The War in Context  
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Michael Moore is ready for his close-up
By Philip Shenon, New York Times, June 20, 2004

Michael Moore is not coy about his hopes for "Fahrenheit 9/11," his blistering documentary attack on President Bush and the war in Iraq. He wants it to be remembered as the first big-audience, election-year film that helped unseat a president.

"And it's not just a hope," the Oscar-winning filmmaker said in a phone interview last week, describing focus groups in Michigan in April at which, after seeing the movie, previously undecided voters expressed eagerness to defeat Mr. Bush. "We found that if you entered the theater on the fence, you fell off it somewhere during those two hours," he said. "It ignites a fire in people who had given up." [...]

For the White House, the most devastating segment of "Fahrenheit 9/11" may be the video of a befuddled-looking President Bush staying put for nearly seven minutes at a Florida elementary school on the morning of Sept. 11, continuing to read a copy of "My Pet Goat" to schoolchildren even after an aide has told him that a second plane has struck the twin towers. Mr. Bush's slow, hesitant reaction to the disastrous news has never been a secret. But seeing the actual footage, with the minutes ticking by, may prove more damaging to the White House than all the statistics in the world. [complete article]

On 9/11, a telling seven-minute silence
By Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, June 19, 2004

You're at a photo op, reading a book with schoolchildren and an aide suddenly whispers that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center. "America is under attack."

You're the president of the United States. What do you do?

There have been other moments like this in American history, when the chief executive was suddenly plunged into a crisis, but they weren't caught on videotape. George W. Bush was on camera in an elementary school in Sarasota, Fla. He could see the pagers of reporters and photographers going off, one by one. He was on the spot like few people have ever been.

From two different angles, Americans have new glimpses of that historic moment. One comes from rabble-rousing Michael Moore, whose Bush-eviscerating film "Fahrenheit 9/11" premieres next week, and includes an uninterrupted seven-minute segment showing Bush's reaction after hearing the news of the attack. He doesn't move.

Instead he continues to sit in the classroom, listening to children read aloud. Moore lets the tape roll as the minutes pass painfully by.

And now from a second angle: The staff of the 9/11 Commission this week released a report that summarizes Bush's closed-door testimony about his thoughts as he sat there. [complete article]

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Bush told he is playing into Bin Laden's hands
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, June 19, 2004

A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands.

Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, due out next month, dismisses two of the most frequent boasts of the Bush administration: that Bin Laden and al-Qaida are "on the run" and that the Iraq invasion has made America safer.

In an interview with the Guardian the official, who writes as "Anonymous", described al-Qaida as a much more proficient and focused organisation than it was in 2001, and predicted that it would "inevitably" acquire weapons of mass destruction and try to use them. [complete article]

Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism, can be ordered here.

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Leaders of 9/11 panel ask Cheney for reports
By Philip Shenon and Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, June 19, 2004

The leaders of the Sept. 11 commission called on Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday to turn over any intelligence reports that would support the White House's insistence that there was a close relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

The commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, and its vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, said they wanted to see any additional information in the administration's possession after Mr. Cheney, in a television interview on Thursday, was asked whether he knew things about Iraq's links to terrorists that the commission did not know.

"Probably," Mr. Cheney replied.

Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton said that, in particular, they wanted any information available to back Mr. Cheney's suggestion that one of the hijackers might have met in Prague in April 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence agent, a meeting that the panel's staff believes did not take place. Mr. Cheney said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday that the administration had never been able to prove the meeting took place but was not able to disprove it either. [complete article]

Comment -- Unless a few journalists pluck up the courage to try and force Bush or Cheney to spell out the nature and specifics of the so-called "relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda this story will keep on going round in circles. George Bush and John Kerry have a relationship: They are both candidates in the coming presidential election. Assuming that they participate in a debate or two, this will require some level of cooperation. Does this mean that Bush supports the Kerry campaign?

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Annan rebukes U.S. for move to give its troops immunity
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, June 18, 2004

Secretary General Kofi Annan harshly criticized the United States on Thursday for seeking immunity for its peacekeeping troops from the International Criminal Court.

He said the Security Council should resist the American move, which he said was "of dubious judicial value" and particularly deplorable this year "given the prisoner abuse in Iraq."

"I think in this circumstance it would be unwise to press for an exemption, and it would be even more unwise on the part of the Security Council to grant it," Mr. Annan told reporters. "It would discredit the Council and the United Nations that stands for rule of law and the primacy of the rule of law." [complete article]

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Pressure at Iraqi prison detailed
USA Today, June 17, 2004

The officer who oversaw interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad testified that he was under intense "pressure" from the White House, Pentagon and CIA last fall to get better information from detainees, pressure that he said included a visit to the prison by an aide to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, in a sworn statement to Army investigators obtained by USA TODAY, said he was told last September that White House staffers wanted to "pull the intelligence out" of the interrogations being conducted at Abu Ghraib. The pressure stemmed from growing concern about the increasingly violent Iraqi insurgency that was claiming American lives daily. It came before and during a string of abuses of Iraqi prisoners in October, November and December of 2003.

Jordan, the top military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, described "instances where I feel that there was additional pressure" to get information from detainees, including a visit to the prison last fall by an aide to Rice that was "purely on detainee operations and reporting." And he said he was reminded of the need to improve the intelligence output of the prison "many, many, many times." [complete article]

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U.S. charges contractor over fatal beating of Afghan detainee
By John Hendren and Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2004

The Justice Department charged a CIA contract interrogator with assault Thursday in the beating of an Afghan detainee who later died. It is the first prosecution of a civilian in the abuse of prisoners in the twin war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

David A. Passaro is accused of "brutally" beating Abdul Wali over two days of questioning in June 2003 after Wali turned himself in at the front gate of the Asadabad military base in northeastern Afghanistan, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft told reporters in Washington.

U.S. troops have fought militants in the mountainous region as they have searched for Osama bin Laden. Wali was suspected of aiding in rocket attacks against the base. He surrendered June 18, was questioned June 19 and 20, and was found dead in his cell the next day.

Passaro was arrested in North Carolina after a federal grand jury there handed up a four-count indictment charging that Passaro used his hands, feet and a large flashlight to beat Wali. He faces up to 40 years in prison and a $1-million fine if convicted on two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

Asked why Passaro, 38, did not face torture or murder charges, Ashcroft said that an investigation had not yielded strong enough evidence to justify such charges. "The investigation is an ongoing investigation, and the evidence which we have available to us at this time, currently available, provides the basis for these charges," he said. [complete article]

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High-profile attacks force Pakistan to confront extremists
By John Lancaster, Washington Post, June 19, 2004

Recent high-profile attacks by Islamic militants on government targets, including a nearly successful assassination attempt on a senior army general last week, are pushing security forces into an escalating confrontation with extremist groups they once embraced as instruments of state policy, according to diplomats and analysts.

Until recently, Pakistani militants have avoided direct confrontation with the army, whose Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, has a long history of association with radical groups. The militants have seemed to distinguish between security forces and President Pervez Musharraf, an army general and supporter of the U.S.-led war on terrorism whom they twice tried to kill last December.

Over the past few months, however, some Islamic extremists now are seen to be broadening their anti-government campaign, according to the sources, staging frequent ambushes of army troops in the rugged borderlands near Afghanistan. In one high-profile attack on the morning of June 10, assailants sprayed automatic-weapons fire at the motorcade of Lt. Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat as he commuted to his office in downtown Karachi. [complete article]

Pakistani rebel embraced then killed by military
By Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), June 18, 2004

Nek Mohammad, the long-haired rebel tribesman and former Taliban commander who defied Pakistan's campaign to drive Al-Qaeda from its tribal belt, was being publicly embraced by generals just two months ago.

Yet on Friday the military proclaimed major success in tracking, targetting and killing him, in a precision night-time strike on a mud-walled compound in the remote district of South Waziristan on the Afghan-Pakistani frontier.

On Friday morning thousands of tribesmen converged on Mohammad's dusty home village of Kaloosha, some 10 kilometers (six miles) from the outskirts of Wana where he was killed on Thursday night.

The funeral ceremony was silent, residents said, devoid of customary speeches, and most of the stunned tribesmen had come to see whether the diehard warrior really was dead. [complete article]

Ex-fighter for Taliban dies in strike in Pakistan
By David Rohde and Mohammed Khan, New York Times, June 19, 2004

Local residents said they believed that a missile fired from an American drone killed the militant, Nek Muhammad, after he spoke over a satellite phone. But Pakistani military officials denied any American involvement.

Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, said Friday that Pakistani forces had been tracking Mr. Muhammad for several days. The general declined to say exactly how Mr. Muhammad was killed, but said Pakistani helicopters and artillery were both capable of striking a compound with pinpoint accuracy. He said reports of American involvement were "absolutely absurd." [complete article]

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U.S gets cosy with Taliban's point man
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, June 18, 2004

In the search for a single unifying force in chaotic Afghanistan, such as "moderate" Taliban, to bring political stability before November's US presidential elections, focus has once again fallen on the firebrand Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who during the Taliban regime was used to build bridges with the rest of the world. [...]

Asia Times Online: Moves have been afoot for about a year to carve out "good Taliban" without leader Mullah Omar. Are you working on the same lines?

Fazlur Rehman: After the Taliban fell [in late 2001] and a United Nations resolution called them terrorists, we conveyed the message to all Western powers that this was not the solution to the [country's] problems, and would result in instability in Afghanistan. Now the Taliban are underground ... the whole country is in deep chaos and without leadership. This is the threat we always pointed to in the past. Whenever there was a chance to interact with any Western country officials, we conveyed the same message [engage the Taliban].

ATol: Did you think your message got across?

Rehman: Yes, of course. There is a visible change in behavior. They know that elections are the real pulse which reflects public opinion, and if the masses cease to participate in the process of elections, whether because they do not believe in the present election process or because of any other reason - like law and order - what credibility will the US leave behind? Mr Jack Straw came to Pakistan this year and I spoke to him about the same thing, saying, 'Please, do not abandon the Taliban as they are the real binding force in Afghanistan,' and Mr Straw agreed with me that the dialogue process should not be closed with any party in Afghanistan. [complete article]

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A Jewish state? 'Definitely'
By David Landau and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, June 18, 2004

Arafat is ready to sign an agreement that would give Palestinians 97 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza - with the rest in a land swap, and the right of return of not all, but at least some refugees. In a free-ranging interview with Haaretz, conducted in the carefully preserved ruins of the Muqata, the PA Chairman also spoke of the historical family bonds between the two peoples.

"Definitely," says Yasser Arafat, waving his arm for emphasis. He definitely understands and accepts that Israel must be, and must stay, a Jewish state. The Palestinians "accepted that openly and officially in 1988 at our Palestine National Council," and they remain completely committed to it. Thus, the refugee problem needs to be solved in a way that will not change the Jewish character of the state. That is "clear and obvious." [complete article]

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Battle of flags
By Ibrahim Al-Marashi, Al-Ahram, June 17, 2004

I travelled to my native Iraq in the last weeks of March, my second visit since the end of the war. I entered the country from Turkey, where a line of empty oil trucks more than two miles long queued up on the Turkish side of the border. On entering, a sign welcomed us to the "Kurdistan of Iraq", a clear message to Iraq's northerly neighbour that the Kurds are not willing to give up the relative autonomy they have enjoyed since their "safe haven" was established after the 1991 Gulf war. A portrait of Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), hangs on the wall at the border post, a reminder that we are not just entering Iraq, but Barzani's domain as well. The Kurdish flag -- red, green and white stripes with a sun in the centre -- is flying alongside the yellow KDP flag. The Iraqi flag is conspicuously absent. Entering the town of Dohuk, 45 minutes from the Turkish border, I was greeted by another sign: "God bless the coalition." Dohuk is the only town in Iraq where American soldiers can walk around unarmed. In fact, they come here for rest and relaxation from other parts of Iraq. Coalition troops may be welcome for now, but how long will this situation last? [complete article]

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Iraq as the 51st state
Juan Cole interviewed by Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, June 18, 2004

JC: One of the reasons for getting rid of the Ba'ath army, according to Garner, was that they were afraid that the survival of any large Ba'ath institution like that might be an obstacle to the extreme liberalization of the economy. You can just imagine a situation in which the Americans wanted to denationalize Iraqi companies. If you had kept the Ba'ath army, they would come to the coalition and say, "No, you can't sell off these companies, my cousin helps to run them"... They [the Americans] thought that the army would remain a power center able to intervene in policy debates, on the side of state control of the economy. So they dissolved it not based on security purposes, but to remove a potential obstacle to Polish-style shock therapy. They brought Polish economic advisers - that's the reason for the Polish military involvement in Iraq. They tried to replicate the Polish experience. I don't believe that the neo-cons at the Defense Department wanted to use the US military to supplant the Iraqi army. In fact, [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz had told Congress that it's likely the US would be back to having only one division in Iraq by October 2003. They thought they could dissolve the army and just use the police to maintain order, and then they could do whatever they wanted to do with the economy: sell it off, bring in the big companies, open Iraq to Western investment. They hoped that the Iraqi bourgeoisie would emerge, there would be productivity gains, the country would be rich, and everybody else - the Iranians, the Syrians - would want to follow them. [complete article]

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Retired envoys, commanders assail Bush team
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, June 17, 2004

The Bush administration does not understand the world and remains unable to handle "in either style or substance" the responsibilities of global leadership, a group of 27 retired diplomats and military commanders charged yesterday.

"Our security has been weakened," the former ambassadors and four-star commanders said in a statement read to a crowded Washington news conference. "Never in the 2 1/4 centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted."

The statement fit onto a single page, but the sharp public criticism of President Bush was striking, coming from a bipartisan group of respected former officials united in anger about U.S. policy. The commentary emerges as public doubts about the Iraq invasion and Bush's handling of national security have risen. [complete article]

Read the complete statement from Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change.

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Qaeda demons haunt Saudis
By Tony Karon,, June 18, 2004

The world waited this week for news of another gruesome terrorist execution of an American hostage, and it finally came on Friday, posted on extremist web sites and reported on Arab TV. This time, however, the bad news came not from Iraq, but from Saudi Arabia. Lockheed-Martin engineer Paul Johnson, 49, of New Jersey, was kidnapped in Riyadh, last Saturday, and an al-Qaeda aligned web site on Tuesday posted video footage of him in captivity with a warning that he would be executed within 72 hours unless a list of named Qaeda suspects currently in Saudi custody were released. The webcast ultimatum and Mr. Johnson's murder highlights a growing sense of crisis over the apparent inability of Saudi authorities, despite tough talk and often effective police action against Qaeda cells, to snuff out the terror campaign that has raged on their own soil for more than a year. [complete article]

See also, U.S. man beheaded in Saudi Arabia (WP), Saudis show slain al-Qaeda chief (BBC) and Profile: Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin (BBC).

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How the holy warriors learned to hate
By Waleed Ziad, New York Times, June 18, 2004

"Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world," President Bush announced on Tuesday, as he stood in the White House Rose Garden next to his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. And, true, Afghanistan has been a success story, at least compared with Iraq. Still, the offensive against militants who fled into northwestern Pakistan continues, and Osama bin Laden remains on the lam. Achieving lasting peace and democracy in this trouble spot will take more than Special Operations troops -- we must gain a far better understanding of the militants and their motivations.

A good place to start is a hand-scrawled inscription I saw on a crumbling wall in a border town in northern Pakistan that read, "Jihad of the sword, like prayer, is a religious obligation." Most Westerners probably assume that this is an ancient dictum -- and I bet the man who wrote it did, too. But the fact is, the slogan was conjured up no more than 25 years ago.

Here's the point: contrary to popular theories, the fight against militant religious groups in South Asia is not a clash of age-old civilizations or a conflict between traditionalism and modernism. Rather, it is a more recent story of political ineptitude and corruption, and of a postcolonial class struggle between the disenfranchised poor and these countries' elites. [complete article]

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Bush names Pakistan 'major ally'
BBC News, June 17, 2004

President George W Bush has upgraded relations with Pakistan by formally naming it as a major non-Nato ally.

The move is in recognition of Islamabad's contribution in the fight against al-Qaeda, and is being seen as Washington's way of saying thank-you. [...]

Pakistan now finds itself in the same exclusive club as such close American friends such as Israel and South Korea.

US plans to upgrade relations with Pakistan were first announced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell during a visit to Pakistan in March.

President Bush's formal announcement is unlikely to be well received by India which does not have special status with the US.

But in what our correspondent says is a strange irony of timing, the president's announcement coincided with a report from the commission investigating the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

It accused Islamabad of helping the Taleban to shelter Osama Bin Laden, saying that it had "significantly facilitated" his stay in Afghanistan prior to the attack. [complete article]

New Waziristan offensive starts
BBC News, June 17, 2004

The BBC's Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar says that the latest manoeuvres are highly significant, because they are taking place in the mountainous Angor Adda area - regarded as one of the last strongholds of foreign militants.

He says they will be regarded by the army as the culmination of their ongoing efforts to flush foreign forces out of South Waziristan. [complete article]

Pakistan kills pro-Al Qaeda tribal fighter
By Hafiz Wazir, Reuters, June 18, 2004

Pakistani security forces killed a top tribal warrior wanted for sheltering al Qaeda militants in an overnight swoop on his hideout in a remote region bordering Afghanistan, officials said Friday.

Nek Mohammad, who protected foreign fighters with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in the semi-autonomous South Waziristan tribal area, died with four supporters in the raid on a mud-walled compound near the region's main town of Wana, 250 miles southwest of Islamabad. [...]

The death of Mohammad raises fresh fears of a violent backlash by militants in Pakistani cities. Recent deadly attacks on religious and military targets in Karachi have been linked to operations against militants in tribal areas. [complete article]

Tribal leader's last interview
BBC News, June 18, 2004

Tribal leader Nek Mohammed has been killed by the Pakistani military in an overnight raid. Twice this week, the BBC's Imtiaz Ali interviewed the targeted militant. Mohammed spoke to our correspondent by telephone from an undisclosed location. [complete article]

The Pathan 'Robin Hood' thumbs his nose at Islamabad
By Peter Foster and Imtiaz Ali, The Telegraph, June 5, 2004

He is the Robin Hood of Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, a bearded outlaw who is a hero to his people, but a villain to the forces of law and order.

Meet Nek Mohammed, a Pathan tribesman who is rapidly gaining notoriety for his stand against American and Pakistan forces trying to round up the remnants of the Taliban.

For the past eight months Nek Mohammed, a member of the fiercely independent Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, has refused to hand over 600 mujahideen fighters who have taken refuge in the hills above the frontier town of Wana in south Waziristan. [complete article]

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Iraqi leaders would consider martial law
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2004

On a day when two suicide bombings killed 41 Iraqis and injured more than 130, Iraq's interior minister said Thursday that the interim government would consider all options to quell the country's bloody insurgency -- including declaring martial law.

That tactic is among those that will be discussed if the violence continues after June 30, when the interim government is scheduled to take over from the U.S.-led coalition, said Interior Minister Falah Fakib. "If we see the need to do it, we won't hesitate," he said. [...]

Last week, Allawi said he and his ministers were prepared to use "drastic measures" to end the insurgency. He didn't provide specifics Thursday about how civilians and members of the nation's security forces could be protected.

Nor did Nakib give details on how martial law would be implemented in a country that has been occupied for more than 14 months, after a regime with a harsh security apparatus was deposed. It remains unclear whether Iraq has enough forces to use such a strategy. [complete article]

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Liberation will only come when the Americans leave
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, June 17, 2004

With less than two weeks until the much-vaunted transfer of power from the Americans to an Iraqi government, a few hints of independence have emerged from the men Washington approved.

Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer, the civil engineer and tribal leader who is to be the new president, contradicted George Bush's suggestion that the notorious prison of Abu Ghraib be torn down. It is not that the sheikh has any affection for the place, but he probably foresaw another fat new contract looming for some foreign building company. Anyway, the damage done to the American image in Iraq cannot be undone by removing the scene of the crime.

More importantly, the sheikh came out against last week's American order banning the radical cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, from taking part in Iraq's first democratic elections in January. It was an odd decision for a country which claims to be bringing democracy to Iraq. It appeared to have the support of the new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, who issued a statement welcoming the tough US line on illegal militias. The larger Shia parties in the government also went along with it. The cleric is their political rival, and to have him off the ballot would no doubt be in their short-term interest.

The sheikh, by contrast, argued that it is far better to get radicals to join the political process than leave them outside the tent, a sentiment that al-Sadr seems to share. [complete article]

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Muqtada: From outlaw to politician
By Charles Recknagel, Asia Times, June 18, 2004

There are mounting indications that radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr intends to seize the inauguration of a sovereign Iraqi government on June 30 as the moment to transform from an insurgent leader into a politician.

One sign came on Wednesday as news agencies reported that Muqtada had told all members of his Mahdi Army who were not from the holy city of Najaf to return to their home areas. The formal call could mark the end to an uprising by Muqtada's supporters that began in April and saw bloody clashes between US troops and militiamen within the Shi'ite shrine city and elsewhere.

Muqtada's order to his militiamen follows weeks of negotiation between the cleric and mainstream religious and secular leaders of the Shi'ite community. Some of those leaders are also key members of the new Iraqi government. The negotiators have pressed Muqtada to end fighting that puts religious sites at risk. They also have sought to defuse tensions over US-backed demands that Muqtada be arrested in connection with the murder of a rival Shi'ite cleric last year. [complete article]

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Al-Qaida's next action hero
By Daniel Kimmage, Slate, June 16, 2004

On June 1, al-Qaida terrorists conducted one of their most spectacular operations -- a brutal assault on the Saudi oil town of Khobar, replete with seek-and-destroy missions targeting non-Muslims and gun battles with security forces. Now, on the Internet, an insider has posted his account of the attack. As a factual document, the report reeks of exaggeration and may even be invented. But as a specimen, it affords a true and valuable glimpse into the ideology and propaganda style -- including Hollywood theatrics, rhetorical bravado, and anti-crusader ideology -- that al-Qaida uses to rally support and recruit followers.

Al-Qaida supporters use the Internet avidly. In an ever-shifting matrix of Arabic-language forums, they thrill to the latest successes against crusaders and Jews. These sites are quick to publicize Osama Bin Ladin's calls to arms, and they're the place where boasters falsely claim responsibility for disasters ranging from last year's electrical blackout to California brush fires. Purportedly factual materials from this "jihadist Internet," as it's called, should be taken at face value no more than what you read on the Drudge Report. But unlike Drudge, the jihadist forums hone a hard core of ideology, making up for what they lack in veracity with their zeal to draw recruits. [complete article]

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It depends what the meaning of "relationship" is
President Bush's Clintonian calibrations on al-Qaida

By Fred Kaplan, Slate, June 17, 2004

Talking to reporters after his Cabinet meeting this morning, President Bush disputed the 9/11 commission's conclusion that no "collaborative relationship" existed between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. "There was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda," Bush insisted. Then the president drew a distinction:
The administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence agents met with bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda in Sudan.
Let's examine these words closely because President Bush clearly chose them carefully. The latest chapter of the 9/11 commission's report, which was released Wednesday, notes that there were -- as Bush put it -- "numerous contacts" between the two entities. It cites the same meetings with Iraqi intelligence agents that Bush cited. So Bush's "dispute" with the commission's findings isn't a dispute at all. He just meant to make it look like a dispute -- to make some people think the commission might be wrong. [complete article]

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The Air Force has a long-delayed reckoning
By Michael Moran, MSNBC, June 17, 2004

Intelligence and law enforcement activities, even at their most competent and coordinated, might never glean the evil plans of a small group of well-disciplined attackers. Foreign policy at its most enlightened will still fail to dissuade those bent on blaming the world's injustices (and their own culture's myriad failures) on the dominant nation of the times. Even the Federal Aviation Administration, which repeatedly failed to do the right thing that day, can legitimately argue that its core mission did not include command and control of American air defenses.

Ready or not, that was the job of the Air Force, and its domestic defense branches, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) and the Air National Guard.

"Regardless of the color of the plane or what flag it had on its tail, NORAD and the Air Force for 50 years have been tasked with the job of going up, intercepting them and making sure they never get close," says Dan Goure, a senior defense official in the Reagan administration and now an NBC News military analyst. "No failure on 9/11 was more complete." [complete article]

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Air defenses faltered on 9/11, panel finds
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, June 17, 2004

Vice President Cheney did not issue orders to shoot down hostile aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, until long after the last hijacked airliner had already crashed, and the order was never passed along to military fighter pilots searching for errant aircraft that morning, according to a new report issued this morning by the panel investigating the attacks.

A painstaking recreation of the faltering and confused response by military and aviation officials on Sept. 11 also shows that fighter jets never had a chance to intercept any of the doomed airliners, in part because they had been sent to intercept a plane, American Airlines 11, that had already crashed into the World Trade Center.

The jets also would probably not have been able to stop the last airplane, United Airlines Flight 93, from barreling into the White House or U.S. Capitol if it had not crashed in Pennsylvania, according to the report.

"We are sure that the nation owes a debt to the passengers of United 93," the report's authors wrote, referring to an apparent insurrection that foiled the hijackers' plans. "Their actions saved the lives of countless others, and may have saved either the U.S. Capitol or the White House from destruction." [complete article]

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Al Qaeda scaled back 10-plane plot
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, June 17, 2004

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were originally envisioned as an even more audacious assault involving 10 hijacked jetliners on the East and West coasts, but the plan was scaled back and later plagued by conflicts among al Qaeda's leaders and some of the hijackers themselves, according to a report issued yesterday by the panel investigating the attacks.

The date for the attacks was uncertain until about three weeks before they were carried out, and there is evidence that as late as Sept. 9 ringleader Mohamed Atta had not decided whether one aircraft would target the U.S. Capitol or the White House, according to the report. Atta finally chose a date after the first week of September, the report says, "so that the United States Congress would be in session."

The 20-page document represents the most vivid, detailed and authoritative account of the plot to emerge since the 19 hijackers killed nearly 3,000 people by crashing four jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. The document, brimming with new details, features a revealing examination of the thinking and actions of al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, and demonstrates how relentlessly the terrorists pursued the plan to its deadly ends. [complete article]

See the report, Outline of the 9/11 Plot (PDF format).

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Bin Laden portrayed as a hands-on leader
By David Von Drehle, Washington Post, June 17, 2004

The bin Laden revealed by his associates is a hands-on leader, a prod at times and a brake at others, aggressive, audacious -- but not reckless within the warped framework of his murderous enterprise. He has a knack for choosing the right men for a job and demands from his inner circle an oath of loyalty directly to him. The planning and execution of the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were steered by bin Laden through a process that might be familiar to business executives the world over. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda-Hussein link is dismissed
By Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank, Washington Post, June 17, 2004

The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq. [...]

The finding challenges a belief held by large numbers of Americans about al Qaeda's ties to Hussein. According to a Harris poll in late April, a plurality of Americans, 49 percent to 36 percent, believe "clear evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda has been found."

As recently as Monday, Cheney said in a speech that Hussein "had long-established ties with al Qaeda." Bush, asked on Tuesday to verify or qualify that claim, defended it by pointing to Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has taken credit for a wave of attacks in Iraq. [complete article]

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Rumsfeld, Tenet linked to secret detention of a prisoner
By John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2004

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in October ordered a suspected terrorist captured in Iraq to be held in secret, a Pentagon official said Wednesday in what administration officials acknowledged was one of two violations of international law.

The unidentified detainee, believed to be a leader of the outlawed Ansar al Islam group, was held without being given a prisoner number, and the International Committee of the Red Cross was not told about him, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

The Pentagon acted at the request of CIA Director George J. Tenet, Whitman said. A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged Tenet's role. [complete article]

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Spy work in Iraq riddled by failures
By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2004

A pair of British-recruited spies in Iraq, whose alarming reports of Saddam Hussein's illicit weapons were rushed to the White House shortly before the U.S.-led invasion last year, were never interviewed by the CIA and are now viewed as unreliable, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say.

The CIA's reliance on the two Iraqis, who were recruited by Britain's MI6 in late 2002 and thought to have access to Hussein's inner circle, is the latest example to come to light of the failures in human intelligence gathering in Iraq. U.S. agencies were also beset by broader, more systemic problems that included failures in analyzing communications intercepts and spy satellite images, the officials interviewed by The Times said.

U.S. experts, for example, still have not been able to determine the meaning of three secretly taped conversations that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell played to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 in making the case for war. Investigators have been unable to identify who was speaking on the tapes or precisely what they were talking about. [complete article]

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Explosion outside Iraqi recruiting station kills dozens
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 17, 2004

A car bomb steered to its target by a suicide driver exploded in a tremendous blast outside an Iraqi security forces recruiting station in downtown Baghdad Thursday, killing several dozen people and wounding scores from a line of men waiting to sign up. [...]

The same recruiting center was hit by a bomb Feb. 11 that killed 47 people, including passersby and Iraqi men signing up for duty.

The bomb, which unleashed its fury into a line of more than 100 men hoping to find jobs in the army or the paramilitary ICDC, was the latest in a daily drumbeat of explosions and assassinations designed to shake popular confidence in the 14-month-old U.S. occupation and the U.S.-sponsored interim government in the countdown to Iraq's recovery of limited sovereignty scheduled for June 30. [complete article]

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Insurgents go for Iraq's lifeline: oil
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 2004

Recent attacks that have virtually shut down Iraq's oil industry are just the latest in a prolonged campaign to choke the country's reconstruction.

Strikes against Iraq's oil sector have averaged more than one a week since last June. Bombings Tuesday and Wednesday on the southern pipeline halted oil exports from Basra and could cost Iraq about $65 million a day until repairs are made over the next several days.

The interim government is relying on oil revenues to bolster its authority and shepherd Iraq toward a self-sufficient future. But the ongoing attacks could undermine Iraq's stability as well as rattle the global oil market. With global production stretched to its limits, and prices near a record high, even the loss of Iraq's limited export volumes could have a major effect on prices, analysts say. [complete article]

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How much is that Uzi in the window?
By Evan Wright, New York Times, June 17, 2004

To the American troops in Iraq being subjected to a daily rain of fire from roadside bombs, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, it often seems that the insurgents have limitless stocks of munitions. In fact, in the time I spent embedded with a platoon there, I heard more than one marine joke that the insurgents must have more bullets to spare than the Americans.

But it's no joke: some military officials told me that the Iraqis have so many weapons that they are suspected of exporting them over the Syrian border. And for this bounty, they can thank the Pentagon. Of all the blunders American military leaders have made in Iraq, one of the least talked about is how they succeeded in arming the insurgents. [complete article]

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Pentagon waste in Iraq may total billions, investigators say
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2004

The Pentagon may have wasted billions of dollars in Iraq because of a lack of planning and poor oversight, top congressional and Defense Department investigators said Tuesday.

David M. Walker, head of the General Accounting Office, told a congressional panel that Defense Department planners had failed to adequately determine the needs of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and to effectively oversee the billions of dollars' worth of contracts issued.

Though Pentagon officials blame any mistakes on the pressure of the war's early days, the investigators said they had found ongoing waste in the contracting process a year after the invasion was launched in March 2003. In remarks to reporters, Walker speculated that the total losses from waste could amount to "billions." [complete article]

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Lessons from Wal-Mart and the Wehrmacht: Team Wolfowitz on administration in the information age
By Leila Hudson, Middle East Policy Council Journal, Summer, 2004

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has introduced a panoply of new techniques of government in the areas of intelligence processing, public relations, data collection and government secrecy. The blueprint that links many of these innovations to a unified theory of information and management can be found in an essay entitled "Military Organization in the Information Age: Lessons from the World of Business" by Francis Fukuyama and Abram Shulsky in a 1999 Rand Corporation volume edited by Zalmay Khalilzad. While the essay focuses on corporate self-improvement tips for the U.S. military, over the last three years these techniques have crept into the civilian functioning of the executive branch. There they seem to account for some of the most radical, and to critics, provocative innovations in domestic security policy and government management by the Bush administration.

Like the policy statements from the Project for the New American Century, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," and most recently, Richard Perle's and David Frum's manifesto The End of Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, "Military Organization in the Information Age" lays out an ambitious and radical agenda that appears to have influenced the Bush administration. Unlike these other projects, "Military Organization in the Information Age" is not specifically about the Middle East region, nor does it lay out directives for strategy and action in international relations. Rather it presents a vision for the reformation of the military that would take advantage of the information revolution in order to maximize efficiency in corporate style. [complete article]

See Fukuyama and Shulsky's Military Organization in the Information Age: Lessons from the World of Business (PDF format)

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Saboteurs halt all oil exports from Iraq
By Danica Kirka, Associated Press (via WP), June 16, 2004

Saboteurs halted all oil exports from Iraq after blasting a key pipeline Wednesday for the second time in as many days. Gunmen also killed the top security official of the state-run Northern Oil company as insurgents stepped up attacks on Iraq's infrastructure.

The security officer for the Northern Oil Company was killed in an ambush Wednesday in a crowded public market in Kirkuk. The victim, Ghazi Talabani, was a Kurd and a relative of the leader of one of Iraq's main Kurdish parties, Jalal Talabani.

The Wednesday attack north of the town of Faw crippled two already damaged pipelines, forcing a halt in all Iraqi oil exports southward through the Gulf, Southern Oil Company spokesman Samir Jassim said. [complete article]

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U.S. business presence in Saudi Arabia strained by attacks
By Dave Montgomery, Knight Ridder, June 15, 2004

A year of terrorism has cast a chill on U.S. businesses in Saudi Arabia, forcing expatriate enterprises to hunker down and reassess their presence on increasingly hostile terrain.

While American companies apparently are remaining in place, many are re-evaluating the risk of doing business in a country where their workers have become al-Qaida targets. Potential new investors are backing away from putting money into a danger zone.

It's a worrisome trend because of the crucial role foreign companies play in Saudi Arabia's oil-dominated economy. To the extent that the terrorist attacks scare away foreigners and damage the economy, al-Qaida may succeed in working toward its long-term goal of undermining the Saudi government, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East and the world's largest oil exporter. [complete article]

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CIA classifies much of a report on its failings
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, June 16, 2004

The Central Intelligence Agency has ruled that large portions of a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that is highly critical of the agency includes material too sensitive to be released to the public, Congressional and intelligence officials said Tuesday.

Between 30 and 40 percent of the material in a 400-page report was deleted by the C.I.A. in a version that was returned to the committee on Monday as approved for public release, the officials said.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee had been pressing the agency and the White House for broad declassification of the report, which focuses on mistakes and miscalculations in prewar intelligence about Iraq and its weapons program.

Congressional officials said members of the committee were disappointed by the C.I.A. action, and were considering various options, including an appeal to the agency and the White House to reconsider the decision. Other options would be to release the heavily edited report, to rewrite the documents around the deletions, or to seek approval of the full Senate to make public the classified portions of the document despite the agency's objections. [complete article]

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In 'Control Room,' the splitting image of war coverage
By Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, June 16, 2004

Jehane Noujaim, an Egyptian American filmmaker at home in two cultures, observed a war with dramatically different meanings in each of them.

She was in Doha, Qatar, hanging out with journalists when a statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled from its plinth in Baghdad by American soldiers, an iconic moment in the war in Iraq. Through the lens of her video camera, at the media center set up by U.S. Central Command, she watched as Western journalists laughed and cheered. But things were very different at al-Jazeera, the pioneering Arab television network, where the mood was morbid. "They were asking, 'Where is the Republican Guard? Where is the Iraqi army? Even though we hate Saddam, it is embarrassing to be ripping apart a statue in front of the whole world.' "

When she needed footage of the Jessica Lynch rescue, another event played over and over by U.S. media, Noujaim went to al-Jazeera's video library and asked. She got a blank look. "They didn't know what the hell we were talking about," says Noujaim.

The immediate subject of Noujaim's documentary "Control Room" is al-Jazeera, but its real theme is the huge gulf in understanding that exists between Americans and the Arab world and the way events, big and small, connected to the war in Iraq have taken on markedly different weight, meanings and emotional import. [complete article]

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Prison tactics a longtime dilemma for Israel
By Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, June 16, 2004

The accounts of physical abuse of Iraqis by American guards at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad sounded achingly familiar to Anan Labadeh. The casual beatings, the humiliations, the trophy photos taken by both male and female guards were experiences he said he underwent as a Palestinian security detainee at an Israeli military camp in March of last year.

There was, he added, a significant difference: The Israelis have rules, he said, and their techniques for breaking down prisoners are far more sophisticated. "What the Israelis do is much more effective than beatings," he said. "Three days without food and without sleep and you're eager to tell them anything. It just shows us the Americans are amateurs. They should have taken lessons from the Israelis."

Many of the questions raised by the Abu Ghraib scandal, and by the United States's self-declared war on terrorism, are the kinds that Israel has been wrestling with for decades. Where is the line in a democracy between coercion and torture? What kinds of interrogation techniques are morally acceptable when dealing with a suspect who may have knowledge of a "ticking bomb" -- an imminent attack? And what about the damage those techniques inflict on relations between an occupying power and its subjects? [complete article]

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The occupier is not convinced
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, June 16, 2004

The unilateral disengagement plan is also progressing in the West Bank. And, just as in the Gaza Strip, it is less a security disengagement between Israel and the Palestinian areas than it is a political plan for isolating each Palestinian area from every other via a network of fortifications that includes fences, walls, enclaves and settlement expansions.

Gaza's isolation from the West Bank is a geographic fact. But the process of disconnecting Palestinian areas from each other within the West Bank constitutes a brutal change in both the natural geography and the political geography determined by the Green Line. It destroys the natural and national fabric by insulating each Palestinian district from every other, the suburbs from the cities, the villages from their urban centers, the cities from their land reserves, the villages from their agricultural land.

Consistent supporters of peace with the Palestinians view this isolation plan as a means of thwarting any chance of establishing a viable Palestinian state, which constitutes the only basis for a fair and secure arrangement in our region. But they are discovering, with deep frustration, to what degree even the most stubborn of protests are impotent to stop the planners and the implementers. [complete article]

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The challenge to the two-state solution
By Gary Sussman, Middle East Report, Summer, 2004

Talk of disengagement obscured the growingdebate, during 2003 and 2004, over alternatives to the two-state model—a discourse that increasingly has tested the long-standing conventional wisdom that the two-state solution is "the only game in town." Purveyors of conventional wisdom took note. In October 2003, the editors of the New York Times described arguments against the two-state solution as "insidious," but acknowledged that they were gaining ground. In the same month, the state-controlled Israel Broadcast Authority's prestigious "Popolitika" program hosted a debate on the continuing viability of the two-state solution. Research published by the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz suggests that 67 percent of the Israeli public "strongly or moderately fear" a scenario in which Israel finds itself in a one-state reality.[2]

Two alternatives to the two-state endgame are discussed. One is a binational state, offering power-sharing to two separate peoples with distinct collective identities within one polity. The binational model encompasses federal, confederal and consociational variants. The second alternative proposes a single democratic polity, where there is no ethnic or national distinction between citizens. Whereas the former alternative is premised on collective entitlements, as developed in the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, the latter is premised on individual rights, as in post-apartheid South Africa. The two concepts are often used interchangeably, and the word "binational" is understood by most Israelis to denote the South African endgame. Some, like Meron Benvenisti, suggest that the conflation of terminology is designed to "prevent any debate about... attractive alternatives" to the two-state solution. [complete article]

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9/11 panel finds no collaboration between Iraq, Al Qaeda
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, June 16, 2004

There is "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, including the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings, according to a new staff report released this morning by the commission investigating the hijacking plot.

Although Osama bin Laden briefly explored the idea of forging ties with Iraq in the mid-1990s, the terrorist leader was hostile to Hussein's secular government, and Iraq never responded to requests for help in providing training camps or weapons, the panel's report says.

The findings come in the wake of statements Monday by Vice President Cheney that Iraq had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, and comments by President Bush yesterday backing up that assertion. [complete article]

Read the 9-11 Commission staff statement, Overview of the Enemy (PDF format).

Bush and Cheney still drinking Qaeda Kool-Aid (Boston Globe).

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Panel investigating 9/11 attacks cites confusion in air defense
By Philip Shenon, New York Times, June 16, 2004

The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks has found that the Pentagon's domestic air-defense command was disastrously unprepared for a major terrorist strike on American soil and was slow and confused in its response to the hijackings that morning, according to officials who have read a draft report of the commission's findings. [...]

The 9/11 commission draft summarized the response of the military, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies with this passage:

"On the morning of 9/11, the existing protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen. What ensued was a hurried attempt to create an improvised defense by officials who had never encountered or trained against the situation they faced." [complete article]

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U.S. terror report misses the mark
By Ajai Sahni, Asia Times, June 16, 2004

The US State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 (PGT 2003) Report has been pilloried by a number of American experts, who note that, "its maths defies reality". The report contains a number of internal totaling errors that "even a third-grader could have found", according to one commentator at The Washington Times. The State Department has now taken cognizance of these errors and admitted that "the data in the report is incomplete and in some cases incorrect". It has promised to issue a "revised analysis" after a review.

But poor arithmetic and peripheral incompleteness is the least of the PGT 2003's problems. A review of the contents of the report with regard to South Asia (the only region treated in this assessment) exposes a capriciousness that does not suggest perverse intent, but utter incomprehension and abysmal ignorance on the part of those who have been charged with its compilation. The State Department indicates that the data was compiled by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which comprises "elements from the [Central Intelligence Agency], [Federal Bureau of Investigation] and Departments of Homeland Security and Defense". If this reflects the levels of intelligence available to these agencies, or their competence, that should certainly disturb not only the American taxpayer, but people across the world who have to deal with the often disastrous consequences of American errors of policy and perception. There is, throughout the report, a comprehensive failure to identify and consistently apply clear definitions and norms and a systemic tendency to both grossly underestimate and distort the actual patterns and magnitude of terrorism globally. [complete article]

See the US State Department's report, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003

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The war on terrorism: The big picture
By P.W. Singer, Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly, Summer, 2004

... by far the most interesting and useful of the five books reviewed here is Jessica Stern's Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. An incredibly fascinating read, it follows Stern's journeys as she seeks to understand what impels organizations and individuals to use religion as a means to organize for violent purposes. The book is filled with remarkable anecdotes that will grab the reader, from her dining with a militant "Identity Christian" in his trailer park home to conversing with young Muslim boys being trained in radical madrassas on the Pakistani-Afghan border. As in Laqueur's work [No End To War: Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century], her meetings with radicalized mullahs, ministers, and rabbis, who have all created organizations wedded to the concept that God has instructed them to cleanse society through killing, goes a long way toward dispelling the idea that any one religion is predisposed to violence. Stern is to be congratulated for doing what too few dare to these days, actually confronting the issue she writes about.

The ultimate finding of Terror in the Name of God is that in this increasingly networked but still distant world, the most vulnerable in populations are particularly at risk to succumbing to the sway of a charismatic leader or a deeply believed and holistic ideology. These range from the abject poor to those who are dispossessed or disconnected in some way (such as the Muslim middle-class youth, with no job prospects in broken authoritarian states, who make up the al Qaeda middle management). At the core of the religious radicals' doctrine is the creation of an "us vs. them" view of the world. [complete article]

Jessica Stern's, Terror in the Name of God, is available here. Dozens of other titles on war and empire, Iraq and the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan and South Asia, militant Islam, and nuclear proliferation, are available through this site's Amazon-affiliated bookstore.

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Poll of Iraqis reveals anger toward U.S.
By John Solomon, Associated Press (via Yahoo), June 15, 2004

A poll of Iraqis commissioned by the U.S.-governing authority has provided the Bush administration a stark picture of anti-American sentiment -- more than half of Iraqis believe they would be safer if U.S. troops simply left.

The poll, commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority last month but not released to the American public, also found radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is surging in popularity, 92 percent of Iraqis consider the United States an occupying force and more than half believe all Americans behave like those portrayed in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos. [...]

The poll, conducted by Iraqis in face-to-face interviews in six cities with people representative of the country's various factions, conflict with the generally upbeat assessments the administration continues to give Americans. Just last week, President Bush predicted future generations of Iraqis "will come to America and say, thank goodness America stood the line and was strong and did not falter in the face of the violence of a few."

The current generation seems eager for Americans to leave, the poll found. [complete article]

See details, Public Opinion in Iraq: First Poll Following Abu Ghraib Revelations (for navigation, use arrows beneath slides)

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Iraq abuse 'ordered from the top'
BBC News, June 15, 2004

The US commander at the centre of the Iraqi prisoner scandal says she was told to treat detainees like dogs.
Brig Gen Janis Karpinski told the BBC she was being made a "convenient scapegoat" for abuse ordered by others.

Top US commander for Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez, should be asked what he knew about the abuse, she told BBC Radio 4's On The Ropes programme.

One soldier has been sentenced and six others are awaiting courts martial for abuses committed at Abu Ghraib jail.

Gen Karpinski said more damaging information was likely to emerge at those trials. [complete article]

Listen to the 30-minute interview with Gen Karpinski (Real Audio)

See also Prepare for the worst of Abu Ghraib (Slate)

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Under fire on Iraq, Bush touts Afghanistan progress
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), June 15, 2004

US President George W. Bush cited progress towards democracy and prosperity in Afghanistan, including elections set for September, and promised: "The same thing's going to happen in Iraq."

During a joint appearance in the sweltering White House Rose Garden with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bush stressed that "Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world."

The US president, facing criticism over the deadly unrest and unreliable services in post-war Iraq, said "hard work" in Afghanistan had yielded progress on fighting malnutrition, on providing drinking water, and on women's rights. [complete article]

Let the Afghans vote when they're ready
By Barnett R. Rubin, International Herald Tribune, June 15, 2004

Afghanistan is currently planning to hold its first ever direct presidential election and elections to the lower house of Parliament in September. Since harsh weather makes some regions inaccessible soon after, the next possible date for elections is spring 2005. Yet none of the elements needed for free and fair elections is in place.

Security continues to deteriorate because of Taliban attacks, power struggles among warlords and banditry. The burgeoning opium trade funds all of these. Voter registration is accelerating, but may not meet the target for credible participation. In the face of resistance from warlords, the government and the United States continue to avoid dissolving the militias that threaten security.

The Afghan cabinet passed the electoral law only four months before the planned elections, leaving many potential candidates little time to register and campaign. The president and other key political figures have not even decided whether the election should be a legitimation of the status quo, a referendum on a new order, or an all-out contest among different political visions.

Many Afghans believe that the only reason for the rush to elections is to provide Washington with an exit strategy. After both the U.S. and Afghan elections, they believe, Washington wants to declare victory in Afghanistan and focus all available resources on Iraq. [complete article]

New twist in the Afghanistan story
By Ricardo Grassi, Asia Times, June 16, 2004

It is the US elections in November that make the Afghan vote [scheduled for September] credible, because it is believed that Bush will want to announce in his campaign effort that he has "pacified and democratized" the Central Asian nation, invaded by US forces shortly after September 11.

The US was looking in Afghanistan for the man thought to be the mastermind behind the attacks, Saudi national Osama bin Laden, and, on the way, sought to liquidate the Taliban regime and capture its leader, Mullah Omar. Both men remain at large.

And now the war is intensifying. One clue: there are 20,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan today. Two months ago there were 13,500. Another sign is that the US television networks have also returned. They left practically as soon as the B-52s had done their job, the Taliban government was overthrown, and Hamad Karzai was brought back from his exile in the US to serve as interim president. [complete article]

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Bombings take toll on families
By Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, June 13, 2004

Mazin's mother lies on his bed and drapes his clothes over her face to catch his fading scent. His grandfather wanders the house calling his name. The rest of the family sits in the darkened living room, afraid to leave the house and paralyzed with grief since the high school senior died in a recent car bombing that barely made the news.

His aunt, among the first Iraqis to return to work for Iraq's government after the invasion last year in her eagerness to help rebuild the country, now wonders, "What for?" His father, once optimistic about Iraq's future, now calls it "hopeless."

"How can you live, how can you shop, how can you work?" he said, speaking stiffly as his 21-year-old daughter stared into space beside him. "You are walking on the street and every minute you think a bomb could go off."

Car bombs and suicide attacks have killed more than 800 Iraqis since the fall of Saddam Hussein -- 600 of them this year and 30 this month, according to media reports. They have become part of the background noise in the conflict in Iraq.

Explosions like the one on June 2 that killed Mazin, who was 17, get only brief mentions in Iraqi and international news reports, drowned out by assassinations of political leaders or attacks that kill dozens. Although they do not grab headlines, the blasts that often strike several times in a week, killing two Iraqis here and five there, are destroying the lives of Iraqi families, braking their economic progress, and draining their trust in the US and Iraqi authorities who cannot seem to defend them from faceless attackers. [complete article]

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Extremism sweeping Iraq among Sunni, Shiite Muslims alike
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder, June 14, 2004

Instead of becoming a Middle Eastern model of pro-Western democracy, as the Bush administration had hoped, Iraq is being swept by Sunni and Shiite Muslim extremism.

High unemployment, little visible progress toward rebuilding the country and dissatisfaction with leaders appointed by foreigners are herding thousands of disenchanted Iraqis into the hands of hard-liners, according to political parties, Islamic scholars and social scientists.

The city of Fallujah, for example, once a cornerstone of Saddam Hussein's secular rule, has become a seething no-man's land of Islamic militancy where women must be veiled, alcohol sellers are flogged and an American passport is a death sentence.

Since U.S. Marines pulled out in May after a month-long siege, a mix of homegrown guerrillas and foreign holy warriors have taken over Fallujah, now nicknamed "Little Saudi Arabia" for its extremist brand of Sunni Islam. [complete article]

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British troops face abuse charges
By Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, June 15, 2004

Four British soldiers face charges of assaulting Iraqi prisoners, including a charge that they photographed detainees whom they had forced to engage in sex acts with each other, Britain's attorney general announced on Monday.

In a statement to the House of Lords, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith said the case was the first of eight involving British troops that had been turned over to army prosecutors for possible trial. A ninth case, involving the killing of an Iraqi civilian who was beaten to death while in custody, was being examined by civilian prosecutors, Goldsmith said.

The armed forces minister told Parliament last week that the military was investigating 75 cases involving the deaths, injuries or alleged mistreatment of Iraqi civilians. Many of the allegations echo those made against U.S. military personnel charged with assaulting and mistreating Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, although British officials have insisted that the cases so far do not suggest the degree of systematic and widespread abuse allegedly practiced at Abu Ghraib. Officials have promised to investigate all allegations thoroughly. [complete article]

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Soldier's injuries spur criminal probe
Associated Press (via WP), June 15, 2004

The Army has opened a criminal investigation into injuries suffered by a soldier who was posing as an uncooperative detainee during training with military police at Guantanamo Bay, the soldier's attorney said Monday.

Sean Baker, who was a specialist in a military police unit, suffers from seizures he blames on a head injury from the training session in January 2003 at the base in Cuba. He received a medical discharge in April and returned home to Georgetown in central Kentucky.

Baker's lawyer, Bruce Simpson, said he was notified recently that the Army had begun a criminal investigation into the case. He said military investigators are scheduled to meet with Baker on Wednesday.[complete article]

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Abu Ghraib informer feared a cover-up
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2004

Sgt. Samuel J. Provance III began his Army career as a brush-cut idealist determined to join the Special Forces. He ended up in a military intelligence unit assigned to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, where he heard stories about U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.

The 30-year-old Pennsylvania native said he grew troubled that prisoners were harassed, ridiculed, stripped naked and beaten. He spoke out to military investigators and last month stunned the Army when he disobeyed an order and became the first military intelligence soldier to discuss the abuse with newspapers and television stations.

Provance says he broke ranks because he believed the military was trying to cover up the scandal. Now, as the story shifts away from him, his experience is quietly turning into a cautionary tale about the price of becoming a whistle-blower. Fellow soldiers avoid him. His security clearance has been yanked. And there's a possibility that Provance, who once studied to be a preacher, could end his Army days in disgrace with a court-martial. [complete article]

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Nation builders and low bidders in Iraq
By P.W. Singer, New York Times, June 15, 2004

From the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison to the mutilation of American civilians at Falluja, many of the worst moments of the Iraqi occupation have involved private military contractors "outsourced" by the Pentagon. With no public or Congressional oversight, the Pentagon has paid billions of dollars to companies that now have as many as 20,000 employees carrying out military functions ranging from logistics and troop training to convoy escort and interrogations. Yet despite the problems and the widespread accusations of overbilling, it appears the civilian leadership at the Pentagon has learned absolutely nothing from the whole experience.

Last month the Pentagon awarded a $293 million contract for coordination of security support to a British firm called Aegis Defense Services. The huge contract has two aspects: Aegis will be the coordination and management hub for the more than 50 other private security companies in Iraq, and it will provide its own force of up to 75 "close protection teams," each made up of eight armed civilians who are to protect staff members of the United States Project Management Office.

The contract is a case study in what not to do. To begin with, a core problem of the military outsourcing experience has been the lack of coordination, oversight and management from the government side. So outsourcing that very problem to another private company has a logic that would do only Kafka proud. In addition, it moves these companies further outside the bounds of public oversight. [complete article]

Comment -- Ever since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher became the champions of privatization and outsourcing, debate about its merits has tended to focus on the validity of the claim that the shift from public to private leads to greater efficiency and thus better use of taxpayers money. What the debate should really center on is whether the political goal behind this economic process has been nothing less than a systematic effort to dismantle democracy.

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Travesty of justice
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, June 15, 2004

No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

For this column, let's just focus on Mr. Ashcroft's role in the fight against terror. Before 9/11 he was aggressively uninterested in the terrorist threat. He didn't even mention counterterrorism in a May 2001 memo outlining strategic priorities for the Justice Department. When the 9/11 commission asked him why, he responded by blaming the Clinton administration, with a personal attack on one of the commission members thrown in for good measure.

We can't tell directly whether Mr. Ashcroft's post-9/11 policies are protecting the United States from terrorist attacks. But a number of pieces of evidence suggest otherwise. [complete article]

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GOP refusing to allow testimony on Halliburton spending
By Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder, June 14, 2004

Democrats in the House of Representatives, who are feuding with House Republicans over whether the spending should be publicly aired at a hearing on Tuesday, released signed statements Monday by five ex-Halliburton employees recounting the lavish spending.

Those former employees contend that the politically connected firm:

-- Lodged 100 workers at a five-star hotel in Kuwait for a total of $10,000 a day while the Pentagon wanted them to stay in tents, like soldiers, at $139 a night.

-- Abandoned $85,000 trucks because of flat tires and minor problems.

-- Paid $100 to have a 15-pound bag of laundry cleaned as part of a million-dollar laundry contract in peaceful Kuwait. The price for cleaning the same amount of laundry in war-torn Iraq was $28.

-- Spent $1.50 a can to buy 37,200 cans of soda in Kuwait, about 24 times higher than the contract price.

-- Knowingly paid subcontractors twice for the same bill. [complete article]

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In race to give power to Iraqis, electricity lags
By James Glanz, New York Times, June 15, 2004

Tripped up by problems ranging from sabotage to its reliance on by-the-book engineering, the United States has failed by a wide margin to meet its long-stated goal of reviving Iraq's electricity output for the start of the searing summer.

The American-led occupation missed its goal by as much as 30 percent, starving air-conditioners, lights, factories and oil pumps. That has damaged the occupation's efforts to foster stability and good will among a populace already traumatized by the failure to guarantee their security.

The goal, one of the American-led civilian administration's highest priorities, was set soon after occupation forces overran the country in the spring of 2003. It seemed within reach, but with little progress so far, the occupation is now talking about succeeding well into this summer. [...]

Some Iraqis also complain that Western engineers have been unable to grasp the complexities of a creaky electrical grid that is a patchwork of ancient Russian, German, Yugoslavian, Chinese and American equipment. The Iraqis say that the engineers, often Americans, reflexively reach for fancy new gear costing tens of millions of dollars that can take months or years to order, ship and install.

Iraqis are skilled at balancing the vast swirl of electrical supply and demand on their grid with phone calls and intuition, while Americans rely on computerized sensors and automatic control circuitry. [complete article]

Comment -- When, as Thoreau wrote, we become the tools of our tools, in the wake of a wave of technological advance there naturally follows a deficit in human skills.

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Settlements that settle nothing
By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, June 15, 2004

Fortunately for Jeffrey Goldberg, he not only once lived in Israel but served in its army. Without those credentials he almost certainly would be denounced as an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew. After all, Goldberg had the consummate gall and utter chutzpah to say the obvious: Israel's West Bank and Gaza settlements have to go.

Actually, Goldberg went even further. In nearly 16,000 words in the May 31 issue of the New Yorker, this Washington-based journalist wrote that in some ways, the Jewish zealots who have established settlements in the heart of overwhelmingly Palestinian areas are as great -- or greater -- a danger to Israel as their counterparts among the Islamic extremists, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. His article was titled "Among The Settlers; Will They Destroy Israel?"

For raising that question, he has come under unaccustomed attack. Goldberg has spent the past several years reporting and writing about Islamic radicalism and the threat it posed. This made him the darling of the neocons. But now he's asking similar questions about Jewish zealotry, and for that his integrity, if not his very sanity, has been questioned by the usual American guardians of Israeli security. Among the slings and arrows sent his way was one from Andrea Levin, the head of a media watchdog group, published in the English-language Jerusalem Post. She called Goldberg's piece "distorted and sloppy with facts." I read it quite differently: on the nose. [complete article]

Compensate settlers for what?
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, June 15, 2004

To those who are calling for empathy toward these settlers, we must say they do not deserve empathy since they never showed consideration for the feelings of others. There is not and never has been in the history of the state such a destructive and immoral enterprise as the settlement enterprise. From the start it was established to undermine any and every chance for a peace agreement and to erect a defensive barrier against any just solution.

It was born out of territorial greed and continued to criminally disinherit the Palestinians. The settlers settled on land they had stolen, or which was stolen for them; the harm inherent in their actions not only did not trouble them, but some even went out of their way to hurt their neighbors - and so there is no moral basis for compensating them. [complete article]

Despite U.S. deal, Israel starts Ariel fence
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz, June 14, 2004

Israel has started preparations for the construction of the separation fence east of the West Bank Jewish town of Ariel, and also the Kedumim and Immanuel settlements. Two weeks ago, Defense Ministry officials sent Palestinian residents of the Salfit town, south of Ariel, preliminary appropriation orders for land upon which the fence is to be built.

This land appropriation move is at variance with the U.S. government's understanding that such steps would not be taken in the foreseeable future, and that the separation fence project in these West Bank areas would be deferred.

Yet the move upholds a promise given by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which clinched the latter's support for the disengagement plan: Sharon indicated to Netanyahu that the separation fence in the Ariel area would be completed before the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is finished. [complete article]

Israelis to extend barrier deeper into West Bank
By Greg Myre, New York Times, June 15, 2004

Israel is preparing to build new segments of its separation barrier around Jewish settlements that would mark the deepest penetration yet into the West Bank, a move that drew sharp criticism from Palestinians on Monday.

President Bush has called the fence's route a "problem," and American officials have raised objections in continuing talks with the Israelis. But Israel has insisted that Washington has not opposed the first phase of construction around Ariel and nearby settlements that are more than 10 miles inside the West Bank. [complete article]

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Ratings row over Moore Iraq film
BBC News, June 15, 2004

The US distributors of Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 are to appeal a decision by US censors to give it a restrictive rating. The Motion Picture Association Of America (MPAA) has rated the film R, meaning nobody under 17 can see it unless accompanied by an adult. [...]

The film shows graphic footage of corpses of US soldiers being burnt, dragged behind a truck and strung up, and a scene of US soldiers apparently mistreating Iraqi prisoners.

Moore said: "It is sadly very possible that many 15- and 16-year-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years.

"If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq."
[complete article]

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Contractor immunity a divisive issue
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 14, 2004

In an early test of its imminent sovereignty, Iraq's new government has been resisting a U.S. demand that thousands of foreign contractors here be granted immunity from Iraqi law, in the same way as U.S. military forces are now immune, according to Iraqi sources.

The U.S. proposal, although not widely known, has touched a nerve with some nationalist-minded Iraqis already chafing under the 14-month-old U.S.-led occupation. If accepted by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, it would put the highly visible U.S. foreign contractors into a special legal category, not subject to military justice and beyond the reach of Iraq's justice system.

The U.S. request, confirmed Sunday by Allawi's office, is one of a number of delicate issues revolving around government authority that will confront the incoming U.S. ambassador, John D. Negroponte, when Allawi's interim government assumes formal sovereignty June 30.

Although the Bush administration repeatedly has promised that Iraqis will receive authentic sovereignty, the U.S. military has made it clear that U.S. officers will remain in charge of security, the country's top concern. People here widely assume that U.S. influence will remain decisive for a long time in almost every domain. [complete article]

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You don't have to be poor to work there, but it helps
By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, June 14, 2004

Mr Menefee, 50, is one of hundreds of Americans eagerly applying every week for what must be some of the most dangerous jobs in the world - supporting US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vast majority of these people are not careless thrill-seekers, nor are they attracted simply by the large wages that these jobs offer.

Rather they are lured by what they and their families could do with that money and how they could use it to clear mounting debts, help pay for their children's education and turn their lives around. They know the dangers that come with the prospect of making these big wages - dozens of US-employed contractors have been killed in Iraq and two are still missing. Yesterday, five foreign contractors, among them two private security specialists, were killed in Iraq, where they were working on the country's electricity infrastructure. [complete article]

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Justice Dept. memo says torture 'may be justified'
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, June 13, 2004

Today is posting a copy of the Aug. 1, 2002, memorandum "Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A," from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for Alberto R. Gonzales, counsel to President Bush.

The memo was the focus of a recent article in The Washington Post.

The memo was written at the request of the CIA. The CIA wanted authority to conduct more aggressive interrogations than were permitted prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The interrogations were of suspected al Qaeda members whom the CIA had apprehended outside the United States. The CIA asked the White House for legal guidance. The White House asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for its legal opinion on the standards of conduct under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Office of Legal Counsel is the federal government's ultimate legal adviser. [complete article]

Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President
Re. Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A (PDF format)

A tortured debate
By Michael Hirsh, John Barry and Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek, June 21, 2004

Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was America's first big trophy in the war on terror: a senior Qaeda operative captured amid the fighting in Afghanistan. What is less known is that al-Libi, who ran Qaeda training camps, quickly became the subject of a bitter feud between the FBI and the CIA over how to interrogate terror suspects. At the time of al-Libi's capture on Nov. 11, 2001, the questioning of detainees was still the FBI's province. For years the bureau's "bin Laden team" had sought to win suspects over with a carrots-and-no-sticks approach: favors in exchange for cooperation. One terrorist, in return for talking, even wangled a heart transplant for his child.

With al-Libi, too, the initial approach was to read him his rights like any arrestee, one former member of the FBI team told NEWSWEEK. "He was basically cooperating with us." But this was post-9/11; President Bush had declared war on Al Qaeda, and in a series of covert directives, he had authorized the CIA to set up secret interrogation facilities and to use new, harsher methods. The CIA, says the FBI source, was "fighting with us tooth and nail."

The handling of al-Libi touched off a long-running battle over interrogation tactics inside the administration. It is a struggle that continued right up until the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April— -- and it extended into the White House, with Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council pitted against lawyers for the White House counsel and the vice president. Indeed, one reason the prison abuse scandal won't go away -- two months after gruesome photos were published worldwide -- is that a long paper trail of memos and directives from inside the administration has emerged, often leaked by those who disagreed with rougher means of questioning. [complete article]

Unit says it gave earlier warning of abuse in Iraq
By Andrea Elliot, New York Times, June 14, 2004

Beginning in November, a small unit of interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison began reporting allegations of prisoner abuse, including the beatings of five blindfolded Iraqi generals, in internal documents sent to senior officers, according to interviews with military personnel who worked in the prison.

The disclosure of the documents raises new questions about whether senior officers in Iraq were alerted about serious abuses at the prison before January. Top military officials have said they only learned about abuses then, after a soldier came forward with photographs of the abuse.

"We were reporting it long before this mess came out," said one of several military intelligence soldiers interviewed in Germany and the United States who asked not to be identified for fear they would jeopardize their careers. [complete article]

Israel's example
By Sadiq Reza, Washington Post, June 14, 2004

Is it ever right to torture a captured terrorist -- for instance to obtain information about a future attack that could result in the deaths of American civilians? While the public, the press and politicians debate this issue in light of recent disclosures about how the United States has interrogated captured Iraqis, Afghans and al Qaeda operatives, a look elsewhere in the Middle East is instructive. A few years ago Israel's High Court of Justice considered this question with respect to Palestinian terrorists and Israeli civilians. Its answer? Almost never. [complete article]

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At least 20 killed in Baghdad bombings
By Patrick J. McDonnell and Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2004

A pair of car bombings killed at least 20 people within 24 hours here as violence convulsed the nation in the run-up to the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.

The wave of attacks -- which included the assassination of two high-ranking officials of the interim government as well as bombings, mortar and rocket strikes and sabotage of power facilities -- strongly suggests that insurgents are stepping up operations as the scheduled return of self-rule approaches, just as U.S. officials and their Iraqi allies have predicted. [complete article]

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One expert's verdict: The CIA caved under pressure
By Michael Duffy, Time, June 14, 2004

The CIA that George Tenet leaves behind next month is a shadow of its imaginary self, a butt of jokes rather than the envy of the world. It is an agency that has become self-protective and bureaucratic; it is too reliant on gadgets rather than spies to steal secrets. Sometimes the CIA has simply been too blind to see what is hiding in plain sight. Tenet restored the agency's morale, but he leaves behind a string of spectacular intelligence failures.

And that may not be the worst of it. In his new book A Pretext for War, intelligence expert James Bamford alleges that the CIA not only failed to detect and deter the secret army of Muslim extremists gathering over the horizon in the late 1990s but also failed to take action when a group of Administration hard-liners, backed by the Pentagon chief and Vice President Dick Cheney, began to advance the case for war with Iraq in secret using data the CIA widely believed weren't supportable or were just plain false. Instead of fighting back, Bamford argues, the CIA for the most part rolled over and went along. The result was a war sold largely on a fiction, confected from unchecked rumor and biased informants. [complete article]

James Bamford's new book, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies, is available here.

"A temporary coup"
By Mark Follman, Salon, June 14, 2004

The U.S. is now waging three wars, says intelligence expert Thomas Powers. One is in Iraq. The second is in Afghanistan. And the third is in Washington -- an all-out war between the White House and the nation's own intelligence agencies.

Powers, the author of "Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al Qaeda," charges that the Bush administration is responsible for what is perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of U.S. intelligence. From failing to anticipate 9/11 to pressuring the CIA to produce bogus justifications for war, from abusing Iraqi prisoners to misrepresenting the nature of Iraqi insurgents, the Bush White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies they corrupted, coerced or ignored have made extraordinarily grave errors which could threaten our national security for years. By manipulating intelligence and punishing dissent while pursuing an extreme foreign-policy agenda, Bush leaders have set spy against U.S. spy and deeply damaged America's intelligence capabilities.

"It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything since then has been a horrible mistake," Powers says. "The CIA is politicized to an extreme. It's under the control of the White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis -- what really amounts to a constitutional crisis." [complete article]

Thomas Powers' book, Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al Qaeda, is available here.

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Sadr is forming party that may play role in elections
By Edward Wong, New York Times, June 14, 2004

Moktada al-Sadr, the fiery Shiite cleric whose fighters have waged a 10-week insurgency against the American-led occupation, is starting a political party that will probably take part in elections early next year, a spokesman for him said Sunday.

The move is the most significant sign that Mr. Sadr is trying to become involved in the mainstream political process. Last week, he softened his militant stance when he conditionally approved the new Iraqi interim government, which he had mocked.

But Mr. Sadr's spokesman, Qais al-Khazali, said in an interview in Najaf that Mr. Sadr would not disband his militia, the Mahdi Army. Mr. Khazali argued that the militia was not an organized force but a popular uprising, and so there was no way to break it up. Mr. Sadr's stand runs counter to demands by the Americans and the new interim government that all illegal private armies be dissolved. [complete article]

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Iraq war illegal, says British legal adviser who quit
By Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, June 14, 2004

Britain's war on Iraq violated international law, a former senior government legal adviser has said.

The view of Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who quit on the eve of the conflict as the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, will alarm the government, which is desperate to soothe lingering unease about the war.

In her first interview since resigning, Ms Wilmshurst, a respected and experienced government lawyer, said that she had disagreed with the attorney general's view that the war was legal. [complete article]

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Red Cross ultimatum to U.S. on Saddam
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, June 14, 2004

Saddam Hussein must either be released from custody by June 30 or charged if the US and the new Iraqi government are to conform to international law, the International Committee of the Red Cross said last night.

Nada Doumani, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, told the Guardian: "The United States defines Saddam Hussein as a prisoner of war. At the end of an occupation PoWs have to be released provided they have no penal charges against them."

Her comments came as the international body, the only independent group with access to detainees in US custody, becomes increasingly concerned over the legal limbo in which thousands of people are being held in the run-up to the transfer of power at the end of the month. [complete article]

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Rebels with a cause
By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Newsweek, June 21, 2004

At first glance, Ari Nasser seems like a splendid guardian for Iraq's future. In recent months the tall, crisply uniformed Kurd and other recruits in the newly formed Iraqi Civil Defense Corps have patrolled Kirkuk, helping U.S. forces keep order in the volatile northern city. The local troops have earned high marks for their professionalism; many of them, like the 24-year-old Nasser, got years of military training in the fight against Saddam Hussein with the peshmerga guerrillas of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That's where Nasser's loyalty remains, he readily admits. "I'm still a peshmerga," he says, laughing. "I only wear this uniform because our party's leadership told us we have to join the ICDC." How long they'll tell him to stay is an open question. "If our leaders decide to pull out of the government," he says, "we will leave with them. It will be easy for us to go to the mountains and fight the new government."

It's no idle threat. Iraq's Kurds have spent many years rebelling against the Baghdad government, and recent developments have intensified the ethnic disputes that could ultimately rip apart Iraq. Behind-the-scenes intervention barely averted a revolt last week within the new interim government after language guaranteeing Kurdish rights was excised from a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. The Kurdish deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, threatened to quit even before being sworn in, and the leaders of the two main Kurdish political parties sent a letter to President George W. Bush warning that the Kurds would boycott the new interim government if it reneged on Kurdish rights. [complete article]

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Coalition to keep 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners after Iraq handover
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), June 13, 2004

The US-led coalition plans to keep between 4,000 and 5,000 prisoners in its custody after the return of sovereignty to Iraq later this month, a US officer said.

Another 1,400 detainees will be released or handed over to the new Iraqi authorities before the transition deadline of June 30, said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson.

"Currently, there are approximately 6,400 detainees," Johnson told reporters.

"At this time, we estimate there will be approximately 4,000 to 5,000 detainees after June 30, keeping in mind that anti-coalition activities occur every day, resulting in further detentions." [complete article]

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Ronnie and Saddam
By Neil Mackay, Sunday Herald, June 13, 2004

It was just before Christmas 1983 that Donald Rumsfeld, then US presidential envoy to Iraq, slipped quietly into Baghdad to come face to face with the man who would become one of America's greatest enemies within two decades.

The trip by the current US defence secretary, to pledge US support for Saddam Hussein, marked one of the lowest points of the entire Reagan presidency, and symbolically represents the real legacy of the "Great Communicator". For Reagan was a president who allowed the US to secretly arm the Iraqi dictator with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), supported Iraq's military expansion, turned a blind eye to Saddam using chemical weapons against Iran and thereby set in train the events that would lead to George W Bush's disastrous decision to invade the country in 2002.

While America was selling WMD to Iraq, Reagan was also telling Saddam to increase his brutal campaign against the Iranian fundamentalist regime, even while Iraqi poison gas was falling on Persian battlefields. The Reagan presidency made America complicit in Saddam's war crimes. [complete article]

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Nuclear-weapons challenges rise
By Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2004

At a time when all eyes are on fighting what the Pentagon calls the "Global War on Terrorism," the United States is having to address the past, present, and future of nuclear conflict.

-- Sixty years after the Manhattan Project produced the first and only atomic bombs ever dropped on an enemy, the US continues to struggle with how to permanently dispose of the radioactive and chemical byproducts of its cold-war weapons of mass destruction. The Senate recently voted to allow the Energy Department to reclassify such waste so that it could stay in place, even though some of it is leaking into the air and ground water.

-- As the nature of warfare changes, the Bush administration is considering new kinds of nuclear bombs. These include smaller "tactical nukes" meant to pack a bigger punch than any conventional weapon, as well as "bunker busters" designed to penetrate an enemy's deep command and weapons-storage sites.

-- And in case Russia, North Korea, or some other nuclear power should fire missiles at the US, the administration is pushing ahead on ground-based systems to try to knock down incoming warheads. [complete article]

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Retired officials say Bush must go
By Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2004

A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, plans to issue a joint statement this week arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November.

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy, according to several of those who signed the document.

"It is clear that the statement calls for the defeat of the administration," said William C. Harrop, the ambassador to Israel under President Bush's father and one of the group's principal organizers. [complete article]

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First Reagan, now his stunt double
By Frank Rich, New York Times, June 13, 2004

The White House's efforts to follow the Reagan playbook have been nothing if not relentless. As Michael Deaver's crew famously would have Reagan cut ribbons in front of nursing homes even as he cut funds for their construction, so Mr. Bush can be found communing with nature each time his administration takes a whack at the environment. To pass himself off as a practiced hand at proletarian manual labor, Mr. Bush clears brush on camera at his ranch in Crawford just as Mr. Reagan did in Santa Barbara. In Washington, the Bush speechwriters strain to equate an "axis of evil" with the "evil empire." [complete article]

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This spy for rent
By James Bamford, New York Times, June 13, 2004

Assessing, cultivating and recruiting spies has long been a key job of Central Intelligence Agency officers. But now it is the C.I.A. officers themselves who are being assessed, cultivated and recruited -- sometimes right out of the agency's cafeteria. In what is leading to a critical spy drain, private companies are aggressively seeking highly trained employees of our espionage agencies to fill government contracts.

With the resignation of George Tenet as director of central intelligence and the final hearings of the 9/11 commission this week, the stage is set for the first major restructuring of the intelligence community in decades. While there has been much discussion of moving agencies and creating an "intelligence czar," the privatization of our spies has been largely overlooked.

The C.I.A. is awash in money as a result of post-9/11 budget increases. But because of the general uncertainty over the future, it faces a long delay before it can recruit, train and develop a new generation of spies and analysts. So for now it is building up its staff by turning to the "intelligence-industrial complex." [complete article]

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The netherworld of nonproliferation
By James Traub, New York Times, June 13, 2004

Nuclear energy has never achieved anything like the World of Tomorrow promise it enjoyed half a century ago; meanwhile, the world feels menaced by the threat of nuclear weaponry in a way unimaginable in Eisenhower's day. Authoritarian and, even worse, potentially unstable states like Pakistan and North Korea have opted out of the nonproliferation system in order to develop a bomb; terrorist groups seek weapons of mass destruction; and a global black market delivers nuclear fuel, equipment and weapons designs to states that aspire to join the nuclear club. The United States has already fought what may be thought of as the first war of counterproliferation; the fact that Iraq turned out not to possess weapons of mass destruction shows, among other things, how extraordinarily difficult it is to gain certain knowledge of an adversary's nuclear capacities.

Tomorrow the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet, and the principal item on the agenda will be, as it has been for the last year, Iran's nuclear program. The Bush administration is convinced that Iran is secretly trying to build a bomb. The Iranian officials I spoke with in a visit to Tehran last month insist that they are merely trying to improve their ''energy mix'' by adding nuclear power to their abundant oil supplies. But even in the unlikely event that that is so, an Iran capable of producing weapons-grade uranium is plainly unacceptable, not only to the Bush administration but also to its chief allies. What is not at all clear is how to make the Iranians surrender that capacity. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda escalates anti-Western attacks in Saudi
By Ghaida Ghantous, Reuters, June 13, 2004

Al Qaeda escalated its campaign against Saudi Arabia and Westerners in the kingdom by killing one American and kidnapping another to avenge U.S. mistreatment of Muslim prisoners, an Islamist Web site said on Sunday.

Saturday's attacks, the sixth on Westerners in six weeks, sent shockwaves among tens of thousands of expatriates in the world's largest oil exporter, prompting fears of mass exodus.

The Web site that carried the claim also posted a video showing the purported killing of another American in the capital Riyadh earlier in the week.

Witnesses said American Kenneth Scroggs, who worked for Advanced Electronics Co, which manufactures military and commercial electronic products, was shot dead on Saturday as he parked his car in front of his villa in a Riyadh suburb. [complete article]

A stable Saudi Arabia is no longer a reality
By George Gedda, Associated Press (via Baltimore Sun), June 13, 2004

The U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia has been based on a disarmingly simple proposition: In exchange for cheap Saudi oil, the United States has guaranteed the kingdom's defense.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt asserted in 1943 that protecting the Arab nation, and its oil, was a vital U.S. economic interest. Although the two countries have no defense treaty, the substance of Roosevelt's policy remains intact and has served both sides well.

But doubts are arising about the stability of Saudi Arabia and the ability of the United States to come up with answers.

Islamic firebrands, apparently linked to al-Qaida, have been targeting Americans, other Westerners and Western interests in general as part of a campaign to overthrow the Saudi monarchy in power since the 1930s. They consider the Saudi establishment too hospitable to Americans and other foreign "infidels."

Former U.S counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke says the stakes in the struggle for Saudi Arabia are hard to exaggerate.

"The threat to the political and economic world posed by Saudi instability, I think, is greater than the threat that was posed by Iraq," he said. [complete article]

The crisis within
By Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post, June 13, 2004

Saudi Arabia is beginning to look like a society under siege.

At Riyadh's trendiest shopping mall on a quiet afternoon last month, security officers were stopping vehicles entering the parking garage, opening hoods and trunks in search of explosives. At the Marriott Hotel, near the Petroleum Ministry, and at other hotels in the capital that cater to Westerners, ground-floor windows have been bricked up and Jersey barriers installed across driveways. At the airport, the fence around the Royal Terminal, which serves the king and the princes of the House of Saud, is topped with razor wire. On Riyadh's main boulevards, and on the causeway connecting the kingdom with Bahrain, police have set up security checkpoints.

These are surprising sights in a country that has always prided itself on its law-and-order, crime-free environment. They reflect the unhappy fact that for the past 13 months, Saudi Arabia has been afflicted by an escalating wave of terrorist violence aimed at bringing down the regime, purging the country of Western influence and choking off the nascent liberalization of Saudi society. [complete article]

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Commander Swift objects
By Jonathan Mahler, New York Times, June 13, 2004

Until this assignment, [Lt. Cmdr. Charles] Swift's clients consisted mostly of fellow servicemen accused of crimes like drug use and sexual harassment. He is currently defending a Yemeni man who worked as Osama bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan.

Swift has what is perhaps the most controversial job in one of the most controversial aspects of the war on terror. When President Bush issued the military order authorizing the use of tribunals to try non-American enemy combatants shortly after Sept. 11, critics wasted no time in denouncing them as kangaroo courts. Bush's order, after all, had bypassed Congress -- the body empowered by the Constitution to convene military tribunals -- and had exempted the tribunals from federal judicial review or any other civilian oversight. Furthermore, even after the war in Afghanistan, no trial dates or charges had been announced, and the presumed defendants were being held indefinitely at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Military defense attorneys like Swift seemed to have the deck stacked against them -- and that is assuming that their superiors did not expect them to throw the game altogether.

But Swift has been energetic in his defense, to say the least. In January, he and his colleagues filed an incendiary friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in which, among other things, they compared their commander in chief, President Bush, to the villain of the American Revolution, King George III. In April, Swift went even further, suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Bush in federal court in Seattle on the grounds that their plan for a military tribunal for his client -- who has still not been charged or given a trial date -- violates the Constitution, federal law, the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. [complete article]

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Secret world of U.S. jails
By Jason Burke, The Observer, June 13, 2004

The United States government, in conjunction with key allies, is running an 'invisible' network of prisons and detention centres into which thousands of suspects have disappeared without trace since the 'war on terror' began.

In the past three years, thousands of alleged militants have been transferred around the world by American, Arab and Far Eastern security services, often in secret operations that by-pass extradition laws. The astonishing traffic has seen many, including British citizens, sent from the West to countries where they can be tortured to extract information. Anything learnt is passed on to the US and, in some cases, reaches British intelligence.

The disclosure of the shadowy system will increase pressure on the Bush administration over its 'cavalier' approach to human rights and will embarrass Tony Blair, a staunch ally of President George Bush.

The practice of 'renditions' - when suspects are handed directly into the custody of another state without due process - has sparked particular anger. At least 70 such transfers have occurred, according to CIA sources. Many involve men who have been freed by the courts and are thus legally innocent. Renditions are often used when American interrogators believe that harsh treatment - banned in their own country - would produce results. [complete article]

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Iraq tactics have long history with U.S. interrogators
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, June 13, 2004

A CIA handbook on coercive interrogation methods, produced 40 years ago during the Vietnam War, shows that techniques such as those used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a long history with U.S. intelligence and were based on research and field experience.

Declassified 10 years ago, the training manual carries in its title the code word used for the CIA in Vietnam, "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation -- July 1963." Used to train new interrogators, the handbook presents "basic information about coercive techniques available for use in the interrogation situation."

The specific coercive methods it describes echo today's news stories about Guantanamo and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. [complete article]

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Insurgents and Islam now rulers of Fallouja
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2004

Fallouja's status as an autonomous fiefdom -- where local people say insurgents rule the streets and an increasingly austere brand of Islamic law has taken root -- could embolden other towns, particularly in like-minded Sunni tribal areas, to challenge the legitimacy of the country's transitional government as a scheduled hand-over of power to Iraqis approaches.

And the woes of a U.S.-sanctioned security force in this city on the banks of the Euphrates could bode ill for efforts by the American military and occupation authority to appease rebellious pockets of Iraq by setting up locally recruited forces intended to co-opt insurgents. In the dusty streets of Fallouja, the early May pullback by the Marines to stave off close-quarters urban combat and the likelihood of heavy civilian casualties is touted as a glorious victory for the insurgents, who enjoy overwhelming support here.

"The mujahedin are taking care of Fallouja now -- this is our reality," said Saad Duleimi, a well-to-do businessman and member of one of the area's most influential tribes. "They control all the affairs of the city. And that is what the people want." [complete article]

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Errors are seen in early attacks on Iraqi leaders
By Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, June 13, 2004

The United States launched many more failed airstrikes on a far broader array of senior Iraqi leaders during the early days of the war last year than has previously been acknowledged, and some caused significant civilian casualties, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

Only a few of the 50 airstrikes have been described in public. All were unsuccessful, and many, including the two well-known raids on Saddam Hussein and his sons, appear to have been undercut by poor intelligence, current and former government officials said.

The strikes, carried out against so-called high-value targets during a one-month period that began on March 19, 2003, used precision-guided munitions against at least 13 Iraqi leaders, including Gen. Izzat Ibrahim, Iraq's No. 2 official, the officials said.

General Ibrahim is still at large, along with at least one other top official who was a target of the failed raids. That official, Maj. Gen. Rafi Abd al-Latif Tilfah, the former head of the Directorate of General Security, and General Ibrahim are playing a leadership role in the anti-American insurgency, according to a briefing document prepared last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency. [complete article]

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The crisis without end
By Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, June 13, 2004

A few weeks back, while Israeli soldiers were blasting through the bleak urban neighborhoods of Rafah in search of Palestinian militants, and cabinet ministers were playing musical chairs over a proposal to disengage unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, an even more telling measure of Israel's perpetual state of siege quietly worked its way through the Knesset here.

For the 56th year in a row, lawmakers voted to renew the state of emergency that has been in effect since the Jewish state's birth in 1948. Fifty-six years is a long time for an emergency -- most babies born in extremis then are either long-cured or long-dead by now -- but for Israel, crisis has always been a natural state. And the latest renewal is not just a recognition of grim reality, but something of a triumph for those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide who believe that crisis is their best friend, a state of affairs that allows them to define and dominate the struggle.

You can view the conflict through many complex and overlapping prisms -- Jew vs. Arab, soldier vs. militant, secularist vs. believer, dove vs. hawk, two-state proponent vs. territorial maximalist. But in many ways it has evolved into something very simple: those who strive for normality vs. those who thrive in the hyper-charged state of emergency. And despite Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's qualified triumph last Sunday in force-feeding his Gaza withdrawal plan to a reluctant cabinet, it seems to me that the latter remains in command, asserting the relentless power of blood, history and tradition, and suffocating at birth any and all attempts at normalcy. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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."

How to torture alleged terrorists and get away with it
By Phillip Carter, Slate, June 10, 2004
The Bush administration has created an atmosphere of legal ambiguity where the laws of armed conflict are concerned. This laissez faire attitude toward the law of war has filtered down to the lowest levels of command, where tactical decisions about taking detainees and targeting artillery are conducted. Before the events of 9/11 and America's global war on terrorism, soldiers and spooks had at least a few bright-line rules: Never target civilians; never beat prisoners; never violate the Geneva Conventions. Those rules have now been blurred by bad legal advice from the top lawyers of the Bush administration, with predictable results. Case in point: American soldiers training on how to beat recalcitrant al-Qaida detainees learned their craft so well, they put one of their own brethren, an American soldier, out of the service with permanent brain damage. The great moral hazard of bad legal advice is not that it will corrupt the lawyers offering it, but that it will engender criminal behavior by those who follow it in the belief that their lawyers are right.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Despite agreement, insurgents rule Fallujah
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post, June 7, 2004
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. The Marines gave the brigade the task of apprehending the killers of four American contractors whose bodies were burned, mutilated and hung from a bridge in March, capturing foreign fighters and disarming the insurgents. None of that has happened. President Bush endorsed the Fallujah solution on the grounds that it made "security a shared responsibility." But the sight of insurgents still in control of byways and the kidnapping of foreigners and Iraqis with impunity suggests that they are sharing their power with no one. Moreover, continuing mayhem on Fallujah's outskirts raises the question of whether the Americans have simply created a safe haven for anti-occupation fighters.

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