the Iranians thought that if they courted him they might be able to bring down two birds with one stone. Knock out Chalabi, then the already fractured neoconservative edifice comes tumbling down.
Bush, attorney huddle on CIA leak
CBS News, June 2, 2004
President Bush has consulted an outside lawyer in case he needs to retain him in the grand jury investigation of who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative last year, the White House said Wednesday.
There was no indication that Bush is a target of the leak investigation, but the president has decided that in the event he needs an attorney's advice, "he would retain him," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.
The lawyer is Jim Sharp, Buchan said, confirming a report by CBS Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.
"The president has said that everyone should cooperate in this matter and that would include himself," the spokeswoman said. [complete article]
AL QAEDA'S WAR
All-out war between Al Qaeda and house of Saud under way
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2004
The killing of 22 people in the key oil center of Khobar, Saudi Arabia, over the weekend not only helped push oil prices above $42 a barrel - a 20-year high - but deepened the impression that the country is dealing with a terrorist crisis. With three attackers escaping after being pinned down by Saudi forces - apparently disguised in military uniforms - there are questions about the country's ability to swiftly tackle the problem.
Continued instability in the world's largest oil producer could have serious consequences for the global economy and for the monarchy that Al Qaeda has vowed to destroy.
Saudi Arabia has recognized the extent of the challenge and has stepped up its campaign against domestic militants over the past year. But M.J. Gohel, a political scientist in London, says there are factions standing in the way of a tougher crackdown, pointing to five other escapes by attackers during firefights in the past year. "My suggestion is that this is organized ineptness,'' says Mr. Gohel. "How is it that Saudi security, which protects the house of Saud and the princes and princesses so well, can't afford the same protection to well-known areas housing foreign workers?" [complete article]
Saudi attack spurs more U.S. workers to pull up stakes
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, June 3, 2004
Jerry Johnston plans to leave the kingdom forever on Thursday morning, the gory terrorist attacks on a Western compound prompting him to end a 13-year career here.
He arrived in January 1991, when Iraqi Scud missiles slamming down on this oil hub along the Persian Gulf shook his residence. Neither that nor any of the later turbulent events prompted him to leave. Until Sunday.
The tipping point came when Mr. Johnston, a 59-year-old Texan, learned that three of the four terrorists who attacked the Oasis Residential Resorts and other Western targets in Khobar and killed 22 people had eluded capture.
The attackers managed to escape during a confused moment and shoot their way through the weakest checkpoint, guarded by just two police cars, a Saudi official said. They were long gone by the time commandos landed on the roof at dawn.
"If they let them go, what does that tell every other possible terrorist?" said Mr. Johnston, speaking by telephone from Jidda, where he said he was the sole Westerner working in an office block of the Saudi oil giant Aramco. "I just don't feel comfortable right now. I don't even leave my compound anymore. What is the point of staying?" [complete article]
Al Qaeda's small victories add up
By Anthony H. Cordesman, New York Times, June 3, 2004
Al Qaeda carried out its most successful attack since 9/11 last weekend, and much of that success was a result of the American reaction. It was the second time in a month that the terrorists struck at a soft target in Saudi Arabia's petroleum industry. Twenty-two people -- Saudis, an American and other foreigners -- lost their lives, and this is truly tragic. But in the grand scheme of things, it was a small-scale attack, and should not have been treated as more. The terrorists did not strike at the Saudi petroleum industry; not a barrel of export capacity was lost.
The real target was the willingness of foreigners to stay in the country -- a direct blow at the economic underpinnings of Saudi Arabia and its ability to attract the investment it needs for reform. Al Qaeda was simultaneously attacking the Saudi regime and its efforts to modernize the country and rebuild ties to the United States.
Unfortunately, the official American reaction was to panic -- just as it was in early May when five Western contractors were killed. The United States did not call for new Saudi security efforts, offer aid in counterterrorism, or try to fight back. Instead, the American Embassy in Riyadh decided to forget about American investment and trade by calling for all Americans to leave the country. [complete article]
Aid agency halts operations in Afghanistan
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, June 3, 2004
Doctors Without Borders suspended operations in Afghanistan today, a day after five of its workers were ambushed and killed, officials said.
The suspension will affect the organization's staff of 80 foreign employees and 1,400 Afghan employees, Nelke Manders, director of the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders, said at a news conference today.
The five aid workers were from the organization's Dutch branch. They were attacked on Wednesday in northwest Afghanistan as they were returning to their regional office, officials said.
The killings were another blow to the embattled aid workers in Afghanistan, who have seen 32 of their colleagues, and at least 5 other foreigners, killed since March 2003, often by Taliban and other militants intent on stalling aid and reconstruction efforts. [complete article]
Disengaged from reality
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, June 2, 2004
These scenes of destruction, which have been part of life in Rafah and Khan Yunis since 2001, usually don't appear on our TV screens, in our consciousness or our consciences. Already, the number of Palestinians who have lost their homes in Gaza due to house demolitions - some 17,000, according to UNRWA - is more than double the number of Israeli settlers in the Strip. That's why the dragged-out talk in Israel about disengagement sounds, in Rafah in particular and in the Strip in general, like an Israeli trick to escape the daily and very contemporary reality of destruction.
The disengagement Sharon is talking about, they say in Gaza, is the disengagement of Gaza from the West Bank. In other words, disconnecting the Palestinians in Gaza from their brethren. In other words, driving another stake into the two-state solution, if by Palestinian state the intention was for a viable state and not a collection of disconnected enclaves. Therefore, the Israeli debates about disengagement are interpreted in the Gaza Strip as another, successful attempt by Israel to evade responsibility for the occupied territory. [complete article]
Israel wants Iraq to pay compensation
By Lawrence Smallman, Aljazeera, June 1, 2004
Israel looks set to pursue a compensation claim on behalf of Jews who left Iraq over 50 years ago, despite no such similar consideration for Palestinian refugees.
Tel Aviv has sent copies of over 800 documents to Washington, not Baghdad, in a bid to claim compensation for Israeli citizens who "were forced to abandon their property".
A diaspora affairs ministry spokeswoman told Aljazeera.net on Tuesday that records have already been sent to the US State Department. [complete article]
Tough U.S. rhetoric as Iran's nuclear intent remains unclear
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2004
Questions remain about the intent of Iran's nuclear programs, according to a critical new report by UN inspectors that details misleading claims and contradictory declarations from Tehran.
Iran said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will soon be able to confirm Iran has no nuclear-weapon plans. Its report "shows Iran's nuclear case is approaching the end," though Iran expects to keep a uranium-enrichment capability, Hassan Rohani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and top nuclear negotiator, said Wednesday.
But the results are likely to provide ammunition for critics - especially Washington, which charges that Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful atomic-energy program. The report presents a challenge to Iran, which has made clear it expects the IAEA to close a two-year inquiry into Iran's once-secret nuclear programs at a meeting June 14. [complete article]
For some soldiers the war never ends
By Andrew Exum, New York Times, June 2, 2004
Many Americans, feeling that we did not have enough troops in Iraq, were pleased when the Defense Department announced last month that 20,000 more soldiers were being sent to put down the insurgency and help rebuild the country. Unfortunately, few realized that many of these soldiers would serve long after their contractual obligations to the active-duty military are complete. In essence, they will no longer be voluntarily serving their country.
These soldiers are falling victim to the military's "stop-loss" policy -- and as a former officer who led some of them in battle, I find their treatment shameful. Announced shortly after the 9/11 attacks and authorized by President Bush, the stop-loss policy allows commanders to hold soldiers past the date they are due to leave the service if their unit is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Military officials rightly point out that stop-loss prevents a mass exodus of combat soldiers just before a combat tour.
But nonetheless, the stop-loss policy is wrong; it runs contrary to the concept of the volunteer military set up in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Many if not most of the soldiers in this latest Iraq-bound wave are already veterans of several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have honorably completed their active duty obligations. But like draftees, they have been conscripted to meet the additional needs in Iraq. [complete article]
See also, Troops told they can't leave Army
Many hurdles ahead for U.S.
By Robin Wright and Mike Allen, Washington Post, June 2, 2004
... through June 30 and beyond, the United States will enter a much more complex phase on Iraq. For the past year, the U.S.-led coalition has technically had sole authority over Iraq. With the appointment of the interim government and a return to the United Nations, the United States begins to cede formal control over what happens next.
After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the messy selection of the interim government reflects the degree to which Washington had to turn to others -- the Iraqi Governing Council and the United Nations -- to meet its deadlines.
In addition, the new government has to win local support, despite strong U.S. and U.N. endorsements for including balance among ethnic and religious factions as well as between technocrats and politicians, and for including tribal leaders, women and many new faces. If it is rejected, the U.S.-led coalition has no fallback plan -- and the transition could be suddenly in jeopardy. [complete article]
Full sovereignty in Iraq might not be so
By George Gedda, Associated Press (via The State), June 2, 2004
President Bush and top U.S. officials repeatedly stress that Iraqis will have "full sovereignty" after June 30. The interim Iraqi government that takes power then, however, will be more caretaking than autonomous, unable to do basic functions such as make laws or control military forces.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to former President Carter, says the term "full sovereignty" - emphasized Tuesday by Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice - lacks credibility. No government can be fully sovereign while its country is "still being occupied by a foreign army, 140,000 men, subject to our authority," he said.
Brzezinski envisions a government of "limited sovereignty," the same wording used by Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman before Congress in April.
The Bush administration quickly disavowed that phrase in favor of "full sovereignty."
Nevertheless, the Iraqi administration to be installed on July 1 is more a caretaker government than an entity with broad authority to exercise its will. [complete article]
Islamic parties get token role in new Iraqi government
By Geoffrey York and Orly Halpern, Globe and Mail, June 2, 2004
By largely excluding the largest religious movements and parties, the new government could be stirring up further discontent. The most popular Islamic party, Dawa, which has an extensive power base among Iraq's Shia majority, was almost entirely excluded. Party leader Ibrahim Jaafari was appointed as one of two vice-presidents, a largely ceremonial post, but other Dawa cabinet ministers were left out.
"Dr. Jaafari should leave the country," complained Adnan Ali, head of the party's political bureau.
By contrast, the Kurdish parties, strong supporters of the occupation, seemed to be big winners. They received several of the most powerful government posts. [complete article]
An exquisite danger
By Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, June 2, 2004
Suspicious deaths in custody. Allegations of torture. Claims of a military out of control. These are some of the key issues that will face John Negroponte, US ambassador to the United Nations, when he takes over this month as US ambassador to Iraq.
Suspicious deaths in custody. Allegations of torture. Claims of a military out of control. Those were some of the key issues that faced John Negroponte 20 years ago when he was US ambassador to Honduras. So it is worth examining how he reacted then when faced with evidence of extra-judicial killings, torture and human rights abuses.
Central America in the early 80s was, for a few years, the centre of the world in much the way that the Middle East now is. There had been a revolution in Nicaragua in which a dictator had been removed by the Sandinistas, who had then embarked on a political path that was anathema to the US.
The country became a magnet for the international left, who saw hopeful signs in the revolution. El Salvador and Guatemala were in turmoil as leftwing guerrillas battled with the military in their efforts to overturn years of military oppression and corruption. In those days the enemy, as far as the US was concerned, was international communism rather than al-Qaida, but the rhetoric of "good" versus "evil" took a similar pattern to today's.
Into this world in 1981 came diplomat John Negroponte as ambassador to Honduras. At the time, the US was covertly backing the contras, the counter-revolutionaries who opposed the Sandinistas. Honduras was a vital base for them. An air base was built at El Aguacate, where they could be trained and which was used, according to Honduran human rights activists, as a detention centre where torture took place. It was also used as a burial ground for 185 dissidents, whose remains were only discovered in 2001. [complete article]
Chalabi reportedly told Iran that U.S. had code
By James Risen and David Johnston, New York Times, June 2, 2004
Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi leader and former ally of the Bush administration, disclosed to an Iranian official that the United States had broken the secret communications code of Iran's intelligence service, betraying one of Washington's most valuable sources of information about Iran, according to United States intelligence officials.
The general charge that Mr. Chalabi provided Iran with critical American intelligence secrets was widely reported last month after the Bush administration cut off financial aid to Mr. Chalabi's organization, the Iraqi National Congress, and American and Iraqi security forces raided his Baghdad headquarters.
The Bush administration, citing national security concerns, asked The New York Times and other news organizations not to publish details of the case. The Times agreed to hold off publication of some specific information that top intelligence officials said would compromise a vital, continuing intelligence operation. The administration withdrew its request on Tuesday, saying information about the code-breaking was starting to appear in news accounts. [complete article]
A gift of dust and bones
By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, June 2, 2004
One blue-tongued member of his inner circle told me last week that Sharon "wants to get the fuck out of Gaza - with all his heart. He needs it the way he needs another arsehole." Which is not to say the old man has undergone a late conversion, turning peacemaker in his twilight years. Sharon has his own pragmatic reasons for wanting to get out.
Those are best articulated by Sharon's deputy, the vice-prime minister Ehud Olmert. Unpopular with the Likud rank-and-file, he has become an outrider for the PM, going further and faster than Sharon ever could - but thereby revealing his boss's true direction of travel.
When I spoke to him yesterday, he was pretty explicit about the strategic thinking behind the Gaza plan. It is all about demographics. Within a few years, he explained, there will be an equal number of Arabs and Jews living between the Jordanriver and the Mediterranean Sea - the combined area of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, all currently under Israeli control. In 15 years, thanks to their faster birthrate, the Palestinians will be a majority. "I want to live in a Jewish state," Olmert told me. "I don't want to live in a non-Jewish state." [complete article]
Kerry faces the world
By Joshua Micah Marshall, Atlantic Monthly, July-August, 2004
John Kerry has yet to flesh out his positions on many key foreign-policy questions. But he has nonetheless provided clues -- through his speeches, public statements, and choice of advisers -- to how he would govern if elected. What's more, it's not difficult to identify the people he would be likely to rely on in the area of foreign policy -- they're a close-knit group, many of them veterans of the Clinton Administration. During the spring I interviewed a wide range of people who are in the running for roles in a Kerry Administration, including such probable candidates for Secretary of State as Senator Joseph Biden and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, current Kerry advisers such as Jonathan Winer and Rand Beers, and many of the lower-level bureaucrats and congressional staffers who would fill out the foreign-policy apparatus of a new Democratic Administration. [complete article]
Kerry criticizes Bush on nuclear threat, outlines plan to slow spread
By James Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder, June 1, 2004
Calling the risk of nuclear terrorism the "greatest threat we face today," Sen. John Kerry accused the Bush administration Tuesday of failing to halt nuclear weapons programs in hostile countries and neglecting stockpiles of nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.
Kerry, the Democratic presidential challenger, spelled out a plan to slow the spread of nuclear weapons that included ending U.S. production of so-called "bunker-busters" and "mini-nukes," designed for tactical use in battle.
In his remarks, the second in a series of three speeches on national security, Kerry depicted a world still at serious risk despite President Bush's frequent assertions that the United States is safer now than it was before he launched the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We have done too little, often too late, and even cut back our efforts or turned away from the greatest threat we face in the world today, a terrorist armed with nuclear weapons," Kerry said, addressing a crowd of law enforcement officials and about 200 invited guests at the Port of Palm Beach in South Florida.
Kerry accused Bush of being "fixated" on Iraq while North Korea and Iran improve their nuclear-weapons capabilities. [complete article]
Afghan prison abuse details to stay secret
By Stephen Graham, Associated Press (via Yahoo), June 1, 2004
The top U.S. general in Afghanistan on Tuesday promised "rapid action" on an internal review of Afghan jails where at least three prisoners have died, but said details of techniques used there will remain classified.
The U.S. military ordered the review last month as the scandal over prisoner abuse in Iraq drew new attention to long-standing allegations of mistreatment in Afghanistan.
"I intend to take rapid action on any area of concern which he identifies," Lt. Gen. David Barno said of the report to be presented mid-June by his operational deputy Big. Gen. Charles Jacoby.
But Barno said he would reveal publicly only "some of the key conclusions."
He said he expected some of the results "would be classified in terms of the specific techniques," said Barno. He did not say whether he meant interrogation or incarceration practices, or both. [complete article]
Fighting in the shadow of Iraq
By Vanessa Williams, Washington Post, June 2, 2004
When Michael O'Neill heard about the two young soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who were killed several weeks ago in Afghanistan, a twinge of pain tore through him. He immediately remembered the day last fall when he got a call at the firehouse to come home.
His son, Pfc. Evan W. O'Neill, was killed on Sept. 29 during a firefight with suspected al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in Shkin, Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. Evan O'Neill also had served with the 10th Mountain Division. And even though his son was in a different battalion, and probably did not know Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman and Sgt. Michael Esposito Jr., O'Neill considers them family.
"Those are my son's people; those are our people," said O'Neill, a lieutenant in the Andover Fire Department in Massachusetts. "And we grieve for them and their families."
It troubles O'Neill that his son's sacrifice, and those of other soldiers in the treacherous mountain terrain of Afghanistan, might have escaped the notice of much of a public transfixed on the raging conflict in Iraq. [complete article]
Meet the new generation of terrorists
By Paul Haven and Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press (via Taipai Times), June 1, 2004
From the dusty Sahara to the jungles of Indonesia and in the cauldron of unrest that is US-occupied Iraq, a new generation of terrorists is emerging to take the place of elders who have been killed, captured or forced deep underground.
Young, violent and energized by a deep hatred for the US, its Western allies and Muslim governments seen as kowtowing to Washington's will, the new class has been writing a new history of terror in blood -- from Istanbul to Madrid to Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.
"These are the men that are the new, 21st-century terrorists," said Evan Kohlmann, a US-based terror expert. He said it is "very literally, a group of second-generation Osama bin Ladens." [complete article]
U.S. details case against terror suspect
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, June 2, 2004
Jose Padilla, the former Chicago gang member accused of planning to set off a radiological bomb in the United States, also plotted with some of al Qaeda's highest-ranking operatives to blow up U.S. apartment buildings using natural gas and had sworn to carry out attacks when he was arrested two years ago, according to an unusual release of classified interrogation information by the government yesterday.
The seven-page summary of the case against Padilla, a U.S. citizen, also alleges that he met repeatedly with senior leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network, including lieutenant Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who took a keen interest in Padilla because he speaks English and held a valid U.S. passport.
The allegations were unveiled as part of a vigorous defense of the government's treatment of Padilla, one of two U.S. citizens held for long stretches without charges in the United States as "enemy combatants," without access to courts or lawyers. Their cases are pending before the Supreme Court. [complete article]
E-mail prompts calls to probe Halliburton, Cheney
By Susan Cornwell, Reuters, June 1, 2004
A newly unearthed Pentagon e-mail about Halliburton contracts in Iraq on Tuesday prompted fresh calls on Capitol Hill for probes into whether Vice President Dick Cheney helped his old firm get the deals.
The e-mail, reported by Time magazine, provided "clear evidence" of a relationship between Cheney and multibillion-dollar contracts Halliburton has received for rebuilding Iraq, Sen. Patrick Leahy said.
"It totally contradicts the vice president's previous assertions of having no contact" with federal officials about Halliburton's Iraq deals, Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a conference call set up by John Kerry's presidential campaign. "It would be irresponsible not to hold hearings." [complete article]
The day the stooges bit back
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, June 2, 2004
It was supposed to be the day the light would appear at the end of the tunnel for the Americans in the occupation of Iraq.
But, even as an interim government that will assume sovereignty at the end of the month was finally named, there were stark signs of the terrible difficulties ahead.
Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, was left humiliated as his favoured candidate, Adnan al-Pachachi, rejected his invitation to become Iraq's first president since Saddam Hussein, forcing the US to install the man it had tried hard to avoid, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar.
As the political horse-trading was underway, insurgents delivered their own verdict, with a car bomb killing 25 people at the headquarters of a Kurdish party in Baghdad. No sooner had that exploded, than a mortar landed inside the US headquarters in the capital, the so-called Green Zone, sending a huge cloud of black smoke over the city. And, north of the city, 11 more were to die in yet another car bomb. [complete article]
Is this tribal leader the saviour of Iraq?
By Colin Freeman, The Scotsman, June 2, 2004
Denounced variously as coalition quislings, toothless squabblers, and exiles without a cause, Iraq's US-appointed governing council made unlikely kingmakers. After nearly a year in power, their only truly remarkable achievement was to rate even lower than Saddam Hussein in popularity polls.
But in deciding who should replace them in the sovereign government, the mixed bunch of former warlords, clerics and disillusioned Baathists finally showed the independence, clout and unity of purpose they previously lacked.
At the weekend, they upstaged the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi - the man supposedly in charge - by cunningly announcing their own preference for Iyad Allawi as prime minister before he had made up his mind.
And yesterday, after further wrangling, they scored a rare victory over their US creators by having Sheikh Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, a noted critic of the occupation, named as the country's first post-Saddam president. [complete article]
See also, Leader from respected tribe carries Iraqis' hopes (The Guardian)
Iraqi Governing Council is dissolved as Green Zone is attacked
By Dexter Filkins and Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, June 1, 2004
The new government of Iraq took shape today as tribal leader Ghazi al-Yawar was named Iraq's first president after another leading candidate favored by the Bush Administration refused the position, and Iraq's prime minister-designate named his cabinet.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, confirmed Mr. Yawar's appointment in a press conference in Baghdad. Later, Prime Minister-designate Iyad Allawi announced the members of his cabinet, which will include Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mehdi as finance minister and Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, as foreign minister. Hazim al-Shalaan will be defense minister and Falah al-Naqib will run the interior ministry, Mr. Allawi said during a televised news conference.
As preparations were being made today for a ceremony to mark the Mr. Yawar's appointment, an explosion ripped through the headquarters of the Kurdish party, near the Baghdad headquarters of the American-led coalition, killing at least 25 people and wounding many, Reuters said, quoting police officers at the scene. [complete article]
'Sovereignty' at issue in final push for Iraq transition plan
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2004
The question of how much sovereignty for Iraq is dominating the final deliberations over the handover of authority from the US - from Baghdad and the sun-baked mosques of Kufa and Najaf to the halls of the UN in New York.
The sovereignty question factors in the surprise naming by the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council of one of its own members, Iyad Allawi - a longtime exile with close ties to the CIA - as prime minister of the interim government that will take over Iraq's affairs June 30.
It's an underlying presence in the deal the fiery Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr made last week with moderate Shiite leaders calling off his militia's uprising against US forces. The rebellious leader, wanted in connection with the murder of another cleric last year, pointedly said he would not submit to any authorities that did not issue from a sovereign government. [complete article]
Some seek date for U.S. troops to exit Iraq
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, June 1, 2004
Bursts of gunfire and bad news are prompting growing numbers of foreign policy experts to begin debating the contours of a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, echoing a national discussion reflected in opinion polls about the fate of the American mission.
Few prominent American voices have demanded the immediate exit of the 138,000 U.S. troops now leading the Iraq occupation, but a number of commentators have argued in recent days for establishing a date or a concrete list of tasks whose completion would trigger a U.S. departure.
"The destruction of the Baathist regime is the fullest expression of liberation that we can accomplish," said Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who favors a pullout. "It is simply beyond our ability to bring into existence a liberal democratic order, and to persist in attempting to do so is, first of all, to end in failure." [complete article]
Uprising has increased the influence of Sunni clerics
By Edward Wong, New York Times, May 30, 2004
Words of fire shot out of the imam's mouth, hot enough to ignite the kindling in the hearts of the thousands of worshipers sitting before him.
"Our enemy is planning or conspiring and has plans to tear apart this country and destroy its unity," said the white-turbaned Sunni imam, Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, at a recent sermon in the sprawling building once known as the Mother of All Battles Mosque.
"They have many plans to make conflict between Iraqis, between sects, between ethnic groups, between tribes, between students and teachers, between the military and civilians," he said, chopping his fist through the air. "They shake hands with the people of Falluja with their right hand, but they shoot them with their left hand."
The enemy is America, and since the uprising last month that message has been hammered into the heads of worshipers every week across the country, more intensely and with greater effect than ever before. These days, no political soapbox is more powerful than Friday Prayer, and clerics are taking advantage of that to spread hatred of the occupation and to increase their own popularity. The surge in influence -- which has come about largely because of the absence of strong, charismatic politicians -- is especially noticeable among Sunni clerics, who have traditionally held less sway over followers than Shiite clerics like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. [complete article]
THE VICTIMS AND THE MISSING
How Abu Ghraib torture victim faces final indignity: an unmarked grave
By Luke Harding, The Guardian, June 1, 2004
The military routinely declined to perform postmortem examinations on Iraqi prisoners, provided incomplete or misleading death certificates, and deliberately failed to inform the prisoners' families, [Iraqi human rights organizations] allege.
One senior source inside the Iraqi Assistance Centre, the organisation set up by the coalition to compensate Iraqis for loss or death, yesterday claimed that US military doctors routinely wrote "heart attack" on the death certificate of prisoners who had died from other causes, sometimes during interrogation.
"It's astonishing. They are all heart attack victims. They even write heart attack when the detainee died because he was shot. We have dozens of cases like this," the coalition source told the Guardian.
The source added: "Our lawyer is familiar with the phrase heart attack, and what it really means." Adil Mohammad Alami, a lawyer with the Human Rights Organisation of Iraq, said: "We have numerous cases where the US military kills someone, takes their ID, and then dumps their body at the morgue without any credentials." [complete article]
Searing uncertainty for Iraqis missing loved ones
By Ian Fisher, New York Times, June 1, 2004
Huriyah Jassim Gomar carries around a sparse file that is all she has of her middle son, Adil: his photograph, an identification card, request forms written to the American military with responses that add up to zero.
She has visited Abu Ghraib prison seven times, she thinks. She has looked up his name in a computer database. She even sent a messenger hundreds of miles south to the huge American prison near the border with Kuwait.
Still she has not heard the first word on his fate. The only hard fact she has, from a family friend there at the time, is that Adil, 35, was arrested on Oct. 4, 2003, at an American military checkpoint near Baghdad with a loaded AK-47 rifle in his car.
"We don't know anything," she said. "There is nothing more I can say."
With all the anger over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the scandal has deepened another reality for hundreds of Iraqi families -- possibly thousands: a searing uncertainty over missing loved ones. [complete article]
Army investigates wider Iraq offenses
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, June 1, 2004
Over the past year and a half, the Army has opened investigations into at least 91 cases of possible misconduct by U.S. soldiers against detainees and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, a total not previously reported and one that points to a broader range of wrongful behavior than defense officials have acknowledged.
The figure, provided by a senior Army official, extends beyond the much-publicized abuse of detainees in military-run prisons to include the mistreatment of dozens of Iraqis in U.S. custody outside detention centers. It covers not only cases that resulted in death but also those that involved nonlethal assaults. It also includes as many as 18 instances of U.S. soldiers in Iraq allegedly stealing money, jewelry or other property.
Previous statistics cited by Army officials have tended to avoid an aggregate number of misconduct cases or have given a lower figure for alleged mistreatment of detainees and civilians outside detention facilities. Officials also have not previously disclosed the number of investigations into reports of soldiers stealing from Iraqis. [complete article]
Enemies among us
By Evan Thomas, Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, June 7, 2004
John Ashcroft was in familiar form, part Sgt. Joe Friday, part Prophet of Doom. Standing by giant mug shots of seven terrorist suspects, the U.S. attorney general warned, "Be on the lookout ... for each of these seven individuals. They all pose a clear and present danger to America. They all should be considered armed and dangerous." America, it seemed, faced a frightening summer. As exhibit A, Ashcroft cited a statement from an "Al Qaeda spokesman" that plans for an attack "to hit the United States hard" were "90 percent complete."
But things are not always as they seem in the wilderness of mirrors known as the war on terror. The facts are a little less stark, the motives for airing them more mixed than Ashcroft's grim warnings would suggest. Once again it appears that politics and national security are bedfellows in post-9/11 America. That is not to say that Bush administration officials are crying wolf. It's just that they know less -- and want more -- than the attorney general appeared to be saying. [complete article]
Kerry's support for Israel repels Arab voters
By Ashraf Fahim, The Daily Star, June 1, 2004
The battle for the hearts and minds of Arab-American voters has taken a decidedly negative turn for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry.
A raft of statements by Kerry lauding President George W. Bush's unequivocal support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has alienated some in a community that, though relatively small, is strategically situated in certain states expected to be closely contested in the November election.
Kerry has recently endorsed Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan as well as Bush's April 14 commitment to Sharon, acquiescing to Israel's retention of large West Bank settlements, and the denial of Palestinian refugees' right of return. Previously, Kerry has expressed support for Israel's assassinations of Palestinian leaders, the construction of its separation barrier and the isolation of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. [complete article]
CENTRAL FRONT IN WAR ON TERROR?
Al Qaeda targets U.S. oil supplies
By Faiza Saleh Ambah, Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2004
In two deadly attacks here in the past month, analysts see Al Qaeda-linked groups adopting new tactics and targets - encouraging self-organizing cells to hit soft targets in an effort to drive away Western oil workers, damage the Saudi petroleum industry, and slow the US economy.
Despite the weekend attack in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern province in which 22 people were killed, oil operations continued uninterrupted Monday amid heightened security.
Oil prices hit 20-year highs of $41.85 per barrel in May but eased last week after Saudi Arabia pledged to increase production and urged OPEC to do the same. Oil markets, closed Monday, are expected to experience a slight spike because of the Khobar attacks. Saudi Arabia is the world's No. 1 oil producer and provides for more than 10 percent of worldwide consumption.
"Hurting the US economy is a longtime Al Qaeda goal and is one of the reasons the World Trade Center in New York was targeted. They're now striking these oil- related sites in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to keep oil prices high and hurt the US economy," says Saud al-Sarhan, a Saudi writer and researcher who follows Al Qaeda closely. [complete article]
Terror leader 'al-Qaeda trained'
BBC News, June 1, 2004
Saudi officials have said the leader of a group that killed 22 Westerners during a shooting and siege in Khobar over the weekend was al-Qaeda trained.
The gunman, wounded and taken prisoner on Sunday, was high on their wanted list and a veteran of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, they added.
A manhunt is under way for three other gunmen involved in the attack, who escaped in unclear circumstances.
One survivor has claimed security forces allowed the men to escape. [complete article]
Saudis deny deal to let militants escape
By Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, June 1, 2004
Saudi authorities, facing mounting anger over the escape of three suspected al-Qa'ida militants who participated in the bloody hostage-taking at an oil company compound, set up roadblocks across the kingdom yesterday and vowed to catch the fugitives before they could strike again.
The Saudis denied allegations made by eyewitnesses to the carnage that the three men were allowed to leave in a secret deal with security forces who had surrounded the residential compound in the Gulf city of Khobar. In the official version, the three used some of their surviving hostages as human shields to get away as the commandos pounced at dawn on Sunday.
According to at least one eyewitness, however, the men were seen in Dammam, six miles north of Khobar, two and a half hours before the commandos moved into the Oasis compound and released more than 200 people, including dozens of hostages who were held during the 25-hour siege. [complete article]
Isolated abroad, hated at home: House of Saud faces uncertain future
By David Usborne, The Independent, June 1, 2004
When the terrorists who have identified themselves as members of al-Qa'ida took their hostages in Khobar last weekend, they were meticulous in choosing their targets. Muslims were allowed to leave; only foreign "infidels" were held and some were killed.
But the killers had another target: the ruling royal family. The House of Saud, which numbers upwards of 20,000 people and has had the kingdom in its grip since the 1920s, is held in suspicion by nearly everyone who is not a member of it. Even the Americans have rumbled its failures in combating terrorism since September 2001.
But more important is the hatred of the ruling clan among many Saudis, who are denied anything approaching democracy. They consider the family corrupt and to a large degree, infirm. King Fahd is incapacitated since suffering a stroke in 1995. The regent, Crown Prince Abdullah, who represents Saudi Arabia abroad and essentially rules it, is almost 80. [complete article]
Afghans wary of Karzai dealings
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2004
The elections in Afghanistan are still months off, but recent dealings between top power brokers have fed a growing perception among ordinary Afghans and Western diplomats alike that the result is a foregone conclusion.
Over the past few weeks, President Hamid Karzai - lauded by the US government as a defender of democracy - has held a series of meetings with top military commanders famous for their defeat of Soviet forces and for running a murderous four-year government after that. Presidential spokesmen call the talks an effort at ensuring a stable election process, free of intimidation. Critics - and even the commanders themselves - say the talks were about something else, a deal to promise key cabinet posts to warlords in exchange for their support of President Karzai's candidacy.
The unwitting appearance of an inside deal with hated warlords is bringing back old cynicism here about politics, and is sending signals that Afghanistan may not be heading toward a peaceful, progressive future after all. [complete article]
U.S. lacks plan to end Afghanistan drug trade
By Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, June 1, 2004
Farmers in Afghanistan have harvested another bumper crop of heroin-producing poppies, but the Bush administration still cannot decide on a strategy to eliminate this new source of al Qaeda funding more than two years after the Taliban fell.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Afghanistan in April and told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the opium-producing plant is a threat to stability, two officials said.
"I know he has raised those concerns with the secretary," said a senior defense official. "There is a general understanding that al Qaeda is raising money" from the drugs.
But officials say that given the political and security picture in the emerging democracy, it is better to leave the crop alone -- for now. [complete article]
Counterfeit trail led to Chalabi
The Australian, May 31, 2004
The thick, black smoke that drifted over the prosperous Mansour suburb of Baghdad last January had nothing to do with the bomb blasts and rocket fire that shook the Iraqi capital almost daily. In special furnaces built into an old warehouse complex near the former headquarters of the Mukhabarat intelligence service, Iraqi workers were burning money.
The coalition's decision to introduce a new Iraqi currency could scarcely have been avoided. No one wanted banknotes bearing the face of Saddam Hussein. Yet the operation to exchange and destroy countless old Iraqi dinars was an invitation to fraud.
The way judge Zuhair Maleki related the story last week, a routine investigation into a giant currency fiddle eventually led to a heavily guarded Baghdad compound belonging to Ahmad Chalabi, the former London banker whose high-level US connections had eased him into a prominent role on the interim Iraqi Governing Council.
When evidence emerged that old dinars sent for burning were being switched with counterfeit bills – and that the genuine dinars were being represented in exchange for more dollars – Nouri apparently set off in hot pursuit of culprits. [...]
The tangled tale of Nouri's currency shenanigans and Chalabi's supposed dealings with Tehran reflects much that has gone wrong with the coalition effort in Iraq. [complete article]
U.S. orders Iraqis to delay nomination
By Monte Morin and Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2004
The top U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq on Sunday ordered the Iraqi Governing Council to delay nominating a president for a caretaker government that will take power at the end of June.
L. Paul Bremer III, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority, personally intervened when the council was on the verge of holding a vote to ratify its choice, Ghazi Ajil Yawer, a young tribal leader critical of the U.S.-led occupation.
Bremer and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi support former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi for the largely ceremonial post and apparently did not want the council to hand them a potential fait accompli.
"Bremer came in and read them the riot act," a Governing Council aide said.
Ala Hashimi, a member of the Dawa Party who was at Sunday's meeting, said, "Bremer interfered and postponed the vote until tomorrow." [complete article]
Did Cheney OK a deal with Halliburton?
By Tomothy J. Burger and Adam Zagorin, Time, May 30, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."
Cheney's relationship with Halliburton has been nothing but trouble since he left the company in 2000. Both he and the company say they have no ongoing connections. But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.
The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group. [complete article]
See also Cheney office denies role in Halliburton deal (CNN).
Appoint a special counsel to investigate Geneva violations
By Neal Katyal, Slate, May 28, 2004
In the past week, details have emerged of not only more prisoner abuse in Iraq, but also a concerted effort by the president's chief lawyer to try to insulate such abuse from domestic criminal investigation. A 2002 memorandum from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales tells the president to refuse to apply the protection of the Geneva Conventions to detainees because Americans could be charged in domestic courts with war crimes. Now that photos and Army reports suggest that just such crimes have been committed, a criminal investigation is necessary. And because the administration's own memoranda reveal that it tried to adopt policies to frustrate precisely such prosecutions, the attorney general must now appoint an outside prosecutor to investigate whether war crimes actually occurred.
This is the paradigmatic case for a special counsel.
When I drafted the Justice Department's regulations for the appointment of a Special Counsel in the last administration, there were two bipartisan aims: 1) to replace the extra-constitutional "independent counsels," who had structural incentives to elevate their own interests over that of traditional law enforcement, with entities that would retain a sense of discretion and accountability; and 2) to make it easier for the attorney general to call on an outsider to investigate a specific matter. In particular, there was a need to reassure the public that, despite the demise of the Independent Counsel Act (which gave Kenneth Starr and Lawrence Walsh their powers), the attorney general could still step outside the career bureaucracy when there was evidence that high-level officials might interfere with criminal investigations.
There is no doubt that this evidence exists today. The memorandum from Gonzalez to President Bush shows the administration has adopted specific policies to stymie prosecutions brought under two acts of Congress -- the 1996 and 1997 War Crimes Acts. These laws make it an offense when a United States national (including not just military personnel, but contractors as well) commits grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions, in turn, govern the treatment of prisoners of war, and it goes without saying that their observance has been integrally bound up with the pride of the United States' armed forces for over half a century. But, as the photos from Abu Ghraib suggest, those conventions appear to have been violated. [complete article]
The Abu Ghraib scandal cover-up?
By Michael Hirsh and John Barry, Newsweek, June 7, 2004
The meeting was small and unpublicized. In a room on the third floor of the Old Executive Office Building last week, Condoleezza Rice grittily endured an hour's worth of pleading from leading human-rights activists who want to see a 9/11-style commission created to investigate the abuse of detainees in the war on terror. According to participants, the president's national-security adviser didn't repeat the line that George W. Bush had delivered to the American people in a speech two days before: that the scandal was the work of "a few American troops who dishonored our country." Nor did Rice try to make the case that by razing Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison -- a Bush proposal that took even his Defense secretary by surprise -- administration officials would put the scandal behind them. "I recognize we have a very grave problem," Rice said, according to Scott Horton, a New York lawyer at the meeting whose account was corroborated by another participant. "There are major investigations going on right now to fully understand the scope and nature of it."
But numerous critics -- not just in the human-rights community, but in Congress and the U.S. military as well -- insist that the current probes are still too limited to bring full accountability. Some critics say Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department is doing its best to stop potentially incriminating information from coming out, that it's deflecting Congress's inquiries and shielding higher-ups from investigation. Documents obtained by NEWSWEEK also suggest that Rumsfeld's aides are trying hard to contain the scandal, even within the Pentagon. Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith, who is in charge of setting policy on prisoners and detainees in occupied Iraq, has banned any discussion of the still-classified report on Abu Ghraib written by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, which has circulated around the world. Shortly after the Taguba report leaked in early May, Feith subordinates sent an "urgent" e-mail around the Pentagon warning officials not to read the report, even though it was on Fox News. In the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK, officials in Feith's office warn that the leak is being investigated for "criminal prosecution" and that no one should mention the Taguba report to anybody, even to family members. Feith has turned his office into a "ministry of fear," says one military lawyer. [complete article]
The logic of torture
By Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, May 27, 2004
Behind the exotic brutality so painstakingly recorded in Abu Ghraib, and the multiple tangled plotlines that will be teased out in the coming weeks and months about responsibility, knowledge, and culpability, lies a simple truth, well known but not yet publicly admitted in Washington: that since the attacks of September 11, 2001, officials of the United States, at various locations around the world, from Bagram in Afghanistan to Guantanamo in Cuba to Abu Ghraib in Iraq, have been torturing prisoners. They did this, in the felicitous phrasing of General Taguba's report, in order to "exploit [them] for actionable intelligence" and they did it, insofar as this is possible, with the institutional approval of the United States government, complete with memoranda from the President's counsel and officially promulgated decisions, in the case of Afghanistan and Guantanamo, about the nonapplicability of the Geneva Conventions and, in the case of Iraq, about at least three different sets of interrogation policies, two of them modeled on earlier practice in Afghanistan and Cuba. [complete article]
America's Abu Ghraibs
By Bob Herbert, New York Times, May 31, 2004
Most Americans were shocked by the sadistic treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. But we shouldn't have been. Not only are inmates at prisons in the U.S. frequently subjected to similarly grotesque treatment, but Congress passed a law in 1996 to ensure that in most cases they were barred from receiving any financial compensation for the abuse.
We routinely treat prisoners in the United States like animals. We brutalize and degrade them, both men and women. And we have a lousy record when it comes to protecting well-behaved, weak and mentally ill prisoners from the predators surrounding them.
Very few Americans have raised their voices in opposition to our shameful prison policies. And I'm convinced that's primarily because the inmates are viewed as less than human. [complete article]
Military completed death certificates for 20 prisoners only after months passed
By Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, May 31, 2004
Twenty death certificates for Afghan and Iraqi prisoners who died in American custody were completed in a 10-day rush only after the investigation into the notorious abuses at Abu Ghraib became public last month, even though some of the deaths occurred months -- in some cases many months -- before.
Officers from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the headquarters of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, signed the certificates between May 12 and 21, including one certificate for an Afghan prisoner killed at the American military base at Bagram on Dec. 10, 2002, in what an autopsy found was a homicide.
In the aftermath of the international outcry over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the Pentagon has repeatedly said it thoroughly investigates all accusations of mistreatment and misconduct. But as the handling of the death certificates suggests, many of the known investigations into abuses against Afghan and Iraqi detainees moved glacially, at least until the photographs of hooded, shackled and naked Iraqi prisoners appeared late last month. [complete article]
Sharon puts his job on the line for Gaza plan
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 31, 2004
Ariel Sharon staked his premiership on the future of his plan to force Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip yesterday as a cabinet split widened into a power struggle with his archrival Binyamin Netanyahu.
Having been forced to postpone a vote on the plan because it was apparent that he would lose, Mr Sharon open ed the weekly cabinet meeting by threatening to dismiss ministers opposed to "unilateral disengagement" and to take other "unprecedented political steps" to force it through.
He accused Mr Netanyahu, the finance minister, of putting personal political ambition before the country's interests in what amounted to a bid for power.
Mr Netanyahu responded by accusing Mr Sharon of undemocratic behaviour in overriding the result of the referendum in their party, Likud, which rejected the Gaza withdrawal plan.
Yesterday Mr Sharon presented the cabinet with a four-stage disengagement strategy for the evacuation of all 7,500 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and the closing of four settlements in the West Bank by the end of next year.
Israel would hold on to much larger settlement blocks housing about 400,000 Jews. [complete article]
Israel lays claim to Palestine's water
By Fred Pearce, New Scientist, May 27, 2004
Israel has drawn up a secret plan for a giant desalination plant to supply drinking water to the Palestinian territory on the West Bank. It hopes the project will diminish pressure for it to grant any future Palestinian state greater access to the region's scarce supplies of fresh water.
Under an agreement signed a decade ago as part of the Oslo accord, four-fifths of the West Bank's water is allocated to Israel, though the aquifers that supply it are largely replenished by water falling onto Palestinian territory.
The new plans call for seawater to be desalinated at Caesaria on the Mediterranean coast, and then pumped into the West Bank, where a network of pipes will deliver it to large towns and many of the 250 villages that currently rely on local springs and small wells for their water.
Israel, which wants the US to fund the project, would guarantee safe passage of the water across its territory in return for an agreement that Israel can continue to take the lion's share of the waters of the West Bank. These mainly comprise underground reserves such as the western aquifer, the region's largest, cleanest and most reliable water source.
For Israelis, agreement on the future joint management of this aquifer is a prerequisite for granting Palestine statehood. [complete article]
Violence in world's biggest oil producer could force up price of crude
By Larry Elliott, The Guardian, May 31, 2004
The violent end to the brutal capture and deaths of western oil workers in Saudi Arabia sent fresh tremors through jittery financial markets yesterday, threatening to send the price of crude back above $40 (£22) a barrel this week.
With the oil cartel Opec due to meet in Beirut on Thursday, traders fear that the second terrorist attack in a month on the world's biggest producer could be the start of a concerted al-Qaida offensive to disrupt supplies at a time when prices are already high.
A statement, claiming to be from al-Qaida, boasting that it had hit at "American companies" which "specialised in oil" and claiming responsibility for the attack on Khobar will heighten dealers' concerns about supply security in the Middle East, oil experts said.
The Saudi government vowed yesterday that it would maintain flows of crude exports and sought to reassure the country's six million expatriate workers that they and their families would be safe in the face of threats from Islamic militants who have pledged to drive western oil companies from the kingdom. [complete article]
Security crisis that aids militants' cause
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, May 31, 2004
The weekend carnage in Khobar came less than a month after Saudi Arabia vowed to "strike with an iron fist" against militants who carried out attacks and said it was making every effort to protect foreigners in the kingdom.
"The government is doing all it can to protect all residents," the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, told a news conference.
Such assurances have been heard before and will no doubt be heard again, though whether they are likely to cut much ice with the foreign workers on whom the kingdom depends is another matter.
Since the Riyadh bombings on May 12 last year, which left 35 people dead, including nine attackers, the Saudi authorities have rounded up hundreds of suspects, seized numerous weapons caches and fought gun battles with Islamic militants - and yet the attacks show no sign of abating. [complete article]
'We only want to hurt the Westerners. Where can we find them?'
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, May 31, 2004
It was the latest in a series of ruthless attacks on foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, targeting the employees of foreign oil companies. In each case the gunmen have aimed to slaughter as many non-Muslims as possible.
At 7.30 on Saturday morning, they chose the city of Khobar, an important hub of the Saudi oil industry. As many as seven gunmen wearing military-style uniforms opened fire at the Al-Khobar Petroleum Centre building, which houses offices of western oil companies in the Gulf city. They also sprayed with gunfire an oil industry compound housingoffices and apartments of the Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation (Apicorp). Three of its employees and the son of another - a 10-year-old Egyptian boy on a school bus - were killed.
Michael Hamilton, a British manager at Apicorp, was shot dead in his black saloon. His mobile phone was left on the front seat as his bloodied body was tied to a car by the gunmen and dragged through the streets before it was dumped near a bridge. It had chilling echoes of an incident at the beginning of the month when the body of an American was dragged through Yanbu, a Saudi city on the Red Sea, in an attack by five militants on a petrochemical facility. The events surrounding the initial attack in Khobar are confused. But if, as suspected, al-Qa'ida is involved then it has returned to the area where - a few miles away in Dhahran - in 1996 it set off bombs to destroy a US military compound, killing 19 American soldiers. [complete article]
Latest al-Qa'ida attack puts Saudi oil industry in question
By Nicholas Pyke, The Independent, May 30, 2004
It is only a few days since Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to Britain, wrote an angry letter to The Independent. Terrorism, he insisted, poses no serious threat to the peace and security of the oil-rich kingdom despite the pessimistic tone of British media commentary.
Prince Turki will no doubt be putting pen to paper once again in the next few days.
Yesterday saw the second al-Qa'ida-backed raid on the kingdom's oil infrastructure within the space of a month, with 16 killed, including one Briton, and a further 50 oil workers taken hostage.
Despite the kingdom's repeated assurances, the episode will trouble analysts for some time to come. [complete article]
Iraqi Council members oppose U.S., U.N. on president
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, May 30, 2004
U.S. officials and a U.N. envoy were unable to reach consensus with Iraqi leaders Saturday over the selection of an interim president, with many members of the country's Governing Council opposing the U.S. and U.N. choice, according to Iraqi politicians and international officials involved in the process.
The United States and the United Nations want the presidency to go to Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni Muslim who served as foreign minister in the 1960s, before ousted president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party came to power.
Pachachi, who had lived in exile, has been one of the White House's favorite Iraqi politicians because of his moderate, pro-Western outlook.
But a majority of the Governing Council opted to back Ghazi Yawar, a Sunni tribal sheik who holds the council's rotating presidency, Iraqi politicians said. Yawar, a U.S.-educated engineer, is a political moderate who also lived in exile, but he is regarded by council members as more independent and less supportive of U.S. policies. [complete article]
U.N. sidelined in choice of Iraqi leader
By Peter Beaumont, Luke Harding, Paul Harris and Gaby Hinsliff,
The Observer, May 30, 2004
In a leafy pavement cafe in Baghdad's Karrada district yesterday, the men drinking tea in the shade and debating amiably were adamant about one thing: no one would ever accept an American-appointed politician to lead Iraq, especially one with close ties to the CIA.
There is a deep distrust of the Iraqi Governing Council as an instrument of the US occupation and equally deep distrust of its choice as the first Prime Minister of the new government to take power on 30 June: Iyad Allawi.
Yesterday the troubled issue of sovereignty in Iraq was in turmoil as it emerged that it was not only ordinary Iraqis who had been sidelined in Allawi's appointment, but the United Nations, Downing Street and even parts of the Bush administration.
Despite efforts to put the best gloss on Allawi's nomination, it was clear that a UN process to select an Iraqi leader had largely collapsed, placing the decision in the hands of the former exile groups that dominate the governing council - an outcome the UN had said it was determined to avoid. [complete article]
Obsessed with Iran
By Jim Hoagland, Washington Post, May 28, 2004
George Shultz says that life in official Washington is not one damn thing after another. It is the same damn thing over and over again. A sudden lurch by the Bush administration to using Iraq's Sunnis to contain Iran's Shiite rulers shows that the former secretary of state is on to something, again.
Bush policymakers and spies have made fear of Iran a driving -- and highly distorting -- force in the continuing war in Iraq. They now resemble the LBJ-era Cold Warriors who were so intent on defeating China and the Soviet Union in Vietnam that they lost sight of the stakes and dynamics of the real war they were fighting.
In Iraq today the CIA is building an Iraqi spy agency from the ruins of Saddam Hussein's Mukhabarat -- the secret police unit that was at war with Iran and Syria for two decades. Like ex-Nazis recruited to fight the Soviet peril, these Iraqis come with useful skills and experience in trying to destabilize Tehran. Some of them were on the job during the Iran-Iraq war, when the Reagan administration (in which Shultz served) shared U.S. intelligence with Hussein's regime to prevent the revolutionary ayatollahs of Iran from taking Baghdad. Old intelligence connections die hard. [complete article]
By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, May 29, 2004
Between 1992 and the raid on Chalabi's home, the U.S. government funnelled more than a hundred million dollars to the Iraqi National Congress. The current Bush Administration gave Chalabi's group at least thirty-nine million dollars. Exactly what the I.N.C. provided in exchange for these sums has yet to be fully explained. Chalabi defined his role simply. "I clarified the picture," he said. His many critics, however, believe that he distorted it. Diplomatic and intelligence officials accuse him of exaggerating the security threat that Iraq posed to the U.S.; supplying defectors who offered misleading or bogus testimony about Saddam's efforts to acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; promoting questionable stories connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda; and overestimating the ease with which Saddam could be replaced with a Western-style democracy.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former C.I.A. counter-terrorism specialist who now consults for the government, told me, "With Chalabi, we paid to fool ourselves. It's horrible. In other times, it might be funny. But a lot of people are dead as a result of this. It's reprehensible."
The humiliating raid on Chalabi's home was authorized by the White House, as was a recent decision, by the Defense Department, to eliminate an I.N.C. stipend of three hundred and forty-two thousand dollars per month. Chalabi's allies at the Pentagon were not notified of the raid in advance, although some knew that it was under consideration. The raid took place amid allegations that Chalabi or other members of the I.N.C. had engaged in numerous misdeeds, including embezzlement, theft, and kidnapping. After Baghdad police began investigating these charges, several of Chalabi's top lieutenants fled Iraq.
One of them, Aras Karim Habib, the I.N.C.'s intelligence chief, escaped just before the serving of an arrest warrant. He is under investigation for passing classified U.S. government information to Iran -- a member of what President Bush calls "the axis of evil." [complete article]
Alliance between Chalabi, U.S. conservatives now in ruins
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, May 28, 2004
In June 2001, at an annual retreat in fashionable Beaver Creek, Colo., for current and former world leaders, Pentagon adviser Richard Perle introduced two men to each other who would help guide the United States to war in Iraq.
Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi and Vice President Dick Cheney then went for a two-hour afternoon walk, according to a former senior U.S. government official who was present.
That day marked a turning point in the budding alliance between Chalabi and prominent U.S. conservatives. Both sides were eager to see Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ousted from power, and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, although there was no evidence that Saddam was involved, they pushed that goal relentlessly.
The partnership involved overt and covert U.S. support for Chalabi's bid to be Iraq's next leader. His Iraqi National Congress in turn provided intelligence about Saddam's weapons programs and links to terrorism - most of which turned out to be bogus or unproved.
The alliance with Chalabi is now in ruins. [complete article]
Feud among Iraq's Shiites comes out into open
By Sam Dagher, Middle East Online, May 29, 2004
A feud between radical cleric Moqtada Sadr and Iraq's Shiite religious and political establishment shot to the fore Saturday, threatening to spark fighting among the country's majority population.
A spokesman for one of Iraq's main Shiite parties castigated Sadr's Mehdi Army militia for being led by former loyalists of ousted president Saddam Hussein and "terrorists."
He also accused Sadr of plunging Iraq's Shiite population into a "futile war" with the US-led coalition, when anti-occupation resistance could be accomplished by "peaceful means". [complete article]
Iraqi insurgents turn against 'out of control' Saudi al-Qaeda fighters
By Lee Gordon, The Telegraph, May 30, 2004
Foreign insurgents suspected of links to al-Qaeda are operating in the flashpoint city of Fallujah, fuelling fears that the terrorist network has established a firm foothold in Iraq.
A well-armed group infiltrated the city before fighting erupted in March and is continuing to mount operations against the coalition and Westerners in the area, in defiance of leaders of Fallujah's mosques, the army and the police force.
The group, led by Abu Abdullah, a young Saudi, is linked to a spate of kidnappings of Westerners, particularly journalists.
Its members include Wahabbi Muslims, the ultra-fundamentalist sect that spawned Osama bin Laden and which has vowed a worldwide "jihad" on the West. Fallujah's leaders, who follow different Islamic fundamentalist teachings, fear that the Saudis belong to an al-Qaeda cell seeking a final showdown between Islam and America in the Middle East.
A senior sheikh in Fallujah said the group was "out of control", adding: "We are worried that they are part of al-Qaeda. That means that we will have to force them out and it will be hard. But this is our country we are fighting for, and it is our fight with the Americans. They have their own country and their own ideas which we do not share." [complete article]
Nov. 6 Red Cross report to military detailed abuse
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2004
A Nov. 6 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross gave the Army a detailed catalog of sexual and physical abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and said the military had promised to correct the problems.
The report provides details of what Army officials were told about the abuses early on and raises further questions about the adequacy of the military's response.
The four-page Red Cross "working paper," based on prison inspections in October, alerted the Army that it was in violation of the Geneva Convention that was intended to protect prisoners of war. It also repeatedly noted that Army officials had pledged to "follow up" on Red Cross recommendations.
Yet the Army's official response to the Red Cross, dated Dec. 24, significantly played down the abuse and indicated that the military would make improvements "where possible and appropriate."
It was not until Jan. 14, the day after a prison guard provided Army officials with photographs documenting abuse and sexual humiliation, that the military began an investigation. [complete article]
Scant evidence cited in long detention of Iraqis
By Douglas Jehl and Kate Zernike, New York Times, May 30, 2004
Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to American forces, according to an Army report completed last fall.
The unpublished report, by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, reflects what other senior Army officers have described as a deep concern among some American officers and officials in Iraq over the refusal of top American commanders in Baghdad to authorize the release of so-called security prisoners. Some of those prisoners were held for interrogation at Abu Ghraib in the cellblock that became the site of the worst abuses at the prison.
General Ryder, the Army's provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing "displeasure or ill will" toward the American occupying forces. The Nov. 5 report said the process for deciding which arrested Iraqis posed security risks justifying imprisonment, and for deciding when to release them, violated the Pentagon's own policies. It also said the conditions in which they were held sometimes violated the Geneva Conventions. [complete article]
The preemptive-war doctrine has met an early death in Iraq
By Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2004
Two years ago this week, in a speech at West Point, President Bush formally enunciated his doctrine of preemption. "The war on terror will not be won on the defensive," the president told a graduating class of cadets. "We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act."
Within 10 months, Bush made good on his promise, sending U.S. troops 7,000 miles from home to depose Saddam Hussein. Less than two months after the first bombs were dropped, Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to declare "mission accomplished" before several thousand cheering sailors. Advocates of the new approach to foreign policy felt fully vindicated.
Today, the doctrine of preemption has fallen on hard times. Far from demonstrating the principle's effectiveness, the Iraq war and its aftermath have ultimately underscored its limits. When Bush addressed the faculty and students at the Army War College last week, he spoke of staying the course in Iraq. But the problems that have plagued the U.S. occupation over the last year make it highly unlikely that preemption is a tactic that he will employ elsewhere anytime soon. [complete article]
Discipline takes a break at the White House
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, May30, 2004
The country may be deeply divided about President Bush, but even his harshest critics used to offer their grudging admiration of one of the greatest talents of this White House: its extraordinary discipline and message control.
For months now, the same administration whose members once prided themselves on never contradicting one another in public has been riven by conflicting pronouncements. Senior officials keep missing opportunities to keep their signals straight, prompting cases of vicious backbiting that one senior member of Mr. Bush's national security staff said with disgust the other day "make us sound like Democrats." [complete article]
Libyan nuclear devices missing
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post, May 29, 2004
A few days after Libya's historic pledge on Dec. 19 to abandon the quest for nuclear weapons, Libyan intelligence officials met with visiting U.S. diplomats to deliver some unsettling news: A sizable quantity of nuclear equipment purchased by Libya appeared to be missing.
The equipment -- sensitive components of machines used to enrich uranium -- had been ordered from black-market suppliers months earlier and was now long overdue, the Libyans disclosed. According to U.S. officials present at the meeting, the Libyans wanted to prepare the Americans for the possibility that more illicit nuclear shipments could suddenly appear on Tripoli's docks.
"They clearly expected more things to turn up," said one of the U.S. participants.
Four months later, the wait continues. Despite a search that has spanned the globe, U.S. and international investigators are still struggling to account for a number of sensitive parts Libya ordered for construction of its uranium enrichment plant -- parts that potentially could be used by other countries or groups seeking nuclear weapons. [complete article]
Karzai's talks raise some fears about Afghan vote
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, May 30, 2004
A series of private talks between President Hamid Karzai and an array of rival Islamic militia leaders have raised fears of a power-sharing deal that could undermine internationally backed elections scheduled for September.
The negotiations here with members of the Northern Alliance coalition have angered leaders of Karzai's Pashtun ethnic group and alarmed foreign diplomats and election observers, who say a deal with religious strongmen will send the wrong signal to a nation preparing to embark on its first democratic vote.
The Northern Alliance is dominated by ethnic Tajik militia leaders who were given key roles in a coalition government set up by the United Nations in 2001. In the recent meetings, participants said, Karzai's representatives have sought their support for his candidacy in return for posts in a future administration and partially appointed parliament. Some sources said a partial deal had been struck in a meeting Tuesday.
"This is like saying that the only ticket to the palace is having weapons behind you," said one European diplomat. "These elections are costing $200 million, and if that can't produce a credible and legitimate process, then all the money will have gone down a black hole. It's not only a lost opportunity, it's a regression to the past." [complete article]
Weapons of mass destruction? Or mass distraction?
By Daniel Okrent, New York Times, May 30, 2004
From the moment this office opened for business last December, I felt I could not write about what had been published in the paper before my arrival. Once I stepped into the past, I reasoned, I might never find my way back to the present.
Early this month, though, convinced that my territory includes what doesn't appear in the paper as well as what does, I began to look into a question arising from the past that weighs heavily on the present: Why had The Times failed to revisit its own coverage of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of W.M.D. seemed unmistakable. Except, of course, it appears to have been mistaken. On Tuesday, May 18, I told executive editor Bill Keller I would be writing today about The Times's responsibility to address the subject. He told me that an internal examination was already under way; we then proceeded independently and did not discuss it further. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Speech on Iraq
By Al Gore, MoveOn PAC, May 26, 2004
George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world. He promised to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon. Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.
Not fit to print
By James C. Moore, Salon, May 27, 2004
When the full history of the Iraq war is written, one of its most scandalous chapters will be about how American journalists, in particular those at the New York Times, so easily allowed themselves to be manipulated by both dubious sources and untrustworthy White House officials into running stories that misled the nation about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. The Times finally acknowledged its grave errors in an extraordinary and lengthy editors note published Wednesday. The editors wrote: "We have found ... instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been ... In some cases, the information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge ... We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight." The editors conceded what intelligence sources had told me and numerous other reporters: that Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi was feeding bad information to journalists and the White House and had set up a situation with Iraqi exiles where all of the influential institutions were shouting into the same garbage can, hearing the same echo. "Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations -- in particular, this one." The reporter on many of the flawed stories at issue was Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East. The Times, insisting that the problem did not lie with any individual journalist, did not mention her name.
Who will call the shots in Iraq?
By Tony Karon, Time.com, May 26, 2004
Iraqis have a substantially different view of the nature of the security problem in their country from the one President Bush outlined. "Coalition forces and the Iraqi people have the same enemies," said President Bush, "the terrorists, illegal militia and Saddam loyalists, who stand between the Iraqi people and their future as a free nation." He suggested that after June 30, "when (Iraqis) patrol the streets of Baghdad or engage radical militias they will be fighting for their own country." But engaging "radical militias" has been very much an American idea, rather than an Iraqi one. So strong was Iraqi opposition to the U.S. offensive at Fallujah that up to half of the Iraqi troops sent there disobeyed deployment orders, and at least one politician resigned from the Governing Council. Later, a broad cross-section of Iraqi politicians warned that the U.S. military campaign against Moqtada Sadr and his supporters was creating more of a problem than Sadr himself represented. Even the most moderate Iraqi politicians have tended to see U.S. military action as part of the problem. President Bush doesn't tell his audience the whole story when he notes, in reference to Sadr's militia, that "ordinary Iraqis have marched in protest against the militants." It is certainly true that the confrontations in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala prompted thousands of Shiites to march demanding that Sadr's Mehdi army withdraw from those cities — but in most cases, those protesters were equally, if not more, insistent that the U.S. troops withdraw, too.
A U.S. ally caught between two goals in Iraq
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2004
The iconic image of the Kurd is a man in billowy trousers with a rifle, a knife and a will to fight to the death. He has battled throughout the generations, and Kurds say he may be called upon again. Kurds fear that Shiite and Sunni Muslim insurgencies against U.S. troops in Iraq could splinter the nation. If that happens, the Kurds -- who account for just 19% of the population but control the country's largest ethnic army -- will be forced to choose between their risky dream of independence and the Bush administration's goal of a unified Iraq. With the June 30 deadline for Iraqis to regain sovereignty little more than a month away, a U.N. envoy is putting the finishing touches on an interim government representing all of the country's main religious and ethnic groups. Kurds are expected to hold prominent positions in the government, but they are uneasy about whether Iraq's disparate factions can hold the country together. "The turmoil in south and central Iraq threatens us Kurds," said Hewa Abdullah, a painter studying at Sulaymaniya University in the mountains of northern Iraq. "Islamic extremism has arrived in the south and is strong in the middle of the country. If we don't go toward independence, we will lose all our achievements."
Amnesty: 'Bankrupt' war on terror is world's most damaging conflict in 50 years
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, May 27, 2004
Human Rights and international laws have come under the most sustained attack in 50 years from the "war on terror" led by the United States and Britain, Amnesty International says. The scathing indictment came in Amnesty's annual report, which accused the US administration of George Bush in particular of pursuing policies "bankrupt of vision and bereft of principles".
Message from Amnesty International's Secretary General
The Bush and Kerry tilt
By Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, May 26, 2004
George Bush and John Kerry disagree on almost every issue, with one crucial exception: they compete to support a myopic policy that is unjust, that damages our credibility around the world and that severely undermines our efforts in Iraq. It's our Israel-Palestine policy, which has become so unbalanced that it's now little more than an embrace of the right-wing jingoist whom Mr. Bush unforgettably labeled a "man of peace": Ariel Sharon. American presidents have always tried to be honest brokers in the Middle East. Truman, Johnson and Reagan were a bit more pro-Israeli, while Eisenhower, Carter and George H. W. Bush were a bit cooler, but all aimed for balance. President Bush tossed all that out the window as he snuggled up to Mr. Sharon. Mr. Bush gazes admiringly as Mr. Sharon responds to terrorist attacks by sending troops to bulldoze Palestinian homes and shoot protesters, and he dropped President Clinton's intensive efforts to reach a peace deal. Prof. Michael Hudson of Georgetown University describes present Middle East policy as "a bumbling incompetence, running here or there but doing nothing consistently."
Bloody vengeance or assault on terrorists: can the truth emerge from Rafah's ruins?
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, May 26, 2004
Rafah's residents are inclined to take Israel's military at its word when it says the assault on the town and refugee camp is not over and the army is just "taking a deep breath". But beyond that there is little agreement over Operation Rainbow, which has shuddered to a halt short of its original aims. The death figures, who died and how, the extent of the destruction and whether a Palestinian with a gun is a terrorist or legally resisting occupation are all contested. But at the heart of the dispute is the real reason for Operation Rainbow. Was it, as Israel says, an assault on the "terrorist infrastructure" that threatens ordinary Jews? Or, as many people in Rafah say, vengeance for the deaths of Israeli soldiers whose killings angered and embarrassed Ariel Sharon.
Fallujah slides toward Islamic state
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via Sun Herald), May 26, 2004
With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state. Anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "Western" hair cuts. "After all the blood that was shed, and the lives that were lost, we shall only accept God's law in Fallujah," said cleric Abdul-Qader al-Aloussi, offering a glimpse of what a future Iraq may look like as the U.S.-led occupation draws to a close. "We must capitalize on our victory over the Americans and implement Islamic sharia laws." The departure of the Marines under an agreement that ended the three-week siege last month has enabled hard-line Islamic leaders to assert their power in this once-restive city 30 miles west of Baghdad. Some were active in defending the city against the Marines and have profited by a perception - both here and elsewhere in Iraq - that the mujahedeen, or Islamic holy warriors, defeated a superpower.
The trail to Tehran
By Andrew Cockburn, The Guardian, May 26, 2004
In the aftermath of last week's raid by Iraqi's police and US forces on the elegant Baghdad mansion currently inhabited by Ahmad Chalabi (it actually belongs to his sister), his angry spokesman cited as evidence of the intruders' barbarity the fact that they seized "even his holy Koran - his personal holy Koran was taken as a document". If reports that US intelligence has at last woken up to Chalabi's Iranian connection are true, then taking his Koran may have been more than personal spite, since, according to a former close associate, the Pentagon's erstwhile favorite Iraqi owns one bearing an affectionate inscription from the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself, evidence of how deep and long standing a relationship he has had with the Islamic Republic. "Ahmad helped Iran very much during the war [the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s]," recalls this former associate and friend. "Khomeini was very pleased, and he sent him a copy of the Holy Koran inscribed 'To My Son Ahmed.'" Another former colleague who, like so many, has subsequently fallen out with Chalabi, explains that, "It was during the Iraq/Iran war that Ahmad discovered the value of information as a commodity, that it was something you could trade, buy and sell, and he has used that ever since."
War returns with a vengeance as allies fail the Afghan people
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, May 25, 2004
The Afghan war was, of course, the first chapter of the War on Terror launched after 11 September. After a relatively quick and casualty-free campaign - for the American military, if not Afghan civilians - George Bush declared victory. Tony Blair pledged: "This time we will not walk away", as had happened following the war the mujahedin fought against the Russians with Western money and arms. But that, say many Afghans, is exactly what the United States and Britain have done. And just as the official end to hostilities in Iraq has been followed by unremitting violence, so the war has returned with a vengeance in Afghanistan. With international interest concentrating on Iraq, aid money has dried up for the Afghans. The military bill for the Pentagon, so far, is $50bn (£27bn). The money for humanitarian work, on the other hand, has been $4.5bn. Out of that, much of the $2.2bn earmarked for this year has been diverted to military projects and emergency relief from long-term development. [complete article]
In Iraq, the job opportunity of a lifetime
Managing a $13 billion budget with no experience
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, May 23, 2004
Occupied Iraq was just as Simone Ledeen had imagined -- ornate mosques, soldiers in formation, sand blowing everywhere, "just like on TV." The 28-year-old daughter of neoconservative pundit Michael Ledeen and a recently minted MBA, she had arrived on a military transport plane with the others and was eager to get to work. [...] Ledeen's journey to Baghdad began two weeks earlier when she received an e-mail out of the blue from the Pentagon's White House liaison office. The Sept. 16 message informed her that the occupation government in Iraq needed employees to prepare for an international conference. "This is an amazing opportunity to move forward on the global war on terror," the e-mail read. For Ledeen, the offer seemed like fate. One of her family friends had been killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and it had affected her family deeply. Without hesitation, she responded "Sure" to the e-mail and waited -- for an interview, a background check or some other follow-up. Apparently none was necessary. A week later, she got a second e-mail telling her to look for a packet in the mail regarding her move to Baghdad. Others from across the District responded affirmatively to the same e-mail, for different reasons. Andrew Burns, 23, a Red Cross volunteer who had taught English in rural China, felt going to Iraq would help him pursue a career in humanitarian aid. Todd Baldwin, 28, a legislative aide for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. John Hanley, 24, a Web site editor, wanted to break into the world of international relations. Anita Greco, 25, a former teacher, and Casey Wasson, 23, a recent college graduate in government, just needed jobs. For months they wondered what they had in common, how their names had come to the attention of the Pentagon, until one day they figured it out: They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.
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