The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
General granted latitude at prison
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White, Washington Post, June 12, 2004

Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, borrowed heavily from a list of high-pressure interrogation tactics used at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and approved letting senior officials at a Baghdad jail use military dogs, temperature extremes, reversed sleep patterns, sensory deprivation, and diets of bread and water on detainees whenever they wished, according to newly obtained documents.

The U.S. policy, details of which have not been previously disclosed, was approved in early September, shortly after an Army general sent from Washington completed his inspection of the Abu Ghraib jail and then returned to brief Pentagon officials on his ideas for using military police there to help implement the new high-pressure methods.

The documents obtained by The Washington Post spell out in greater detail than previously known the interrogation tactics Sanchez authorized, and make clear for the first time that, before last October, they could be imposed without first seeking the approval of anyone outside the prison. That gave officers at Abu Ghraib wide latitude in handling detainees. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraqi minister killed in Baghdad
BBC News, June 12, 2004

An Iraqi interim deputy foreign minister, Bassam Qubba, has been killed in an attack in the capital, Baghdad.

A foreign ministry spokesman said unidentified gunmen fired on his car in al-Azimiya district on Saturday morning as he was on his way to work.

Mr Qubba, the ministry's senior career diplomat, was shot in the stomach. He was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards, the spokesman said. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraqis put contempt for troops on display
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 12, 2004

A pair of AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships thumped back and forth overhead, scouring residential streets for insurgents. Dun-colored Bradley Fighting Vehicles snorted and wheeled around, their tracks gouging holes in the tarmac. A dozen Humvees stood sentry, closing off the four-lane avenue to Iraqi cars, while nervous American soldiers with M-16 automatic rifles forbade local residents from approaching.

"Look at this," said Ghassan Abu Ahmed, raising his hand in a sweeping gesture toward the tableau of military might. "This is freedom? It is crazy." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Bush policies led to abuse in Iraq
Human Rights Watch, June 9, 2004

The torture and mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was the predictable result of the Bush administration's decision to circumvent international law, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The 38-page report, "The Road to Abu Ghraib," examines how the Bush administration adopted a deliberate policy of permitting illegal interrogation techniques -- and then spent two years covering up or ignoring reports of torture and other abuse by U.S. troops.

"The horrors of Abu Ghraib were not simply the acts of individual soldiers," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Abu Ghraib resulted from decisions made by the Bush administration to cast the rules aside." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

A long record of abusing jailed foreigners in U.S.
By Mark Dow, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2004

The first I heard about rituals of sexual humiliation in prison had nothing to do with Abu Ghraib. It was from a Nigerian man, an elected state senator in his own country until a military coup drove him out. He was forced to strip naked and then remain on his knees for hours with his hands on another naked male prisoner.

You might think this happened to him in Nigeria, and that it was part of what drove him to emigrate to the United States. But in fact it occurred here, in New Jersey, after he was detained by American immigration authorities.

Such extremes of mistreatment can take place in any prison, but they happen more easily in a system predicated on blurring the distinction among aliens, criminals and terrorists, and where lower-level violence and verbal abuse are standard operating procedure. That's U.S. immigration detention in a nutshell. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

In shift, Sadr backs new government he had once mocked
By Edward Wong, New York Times, June 12, 2004

The anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr on Friday endorsed the new interim Iraqi government and appeared to urge his followers to honor a week-old cease-fire that has been frayed by continuing violence.

A senior aide to Mr. Sadr, Sheik Jabir al-Khafaji, used a sermon during Friday Prayers in the Sadr stronghold of Kufa, 120 miles south of here, to announce that Mr. Sadr now approved of the interim government he had previously mocked and that he wanted its leaders to set a timetable for the departure of occupation forces.

" 'From now on, I beg you to start afresh for Iraq for the sake of peace and safety,' " Sheik Khafaji quoted Mr. Sadr as saying. " 'We have to avoid pushing humiliation and aggression on others and go forward with the independence of Iraq and not respond to the occupiers.' " [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Blown away: how America bombs its friends
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, June 11, 2004

Under the cover of social engagements with senior government officials and sometimes with the King of Jordan, Sheik Malik delivered priceless information that had been fed to him by members of his Kharbit clan and by others at all levels of Saddam's military and security apparatus.

An official who attended some of these debriefings was emphatic: "Malik was very much Washington's man in Iraq." Now Malik is dead, but it wasn't Saddam who killed him - it was the Americans. [...]

It is still not clear how, let alone why, the Americans came to destroy one of their key sources of information about Saddam and his regime.

It seemed incredible to me that someone who had already been so useful to the Americans, and who could have been even more useful in advising them how best to gain some degree of acceptance in the most hostile territory in Iraq, could be killed without so much as an apology. Was it simply a colossal blunder? Perhaps. Yet Malik's death opens a window onto the American attempt to impose its version of democracy in a lonely place where it needs all the friends it can get. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Baghdad fumes as the Americans seek safety in 'tombstone' forts
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, June 12, 2004

It is the ever-expanding US bases and the increasing difficulties and dangers of their daily lives which make ordinary Iraqis dismiss declarations by President George Bush about transferring power to a sovereign Iraqi government as meaningless. As Mr Bush and Tony Blair were speaking this week about a new beginning for Iraq, the supply of electricity in the country has fallen from 12 hours a day to six hours. On Canal Street yesterday, close to the bombed-out UN headquarters, there was a two-mile long queue of cars waiting to buy petrol.

Salahudin Mohammed al-Rawi, an engineer, dismisses the diplomatic manoeuvres over Iraq at the UN in New York and the G8 meeting in Georgia as an irrelevant charade. He said: "At the end of the day they cannot cheat the Iraqi people because the Iraqis are in touch with the real situation on the ground." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Blair handed electoral drubbing over Iraq
By Mike Peacock, Reuters, June 12, 2004

Britons angry over Iraq have given Prime Minister Tony Blair a drubbing in local elections, relegating his ruling Labour Party to an unprecedented third place.

"It's a bad night for us, but it's not meltdown," Blair's Home Secretary David Blunkett said on Friday. "On Iraq, we are very clear about that -- it has damaged us."

Thursday's local council poll outcome -- likely to be echoed in London mayor results due on Friday night and European Parliament results on Sunday -- will inevitably renew speculation about Blair's leadership. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The Eight spoke loudly, and did little
By Graham Allison, International Herald Tribune, June 12, 2004

At their meeting two years ago in Canada, the G-8 leaders identified the post-cold war equivalent of Reagan's specter, declaring the nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction "the pre-eminent threat to international security." To combat this threat, they established a "Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction." Other G-8 members pledged $1 billion a year over the next decade to match U.S. commitments to secure nuclear weapons and materials in Russia. At their summit meeting last year in France, the G-8 nations reaffirmed this pledge and announced an action plan to move the effort forward.

At Sea Island, Georgia, the leaders unveiled a new initiative to freeze for one year transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology to Iran, but they ducked the issue of measures of their performance in fulfilling pledges made in the previous two years. The press compliantly accepted its assigned role as Greek chorus, reporting what the leaders said without comparing rhetoric to real action. Had they done so, their report card on the G-8 would show poor performance:

Fewer former Soviet "near-nukes" - lumps of highly enriched uranium and plutonium from which a terrorist could make a nuclear weapon - have been secured in the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, than in the two years before that date.

Only one-fifth of Russia's weapons-usable fissile material has been adequately secured.

Of Russia's fissile material stockpile, 57 percent - enough for more than 20,000 nuclear weapons - has not received the most basic security upgrades. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Afghan election delay is new blow for Bush campaign
By Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, June 12, 2004

The elections in Afghanistan seem certain to be delayed for a second time, dealing a damaging blow to President George Bush's own election campaign.
The delay comes amid growing concern about the security of the election process after the killing on Thursday of 11 Chinese construction workers.

It is now impossible for the election to be held legally in September, the date for which both the interim government of President Hamid Karzai and the United Nations were aiming, itself a delay from the intended June polling day. It is understood that the new date is likely to be around October 5.

It has also emerged that not a single dollar pledged to pay for the elections has been given by donor countries, including members of the EU and the US. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

He lied and cheated in the name of anti-communism
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, June 11, 2004

It will be odd for Iraqis to watch TV tonight (power cuts permitting) and hear the eulogies to freedom-loving Ronald Reagan at his state funeral. The motives behind US policy towards their country have always been a mystery, and if Iraqis sometimes explain to westerners that Saddam Hussein was a CIA agent whose appointed task was to provoke an American invasion of Iraq, it is largely thanks to Reagan's legacy.

Although Saddam was still a junior figure, it is a matter of record that the CIA station in Baghdad aided the coup which first brought the Ba'athists to power in 1963. But it was Reagan who, two decades later, turned US-Iraqi relations into a decisive wartime alliance. He sent a personal letter to Saddam Hussein in December 1983 offering help against Iran. The letter was hand-carried to Baghdad by Reagan's special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld.

Reagan liked several things about Saddam. A firm anti-communist, he had banned the party and executed or imprisoned thousands of its members. The Iraqi leader was also a bulwark against the mullahs in Tehran and a promising point of pressure against Syria and its Hizbullah clients in Lebanon who had just destroyed the US Marine compound in Beirut, killing over 200 Americans. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Kurds want autonomy, nothing less
By Nikola Krastev and Valentinas Mite, Asia Times, June 11, 2004

Kurdish leaders had suggested that they would withdraw from the Iraqi political process - and possibly even push for secession - if a reference to the interim constitution was not included in the new United Nations resolution on Iraqi sovereignty.

But when the Security Council voted unanimously to adopt resolution 1546 on Tuesday, any mention of the interim agreement - known as the Transitional Administrative Law - was conspicuously absent.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has since said that his government will adhere to the interim constitution until elections are held next year. But his remarks have failed to appease the Kurds, who are worried the Transitional Administrative Law will be sidelined - and their aim of autonomy along with it. [complete article]

Kurds find U.S. alliance is built on shifting sands
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, June 11, 2004

Before the war to oust Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration counted on the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq as its closest ally. But now ties with the Kurds have reached a bitter new phase, with some Kurdish leaders charging that they have been betrayed by Washington.

The problem, in the Kurds' view, was reflected in an administration decision this week to rebuff Kurdish pleas to have the United Nations Security Council give its blessing to the temporary Iraqi constitution, which they see as protecting their rights.

Kurds value the document because it gives the three Kurdish provinces the effective power to veto a permanent constitution, which is to be written next year. They fear that the Shiite majority may try to impose Islamic law through the new constitution, or dilute Kurdish control of oil fields in their region.

"It's not just that we have been misled by the Americans," said a high-ranking Kurdish official. "It's also that they change their position day to day without any focus on real strategy in Iraq. There's a level of mismanagement and incompetence that is shocking." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraq 'to shed' U.S. oil advisers
BBC News, June 11, 2004

Iraq's new Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban has reportedly said that all coalition advisers will leave Iraqi ministries after the 30 June handover.

Quoted by the UK's Financial Times, he said that the ministry would reassert full control over the country's lucrative oil industry.

However, the new UN resolution on Iraq limits the freedom of action of the interim government about to take power.

Mr Ghadhban also played down attacks by militants on oil infrastructure.

"When sovereignty is regained it means that there will be no more US advisers, not only in the ministry of oil, but in every ministry in Iraq," he was quoted as saying in Thursday's edition of the FT. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Sacrifice in the in-box
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, June 11, 2004

The death notices from Iraq come across my computer screen by e-mail and always follow the same format. Each states the name of the dead soldier and his or her rank, age and hometown, as in: "Pfc. Melissa J. Hobart, 22, of Ladson, S.C." It also identifies the unit, and so tells you whether this was an active-duty soldier or a part-time reservist or a National Guard member.

As a military reporter for The Post, I get copies of all of them. On good days there are none, or one. On some bad days, such as this past Monday, there are several. [...]

In other conflicts I've covered -- Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti -- the death notices were fewer or came in bursts and stopped after a few weeks or months. Now the notices have gone on for more than a year, providing a continual but uneven drumbeat. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Bush didn't authorize illegal torture. What about "legal" torture?
By Dana Milbank and Dana Priest, Washington Post, June 11, 2004

President Bush said Thursday that he expects U.S. authorities to follow the law when interrogating prisoners abroad, but he declined to say whether he believes torture is permitted under the law.

Pressed repeatedly during a news conference here about a Justice Department memo saying torture could be justified in the war on terrorism, Bush said only that U.S. interrogators had to follow the law.

Asked whether he agrees with the Justice Department view, Bush said he could not remember whether he had seen the memorandum. "The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations," he said.

A second questioner asked Bush whether he would authorize "any means necessary" to elicit information from a prisoner who had information about an imminent terrorist attack. The president replied: "What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law."

Pointing out that the administration lawyers who wrote the memo believe terrorist suspects could be tortured without violating the law, a third questioner asked whether torture is ever morally justified. "Look, I'm going to say it one more time," Bush replied. "Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you." [complete article]

Use of dogs to scare prisoners was authorized
By Josh White and Scott Higham, Washington Post, June 11, 2004

U.S. intelligence personnel ordered military dog handlers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to use unmuzzled dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees during interrogations late last year, a plan approved by the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the facility, according to sworn statements the handlers provided to military investigators.

A military intelligence interrogator also told investigators that two dog handlers at Abu Ghraib were "having a contest" to see how many detainees they could make involuntarily urinate out of fear of the dogs, according to the previously undisclosed statements obtained by The Washington Post.

The statements by the dog handlers provide the clearest indication yet that military intelligence personnel were deeply involved in tactics later deemed by a U.S. Army general to be "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses." [complete article]

Dozens of missing Iraqis believed to be lost in Abu Ghraib prison
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, June 11, 2004

The boy said goodbye to his boss at a local upholstery shop, passed a violent anti-American demonstration on the way home and hasn't been seen since.

Mohamed Khaled Saleem's parents thought their 15-year-old son's disappearance six months ago was unique until their search led them this month to Abu Ghraib, the vast American-run prison where disturbing conditions existed well before graphic photos of soldiers abusing Iraqi inmates emerged.

American administrators have lost track of dozens of detainees inside Abu Ghraib in the past year, according to human-rights workers, former inmates, a former prison investigator, attorneys, detainees' families and prisoner-rights groups. With no clearinghouse for missing-person reports and technical errors in the intake process, families like Saleem's can do little but wait outside the tall prison gates in hopes that someone recognizes the missing men pictured on their flimsy, photocopied fliers. [complete article]

Pentagon reinforces policy for reporting deaths of detainees
By Sewell Chan, Washington Post, June 11, 2004

All deaths of detainees in U.S. military custody are to be reported immediately to criminal investigators under a policy announced by the Pentagon yesterday, following disclosures about lengthy delays in the military's response to prison fatalities, even those ruled homicides.

The policy, according to a two-page memorandum that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed Wednesday, "reiterates and clarifies" existing rules. But the decision to restate and synthesize those rules reflects the increased scrutiny on detainee deaths that has accompanied revelations about prison abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under the policy, when a detainee dies, the commander of the detention facility or military unit having custody is required to report the death to Army, Navy or Air Force criminal investigators. Those investigators must in turn contact the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, which in most cases will perform an autopsy. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Congress backs Pentagon budget heavy on future weapons
By Dan Morgan, Washington Post, June 11, 2004

As Congress moves ahead with a huge new defense bill, lawmakers are making only modest changes in the Pentagon's plans to spend well over $1 trillion in the next decade on an arsenal of futuristic planes, ships and weapons with little direct connection to the Iraq war or the global war on terrorism.

House and Senate versions of the 2005 defense authorization measure contain a record $68 billion for research and development -- 20 percent above the peak levels of President Ronald Reagan's historic defense buildup. Tens of billions more out of a proposed $76 billion hardware account will go for big-ticket weapons systems to combat some as-yet-unknown adversary comparable to the former Soviet Union.

On the Pentagon's wish list are such revolutionary weapons as a fighter plane that can land on an aircraft carrier or descend vertically to the ground; a radar-evading destroyer that can wallow low in the waves like a submarine while aiming precise rounds at enemy targets 200 miles inland; and a compact "isomer" weapon that could tap the metallic chemical element hafnium to release 10,000 times as much energy per gram as TNT.

So far this year, the debate in Congress over the defense bill has largely skirted the budgetary or strategic implications of this buildup, largely because Republican and Democratic politicians are unwilling to appear weak on defense after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. [complete article]

Comment -- In the gorilla politics of Washington, perhaps Congress should save time and taxpayers money by dispensing with debate on security issues. Instead, they should hold grunting contests. Whoever grunts loudest, wins. Isn't that the way it already works?

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. wrongly reported drop in world terrorism in 2003
Associated Press (via New York Times), June 11, 2004

The State Department acknowledged Thursday that it was wrong in reporting that terrorism declined worldwide last year, a finding the Bush administration had pointed to as evidence of its success in countering terror.

Instead, the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department said. Statements by senior administration officials claiming success were based "on the facts as we had them at the time; the facts that we had were wrong," Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said.

When the report was issued April 29, senior administration officials used it as evidence that the war was being won. J. Cofer Black, coordinator of the State Department's Counterterrorism Office, cited the 190 acts of terrorism in 2003, down from 198 in 2002, as "good news" and predicted the trend would continue. Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said at the time, "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight." His office did not respond Thursday to a request for a statement on disclosures that some of the findings were inaccurate. The erroneous report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," said that attacks declined last year to the lowest level in 34 years and dropped 45 percent since 2001, Mr. Bush's first year as president, when 346 attacks occurred.

Among the mistakes, Mr. Boucher said, was that only part of 2003 was taken into account. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Taliban suspected in killing of 11 Chinese workers
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, June 11, 2004

The massacre of 11 Chinese road construction workers and an Afghan guard as they slept in their tents early Thursday was the deadliest against foreigners since the fall of the Taliban and dealt a setback to United States efforts to stabilize the country ahead of elections scheduled for September.

The men were among more than 100 Chinese engineers and construction workers who had recently arrived in Afghanistan to work on a World Bank project to rebuild a road running north from Kabul to the Tajikistan border. Some of those killed Thursday had been in Afghanistan only a few days, the Chinese news agency reported. [...]

Coming after the murder of five aid workers last week in northwestern Afghanistan, the assault, which Afghan officials attributed to the Taliban, may indicate that the gunmen are shifting their attacks to northern Afghanistan, which has been relatively free of violence. President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David Barno, the commander of the American-led forces in Afghanistan, have recently warned that attacks on aid workers, government officials and foreign military forces will increase in the months ahead of the elections. United States troop deployments have been increased recently to 20,000, in part to help with security ahead of the voting.

A senior Afghan military commander in southern Afghanistan, Hajji Mir Wali, said Mullah Dadullah, one of the top Taliban commanders, recently issued orders to his fighters to strike at road builders. "His orders were: 'First, you have to kill engineers to stop the building of the roads. Second, you have to burn schools and spread out leaflets. Third, you have to put mines and attack government officials; and fourth, if you can, you have to attack American forces,' " Mr. Wali said. He said he was told of the orders by a member of the Taliban who was present at the meeting in which they were issued. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Poor version of democracy
By E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, June 10, 204

While the United States wages war to expand democracy around the world, how is our own democracy doing? Not very well, says a group of distinguished scholars.

"[T]he voices of American citizens are raised and heard unequally," declares a task force of the American Political Science Association. "The privileged participate more than others and are increasingly well organized to press their demands on government. Public officials, in turn, are much more responsive to the privileged than to average citizens and the least affluent."

Disparities in political participation, the report says, "ensure that ordinary Americans speak in a whisper while the most advantaged roar."

All citizens, especially politicians, should study the report of the association's Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, which was released this week. The political scientists proclaim what many of us know instinctively: A government that ought to be helping ordinary citizens rise up tends to help those who are already up. But the report puts facts behind our instincts and shows how unfairness breeds more unfairness. [complete article]

See the full report, American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality (PDF format).

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Film and election politics cross in 'Fahrenheit 9/11'
By Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2004

There are movie campaigns and there are presidential campaigns, and usually you can tell the difference. One features a red carpet, the other a war room.

But "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's scathing new documentary about President Bush, has both.

Its release later this month appears to mark the first time that a film slamming a major presidential candidate has opened on screens across the nation in the final months of a campaign. At the same time, the movie is producing a global publicity extravaganza for Moore and Miramax Film founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who bought the film after Walt Disney Co. refused to let Miramax release it.

The scramble to bring the dark, often satirical film to U.S. movie screens is blending Hollywood and presidential politics in ways never seen in a race for the White House. While the filmmakers deny any overt effort to promote the candidacy of the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, their efforts fall clearly in sync with the campaign to unseat Bush. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Howard Stern having impact with crusade against Bush
By Steven Thomma, Knight Ridder, June 10, 2004

Forget Al Franken. Democrats have a new champion on talk radio that they hope will counter the likes of conservative icons Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. It's shock jock Howard Stern.

Known more for crude talk of sex and lewd acts than politics or public policy, Stern has launched an on-air crusade he calls a "jihad" to defeat President Bush. He blames Bush for a government crackdown on his use of obscenity on the air.

And he's having an impact, apparently boosting the prospects of Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., according to a new Democratic poll released Thursday. That was welcome news to Democrats who've long ached for a liberal voice on talk radio and have watched in frustration as former comic Franken has struggled with a new program that has limited airplay.

"Howard Stern is the most influential political talk-show host in America today," said Michael Harrison, the editor of Talkers magazine, which covers the talk-radio industry.

Stern is going after Bush with near-obsessive zeal, a notable development in a medium in which 20 of the top 27 talk-show hosts are conservatives, including the top-rated Limbaugh and Hannity. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraq war supporters lose in European elections
Associated Press (via Fox News), June 11, 2004

Dutch opposition parties critical of the Iraq war scored significant gains at the start of elections for the European Parliament, while Prime Minister Tony Blair lost support across Britain in local voting, key tests since the invasion last year.

Iraq, as well as domestic issues, concerned voters as the 25 nations of the recently expanded European Union began electing legislators -- a four-day process that started Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands.

While Britain's results in the EU vote will not be clear until Sunday, the local vote showed a stinging backlash to Blair, whose popularity has slumped amid lingering doubts about his judgment and truthfulness. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Going to war not worth it, more voters say
By Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2004

Most U.S. voters now say it was not worth going to war in Iraq, but an overwhelming majority reject the idea of setting a deadline to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country, according to a Times poll.

Though the survey found voters increasingly worried that America was becoming ensnarled in Iraq and pessimistic that a democratic government would take root, less than one in five said America should withdraw all its forces within weeks. And less than one in four endorsed the idea advanced by some Democratic-leaning foreign policy experts and liberal groups to establish a specific date for withdrawal. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

At the Sea Island summit, a sea change in U.S. diplomacy
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, June 11, 2004

[With a presidential election less than five months away, t]he Bush administration has suddenly discovered diplomacy.

After three years of criticizing President Bush for taking a unilateralist approach to foreign policy -- a charge Bush officials maintained was unfair -- foreign officials attending the Group of Eight summit that concluded Thursday said they noticed a distinct shift in the administration's tone and attitude. Suddenly, officials said, the Americans were more willing to listen, more eager to resolve differences and more interested in finding a pragmatic solution. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

How to torture alleged terrorists and get away with it
By Phillip Carter, Slate, June 10, 2004

Whether giving advice to corporate executives or senior government officials, lawyers often walk a fine line between counseling their clients on how to follow the law to avoid prosecution and how to break the law in such a way as to frustrate and impede prosecution. Good lawyers know they can usually make any advice seem like the former, through the judicious inclusion of a few caveats, hypotheticals, and assumptions.

However, no amount of caveating can save the latest Defense Department memorandum on the legality of torture (first reported by the Wall Street Journal) from being construed as what it is: a cookbook on how to conduct illegal torture and get away with it. The memo discusses ways to deprive federal courts of jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay, lays out ways for government employees to avoid culpability under federal law, and explains why the president can unilaterally nullify the federal war-crimes statute, among other things. In case that's not enough, it also recommends that spooks and interrogators get written orders from the president, so they can offer a Nuremburg-style "superior orders" defense if prosecuted. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Our first victory was Zapatero
By Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch, June 10, 2004

The United States faces a real crisis. It's not just the military failure of Bush's policies in Iraq or the discrediting of our armed forces and intelligence agencies as corrupt, incompetent, and criminal. It is above all our international isolation and disgrace because of our contempt for the rule of law. Article six of the U. S. Constitution says, in part, "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land." The Geneva Conventions of 1949 covering the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians in wartime are treaties the U.S. government promoted, signed, and ratified. They are therefore the supreme law of the land. Neither the President nor the Secretary of Defense has the authority to alter them or to choose whether or not to abide by them. President Bush's invention of such hitherto unknown categories as "illegal combatant," "evil-doer," or "bad guy" and his claim of a unilateral right to imprison such persons indefinitely, without charging them or giving them access to the courts and legal counsel, is a usurpation of the Constitution. It is precisely why the United States should have ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. It is intended to deal not only with genuine terrorists and people like Saddam Hussein but also with the kind of crimes President Bush has committed. [complete article]

(Chalmers Johnson's article follows an introduction by Tom Engelhardt.)

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

A tough time for 'neocons'
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2004

As U.S. tanks surrounded Baghdad 14 months ago, an ardent group of war supporters in Washington toasted the success of an invasion they had done much to inspire, as commentators spoke of their virtual takeover of the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Today, that same group, the neoconservatives, is itself under siege.

Many fellow conservatives have joined liberals in criticizing their case for the war. Rivals in the State Department and the Pentagon have taken charge of the U.S. effort in Iraq. And in a grave threat to their reputation, Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, a longtime favorite of neoconservatives, is enmeshed in an FBI investigation of alleged intelligence leaks that supplied secrets to Iran.

"As these events have come one after the other, they've been feeling more and more embattled," said a Republican Senate aide.

"Neocons" -- best known for advocating aggressive foreign and military policies -- are in the painful zone between distinction and disfavor in Washington. They are losing battles on Capitol Hill. Their principles have stopped appearing in new U.S. policies. And where neoconservatives were once seen as having a future in Republican administrations, the setbacks in Iraq could make it difficult for the group's leading members to win Senate confirmation for top posts in the future. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

An eyewitness to the Iraq botch
By Larry Diamond, Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2004

When I went to Baghdad in early January as a senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority, I believed that a democracy of sorts could gradually be constructed in Iraq, despite the formidable obstacles. Although I had opposed the war, I accepted the invitation because I believed that the United States could not allow postwar Iraq to sink into chaos and that the Iraqi people deserved an opportunity to live in freedom. This did not seem to me to be an unrealistic goal.

But I returned three months later sorely disappointed. Because of a long catalog of strategic and tactical blunders, the United States has failed to come anywhere near meeting the postwar expectations of Iraqis. It now seems clear that the occupation will leave a mixed, and on balance negative, record when the Americans hand over power June 30. Though we leave behind a framework for political transition, it is hobbled by two huge deficits: security and legitimacy.

Previous international efforts to build democracy after violent conflict counsel one clear, overriding lesson: "It's security, stupid." If a decimated country doesn't restore enough security to rebuild its infrastructure, revive commercial life, employ workers and enable civic organizations to mobilize, political parties to campaign and voters to register and vote, it can't craft a decent political order -- certainly not a democratic one. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Allies warn Bush that stability in Iraq demands Arab-Israeli deal
By Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, June 10, 2004

President Bush yesterday was bluntly told by European and Arab allies alike that a serious new push for a Palestinian-Israeli peace solution was vital if his vision of a stable Iraq at the heart of a reformed Middle East were to have any chance of success.

Boosted by the unanimous United Nations vote on sovereignty, Mr Bush used the first day of the G8 summit here to try and advance his agenda for Iraq, seeking to widen the role of Nato, gain relief for Baghdad's debt, and launch a much-touted initiative to promote democracy in the Middle East and the Islamic world.

But the Palestinian-Israeli conflict quickly leapt to the centre of proceedings, as Tony Blair attempted to secure a US commitment to revitalise the virtually moribund "road map" towards a comprehensive settlement. President Jacques Chirac of France - the fiercest critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq - warned that "real progress" toward a peace deal was a "precondition" of any successful attempt at reform of the region. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Leaders dispute NATO role in Iraq
By Glenn Kessler and Dana Milbank, Washington Post, June 10, 2004

France and the United States clashed anew over Iraq on Wednesday, jarring the Group of Eight summit that the Bush administration had hoped would bury the diplomatic battles of the past.

Just hours after President Bush expressed hope that NATO could play an expanded role in providing security for Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac emphatically rejected the idea. "I do not think that it is NATO's job to intervene in Iraq," Chirac told reporters in a videoconference from Sea Island, the private resort where the leaders have gathered. "Moreover, I do not have the feeling that it would be either timely or necessarily well understood," said Chirac, adding that he had "strong reservations on this initiative."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, later echoed Chirac's concern. Asked whether NATO, which includes Turkey as a member, should have a role in Iraq, Erdogan said: "The concept we've been emphasizing is the role of the United Nations." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Top officer seeks new head of Iraq inquiry
By Bradley Graham, Washington Post, June 10, 2004

The top U.S. general in Iraq has asked that he be removed as the senior officer overseeing an investigation of military intelligence soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison, the Pentagon reported last night.

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who supervises U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, also has requested that a higher-ranking officer take charge of the investigation, supplanting the two-star general who has led it so far.

The moves open the way for the investigation, which has focused on the roles played by interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, to expand up the chain of command and include the questioning of Sanchez and other senior officers in Iraq. Sanchez's part in authorizing the inquiry, and the fact it was handed at the outset to a two-star officer, has left it open to suspicions that it was intended more to contain the scandal than to pursue all leads, no matter how high they went. [complete article]

Guantanamo list details approved interrogation methods
By Dana Priest and Bradley Graham, Washington Post, June 10, 2004

A still-classified list of 24 interrogation methods approved for use on Guantanamo Bay detainees includes placing prisoners in uncomfortable interrogation cells and deceiving them into thinking they are in the hands of Middle East interrogators who knew all about their culture, a U.S. government official said.

The list, approved April 16, 2003, after debate between Pentagon lawyers and political appointees, also allows interrogators to give uncooperative prisoners food that is cold or less palatable and to isolate them from their peers, the official said.

The existence of the Guantanamo list was previously known, and a few of its methods have been cited in The Washington Post, including allowing interrogators to subject detainees to irritatingly hot or cold temperatures and to reverse their normal sleep patterns. But the Pentagon has refused to release the list, citing its classified status, and most of the methods have been unknown until now. [complete article]

A plunge from the moral heights
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, June 10, 2004

Come and sit with me for a moment. I am in a room, in a Middle Eastern country, and I am talking to a government official. He mentions the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the U.S.-run prison outside Baghdad, and what this has done to America's image in his region. He smiles at what he says, for he is a man who appreciates irony. Of course, this same thing happens in his country, he says. Inwardly, I smile back, smug in my confidence that Abu Ghraib or no Abu Ghraib, America is a different sort of nation. It now seems I was a bit too smug.

The recent revelations that the Justice Department prepared memos parsing what is and what is not torture brings to mind regimes that, well, I would rather not bring to mind. These are the torturers of the world, although they deny it, and to bolster their lie they produce copious laws against the practice. [complete article]

Physician, turn thyself in
By M. Gregg Bloche, New York Times, June 10, 2004

According to press reports, military doctors and nurses who examined prisoners at Abu Ghraib treated swollen genitals, prescribed painkillers, stitched wounds, and recorded evidence of the abuses going on around them. Under international law -- as well as the standards of common decency -- these medical professionals had a duty to tell those in power what they saw.

Instead, too often, they returned the victims of torture to the custody of their victimizers. Rather than putting a stop to torture, they tacitly abetted it, by patching up victims and staying silent.

The duty of doctors in such circumstances is clear. They must provide needed treatment, then do all they can to keep perpetrators from committing further abuse. This includes keeping detailed records of injuries and their likely causes, performing clinical tests to gather forensic evidence and reporting abuses to those with the will and power to act. [complete article]

An American in The Hague?
By Jonathan D. Tepperman, New York Times, June 10, 2004

The Bush administration has yet to accept much responsibility for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. True, the president has apologized for the abuse on Arab television, and several top military officials in Iraq — including the general in charge of the prison and her boss -- have been quietly suspended or will soon be transferred. But so far, legal responsibility has fallen exclusively on the seven court-martialed soldiers who were directly involved. Administration officials have argued that they themselves are not liable, since the incidents were the work of a few bad actors.

This may or may not be true. Even if no smoking gun is ever found to directly link American officials to the crimes, however, they could still find themselves in serious jeopardy under international law. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, officials can be held accountable for war crimes committed by their subordinates even if they did not order them -- so long as they had control over the perpetrators, had reason to know about the crimes, and did not stop them or punish the criminals.

This doctrine is the product of an American initiative. Devised by Allied judges and prosecutors at the Nuremberg tribunals, it was a means to impute responsibility for wartime atrocities to Nazi leaders, who often communicated indirectly and avoided leaving a paper trail. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Kurds win round on constitution
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, June 10, 2004

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Wednesday that his government would adhere to the interim constitution agreed to in March until elections are held next year, in an effort to defuse, at least temporarily, a looming crisis with the Kurdish leadership.

In a statement issued by his office late in the evening, Dr. Allawi's spokesman, George Hada, declared the new government's "full commitment" to the interim constitution until democratic elections are held later this year or in January.

The statement from Dr. Allawi's office followed a threat this week by Kurdish leaders to pull back from the Iraqi state and possibly secede. The leaders were alarmed after officials in New York failed to include the interim constitution in the United Nations Security Council resolution, approved Tuesday, on the return of sovereignty to the Iraqis. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Angry Kurdish leaders weigh abandoning government
By Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, June 10, 2004

With the ink barely dry on the United Nations blueprint for a sovereign Iraq, America's most loyal allies in the country, the Kurds, are seething with anger at a perceived betrayal by the United States and are threatening to pull out of the new central government.

US officials sided with Iraq's powerful Shi'ite Muslim majority Tuesday when they endorsed a UN resolution that did not enshrine the rights and protections the Kurdish minority had demanded. In its effort to placate Shi'ite leaders, who can call hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the streets, the United States inadvertently pushed its longstanding Kurdish partners to threaten de facto secession, a move that endangers the country's fragile hopes for a multiethnic, federal state.

The Kurds are unlikely to make good on the threat, since they still need US protection from hostile neighbors in Turkey. But their vociferous complaints have already ignited a public spat with Shi'ite leaders, and their anger could poison the spirit of cooperation the country needs for the delicate tasks ahead: holding peaceful, credible elections and writing a permanent constitution that satisfies Iraq's many ethnic and religious factions. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Will the Kurds go home?
By Bartle Breese Bull, New York Times, June 9, 2004

While the United Nations Security Council wrangled over military chains of command in Iraq and the violence in Arab cities like Karbala and Falluja grabbed the headlines, a story far more important to the country's future has been largely ignored: the growing unease of the Kurdish minority.

So while the United Nations congratulates itself on the resolution passed last night, the Kurds see only a further undermining of the conditions that make a unified Iraq acceptable to them. And we should not take lightly their threats of boycotting the government and even seceding. While the West has gone to great lengths to appease the country's Arabs, both Shiite and Sunni, the Kurds are the only players at the table with the ability and the mettle to walk away. If they do, hopes of a democratic, multiethnic Iraq go with them.

The other day at a military hospital here, I visited a former Kurdish guerrilla who had been working as a guard at the Baghdad offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of two main Kurdish political groups. His name is Saadar Khajakadir, and he says he fought Saddam Hussein's troops in the mountains for more years than he can remember. Last week a Russian-built rocket exploded through the roof of the building he was guarding, killing one of his comrades and wounding him and four others.

I asked him if the wounds were worth it, if the political process in Baghdad was something he was happy to bleed for. "If Baghdad is where we must achieve our freedom, these wounds are an honor," he told me. "But if we do not win our freedom here, we will go home to the mountains and give up much more than blood to win it there." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Iraq Kurds fear Shiites will sideline them
By Robert H. Reid, Associated Press (via The Guardian), June 9, 2004

While world leaders applaud international unity over Iraq, the country's Kurdish leadership expressed fears Wednesday that they will be sidelined politically by the Shiite Arab majority, whose clerical hierarchy has been cultivated by the Americans.

Barham Salih, 44, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and an American favorite, announced he would not accept the post of deputy prime minister for national security unless the powers were spelled out "appropriate to the position, sacrifice and important role of the Kurdish people," the PUK's KurdSat television reported.

The British-educated Salih, prime minister of the part of Kurdish Iraq run by the PUK, would be the second highest-ranking Kurd in the interim government.

Kurdish anger boiled over after the United States and Britain refused to include an endorsement of the interim constitution in the U.N. resolution approved Tuesday by the Security Council.

U.N. diplomats said the decision was made to keep a reference to the interim constitution - officially the Transitional Administrative Law - out of the resolution to appease Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who grudgingly accepted the charter when it was approved in March. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Democrat says memo justifies prisoner torture
Associated Press (via Newsweek), June 9, 2004

A top congressional Democrat charged Wednesday that Justice Department memos contending that a wartime president is not bound by anti-torture principles could have laid the legal groundwork for the prisoner abuses that took place in Iraq and elsewhere.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, released excerpts of one internal Bush administration memo and called its views "antithetical to American laws and values" in arguing that torture may be justified and that the president is above the law in his role as commander-in-chief.

"This memo is shocking in that it appears to justify torturing prisoners in U.S. control," Harman said. [complete article]

Read the memo, Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism (PDF format)

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Legalizing torture
Editorial, Washington Post, June 9, 2004

The Bush administration assures the country, and the world, that it is complying with U.S. and international laws banning torture and maltreatment of prisoners. But, breaking with a practice of openness that had lasted for decades, it has classified as secret and refused to disclose the techniques of interrogation it is using on foreign detainees at U.S. prisons at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a matter of grave concern because the use of some of the methods that have been reported in the press is regarded by independent experts as well as some of the Pentagon's legal professionals as illegal. The administration has responded that its civilian lawyers have certified its methods as proper -- but it has refused to disclose, or even provide to Congress, the justifying opinions and memos. [...]

There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments. Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of "national security." For decades the U.S. government has waged diplomatic campaigns against such outlaw governments -- from the military juntas in Argentina and Chile to the current autocracies in Islamic countries such as Algeria and Uzbekistan -- that claim torture is justified when used to combat terrorism. The news that serving U.S. officials have officially endorsed principles once advanced by Augusto Pinochet brings shame on American democracy -- even if it is true, as the administration maintains, that its theories have not been put into practice. Even on paper, the administration's reasoning will provide a ready excuse for dictators, especially those allied with the Bush administration, to go on torturing and killing detainees. [complete article]

Ashcroft refuses to release torture memo
By Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, June 8, 2004

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft told Congress today that he would not release to members a 2002 policy memo on the degree of pain and suffering legally permitted during enemy interrogations, but he said he knows of no presidential order that would allow torture for al Qaeda captives.

Angry Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Ashcroft to provide the document, saying leaked portions that have appeared in news reports suggest the Bush administration is reinterpreting U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the memo on interrogation techniques permissible for the CIA to use "appears to be an effort to redefine torture and narrow prohibitions against it." The draft document was prepared by the Justice Department's office of legal policy for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. [complete article]

Prison interrogators' gloves came off before Abu Ghraib
By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2004

After American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed military intelligence officers to "take the gloves off" in interrogating him.

The instructions from Rumsfeld's legal counsel in late 2001, contained in previously undisclosed government documents, are the earliest known evidence that the Bush administration was willing to test the limits of how far it could go legally to extract information from suspected terrorists.

The Pentagon and Congress are now investigating the mistreatment of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in late 2003 and trying to determine whether higher-ups in the military chain of command had created a climate that fostered prisoner abuse. [complete article]

Soldier described White House interest
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, June 9, 2004

The head of the interrogation center at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq told an Army investigator in February that he understood some of the information being collected from prisoners there had been requested by "White House staff," according to an account of his statement obtained by The Washington Post.

Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, an Army reservist who took control of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center on Sept. 17, 2003, said a superior military intelligence officer told him the requested information concerned "any anti-coalition issues, foreign fighters, and terrorist issues."

The Army investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, asked Jordan whether it concerned "sensitive issues," and Jordan said, "Very sensitive. Yes, sir," according to the account, which was provided by a government official.

The reference by Jordan to a White House link with the military's scandal-plagued intelligence-gathering effort at the prison was not explored further by Taguba, whose primary goal at that time was to assess the scope of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The White House was unable to provide an immediate explanation. [complete article]

Bush ignored Pentagon lawyers over tactics in war on terror
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, June 9, 2004

The Bush administration routinely bypassed or overruled Pentagon experts on international law and the Geneva convention to construct a sweeping legal justification for harsh tactics in the war on terror, the Guardian has learnt.

In one instance, President George Bush's military order of November 13 2001, which denies prisoner-of-war status to captives from Afghanistan and allows their detention without charge or access to a lawyer at Guantanamo, was issued without any consultations with Pentagon lawyers, a former Pentagon official said. [complete article]

Comment -- The Bush administration and Congress are embroiled in debate about interpretations of law. Senior officials, aware that a few months from now they may no longer be in office, are at pains to avoid placing themselves in legal jeopardy. What led to this situation was not the legal opinion of any particular lawyer, but a cultural climate in which not only the Bush administration, but also Congress and most of the citizenry participated in post-911 America. As America "fought back," the administration tapped into and fueled a visceral response to the attacks that was nothing more than an effort to violently assert America's global dominance. That effort was provided with a narrative -- a "war on terror" -- and ascribed with moral imperatives, but the underlying force was a crude expression of power. "For us or against us," a contempt for international opinion and international bodies, steered by fierce national pride, led America down a path whose brutality would sooner or later become evident not only to the rest of the world but to America itself. The star culprits are now appearing, almost daily, before Congress, but the shock at each new revelation will really only be feigned if America as a whole does not claim its share of the responsibility.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

A second chance to learn the lesson of Vietnam
By Anatol Lieven, Financial Times (via SA Business Day), June 9, 2004

Many members of the US establishment who supported the Iraq war are now backing away at great speed. They are blaming the debacle on unforeseeable, extraordinary mistakes by the Bush administration and its officials in Baghdad.

This is correct as far as it goes. But the failure in Iraq also reflects deeper flaws in US political culture, which must be recognised by Americans if such disasters are to be avoided in the future.

Above all, this is true of that very curious combination: belief in the possibility of the immediate, successful adoption of democracy by all the peoples of the world; and contempt for the cultures, interests and opinions of those peoples. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


What U.N. resolution on Iraq will accomplish
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, June 9, 2004

The UN text bestows international legitimacy on the presence of foreign forces in Iraq even after the new government assumes sovereignty on June 30. But it leaves the US in command of the 158,000 foreign troops - 138,000 of which are American - while setting an expiration date of January 2006 for the mandate of the multinational force.

After a key revision Monday, it allows Iraqi forces to opt out of "sensitive offensive operations" undertaken by the multinational force. Other tweaks were made to strengthen references to the new Iraqi government's sovereignty.

The timing of the UN debate - encompassing the days leading up to the US-hosted summit in Sea Island, Ga., this week of eight of the world's largest economic and diplomatic powers - served as a catalyst for reaching international agreement on the resolution. The Bush administration's desire to avoid a divisive summit and demonstrate international unity gave France and other revision-seekers more leverage, while giving the US a strong incentive to be accommodating. [complete article]

Kurds threaten to walk away from Iraqi state
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, June 9, 2004

To assure that Kurdish rights are retained, [Kurdish leaders] Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani, whose parties together deploy about 75,000 fighters, asked President Bush to include the interim Iraqi constitution in the United Nations security resolution that governs the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

But American officials rejected the Kurdish request after appeals from Shiite leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the nation's most powerful Shiite, who threatened "serious consequences" if any such move was undertaken. That seemed to set the stage for a showdown between Kurdish and Shiite leaders over the future of the Iraqi state.

A senior American official in Washington cautioned against reading the letter as a firm threat to abandon the central government, saying he expected the Kurds and Shiites to reach an agreement ultimately.

But in Baghdad, a rupture seemed quite possible. The Shiite leaders, whose people make up a majority in Iraq but who have been historically shut out of power, say the provisions that would allow the Kurdish minority to nullify the constitution would diminish the Shiites' historic opportunity to claim political power.

Adil Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's finance minister and a leader of one of the country's largest Shiite parties, said Tuesday that the country's Shiite leadership was determined to remove the provisions that could allow the Kurds to veto the permanent constitution, even at the risk of driving them away. [complete article]

Hardships leave Iraqis numb to resolution
By Michael Georgy, Reuters, June 9, 2004

"Is the resolution going to give us electricity or water? I doubt it," Eman Abdullah, a 30-year-old policewoman, said on Wednesday. "We are not involved in any decisions anyway. We are just pawns."

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt a U.S.-British resolution which formally ends the occupation of Iraq on June 30, passing sovereignty back to Iraqi authorities while allowing U.S. and coalition troops to stay.

While the Security Council voted 15-0 in favour, ordinary people in Iraq feel excluded from the postwar political process, which is heavily influenced by the United States and which led to the formation of an interim Iraqi government last week.

Some Iraqis say they do not bother following events at the United Nations, which imposed crippling sanctions on Iraq for 13 years following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and is not highly regarded by Iraqis. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Ex-CIA aides say Iraq leader helped agency in 90's attacks
By Joel Brinkley, New York Times, June 9, 2004

Iyad Allawi, now the designated prime minister of Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam Hussein that sent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990's to plant bombs and sabotage government facilities under the direction of the C.I.A., several former intelligence officials say.

Dr. Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Accord, used car bombs and other explosive devices smuggled into Baghdad from northern Iraq, the officials said. Evaluations of the effectiveness of the bombing campaign varied, although the former officials interviewed agreed that it never threatened Saddam Hussein's rule.

No public records of the bombing campaign exist, and the former officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. They could not even recall exactly when it occurred, though the interviews made it clear it was between 1992 and 1995.

The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it said exploded in a movie theater, resulted in many civilian casualties. But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former C.I.A. official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Fiery cleric al-Sadr gains political ground among Iraqis
By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder, June 8, 2004

After months of losing hundreds, if not thousands, of men in battles with the U.S. military, firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appears to be more popular than ever in Iraq.

American coalition leaders were optimistic that last week's truce calling for al-Sadr to move his men out of the holy cities of Najaf and Kufa was a sign of a weakened leader.

But many Iraqi religious and political leaders say al-Sadr's public appeal is higher than ever and that he and his followers seem poised to gain ground in Iraq's political arena, threatening America's plans for the country.

If elections were held today, polls and interviews on the street suggest, the virulently anti-American al-Sadr would command a big percentage of the vote.

In a recent poll of 1,640 Iraqis across the country, by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, the numbers for those who either somewhat or strongly supported al-Sadr were higher than those of the new prime minister and a long list of other high-ranking Iraqi government officials. More striking was that support for al-Sadr was just 2.8 percentage points behind the 70 percent polled by the established Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.K. govt. admits big rise in Iraqi civilian death inquiries
By Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, June 9, 2004

Military police have investigated more than twice the number of civilian deaths and injuries to Iraqis involving British troops than ministers have previously admitted, it was disclosed yesterday.

Tony Blair and his defence ministers told MPs last month that 33 cases had been investigated by the military police. The true figure is 75, the Ministry of Defence has now revealed.

The disclosure comes less than a month after defence ministers told MPs they were unaware of Red Cross and Amnesty International reports criticising the conduct of British troops in southern Iraq. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Senators urge CIA to declassify critical report
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, June 9, 2004

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are pressing the Central Intelligence Agency to agree to a broad declassification and release of the panel's 400-page report, which is highly critical of the agency's prewar performance on Iraq.

The agency and, ultimately, the White House have the power to decide how much of the report should be declassified, giving them great influence over a document that will focus on mistakes related to Iraq and its illicit weapons. The Senate could vote to release classified material even over White House objections, but such a step would be rare.

The jockeying pits Senators Pat Roberts of Kansas and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Republican and Democrat on the panel, against the top C.I.A. officials who must approve decisions involving declassification. Both senators have signaled their belief that the fullest possible disclosure of the agency's performance on Iraq is in the public interest. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Ministers' resignations push Sharon cabinet to the center
By Ilene R. Prusher, Christian Science Monitor, June 9, 2004

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is one step closer to pulling out of the Gaza Strip, a concept many Israeli leaders have championed in principle but failed to turn into reality in the more than 35 years since Israel took control of the territory.

But the political support Mr. Sharon will need in order to turn his latest plan into a reversal of "facts on the ground" - the removal of nearly 8,000 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip - took a fresh hit Tuesday when two of his government ministers resigned from the cabinet. [...]

Now, if the [National Religious] party pulls out of the coalition, Sharon would be left with 55 seats in the 120-member Knesset. That would most likely encourage Sharon to bring the left-wing Labor Party back into the government, presaging possibilities of a more centrist agenda and a return to negotiations with the Palestinians.

Indeed, for some here, the vote in Sharon's cabinet to withdraw from the Gaza Strip is as historic as the day America put the first man on the moon. But whether it is simply a small step or truly a giant leap is the subject of great debate. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Madrid bomb 'mastermind' arrested Italy
By Elizabeth Nash, The Independent, June 9, 2004

A Moroccan explosives expert suspected of masterminding the Madrid train bombings was detained yesterday in Italy following a police operation that spanned four countries.

Spain's National Court judge responsible for investigating the massacre in which 191 people died is to seek the extradition of Rabei Osman el-Sayed Ahmed, 33, a former explosives expert in the Egyptian army who had attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

Judge Juan del Olmo wants "The Egyptian", as he is nicknamed, to stand trial in Spain for 190 counts of murder, 1,430 counts of attempted murder and four counts of terrorist destruction. Meanwhile, the suspect is being interrogated by the Italian judge, Silvana Petromer.

The Italian Interior Minister, Guiseppe Pisanu, described the suspect as "an ideological and operative heavyweight and one of the chief organisers of the Madrid massacre", who was planning new terror attacks. Mr Pisanu said that the pan-European swoop was directed at "groups close to al-Qa'ida." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Security Council unanimously backs revised Iraq resolution
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, June 8, 2004

The Security Council voted unanimously today for an American-British resolution to end the formal occupation of Iraq on June 30 and transfer "full sovereignty" to an Iraqi interim government.

In addition to giving international legitimacy to the new caretaker government, the resolution authorized an American-led multinational force, now at 160,000 troops, to use "all necessary measures" in "partnership" with Iraqi forces to bring peace, and it defined the United Nations role in post-transition Iraq. [complete article]

See also, Text of U.N. Draft Resolution on Iraq.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Kurds resent lack of representation
By Kareem Omer and Shabaz Jamal, IWPR, June 8, 2004

Many Iraqi Kurds are disappointed and frustrated with the appointment of two Arabs as president and prime minister of the caretaker Iraqi government, with little or no significant Kurdish representation.

Most people in this Kurdish city [Sulaimaniyah] had expected at least one of the top posts to go to a Kurd, and many are alarmed by the appointment of Shia Arab Iyad Allawi and Sunni Arab Ghazi Yawar as prime minister and president respectively.

Eight deputy and cabinet posts in the new government did go to Kurds but they are of little importance, many say, since the positions will be under the direct authority of the president and prime minister.

"The Kurds have been turned into second class citizens or even less," said Aram Omer, 38, a professor in the College of Law at the University of Sulaimaniyah. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Sharon surrenders to the will of the people
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 8, 2004

Little more than a year ago the Israeli Labour opposition offered to join Ariel Sharon's government if he agreed to dismantle just one settlement, to show that the Jewish towns dotted across the Palestinian territories were not untouchable in the pursuit of peace.

Mr Sharon replied that he would not give up even the most contentious of them, Morag and Netzarim, where a few hundred people huddle behind machine gun posts and barbed wire in the Gaza Strip.

But on Sunday Mr Sharon sealed the fate of Morag and Netzarim by engineering an unprecedented cabinet vote to rid the Gaza Strip of all its Jewish settlements. To make it happen, however, he may have to rely on Labour to support his "disengagement plan" and his government. [complete article]

Among the settlers
By Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker, May 24, 2004

The seventy-five hundred Jews of Gaza represent the absurdist wing of the settlement movement. In the Israeli mind, Gaza -- a strip of land shaped like a sardine can, and running from south of Tel Aviv to the Egyptian border -- is synonymous with sand dunes and refugee camps, wilting heat and the fierce anti-Semitism of the Islamic terror group Hamas, whose most fervent followers are based there. Gaza is marginal to Jewish history; its biggest moment came when Samson pulled the temple of the Philistines there down on his head. The most isolated settlers are those in Gaza. They are killed regularly by terror groups (over all, a hundred and fifty settlers have been killed); their school buses are armored, a precaution that hasn’t prevented their occasional demolition; and they require the presence of thousands of Israeli soldiers, who are also being killed in consequential numbers.

The most hard-core settlers are impatient messianists, who profess indifference, even scorn, for the state; a faith in vigilantism; and loathing for the Arabs. They are free of doubt, seeing themselves as taking orders from God, and are an unusually cohesive segment of Israeli society. Hard-core settlers and their supporters make up perhaps two per cent of the Israeli populace, but they nevertheless have driven Israeli policy in the occupied territories for much of the past thirty years. [complete article]

Pro-settler ministers quit Sharon government
By Nadav Shragai and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz, June 8, 2004

National Religious Party Minister Effi Eitam and Deputy Minister Yitzhak Levy resigned from the government Tuesday to protest this week's cabinet decision to pass Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

Eitam called for the removal of Sharon as prime minister and said the right wing must fight the government.

"This prime minister must be removed from office," he said. Eitam also called on the nationalist camp to "unite and act against this government and against this terrible decision." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


American slain in Saudi capital
BBC News, June 8, 2004

Gunmen have shot dead an American man in the Saudi capital Riyadh - the second such attack this week. "We can confirm that an American has been killed in Riyadh," said a US embassy official quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

The Arab TV news channel al-Arabiya said the shooting happened in al-Khalij district, in the east of the city. It came two days after gunmen attacked a BBC TV crew, killing a cameraman and seriously wounding a correspondent. Al-Arabiya's correspondent in Riyadh said the American was killed as he left a clinic.

He worked for the US company Vinnell, a unit of Northrop Grumman Corp, a Vinnell spokesman told Reuters news agency. Vinnell is helping to train the Saudi National Guard - the monarchy's elite security force. [complete article]

Too dangerous to stay, or too expensive to leave?
By Anton La Guardia, The Telegraph, June 8, 2004

British expatriates seeking to leave Saudi Arabia for fear of further al-Qa'eda attacks are furious that a British company wants them to work their three-month notice period or lose generous bonuses.

With militants threatening further attacks after they killed 22 people at the Oasis compound in al-Khobar last week many expatriates have decided the lucrative contracts are not worth the risk.

But employees of BAE Systems, the defence contractor, complain the company is trying to prevent an exodus by sticking to the letter of the contracts.

A company spokesman confirmed that those who left before the end of their 12-week notice period would lose bonuses worth anything from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds, depending on their length of service. [complete article]

Expatriate life loses lustre after Saudi attacks
By Samia Nakhoul, Reuters (via SwissInfo), June 8, 2004

They earn good money, pay no taxes, enjoy luxurious lifestyles and lead insulated lives in Western compounds.

A year of increasingly violent attacks against Western targets that killed more than 80 people had done little to unsettle the lives of Saudi Arabia's tens of thousands of expatriates -- until May 29.

That day's attack by al Qaeda on the residential Oasis compound in the oil city of Khobar in eastern Saudi Arabia seemed different.

"That was horrific...What made it different was the hostage-taking. They went asking people about their religion and nationality," said Frances Ross, a Canadian dentist who lives at the posh Kingdom expatriate compound in the capital Riyadh.

"I don't feel safe on the compound anymore because Oasis was a very secure compound and they were able to get in.

"I have no confidence that the guards outside our compounds are not sympathisers of al Qaeda and giving them information about us," added another expatriate who did not give her name. [...]

An estimated six million foreigners work in Saudi Arabia, home to 24 million people. Most of the roughly 100,000 Westerners enjoy affluent lifestyles in compounds that compensate for the kingdom's ultra-conservative customs. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Insurgents step up attacks in Iraq
By Jackie Spinner and Fred Barbash, Washington Post, June 8, 2004

With 22 days to go before the new interim government takes office in Iraq, insurgents appeared to be stepping up their attacks Tuesday as U.S. officials had predicted they would in the runup to June 30.

Nine Iraqis were killed and another 25 injured in downtown Mosul in a car bomb attack aimed at the City Hall there, according to the U.S. led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Separately, near the city of Baqubah, a suicide attacker near a forward U.S. base killed five Iraqis and an American soldier, wire services reported.

The Mosul blast appeared to be directed at two members of the Ninevah Provincial Council and the deputy police chief of Mosul, the Kurdish city in oil-rich northern Iraq. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Memo offered justification for use of torture
By Dana Priest and R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, June 8, 2004

In August 2002, the Justice Department advised the White House that torturing al Qaeda terrorists in captivity abroad "may be justified," and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted in President Bush's war on terrorism, according to a newly obtained memo.

If a government employee were to torture a suspect in captivity, "he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network," said the memo, from the Justice Department's office of legal counsel, written in response to a CIA request for legal guidance. It added that arguments centering on "necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability" later.

The memo seems to counter the pre-Sept. 11, 2001, assumption that U.S. government personnel would never be permitted to torture captives. It was offered after the CIA began detaining and interrogating suspected al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the wake of the attacks, according to government officials familiar with the document. [complete article]

Forced nudity of Iraqi prisoners is seen as a pervasive pattern, not isolated incidents
By Kate Zernike and David Rohde, New York Times, June 8, 2004

In the weeks since photographs of naked detainees set off the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, military officials have portrayed the sexual humiliation captured in the images as the isolated acts of a rogue night shift.

But forced nudity of prisoners was pervasive in the military intelligence unit of Abu Ghraib, so much so that soldiers later said they had not seen "the whole nudity thing," as one captain called it, as abusive or out of the ordinary.

While there have been reports of forced nakedness at detention facilities in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the practice was apparently far more aggressive at Abu Ghraib, according to interviews, reports from human rights groups and sworn statements from detainees and soldiers. The detainees said leaving prisoners naked started as far back as last July, three months before the seven soldiers now charged and their military police company arrived at the prison. It bred a culture, some soldiers say, where the abuse captured on film could happen. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Kurds threaten boycott of Iraqi government
By Mark McDonald, Knight Ridder, June 8, 2004

In an angry letter to President Bush, Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq have threatened to derail the newly formed Iraqi government by withdrawing their ministers from the Cabinet and boycotting upcoming elections unless a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraqi sovereignty guarantees Kurdish rights.

Kurdish political chieftains Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani told Bush that without such a guarantee, Kurdish politicians might not participate in the transitional government.

U.N. diplomats were working on the final wording of the resolution Monday. A vote on the measure could come as early as today. [complete article]

See also, Letter from Barzani and Talabani to President Bush

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Voter registration lags in northern Afghanistan
By Nahim Qaderi, IWPR, June 4, 2004

After decades of authoritarian rule and nearly a quarter of a century of conflict, the election is seen as an opportunity for Afghans to finally curb ethnic rivalries and Islamic extremism and embrace peace and democracy.

The elections are also important to the West. A successful vote would be seen as vindicating the decision to crush al-Qaeda and topple the Taleban after the attacks of September 11, 2001. And with violence and unrest continuing in Iraq, President Bush is hoping that the election of the pro-Western Hamed Karzai will help his own prospects for re-election in November.

But so far, only 2.5 million people have registered. The UN had set a target of registering 10.5 million eligible voters.

Large parts of the south and east of the country, the so-called "Pashtun belt", are no-go areas for UN staffers because of growing Taleban and al-Qaeda violence.

The north, meanwhile, remains in thrall to rival warlords whose skirmishing troops threaten security and undermine confidence. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Afghanistan's Buddhas still under threat
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 2004

Seven strangers pulled into town a few weeks ago with a keen interest in a nearby Buddhist temple. They asked the local villagers why they wanted to work for pennies when they could make hundreds of dollars stealing Buddhas instead.

The villagers' response? On May 16, they called the cops and had the outsiders arrested. But by then it was too late. Heads and torsos, hands and feet were removed, leaving behind only the delicately formed draped clothing of a once-exquisite, now-defaced, Gandhara-style clay Buddha.

And this is where the mystery begins. The arrested men were carrying official permission letters from the Ministry of Culture. And through pressure from the Culture Minister himself, the men were released, never to be seen again.

Culture Ministry officials say it's all a misunderstanding. Local police say it's a case of corruption at the highest levels. And foreign diplomats say it's an indication that today's Afghan government may be no better at protecting Afghanistan's historic treasures than was the radical Islamist Taliban regime. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Police tell rich of Baghdad to leave. For the poor, robbery is an everyday risk
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, June 8, 2004

Qasim Sabty, a painter who owns the Hewar art gallery in Baghdad, is scared. "So many of my relatives have been kidnapped that I fear I am going to be next," he says. He mentions the name of another gallery owner who had to pay kidnappers $100,000 (£60,000) for the return of her grandson.

Fear of kidnap is pervasive in Baghdad. Mr Sabty is not a particularly wealthy man but kidnapping comes at the top of his list of reasons why he feels insecure. He said: "You feel lucky if your son goes to school in the morning and comes back safe in the evening." Kidnap is now so common new words have been added to Iraqi thieves' slang. A kidnap victim is called al-tali or the sheep and the person who identifies a potential target to kidnappers is called al-alaas.

Suicide bombs and battles between US troops and militias get the attention of the outside world. But the chronic sense of insecurity felt by Iraqis is almost equally the result of the impact of violent crime. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.S. bans cleric from Iraq elections
By Jonathan Steele and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, June 8, 2004

Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia leader whose militiamen have been fighting the US occupation forces in several Iraqi cities, was banned yesterday from standing in Iraq's forthcoming democratic elections.

Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, signed an order stating that, with immediate effect, members of illegal militias "will be barred from holding political office for three years after leaving their illegal organisation".

Even if Mr Sadr disbanded his Mahdi Army in the next few weeks it would be too late for him to join Iraq's political process and contest the elections, due in January.

The armed uprising which he began in April has polarised the Shia community but has a large following of the young and unemployed. He could have expected a substantial vote for a seat in the new parliament. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Nine Iraqi parties to disband militias
Robert H. Reid, Associated Press (via Yahoo), June 7, 2004

Iraq's new prime minister announced an agreement Monday by nine political parties to dissolve their militias, integrating some of the estimated 102,000 fighters into the army and police and pensioning off the rest to firm up government control ahead of the transfer of sovereignty.

The plan does not cover the most important militia fighting coalition forces -- the al-Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- or smaller groups that have sprouted across the country since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. [complete article]

U.S. drops call for Sadr's arrest in peace deal
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, June 7, 2004

Iraqi police were back on the streets of Najaf yesterday after the US authorities dropped their demand for the arrest of the firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and withdrew their troops from the holy city.

The cleric's militias, known as the Mahdi army, were also leaving the city where they have battled the Americans for almost two months, witnesses said. They were allowed to keep their weapons under an agreement between the two sides.

But elsewhere in Iraq, a weekend of violence claimed at least a dozen lives. A British security contractor named as Craig Dickens was shot dead in an attack on a convoy in the northern city of Mosul. Three other British employees of ArmorGroup International Ltd were injured in the incident.

Tentative deals in the past two weeks to resolve the two-month standoff over Najaf have collapsed, but in an apparent sign that this one was more soundly based Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shia community's top religious leader, invited Mr Sadr to his house late on Saturday to bless the agreement. [complete article]

Shiite leaders urge Sadr to join political process
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 7, 2004

Iraq's Shiite Muslim establishment has launched a concerted effort to transform Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militia into a political movement and enlist the defiant Shiite cleric along with his anti-U.S. followers into the political process leading to national elections next January.

The effort was the political backdrop to an agreement Friday that sealed a cease-fire between Sadr's militia and U.S. occupation troops in the Najaf region, 90 miles south of Baghdad, after two months of bloody clashes, according to Shiite officials who helped negotiate the accord. A heralded meeting Saturday between Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most respected and influential Shiite cleric, was designed to cement the truce and show the upstart cleric and his radicalized followers that Sistani and the religious establishment respect his views, the officials said.

The recruitment effort is based on the premise that Sadr leads a significant portion of Iraq's 60 percent Shiite majority and must therefore be part of Iraq's postwar politics if Shiites are to become a coherent political force. As a result, it clashes with the U.S. occupation authority's stand that Sadr is an outlaw -- a "thug" in President Bush's words -- whose movement must be disbanded and who must stand trial before an Iraqi court on charges that he conspired in the murder of a fellow cleric. [complete article]

Battles take daily toll in Sadr City
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2004

The neighborhoods of Baghdad's worst slum are draped in black. Scores of mourning banners bearing the names of those killed in recent weeks hang from fences, balconies and buildings along Sadr City's dusty, garbage-strewn streets.

One banner laments a son killed "defending his country." Some bear photographs of the dead. A few have two, three, even four names squeezed onto them.

As Iraqi and U.S. leaders focus on ending the bloodshed in the southern holy cities of Najaf, Kufa and Karbala, Baghdad's backyard is quietly boiling over.

U.S. military officials estimate that they have killed more than 800 Iraqis in Sadr City over the past nine weeks -- more than a dozen a day -- in battles with the Al Mahdi army, the militia of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr. That's more than twice the number hospitals estimate were killed in similar fighting in southern Iraq. [complete article]

Despite agreement, insurgents rule Fallujah
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post, June 7, 2004

The travelers entered Fallujah first through a checkpoint operated by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a U.S.-trained paramilitary unit meant to add muscle to the American-led occupation. The men in black berets distractedly waved cars past, onto the city's main street.

Then it became apparent who was really in charge. A few yards in, wild-eyed young men in masks pulled cars over at will, searched them and demanded identification documents. No one could leave or enter without passing muster. Other groups of fighters in masks roamed side streets and alleys, brandishing rifles at all sorts of angles.

It was not supposed to be like this. Under an agreement made last month with U.S. Marine commanders, a new force called the Fallujah Brigade, led by former officers from Saddam Hussein's demobilized army, was to safeguard the city. The unruly gunmen -- many of them insurgents who battled the Marines through most of April -- were supposed to give way to Iraqi police and civil defense units.

Instead, the brigade stays outside of town in tents, the police cower in their patrol cars and the civil defense force nominally occupies checkpoints on the city's fringes but exerts no influence over the masked insurgents who operate only a few yards away. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Sharon wins battle over settlers
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 7, 2004

The Israeli government yesterday for the first time accepted the removal of some Jewish settlements from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The historic cabinet vote, on the 37th anniversary of the start of the Six Day war that began the occupation, paves the way for Ariel Sharon to fulfil a pledge to dismantle all settlements in Gaza by the end of next year and remove four isolated ones in the West Bank as part of his plan for "unilateral disengagement" from the Palestinians.

"Disengagement is on the way," the prime minister said last night. "The government has decided that by the end of 2005 Israel will leave Gaza and four settlements in Samaria [the West Bank]. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Arafat's likely successor gets five life terms
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, June 7, 2004

A Tel Aviv court gave the prominent Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti the maximum sentence of five life terms plus 40 years yesterday for organising killings, a botched suicide bombing, and membership of a "terrorist" group.

Barghouti, a potent symbol of Palestinian resistance widely seen as a likely successor to Yasser Arafat, was applauded by supporters in the court.

As the judges began to read the sentence Barghouti interrupted them and demanded to make a statement.

"The continuation of the intifada is the only path to independence," he said. "No matter how many they arrest or kill, they will not break the determination of the Palestinian people.

"I don't care whether I am sentenced to one life sentence, or 10 or 50; my day of liberty is the day the occupation ends." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Before 9/11, one warning went unheard
By Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2004

When Jack Roche telephoned Australia's intelligence agency in July 2000, he offered a tantalizing story: He had been to Afghanistan and ate lunch with Osama bin Laden. He had received training in explosives and plotted with Al Qaeda leaders to carry out a bombing in Australia.

A Muslim convert, Roche was prepared to become an informant, his attorney says, and provide information about Al Qaeda; its Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiah; and their goal of staging an attack in a Western country.

But at the time -- 14 months before the Sept. 11 attacks -- no one was interested.

It wasn't until 2 1/2 years later that authorities decided to take Roche seriously and arrested him on terrorism charges. Last week he was sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with Al Qaeda leaders to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.

While many Australians applaud the country's first conviction under new anti-terrorism laws, Roche's case is a tale of intelligence failures that illustrates how poorly Western security officials understood the threat posed by Islamic extremism. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Violence unsettling Afghan vote
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, June 7, 2004

The men came at midnight, throwing stones and pounding on the front gate of Sahera Sharif's home. Then they left a warning: If Ms. Sharif didn't stop working as an election registrar for the United Nations, she would be killed.

If intimidation was the goal, these men succeeded - temporarily. The next day, Sharif resigned her post. But instead of accepting the resignation, the UN and the state government offered Sharif and her family armed guards. Today, she and her husband and three children live under constant military protection.

"Elections are a brand new process in Afghanistan, and it's very common for a new process to have opposition," says Sharif, who is also a professor at Khost University and a women's rights activist. Now that she is better protected, Sharif says she feels comfortable enough to continue. "I have started my struggle, and I will not stop it." [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The two minds of Bernard Lewis
By Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, June 7, 2004

In the course of a distinguished academic career at the University of London and at Princeton, Bernard Lewis has never been afraid to dip his scholarly hands in the muck of current affairs. A mentor to Henry (Scoop) Jackson in the early nineteen-seventies, and a friend to several Israeli Prime Ministers, Lewis has been especially sought after in Washington since September 11th. Karl Rove invited him to speak at the White House. Richard Perle and Dick Cheney are among his admirers. Lewis has championed his friend Ahmad Chalabi for a leading role in Iraq. And his best-selling book "What Went Wrong?," about the decline of Muslim civilization, is regarded in some circles as a kind of handbook in the war against Islamist terrorism. Lewis, in short, is a thoroughly political don, and if anyone can be said to have provided the intellectual muscle for recent United States policy toward the Middle East it would have to be him. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Saudi militants kill BBC cameraman and injure reporter
By James Burleigh, The Independent, June 7, 2004

An Irish cameraman working for the BBC was shot dead and the corporation's security correspondent was seriously injured yesterday while filming in a notorious slum area of the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh.

In the fourth deadly attack against Westerners in the oil-rich kingdom in five weeks, cameraman Simon Cumbers and security correspondent Frank Gardner came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the Suweidi district in the south of the city.

A Western diplomat said the two were in a car with a Saudi driver filming the house of a wanted al-Qa'ida militant at the time of the shooting. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]


Militants strike at Saudis' weakest point
By Mark Hollingsworth, The Independent, June 6, 2004

Saudi police and militants fought a running gun battle in the Red Sea port of Jeddah early yesterday, emphasising the fragility of the world's biggest oil exporter a week after a major terror assault killed 22 people in Khobar, on the other side of the country.

A spate of attacks on Western expatriates in Saudi Arabia contributed to a sharp spike in world oil prices last week before Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Saudi is the largest member, promised to increase production. Little was known about the latest clash, in which police and militants exchanged fire from moving cars, but the attackers were said to have escaped. "Police are still hunting them down," a security source told Reuters.

On Friday, al-Qa'ida's top leader in the kingdom, Abdul Aziz al-Moqrin, called on Saudis to support the militants' campaign to topple the monarchy. He praised an al-Qa'ida attack in the city of Yanbu in early May, the killing of a German in Riyadh two weeks ago and Wednesday's attack on military personnel near Riyadh. It also emerged that two US Air Force officers were wounded in last weekend's carnage in Khobar, the centre of the oil industry in eastern Saudi Arabia, highlighting the mutual dependence of the Saudi royal family and America. [complete article]

Militants give blow-by-blow account of Saudi massacre
By Jason Burke, The Observer, June 6, 2004

Islamic militants who killed 22 people in a shooting spree in Saudi Arabia a week ago have posted a 3,000-word account of the operation on the internet.

The account gives astonishing details of the attack, describing how the killers hunted down their victims, then slept and prayed after decapitating Westerners. It also challenges the Saudi Arabian government's version of events, claiming that pictures of Saudi troops storming a building from the air were stage-managed.

The attack, in the northern port city of Khobar, shook the Saudi regime and, by forcing up the price of oil, caused economic upset globally.

The statement takes the form of an interview with Fawaz bin Mohammed al-Nashmi, the leader of the 'al-Quds [Jerusalem]' Brigade of the Arabian Peninsula, which carried out the attack. [complete article]

The Saudis fight terror, but not those who wage it
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, June 6, 2004

A recent fatwa posted on a popular Islamic Web site in Saudi Arabia explains when a Muslim may mutilate the corpse of an infidel.

The ruling, written by a Saudi religious sheik named Omar Abdullah Hassan al-Shehabi, decrees that the dead can be mutilated as a reciprocal act when the enemy is disfiguring Muslim corpses, or when it otherwise serves the Islamic nation. In the second category, the reasons include "to terrorize the enemy" or to gladden the heart of a Muslim warrior.

The religious ruling was evidently posted to address questions about the conflict in Iraq, but is not limited by geography. In fact, in each of two gruesome attacks in Saudi Arabia last month that left 25 foreigners and 5 Saudis dead, a Western corpse was dragged for some distance behind a car. One was the body of an American engineer in Yanbu on May 1, the other a British businessman in Khobar last weekend.

That a cleric can post such an argument in an open forum goes a long way toward explaining how the most radical interpretations of religious texts flourish in Saudi Arabia. Even prayer leaders in Falluja, an Iraqi city not known for its love of things American, were swift to condemn the mutilations of four dead United States contractors in April as outside the bounds of Islam. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Democrats seek a stance on Iraq that won't split party
By David E. Rosenbaum, New York Times, June 6, 2004

The Democratic Party took the first, tentative step on Saturday toward writing a platform plank on the war in Iraq that it hopes will distinguish Democrats from the Bush administration without creating the divisions that afflicted the party during and after the Vietnam War.

At a hearing on national security on the campus of Louisiana State University here, Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator and presidential candidate, urged the party's platform drafting committee to focus on the importance of repairing and rebuilding alliances that, he said, President Bush had fractured.

"I don't know of any serious person, especially John Kerry, who's advocating cutting and running," Mr. Hart said. "We're going to have to be there for a long time."

But he said a "continuation of a unilateralist approach" would be disastrous for the country. [complete article]

Comment -- "Multilateralism" is not a word that fits easily onto a placard or a bumper sticker, and to many of George Bush's opponents it might sound like an insipid alternative to his administration's policies. But packed into this academic term are some essential ideas. Unity requires cooperation. Cooperation requires dialogue. Dialogue requires respect. Respect requires understanding.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

In Iraq's next act, tribes may play the lead role
By Susan Sachs, New York Times, June 6, 2004

After much debilitating trial and error, the American occupiers of Iraq have discovered it does not take a village, or maybe even an army, to manage the Iraqis. It takes a tribe.

At a time when the Iraqi state is a weakened shell and religious leaders are fighting among themselves, Americans were forced to turn to a centuries-old way of restoring social order. Last week, they bowed to Iraqi pressure and accepted the appointment of Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, nephew of the paramount chief of the extensive Shamar tribe, as the country's interim president.

The selection of a hereditary tribal chieftain in a flowing white robe, albeit one who is a wealthy Western-educated engineer, acknowledges the ascendancy of tribes. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

U.N. human rights agency blasts U.S. forces in Iraq
By Matthew Schofield, Knight Ridder, June 4, 2004

Coalition forces involved in the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners might be guilty of war crimes, the top U.N. official for human rights said in a report released Friday.

The 45-page report by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights isn't entirely critical. It says Iraq is better off now than before the invasion, when it was under "a brutal, murderous, torturing gang that preyed on its own people."

It also points out the difficulties of working in a country subject to terrorist attacks and insurrection, and that "hardships suffered by Iraqis in the aftermath of the victory of coalition forces were clearly not intended."

Nevertheless, the 45-page report concludes that serious human-rights problems occurred in Iraq, and it contributes to the debate on human rights there by lending the authority of the U.N. human rights overseer. It details a broad range of abuses, from torture and the sexual humiliation of prisoners to other military operations that unjustly deprived people of the ability to travel or use hospitals and other facilities safely. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Wide gaps seen in U.S. inquiries on prison abuse
By Steven Lee Myers and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, June 6, 2004

Disparate inquiries into abuses of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan have so far left crucial questions of policy and operations unexamined, according to lawmakers from both parties and outside military experts, who say that the accountability of senior officers and Pentagon officials may remain unanswered as a result.

No investigation completely independent of the Pentagon exists to determine what led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, and so far there has been no groundswell in Congress or elsewhere to create one.

But on Capitol Hill, even some Republicans have begun to question whether the Pentagon's inquiries are too narrowly structured to establish the causes of the abuses, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have pledged to do, and then to determine if anyone in the chain of command was responsible for them. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Mercenaries in 'coup plot' guarded U.K. officials in Iraq
By Antony Barnett, Solomon Hughes and Jason Burke, The Observer, June 6, 2004

Mercenaries accused of planning a coup in an oil-rich African state also worked under contract for the British government providing security in Iraq, raising fears about the way highly sensitive security work is awarded, The Observer has learnt.

The Department for International Development (DfID) signed a £250,000 deal last summer with the South-African based Meteoric Tactical Solutions (MTS) to provide 'close protection' for department staff, including bodyguards and drivers for its senior official in Iraq.

Two of the firm's owners were arrested in Zimbabwe last March with infamous British mercenary and former SAS officer Simon Mann. The men are accused of plotting an armed coup in Equatorial Guinea. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

The military: Losing hearts and minds?
By Army Reserve Captain Oscar R. Estrada, Washington Post, June 6, 2004

We're told by senior officers that most Iraqis are being influenced by "bad guys" and their anti-coalition messages. The latest acronym for these bad guys is AIF, which stands for Anti-Iraqi Forces. The fact that most AIF members are Iraqi is neatly ignored as we try to win the goodwill of the "good" Iraqis.

One day last week we rolled into the town of Zaghniyah to win some of the local hearts and minds. In a country where most people are unemployed, we offer the townspeople $1 for every bag of trash they can collect. Our "docs" -- medics, assistants and physicians -- set up shop in the local health clinic and we try to "engage local leadership." But most of the local leaders, we are told, are not there. Those people who do speak with us do so only to catalogue their concerns -- chiefly unemployment and lack of electricity and water. It's the day after the swearing-in of Iraq's new interim government, and so I explain that their concerns have to be presented to their Governing Council, and that we can fund projects only through that council. An old man waves me off and tells me that they know the Americans control everything and will do so as long as they are here. The rest of the men nod in agreement.

As the day wears on, every ray of sun seems to add weight to my Kevlar helmet and body armor. I am at a loss as to why our efforts aren't recognized or appreciated. But then, as I look at the children collecting trash and the main road clogged with military vehicles, as I watch one of our docs try to help a woman carrying a gaunt and sickly baby in her arms, and as I listen to an old sheik struggle with our demands that he hold American-style town meetings, I realize that Iraqis may see our help as something else. I see how paying them to collect trash may be demeaning and remote from their hopes for prosperity in a new Iraq. I see our good faith efforts to provide medical care lead to disappointment and resentment when we have neither the medicine nor the equipment to cure or heal many ailments. And I see how our efforts to introduce representative democracy can lead to frustration. [complete article]

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?"

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.

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.

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.

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.

The manipulator
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.

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.

[support this site] [permanent link to this entry] [home]

HOME  |  ABOUT   |  CONTACT   |    Copyright  © 2002-2004 Paul Woodward     XML        Powered by Blogger Pro™
A daily record of America's post-9/11 impact on the world

Researched, edited and sprinkled with occasional commentary by Paul Woodward
Sign up for weekly email updates
A resource for more information about Iraq, the Middle East conflict, Afghanistan, Korea, nuclear proliferation, war, peace, and the foreign policies of the Bush Administration.


Get a DVD!
USS Liberty Survivors: Our Story

::  Search Site
::  Archives
archives prior to April 21, 2002
Not In Our Name
A Statement Of Conscience