The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     

Nine dead in spate of attacks in Iraq
By Jim Krane, Associated Press (via The Guardian), June 26, 2004

Insurgents launched attacks in the strife-ridden city of Baqouba on Saturday, and nine people died, six of them insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Attacks occurred in other cities north and south of Baghdad.

The attacks in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, occurred only two days after U.S. tanks and jets routed insurgents who assaulted police stations and government offices there as part of a widespread offensive that killed about 100 people nationwide.

In the Saturday attacks, rebels targeted offices of two political parties - one of them run by Iraq's prime minister - a police station and a government building in Baqouba. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces took up defensive positions across the city, the center of Iraq's orange-growing region. [complete article]

Iraq insurgency showing signs of momentum
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2004

As this week's coordinated violence demonstrates, Iraq's insurgent movement is increasingly potent, riding a wave of anti-U.S. nationalism and religious extremism. Just days before an Iraqi government takes control of the country, experts and some commanders fear it may be too late to turn back the militant tide.

The much-anticipated wave of strikes preceding Wednesday's scheduled hand-over could intensify under the new interim government as Sunni Muslim insurgents seek to undermine it, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

"I think we're going to continue to see sensational attacks," said Army Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the 101st Airborne Division commander who will oversee the reshaping of Iraq's fledgling security forces.

Long gone are the days when the insurgents were dismissed as a finite force ticketed for high-tech annihilation by superior U.S. firepower. [complete article]

Shiite cleric offers to help with Iraqi security
By Nadia Abou El-Magd, Associated Press (via Washington Post), June 25, 2004

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has recommitted to a truce between his Mahdi militia and U.S. forces in Iraq and offered to help police ensure safety in the Baghdad area, a statement said Friday.

As of Thursday, the truce was "obligatory on all Mahdi army's heroes," according to the statement, issued by the central committee of Sadr's Mahdi Army and distributed in the Shiite district.

The declaration was intended to show Sadr's interest in preventing "terrorists and saboteurs" from "causing overwhelming chaos or security disorder." [complete article]

'This is the only fun the kids get - shooting at the US sitting ducks'
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, June 25, 2004

[This writer arrived in Kerbala, in the last week in May.]
They take us to the shrine of Imam Abbas, and into a marble-clad room filled with big, ugly guys with thick beards and an arsenal of automatic weapons. These men are from the Shrine Protection Force, a militia loyal to the grand Shia Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and so loosely allied with the Americans.

"It is all because of journalists that all this is happening," says a guy dressed in black, sitting behind a big wooden table. He says that the Mahdi [Moqtada al-Sadr's militia] are manipulating the media. "They are thugs and assassins, they have paralysed the holy city of Kerbala, they have desecrated the shrines and shoot from behind them, trying to provoke a response.

"But, alhamdulillah [thank God], the Americans are very wise and respect the shrines. Our brothers, the Americans, are taking very good care of this thing, but as far as the Shias around the world and in Iraq are concerned, they hear that the Americans are fighting 'close to the shrines', and that Shias are being killed. They see the smoke on your films so they come en masse to fight and they are immediately brainwashed by Moqtada and his thugs."

If that's the case, I ask, why doesn't the Ayatollah come out publicly and denounce those people, and show his support for these "brothers"?

"Are you crazy? It's haram [forbidden by Islamic law] to support an infidel, even when he is right, against a brother Muslim."

"So what is your strategy?"

"We will pray for Allah to stop this." [complete article]

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"Arabs who were brought to Kirkuk should go back where they came from" -- Kurdish Prime Minister
By Jeremy Lovell, Reuters, June 25, 2004

The Arabization of the oil-rich region of Kirkuk in northern Iraq and the eviction of thousands of Kurds by Saddam Hussein must be reversed or the country's future will be at risk, a top Kurdish leader said Friday.

"Kirkuk is a serious issue and it needs a serious solution. If Kirkuk is not solved, it is like a time bomb primed to explode," Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told Reuters.

"It is impossible for anybody to accept the injustices that were committed against the Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians there," he added in an interview on a trip to London seeking investment in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. [complete article]

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This terrorist is bad enough on his own
By Peter Bergen, New York Times, June 26, 2004

Despite the finding by the 9/11 commission staff that there is no evidence of a "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, Bush administration officials continue to insist the two worked together. As evidence, they frequently cite Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the 37-year-old Jordanian who is arguably the most dangerous terrorist in the world today. Mr. Zarqawi, who fled his Afghan training grounds after the American invasion and found safe haven in Iraq, was most likely behind the string of bombings across Iraq on Thursday that killed more than 100; in May, he beheaded Nicholas Berg, an American communications engineer working in Iraq.

The day after the 9/11 staff report came out, Vice President Dick Cheney again put forward Mr. Zarqawi. "After we went in and hit his training camp, he fled to Baghdad," Mr. Cheney said, adding that Mr. Zarqawi "ran the poisons factory in northern Iraq out of Baghdad." The administration has also pointed out that American intelligence believes Mr. Zarqawi received medical treatment in Baghdad in 2002.

So is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi really the missing link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein? Actually, the evidence of his relationship with either is far from clear cut. Mr. Zarqawi runs an organization separate from Al Qaeda called Tawhid. One indication of his independence is that when he founded his training camp in Afghanistan in 2000, he did so near the western city of Herat, on the Iranian border, hundreds of miles away from Al Qaeda's camps.

Roger Cressey, who was a counterterrorism official on the National Security Council staff at that time, told me that Mr. Zarqawi's camp was set up "as much in competition as it was in cooperation" with Al Qaeda. Indeed, Shadi Abdullah, a Tawhid member apprehended in Germany in 2002, told investigators that his group saw itself to be "in rivalry" with Mr. bin Laden's, according to a German official privy to the details of the interrogation. [complete article]

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9/11 panel links al Qaeda, Iran
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, June 26, 2004

While it found no operational ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network had long-running contacts with Iraq's neighbor and historic foe, Iran.

Al Qaeda, the commission determined, may even have played a "yet unknown role" in aiding Hezbollah militants in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, an attack the United States has long blamed solely on Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors.

The notion that bin Laden may have had a hand in the Khobar bombing would mark a rare operational alliance between Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups that have historically been at odds. That possibility, largely overlooked in the furor of new revelations released by the commission last week, comes amid worsening relations between the United States and Iran, which announced on Thursday that it would resume building equipment necessary for a nuclear weapons program. [complete article]

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Intelligence officers tied to death coverup
By Mike Leary, Baltimore Sun, June 25, 2004

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib prison, exclaimed, "I'm not going down alone for this," then participated in a cover-up after a prisoner died from a blow to the head during interrogation last December, according to vivid and dramatic testimony yesterday before an Army court in Baghdad.

After a discussion between Pappas and several other officers and "OGA guys," a cover-up was hatched to spirit the corpse out of the sprawling prison complex and dump it "in Baghdad somewhere," said Capt. Donald Reese, the commander of the 372nd Military Police Company from Cresaptown, Md. OGA is a euphemism the military commonly applies to CIA agents.

A lieutenant colonel named Jordan told another officer "to get some ice out of the chow hall," Reese testified at a preliminary hearing in Baghdad yesterday for Spc. Sabrina Harman, 26, one of seven low-ranking soldiers under his command who have been charged with abuses at the prison.

While Reese did not supply Jordan's first name, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan was the commander of interrogation at the prison. [complete article]

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Guantanamo plea may signal deadlock
By Tania Branigan, The Guardian, June 26, 2004

Tony Blair's direct appeal to President Bush for the return of the remaining four Guantanamo Britons is an indication that talks over their future may have reached deadlock.

Well over two years after the Bush administration first transferred Britons to the military base, and despite lengthy negotiations between the two allies, four UK citizens are still held there. Two of those, Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg, have been named as potential defendants in military trials.

News of Mr Blair's intervention through the White House emerged as the attorney general criticised the military tribunals as being counter to a fair trial.

Observers suggested Lord Goldsmith's decision to air the issue publicly in a speech last night in Paris indicated that the government was becoming frustrated by its inability to resolve the cases of the remaining detainees. [complete article]

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Koreas sidestep U.S. to forge political and pragmatic links
By James Brooke, New York Times, June 26, 2004

Wielding wrenches on a rainy morning, South Korean marines methodically dismantled a wall of 48 olive-green loudspeakers that only days earlier had been blaring news and pop music to sentries and rice farmers working on the North Korean bank of the Han River.

On Saturday, the marines will start removing a 20-foot computer-controlled sign board that blinked news flashes across the demilitarized zone.

After half a century of cross-border propaganda, all is now quiet on South Korea's northern front. By Aug. 15, the hundreds of propaganda signs and loudspeakers are to be entirely removed from both sides of the inter-Korean border.

The Koreas are entering more than a summer of detente. Quietly ignoring Bush administration efforts to isolate North Korea, South Korea has become North Korea's largest source of aid, trade and tourism. It is also North Korea's most consistent diplomatic advocate.

Even though the two Koreas are still technically at war, their athletes will march again under one "Unification" flag at the Athens Olympics in August. [complete article]

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Ireland on anti-war footing as Bush visit triggers huge protest
By Stephen Castle, The Independent, June 26, 2004

Just days before the handover of power to the interim government in Iraq, Mr Bush's visit comes at an acutely sensitive time, with leaders on both sides of the Atlantic anxious to avoid more public rifts. The depth of the divisions caused by Mr Bush's Iraq policy is clearly illustrated, however, by the extraordinary security operation in Ireland, and the coolness of the reception from a nation that prides itself on its links with the US.

About 4,000 police and 2,000 soldiers ­ more than a third of Ireland's security force ­ are deployed around Dromoland Castle, a luxury hotel in Co Clare that is hosting today's summit. In addition, 700 US security personnel and four naval ships are being called in.

Activists have planned protests both in Dublin and at the summit venue close to Shannon airport, itself a strategic refuelling point used by US military planes en route to Iraq.

However, Ireland's alert will be dwarfed by the security operation in Istanbul, where Turkish police are expected to deploy more than 23,000 officers for the Nato leaders' summit. Alarmed by Thursday's bomb attack, which killed four people, security forces were yesterday already closing off streets in the area that will play host to President Bush and the leaders of 45 other countries which are either in Nato or have a partnership with it. [complete article]

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Kim Jong-il outwits W. on nukes
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, June 25, 2004

This week, after 20 months of doing nothing about North Korea's drive to build nuclear weapons, President Bush finally put a proposal -- a set of incentives for disarmament -- on the negotiating table. The remarkable thing is, the deal is practically identical to the accord that President Clinton signed with Pyongyang in 1994 -- an accord that Bush condemned and scuttled from the moment he took over the White House.

It's good that Bush has at last realized that diplomacy is the only way to solve the crisis. But he's come a bit late to this epiphany. North Korea has greatly strengthened its hand in the interim. Two years ago, its 8,000 fuel rods were padlocked under international inspection. Now, they've been reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.

Had Bush made the offer back when he first had the chance, Kim Jong-il probably would have taken it. Kim may take it still; his closest allies, the Chinese, are urging him to. But if he behaves the way he usually behaves -- the way any cunningly rational leader in his position would behave -- he will up the ante, ask for more, and walk away with a shrug if Bush declines. And he knows that there's not much Bush can do about it. [complete article]

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"Richard Perle is a person of high moral rectitude" Huh?

Perle's before Sy
By Jack Shafer, Slate, June 24, 2004

Policy entrepreneur/venture capitalist/former Defense Policy Board Chairman/Conrad Black factotum/talking head Richard N. Perle has finally released the 85 pages of interview transcripts and statements he promised to post on the Web three months ago to prove his claim that Seymour M. Hersh maligned him in a March 17, 2003, New Yorker investigative feature, "Lunch With the Chairman."

Perle originally threatened to sue Hersh for libel (March 2003) but downsized his outrage to a demand for a correction (March 2004) as the statute of limitations ran out and his attorneys advised against a suit. In declining to sue, Perle told the New York Sun that the documents would "make it absolutely clear that [Hersh's] reporting is false. ... With the benefit of that information I would expect The New Yorker to make a correction." [complete article]

Other comments on Perle's rectitude can be found here and here (registration with Chicago Tribune required).

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A tough Iraqi's strategy
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, June 25, 2004

Iraq's new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, has been making the same basic argument for the past two decades that a stable, post-Saddam Hussein government can be built only on salvageable remnants of the old army and civil service. Starting next week, Allawi will have a chance to put that theory into practice.

I've known Allawi since 1991, when he was trying to organize a coup after Hussein's defeat in the Gulf War that year. Here's how he explained his group's strategy to me in one of those early conversations: "We were originally leading members of the Baath Party, so we still have a lot of supporters in the Iraqi establishment. We subscribe to the theory that we can only change the regime through the existing establishment."

Allawi's group was backed through the early 1990s by British intelligence and later by the CIA and many Arab intelligence services. But he was never able to pull off his palace coup. When the United States invaded Iraq last year, it decided to embrace another strategy for rebuilding the country. Rather than working with the Iraqi army and former members of the Baath Party, as Allawi had urged, the Americans decided to start from scratch -- and build a democratic Iraq from the bottom up.

That ambitious U.S. strategy now lies in ruins in the final days before the handover of sovereignty. It was a victim of too much wishful thinking and too little practical planning. Because America had too few troops to maintain security, it could never deliver on its promises to rebuild a prosperous Iraq. [complete article]

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Anti-occupation clerics and fighters disavow recent violence
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 25, 2004

As the smoke cleared from a chain of deadly attacks in Iraq, the first signs of unease at the level of destruction and bloodshed emerged Friday among influential Iraqis who advocate resistance against the U.S. occupation but are unwilling to mate their struggle with the international jihad advocated by Osama bin Laden.

The objections -- from Shiite and Sunni Muslim leaders who oppose the U.S. role in Iraq, including the rebellious cleric Moqtada Sadr, and even from militia fighters in the embattled city of Fallujah -- centered on the car bombings and guerrilla assaults Thursday in six cities in central and northern Iraq that killed more than 100 Iraqis, many of them police officers.

They arose in part from revulsion at the fact that the victims were overwhelmingly fellow Iraqis, including some patients at a hospital in Mosul near a bombed-out police academy. But they also betrayed Iraqi nationalist concerns that the struggle against U.S. occupation forces risked being hijacked by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian national whom U.S. officials describe as linked to bin Laden's al Qaeda network. [complete article]

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Adversary's tactics leave troops surprised, exhausted
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, June 25, 2004

The 1st Infantry Division soldiers who walked off the battlefield Thursday, exhausted by the frantic pace of combat and a baking summer sun, had seen nothing like it in their three months here.

In dawn-to-dusk fighting, more than 100 armed insurgents overran neighborhoods and occupied downtown buildings, using techniques that U.S. commanders said resembled those once employed by the Iraqi army. Well-equipped and highly coordinated, the insurgents demonstrated a new level of strength and tactical skill that alarmed the soldiers facing them.

By the end of the day, infantry and armored patrols had driven the insurgents from the battered center of the city [Baqubah], though some remained in control of two police stations in districts long hostile to the U.S.-led occupation. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in the fight, including a company commander struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. [complete article]

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U.N. seeks 'terror inmates' access
BBC News, June 25, 2004

UN human rights experts say they want to visit inmates in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay and also terror suspects in other countries.

A group of 31 experts issued a rare joint statement on concerns about the effects of some US counter-terrorism measures on human rights worldwide.[complete article]

See, Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of anti-terrorism measures (UN)

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Errors on terror
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, June 25, 2004

"Tonight, I am instructing the leaders of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to develop a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, to merge and analyze all threat information in a single location. Our government must have the very best information possible." Thus spoke President Bush in the 2003 State of the Union address. A White House fact sheet called the center "the next phase in the dramatic enhancement of the government's counterterrorism effort."

Among other things, the center took over the job of preparing the government's annual report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism." The latest report, released in April, claimed to document a sharp fall in terrorism. "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage declared. But this week the government admitted making major errors. In fact, in 2003 the number of significant terrorist attacks reached a 20-year peak.

How could they get it so wrong? The answer tells you a lot about the state of the "war on terror." [complete article]

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Pakistani Army must go through the Pashtuns
By Owais Tohid and Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, June 25, 2004

This spring, the dry mountains of Shikai were showered with rose petals to celebrate a truce between the Pakistani military and local pro-Al Qaeda militants. Together, they pledged to cleanse the tribal area of South Waziristan of all foreign militants.

Two months later, the floral confetti has turned to bullets and bombs. Jets and helicopter gunships circle in the sky, and militants on the ground vow to fight a jihad against the "traitorous" Pakistani Army.

Once a fight between Western democratic values and militant Islam, the war on terror along the Afghan-Pakistani border has become something murkier, complex, and ancient. Now, it's tribal.

The rules of this war are a far cry from the easy slogans of "you're either with us or against us." Indeed, Pashtun history is filled with heroes who played both sides for the benefit of tribe, family, and honor. [complete article]

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Potent bid to thwart Gaza pullout
By Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, June 25, 2004

While his plan for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is gaining momentum abroad, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being dogged at home by an energetic young fundamentalist inside the ruling Likud party.

He is Moshe Feiglin, and he is determined to become prime minister. As head of the Likud's "Jewish Leadership" group, Mr. Feiglin has become an increasingly potent political force who, even his detractors concede, can no longer be ignored.

Feiglin's aspiration is no secret: He wants to reshape Israel according to his own ultranationalist definition of Judaism.

Even as Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week about the proposed withdrawal, and France's Foreign Minister Michel Barnier offered a qualified endorsement of withdrawal plans during a Middle East tour, the soft- spoken Mr. Feiglin outlined an alternative, biblically influenced vision of future developments in the region.

It is one in which he and likeminded activists thwart the Gaza withdrawal and thereby, in their view, take a step toward making Israel more Jewish. [complete article]

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Iran says it will renew nuclear efforts
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, June 25, 2004

Iran made good on recent threats yesterday and announced that it will resume building equipment essential for a nuclear weapons program, despite its agreement with three major European powers.

The decision does not violate international treaties that allow Tehran to make centrifuge parts for peaceful nuclear energy. But the move does break an agreement Iran signed with France, Britain and Germany, in which it promised to suspend nuclear efforts as a goodwill gesture toward earning trade incentives with the European Union.

European officials and arms-control specialists called Iran's move a major setback and a reflection of the difficulties faced by those working to check Iran's nuclear ambitions as evidence mounts that the country is concealing information from international inspectors. [complete article]

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U.S. wars in Persian Gulf unshackle Iran
By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Knight Ridder, June 24, 2004

President Bush freed Afghanistan from the Taliban and toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but in doing so he also may have unshackled an even more dangerous foe: Iran.

Western diplomats and local officials in the Middle East say Iran, widely considered a supporter of international terrorism that's trying to develop nuclear weapons, is emerging as the unintended winner of Bush's war on terrorism.

Iran's rise as a key power broker in the Persian Gulf is an alarming prospect for the United States, which has used political and economic sanctions to contain the Islamic Republic and its radical government for a quarter century, since Iranian radicals seized the American Embassy in Tehran.

"Iran has definitely come to be a major beneficiary" of U.S. policy since Sept. 11, 2001, said Mohammed Hadi Semati, a political scientist from Tehran University now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "With the exception of the current chaos, everything that comes out of the Iraqi operation is good for Iran's national interests." [complete article]

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Iraqis, seeking foes of Saudis, contacted bin Laden, file says
By Thom Sanker, New York Times, June 25, 2004

Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.

The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration. [complete article]

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About-face on North Korea: Allies helped
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, June 24, 2004

President Bush's concrete offer to cajole North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program is a turning point for an administration previously caught between two conflicting approaches to one of the world's most isolated, impoverished and dangerous nations.

One camp, encompassing many in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has argued for further isolating North Korea's government and pressing for its collapse. Another, rooted in the State Department and some corners of the National Security Council, has said that Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader, should be put to the test, given a serious offer that lays out what kind of benefits would flow if he gave up an expanding nuclear program. For now, that camp has won the day.

Mr. Bush selected his course because he had little choice: his Asian allies, picking up signals that the government of Mr. Kim may finally be willing to make a deal, were quietly beginning to negotiate a separate peace. [complete article]

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A blind eye to the Islamic bomb
Dateline, SBS TV (AU), June 23, 2004

According to the world's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, it's now just a matter of time before terrorists strike with a nuclear weapon. Earlier this week, the agency's head, Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear capability was now imminent. If ElBaradei's horror scenario unfolds it may be thanks to Pakistan. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Pakistan had been leaking nuclear technology and expertise to some of the world's most unstable and dangerous regimes for years. As Nick Lazaredes reveals, the West, consumed as it was with Iraq, largely turned a blind eye to this trade and is still showing remarkable patience in uncovering how much damage was done.

This investigative report closes with a chilling statement from the former head of Pakistan's ISI (intelligence service), General Hamid Gul: So what is it that Pakistan has not done [for the U.S.]? And yet they are not satisfied with us. It only shows that it is very dangerous to be friends of America. Sometimes it's good to be their enemy.

To view this 40-minute report you'll need Real Player and a broadband connection. Alternatively, follow the link to a complete transcript. [introduction with media and transcript links]

Comment -- While the danger of nuclear proliferation is now focused on the risk of weapons or nuclear materials being acquired and used by terrorists, the broad issue of proliferation has always been fraught with ambiguity in as much as it has in practice been decoupled from the goal of nuclear disarmament. With the end of the Cold War, the so-called "peace dividend" derived from the West's ability to reduce the size of its military forces. But an opportunity, clearly available but not grasped, was for the U.S. to initiate a process leading to global nuclear disarmament. Nevertheless, while the Cold War had ended, the Cold War mentality had not and the remaining nuclear states had more interest in circumscribing their own power by keeping the nuclear club's doors locked rather than shutting it down. Not surprisingly, those outside the club have never been persuaded by the argument that nuclear weapons are safe in our hands, but not in yours.

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If civil war erupts after handover, Kirkuk may be its starting point
By Mark McDonald, Knight Ridder, June 24, 2004

The children at the Shorja middle school in Kirkuk raise the flag and sing the anthem every morning - the Kurdistan flag and the Kurdish national anthem. There's not an Iraqi flag in sight.

"Look at our past, how red it is with blood," they sing. "Let no one say the Kurds are no more. They are here, and their flag never falls."

The Kurdish anthem, like the Kurdish past, is blood-soaked and dramatic, and many people in northern Iraq expect more bloodletting very soon. If there's going to be a civil war in Iraq - and many believe that's inevitable - the first cut, and the deepest, could well come in Kirkuk.

The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority yields control of the Iraqi government on June 30, and the stability of the country, perhaps even the region, could be determined by what happens in oil-rich Kirkuk. [complete article]

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Can self-rule bring security?
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, June 25, 2004

For the past month almost everyone associated with the US-led occupation of Iraq has been focused on the June 30 handover. Town-hall meetings are held across Iraq explaining the interim government's powers and Coalition Provisional Authority staffers scuttle about the fortified Green Zone, preparing to hand over their jobs to State Department officials, planning vacations, and looking for new jobs.

But for most Iraqis the changing of the political guard comes down to one question: Will greater sovereignty mean more security? "This could be a big improvement if we really do get sovereignty and the power on our own to deal with the terrorists,'' says Sheikh Mohammed Bakar al-Suhel, chairman of the Baghdad City Council. "But we're going to have to see."

The preturnover signs are not encouraging. Thursday, there was more evidence that insurgents have regrouped and are intensifying their attacks. At least 66 Iraqis and three US soldiers were killed in attacks in six Iraqi cities, in an arc of violence stretching from Baghdad in the center of the country to the northern city of Mosul, 300 miles away. [complete article]

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The struggle to report from Baghdad
By Christine Chinlund, International Herald Tribune, June 24, 2004

Here's what it's like being a reporter in Baghdad these days: You may awaken to the sound of a car bomb. You start your workday by calculating the risk of the reporting you want to do. Increasingly you stay close to home. You never ride in a sport utility vehicle, preferring a battered sedan that blends in. If you are a woman, you wear a headscarf; if a man, you grow a beard.

You don't linger in any one place, and you don't make appointments for a specific hour for fear a kidnapper could be lying in wait. You've seen too many colleagues abducted. On a good day you manage to report meaningfully from the field; on too many other days, the risks narrow your view to the daily military briefing and a few Baghdad neighborhoods. Your workday usually ends between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. [complete article]

See also, Wolfowitz offers apology to journalists covering Iraq (NYT).

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Iraq war 'will cost each U.S. family $3,400'
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, June 25, 2004

The United States has spent more than $126bn on the war in Iraq, which will ultimately cost every American family an estimated $3,400, according to a new report by two thinktanks.

The report, published yesterday by the leftwing Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus also counts the human costs.

As of June 16, before yesterday's nationwide attacks, up to 11,317 Iraqi civilians and 6,370 Iraqi soldiers or insurgents had been killed, according to the report, which is titled Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War. [complete article]

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Gore says White House is eroding democracy
By Michael Janofsky, New York Times, June 25, 2004

Former Vice President Al Gore accused President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday of undermining American democracy by using the Iraq war to empower the executive branch at the expense of civil liberties, Congress and the court system.

Without mincing words, Mr. Gore accused Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney of lying on a crucial justification for war, that Iraq had a role in planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"In the end, for this administration, it is all about power," Mr. Gore said in a nearly hourlong speech to the American Constitution Society, a left-leaning organization of lawyers and law students. "This lie about the invented connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq was and is the key to justifying the current ongoing constitutional power grab by the president. So long as their big flamboyant lie remains an established fact in the public's mind, President Bush will be seen as justified in taking for himself the power to make war on his whim." [complete article]

The full text of Al gore's speech, Our founders and the unbalance of power (PDF format).

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'Breaking the silence' on West Bank abuse
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, June 24, 2004

[Micha] Kurz, Yehuda Shaul and Yonatan Baumfeld, who finished their mandatory three years of active duty three months ago, assembled more than 80 provocative photographs taken by troops assigned to the volatile West Bank city of Hebron and created a video of soldiers describing humiliation and abuses suffered by Palestinian civilians at their hands, as well as those of Jewish settlers.

The exhibition, called "Breaking the Silence," is the most graphic example yet of concerns being voiced by influential Israeli soldiers and officers over the tactics and techniques of the armed forces' occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Last year, reservists from the military's top commando unit, respected pilots, four former chiefs of Israel's powerful domestic security service and hundreds of other soldiers went public with concerns over the military's ethics.

In a letter to visitors posted at the entrance of the exhibit at the college's Academy for Geographic Photography, the soldiers said: "We decided to speak out. Hebron isn't in outer space. It's one hour from Jerusalem." [complete article]

See also, Hebron diaries (Haaretz).

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Deep-rooted corruption in Palestine
By Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, June 23, 2004

From its inception, the PA has been marked by corruption, incompetence and mismanagement. For years, top officials enriched themselves through deals and monopolies negotiated with Israeli companies on such essentials as gasoline and other consumer goods. Some of the dozen or so Palestinian "security forces" that sprouted in the heyday of Oslo, existed primarily to protect and enforce these corrupt monopolies.

While Palestinians at the grassroots always protested this phenomenon, much of the world community, including the United States and the European Union (the PA's main financial sponsor) were willing to turn a blind eye to it as long as they thought that the PA was willing to play along with a "peace process" that literally cemented the status quo and provided a cosmetic solution to the deep problems and conflicts that Israel's establishment had created. In fact, for the principals in the Oslo adventure, corruption was the main reward for going along with a plan that has impoverished the Palestinians' society, doubled the number of Jewish settlements on their land and pushed them further from freedom than ever before. [complete article]

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The lexicographers
By Jonathan Schell, TomDispatch, June 24, 2004

Ever since the September 11 commission stated authoritatively what everyone knew already, namely that there is no evidence that Al Qaeda was in business with Saddam Hussein, a debate of a most peculiar character has unfolded.

Almost no facts-and none of importance-are under dispute. No one now claims that Iraq had anything to do with September 11, or any other attack on the United States, or even that Saddam's regime had any joint undertaking whatsoever with Al Qaeda. Rather, the debate revolves around the definition of words. The highest officials of the executive branch of the government, as if re-baptizing it as an academic department of a university, have turned themselves into so many linguists. What is a "tie," a "relationship," a "link," a "contact," "cooperation"? On questions like these, the White House abounds in opinions. [complete article]

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Mercenary hits it big, thanks to the U.S.
By Robert Young Pelton, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2004

On May 25, the U.S. Army awarded Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, formerly of the British army, and his company, Aegis -- a tiny 2-year-old London-based holding corporation -- the largest and most important security contract of the Iraq war. Over three years, Aegis will be in charge of all security for the $18.4 billion in ongoing reconstruction projects being overseen by the United States.

As part of the contract, Aegis will hire a "force-protection detail" of about 600 armed men. It will also coordinate the operations of 60 other private military companies already working in Iraq and their 20,000 men, including handling security at prisons and oil fields. It's a no-risk, cost-plus arrangement that could earn the company up to $293 million. And as the owner of almost 40% of Aegis, Spicer could pocket $20 million, according to one financial expert.

No problem there, right? It's the American way.

But it turns out that the United States may have made an enormous error: Apparently nobody bothered to ask who Timothy Simon Spicer really was -- a controversial British mercenary. [complete article]

For more details, see Controversial commando wins Iraq contract

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Attacks threaten new Iraqi government
By Paul Reynolds, BBC News, June 24, 2004

The widespread attacks in Sunni areas across Iraq on Thursday are a direct threat to the new interim government which is to take over on 30 June.

The government is faced with the huge problem of trying to restore order and, if it does not, with the prospect of continued fighting.

Dozens of Iraqis as well as some American soldiers were killed in the assaults on military and government installations.

Its dilemma is that it must rely on American and other foreign troops, but it is the presence of those troops which motivates the insurgents. [complete article]

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Security a shambles ahead of handover
By Rory McCarthy and Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, June 24, 204

Up to 30,000 Iraqi police officers are to be sacked for being incompetent and unreliable and given a $60m payoff before the US hands over to an Iraqi government, senior British military sources said yesterday.

Many officers either deserted to the insurgents or simply stayed at home during the recent uprisings in Falluja and across the south.

Fourteen months after the war and just a week before the Iraqis take power on June 30, the sources revealed serious shortfalls of properly trained police and soldiers and vital equipment. [complete article]

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U.S. immunity in Iraq will go beyond June 30
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, June 24, 2004

The Bush administration has decided to take the unusual step of bestowing on its own troops and personnel immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for killing Iraqis or destroying local property after the occupation ends and political power is transferred to an interim Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.

The administration plans to accomplish that step -- which would bypass the most contentious remaining issue before the transfer of power -- by extending an order that has been in place during the year-long occupation of Iraq. Order 17 gives all foreign personnel in the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority immunity from "local criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their parent states."

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held. [complete article]

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Measure requiring more interrogation documents passes in Senate
By Sumana Chatterjee, Knight Ridder, June 23, 2004

Senate Democrats won a key vote on Wednesday to require the Bush administration to turn over documents related to the interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and report to Congress any changes to interrogation policies and any future abuses.

The unanimous vote came after a cliffhanger attempt to kill the amendment, which had been offered to the Defense Department spending bill. With the help of three Republicans and one independent, Democrats defeated, 50-45, a motion to table the measure. The Senate then approved the measure on a unanimous voice vote. [complete article]

Lawyer for State Dept. disputed detainee memo
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, June 24, 2004

A letter about detainee policy sent in 2002 from the State Department's legal adviser to the Justice Department's deputy assistant attorney general made no attempt at bureaucratic pleasantries.

William H. Taft IV said that Justice's legal advice to President Bush about how to handle detainees in the war on terrorism was "seriously flawed" and its reasoning was "incorrect as well as incomplete." Justice's arguments were "contrary to the official position of the United States, the United Nations and all other states that have considered the issue," Taft said.

Taft's Jan. 11 letter, obtained by The Washington Post, was omitted from the hundreds of pages of documents released Tuesday by the Bush administration. The release was part of an effort to present the administration's policies on detainees since Sept. 11, 2001, as fully compliant with domestic and international law. [complete article]

Bush administration documents on interrogation
Washington Post, June 23, 2004

The following is a summary of White House, Pentagon and Justice Department documents about interrogation policies. The documents were released by the Bush administration on June 22. [complete article]

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The world's most dangerous terrorist
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, June 23, 2004

With his audacious threat to assassinate the new Iraqi prime minister, Jordanian terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi appears to have eclipsed Osama bin Laden as the single most dangerous threat to U.S. interests in the world today -- and is proving just as elusive, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

U.S. officials suspect that Zarqawi -- who is believed to have orchestrated the recent beheadings of American contractor Nicholas Berg and South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il -- is holed up with followers in the rebellious Iraqi city of Fallujah. Since last weekend, U.S. forces have launched a handful of missile strikes on suspected "safe houses" in the Sunni Triangle city in a major new campaign to finish off the terrorist and members of his gang. [complete article]

The missing terror link or the latest bogeyman?
By Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star, June 20, 2004

Al-Zarqawi is also being investigated in the Madrid bombings in March that killed 200 people, and a U.S. intelligence report obtained by the Boston Globe last month stated al-Zarqawi's reach is wide with reports he is responsible for the deaths of at least 700 people in Iraq during the last year.

"Zarqawi and his network have plotted terrorist actions against several countries, including France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia," the report said.

Yet despite these claims -- and rumours the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to increase the reward for his capture from $10 million to the $25 million also offered for bin Laden -- al-Zarqawi still isn't listed on the FBI's top 10 lists for fugitives or terrorists. [complete article]

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House report blasts CIA management
By Bob Drogin and Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2004

The CIA has ignored its core mission of spying, has refused to take corrective action and is heading "over a proverbial cliff" because of years of poor planning and mismanagement, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded in the latest congressional broadside aimed at America's premier intelligence agency.

The committee's proposed intelligence authorization bill, which was scheduled for a vote by the full House tonight, paints a devastating picture of the CIA's directorate of operations, the long-fabled division that sends clandestine agents overseas, recruits foreign spies, steals secrets, pays foreign leaders, sponsors coups and conducts countless other covert operations.

Recent investigations into the CIA's failures on Sept. 11 and its prewar reports on Iraq have chiefly blamed agency analysts, the men and women who assess classified information from satellite photos, communications intercepts, stolen documents and other intelligence. The House committee warned that the CIA's problems were deeper and broader. [complete article]

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Ashcroft sued over FBI whistleblower case
Associated Press (via The Guardian), June 23, 2004

A watchdog group sued Attorney General John Ashcroft on Wednesday for classifying previously public documents pertaining to a whistleblower's claims of security lapses in the FBI's translator program.

Citing national security, Ashcroft recently classified documents related to the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former linguist at the FBI. The lawsuit charged that reclassifying materials that had previously been in the public domain is illegal and unconstitutional. [complete article]

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Making policy backwards
By James Zogby, Middle East Online, June 22, 2004

As we have seen for many years in the Arab-Israeli conflict and as we are now learning about what occurred in the lead up to the war with Iraq, the US process works backwards. Instead of objective intelligence assessments shaping policy, with politics then being utilized to mobilize public support for needed action, all too often, US policy on key Middle East issues is shaped by politics. Political leaders dismiss intelligence that contradicts their chosen path and seek out intelligence that will conform to their needs. [complete article]

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Book by CIA officer says U.S. is losing fight against terror
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, June 23, 2004

A new book by the senior Central Intelligence Agency officer who headed a special office to track Osama bin Laden and his followers warns that the United States is losing the war against radical Islam and that the invasion of Iraq has only played into the enemy's hands. [...]

"U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious," the officer writes. "We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency -- not criminality or terrorism -- and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces."

The author says the threat is rooted in opposition not to American values, but to policies and actions, particularly in the Islamic world.

It is rare for a C.I.A. officer to publish a book while still serving at the agency and highly unusual for the book to focus on such a politically explosive topic. Under C.I.A. rules, the book had to be cleared by the agency before it could be published. It was approved for release on condition that the author and his internal agency not be identified. [complete article]

See also an NBC interview with "Anonymous."

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

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Time served
By Ben McGrath, The New Yorker, June 21, 2004

Some months ago, Betty Satterwhite, who edits the letters section at Time, got a call from a federal defender in Boston who was representing Richard Reid, the infamous shoe bomber, in a court appeal. Reid, it turned out, was a devoted Time reader, but he'd been having a little trouble with his subscription. As he awaited sentencing at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute, he began receiving peculiarly abridged editions of the magazine: the letters to the editor were always missing, as though they'd been torn out.

In fact, they had -- by F.B.I. agents responding to a series of "special administrative measures" issued by the Attorney General. Late last month, a federal court dismissed Reid's ongoing appeal to retrieve his missing Time letters. This may not seem a great loss, but shouldn't Reid, as a paying customer, be entitled to see the entire magazine, including the feedback provided by the likes of Jennifer Barnard, of Apple Valley, California? ("I am nine months pregnant, and I was totally mesmerized by your report. The pictures of a baby's brain, heart, stomach, umbilical cord and other major organs were amazing.") The problem, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Katzmann, is this: Al Qaeda training manuals advocate sending coded messages through innocent-seeming media, and Reid is a confessed Al Qaeda member. "With the receipt of unfiltered materials," Katzmann said, "the concern is that somebody trained in code could send a communication through unfiltered avenues which contain hidden messages." [complete article]

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The pretence of an independent Iraq
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, June 22, 2004

'Our soldiers call them the League of Frightened Gentlemen," said an American officer pointing derisively towards the buildings in the so-called green zone in Baghdad, housing the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority which has ruled Iraq for over a year.

It is a miserable record. Isolated behind the concrete walls of the green zone, Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, presided over a sort of Washington-on-Tigris, visibly out of touch with the political realities of Iraq and absorbed in its own bureaucratic civil wars.

The ease of the American victory in the war last year led to a rush of blood to the head. "They were drunk with victory," a Kurdish ally of the US told me. Saddam Hussein lost the war so swiftly because he had almost no base in Iraq. Mr Bremer behaved as if the Iraqi leader had a host of loyal followers. The CPA disbanded the Iraqi army and persecuted former members of the Baath Party. Several million Iraqis had a reason for supporting the armed resistance. [complete article]

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The struggle for sovereignty
By Karma Nabulsi, The Guardian, June 23, 2004

The United States and Britain claim to be handing sovereignty to Iraq next week. In fact, the occupying power cannot legally transfer sovereignty on June 30 for one simple reason: it does not possess it. Sovereignty is vested in the Iraqi people, and always has been: before Saddam Hussein, after him, under the martial law of the American proconsul Paul Bremer today.

This fact is reflected in the language of the most recent UN resolution - 1546, on June 8 - as well as previous ones, all of which "reaffirm the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq". The constant need of George Bush and Tony Blair to claim sovereignty reflects more than a misunderstanding of the laws of war and basic international law. It demonstrates an alarming ignorance of the democratic structures of the very countries they were elected to represent. This ignorance also provides us with some clues as to why they have no understanding either of what they are doing in Iraq, or what is happening on the ground there.

When the formal apparatus of a state crumbles during invasion and occupation, and authority is exercised by a foreign military power, sovereignty returns to its bearers, a country's citizens. Sovereignty is vested in the people, and not in the apparatus of state. This is the fundamental principle from which modern democracies draw their legitimacy, and the basis for all representative government. It is also the cornerstone of modern international law. [complete article]

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Mourning after: How they screwed it up
By Kenneth M. Pollack, The New Republic (via Brookings Institute), June 28, 2004

Bill Galston is one helluva debater. In the fall of 2002, well before the invasion of Iraq, I faced Bill -- a University of Maryland professor and a former colleague of mine in the Clinton administration -- in a public debate, and he kicked my rhetorical ass. He did it by holding up a copy of my book, The Threatening Storm, and saying to the audience, "If we were going to get Ken Pollack's war, I could be persuaded to support it. But we are not going to get Ken Pollack's war; we are going to get George Bush's war, and that is a war I will not support." Bill's words haunted me throughout the run-up to the invasion. Several months ago, I sent him a note conceding that he had been right. [complete article]

Comment -- Kenneth Pollack is far from alone in realizing that the war did not play out the way he intended it to. What is extraordinary is that so many of the war's proponents expressed their support for this war as though they could define the terms on which it would be fought. They fantasized about being the commander in chief and now that the results don't match their predictions, they whimsically reflect, if only...

Nevertheless, whether in their minds they own the results, they provided the driving force for war and ultimately they should be held accountable for its consequences.

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Wolfowitz says Iraq stay could last years
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, June 23, 2004

The U.S. military could remain in Iraq for years, but with the passage of time it should be able to step back into more of a supporting role for Iraqi security forces, the Pentagon's number two official said yesterday in a hearing notable for sharp partisan exchanges.

"I think it's entirely possible" that U.S. troops could be stationed in Iraq for years, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told the House Armed Services Committee. But, he added, as the Iraqi army and new national guard develop, "we will be able to let them be in the front lines and us be in a supporting position."

Wolfowitz said it is possible that U.S. troops could be used to enforce Iraqi martial law after the partial transfer of power a week from now. Ayad Alawi, Iraq's interim prime minister, has said martial law is possible to crack down on insurgents.

Helping impose martial law, Wolfowitz said, "might actually be something that we might mutually agree was necessary to bring order in a particularly difficult place." [complete article]

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Iraq ministers told only U.S. can impose martial law
By Nicolas Pelham, Financial Times, June 22, 2004

The US-led occupation authority in Baghdad has warned Iraq's interim government not to carry out its threat of declaring martial law, insisting that only the US-led coalition has the right to adopt emergency powers after the June 30 handover of sovereignty.

Senior American officials say Iraq's authorities are bound by human rights clauses in the interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, prohibiting administrative detention.

But they say the recent United Nations Security Council resolution 1546 sanctions the use by foreign forces in Iraq of "all necessary measures" to provide security.

A senior coalition official in Baghdad said: "Under the UN resolution, the multinational force will have the power to take all actions traditionally associated with martial law." He said they had raised their legal objections with Iyad Allawi, Iraq's prime minister. [complete article]

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For Iraq's Shiites, faith knows no borders
By Youssef M. Ibrahim, New York Times, June 23, 2004

While Iraq's Sunni Muslims continue their insurgency and the Kurds threaten to secede, America at least seems to have reached an accord with the country's largest group, the Shiites. The most respected religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has approved of the Shiite-led transition government set to take over in Baghdad next week, and the militias loyal to the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr have peacefully abandoned their occupation of the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

It would be a mistake, however, to consider the Shiites a problem solved. Rather, Bush administration strategists should undertake an in-depth analysis of the entire Shiite phenomenon, which since the Iranian revolution that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power in Iran in 1979 has repeatedly upset America's plans in the Persian Gulf. It is vital that Washington understand that it cannot consider the Shiites of Iraq to be an independent, national body. Shiism, forged during more than 1,500 years of persecution at the hands of the Islamic world's Sunnis, is a phenomenon that transcends borders and domestic politics. [complete article]

Regional implications of Shi'a revival in Iraq
By Vali Nasr, The Washington Quarterly, Spring, 2004

Since regime change disenfranchised the Sunni minority leadership that had ruled Iraq since the country's independence in 1932 and empowered the Shi'a majority, the Shi'a-Sunni competition for power has emerged as the single greatest determinant of peace and stability in post-Saddam Iraq. Iraq's sectarian pains are all the more complex because reverberations of Shia empowerment will inevitably extend beyond Iraq's borders, involving the broader region from Lebanon to Pakistan. The change in the sectarian balance of power is likely to have a far more immediate and powerful impact on politics in the greater Middle East than any potential example of a moderate and progressive government in Baghdad. The change in the sectarian balance of power will shape public perception of U.S. policies in Iraq as well as the long-standing balance of power between the Shi'a and Sunnis that sets the foundation of politics from Lebanon to Pakistan. U.S. interests in the greater Middle East are now closely tied to the risks and opportunities that will emanate from the Shi'a revival in Iraq. [complete article]

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U.S. alters its plan for exemption at court
By Colum Lynch, Washington Post, June 23, 2004

The Bush administration has abandoned its plan to seek a Security Council resolution providing an open-ended exemption for U.S. personnel serving in U.N.-authorized peacekeeping missions from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, senior U.S. and Security Council diplomats said.

The United States, under increasing criticism for U.S. abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, was facing a diplomatic defeat in the 15-nation council over the U.S.-sponsored text. The United States is pressing instead for a resolution that would shield U.S. personnel from prosecution only through June 2005.

The court was established under a 1998 treaty to prosecute individuals responsible for the most serious crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since the court began its work, in July 2002, the United States has demanded that the council grant its personnel an exemption from prosecution to carry out its global peacekeeping obligations.

In reducing that demand, senior U.S. officials said Tuesday that they have obtained written assurances from 90 countries that they would not surrender U.S. personnel to the court, which is based in The Hague. [complete article]

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Afghan detainees routinely tortured and humiliated by U.S. troops
By Duncan Campbell and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, June 23, 2004

Detainees held in Afghanistan by American troops have been routinely tortured and humiliated as part of the interrogation process, in the same way as those in Iraq, a Guardian investigation has found.
Five detainees have died in custody, three of them in suspicious circumstances, and survivors have told stories of beatings, strippings, hoodings and sleep deprivation.

The nature of the alleged abuse indicates that what happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was part of a pattern of interrogation that has been common practice since the US invasion of Afghanistan. [complete article]

Memo on interrogation tactics is disavowed
By Mike Allen and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, June 23, 2004

President Bush's aides yesterday disavowed an internal Justice Department opinion that torturing terrorism suspects might be legally defensible, saying it had created the false impression that the government was claiming authority to use interrogation techniques barred by international law.

Responding to pressure from Congress and outrage around the world, officials at the White House and the Justice Department derided the August 2002 legal memo on aggressive interrogation tactics, calling parts of it overbroad and irrelevant and saying it would be rewritten.

In a highly unusual repudiation of its department's own work, a senior Justice official and two other high-ranking lawyers said that all legal advice rendered by the department's Office of Legal Counsel on the subject of interrogations will be reviewed.

As part of a public relations offensive, the administration also declassified and released hundreds of pages of internal documents that it said demonstrated that Bush had never authorized torture against detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In doing so, the administration revealed details of the interrogation tactics being used on prisoners, an extraordinary disclosure for an administration that has argued that the release of such information would help the enemy. [complete article]

U.S. liability key concern in '02 debate on detainees
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, June 23, 2004

A furious debate erupted in January 2002 between the State Department and the Justice Department over the type and degree of human rights protections available to fighters picked up in the hundreds by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The State Department said that, as a matter of law, soldiers in the Taliban forces associated with the country's leadership were protected by the Geneva Conventions. But the Justice Department, arguing for those at the Pentagon who sought more latitude in the use of tough interrogation techniques, said the Taliban fighters were not entitled to those protections.

While the contours of this debate have been known for some time, one of the internal administration memos revealed yesterday by the administration makes clear for the first time the preeminent concern of those who supported the Justice Department's position, which was subsequently embraced in part by President Bush. [complete article]

General promised quick results if Gitmo plan used at Abu Ghraib
By Blake Morrison and Peter Eisler, USA Today, June 23, 2004

The general who pushed for more aggressive interrogation tactics at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison predicted better intelligence within a month if his strategies were adopted, according to a copy of his classified plan obtained by USA TODAY.

In the plan, sent in early September to top military officials in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller promised that "a significant improvement in actionable intelligence will be realized within 30 days." His strategy involved having military police acting as prison guards "setting the conditions to exploit internees to respond to questions." [...]

Miller's plan was not among documents released Tuesday by the White House. Rather, it is part of the classified section of the report prepared by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who conducted the Army's internal investigation into abuses at Abu Ghraib. Miller, who was not interviewed in that investigation, was subsequently put in charge of all detention and interrogation operations in Iraq. [complete article]

Abu Ghraib images bring lessons closer to home
By Jonathan Turley, USA Today, June 21, 2004

The scandal over the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib appears to be subsiding in Washington. In a ritual as old as the republic, scapegoats have been offered up by the administration and accepted by the Congress. For the military, however, the message and true meaning of the scandal could not be more clear: no more pictures.

The federal government, and particularly the military, has long understood the impact of photographs. Pictures represent a dangerous element in a world that remains largely visual. They are hard to spin or deny. Most importantly, such images are instantly credible for a viewer. (Recall the naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash.)

Knowing the dangers of such images, the federal government for decades has rejected calls for videotaping interrogations -- a practice followed by some states. Yet the government often uses videotape to record confessions, but not the interrogations that lead to them. As a result, any accusations of abuse during an interrogation is the word of the suspect against that of a law enforcement officer. [complete article]

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Did Ashcroft brush off terror warnings?
By Lisa Myers, NBC News, June 22 2004

The 9/11 commission is busy writing its final report, but is still investigating critical facts, including the conduct of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. NBC News has learned that the commission has interviewed two FBI officials who contradict sworn testimony by Ashcroft, about whether he brushed off terrorism warnings in the summer of 2001.

In the critical months before Sept. 11, did Ashcroft dismiss threats of an al-Qaida attack in this country?

At issue is a July 5, 2001, meeting between Ashcroft and acting FBI Director Tom Pickard. That month, the threat of an al-Qaida attack was so high, the White House summoned the FBI and domestic agencies, and warned them to be on alert.

Yet, Pickard testified to the 9/11 commission that when he tried to brief Ashcroft just a week later, on July 12, about the terror threat inside the United States, he got the brush-off.

"Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this anymore," Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste asked on April 13. "Is that correct?"

"That is correct," Pickard replied. [complete article]

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Unruly scorn leaves room for restraint, but not a lot
By A.O. Scott, New York Times, June 23, 2004

Respect for the president is a longstanding American tradition and one that is still very much alive, as the weeklong national obsequies for Ronald Reagan recently proved. But there is also an opposing tradition of holding up our presidents, especially while they are in office, to ridicule and scorn.

Which is to say that while Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" will be properly debated on the basis of its factual claims and cinematic techniques, it should first of all be appreciated as a high-spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression. Mixing sober outrage with mischievous humor and blithely trampling the boundary between documentary and demagoguery, Mr. Moore takes wholesale aim at the Bush administration, whose tenure has been distinguished, in his view, by unparalleled and unmitigated arrogance, mendacity and incompetence. [complete article]

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Bid to push Nader out
By Sara Terry, Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 2004

Jason Salzman still remembers how he felt about the Democrats and Vice President Al Gore in 2000. "I was at the end of my rope with the Democratic Party," says the Denver-based public relations consultant.

Despite objections from family, friends, and colleagues, he cast a vote for Ralph Nader, his first for a third-party candidate. Even after the Florida election fiasco, Mr. Salzman still felt he'd done the right thing, and proudly plastered an "Unrepentant Nader Voter" bumper sticker on his car.

But after two years with President Bush in office - and what Salzman saw as increasing evidence of the president's "extremism" - he began feeling a few twinges of regret. When the bombs began to fall on Baghdad last year his twinges become full-fledged remorse.

"The day that happened," he says, "I took a razor blade and excised the "un" from the unrepentant sticker on my car. It was a liberating act of self-correction, and now I think all Nader voters should experience it." [complete article]

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Washington Post State Dept. reporter questioned in leak probe
By Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, June 23, 2004

A Washington Post reporter was questioned yesterday by the special prosecutor investigating the possibly illegal leak of a CIA employee's identity by Bush administration officials.

State Department reporter Glenn Kessler submitted to a tape-recorded interview that will be provided to a grand jury investigating the disclosure last summer of CIA employee Valerie Plame's name to columnist Robert D. Novak.

Kessler said he agreed to be interviewed about two phone conversations he had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, at Libby's urging. At the prosecutor's request, Libby and other White House aides have signed waivers saying they agree to release reporters they have talked to from keeping confidential any disclosures about Plame. [complete article]

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Corrected report shows '03 terror attacks the highest in 2 decades
By Cam Simpson, Chicago Tribune (via Monterey Herald), June 22, 2004

The State Department issued corrected data Tuesday showing that significant terrorist attacks worldwide reached a two-decade high in 2003, after mistakes in the same statistics led officials to conclude eight weeks ago that America was winning the war on terror.

The total number of terrorist attacks increased only slightly from the previous year, from 205 to 208, but attacks classified as "significant," a measurement of death, injury and economic costs, hit 175 - the highest mark since 1982. [...]

The new statistics were introduced at a press conference Tuesday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said the mistakes, although numerous, were honest ones.

Powell also insisted the faulty data, originally issued at a press conference April 29, were not twisted to bolster President Bush's re-election campaign, in which the president has made his record against terrorism a cornerstone. [...]

When this year's report was originally released, Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, introduced it by evoking the images of dead children in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, along with other victims killed in hot spots around the globe. Armitage also said the report detailed the efforts of the U.S. and 92 other nations "to fight back and protect our peoples."

"Indeed," Armitage continued, "you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight." [complete article]

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Slain South Korean spoke Arabic, was devout Christian
By Martin Nesirky, Reuters, June 22, 2004

On Monday, Kim Sun-il stood gesticulating as he shouted desperately at the camera, "I don't want to die."

On Wednesday, the Arabic interpreter and devout Christian who dreamed of missionary work in the Arab world knelt silently and impassively before his Muslim militant captors beheaded him.

The scenes from videotapes aired on Arabic television station Al Jazeera were broadcast repeatedly on South Korean television, sending a chill through many people who already had reservations about the government's plan to send troops to Iraq. [complete article]

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Bush loses advantage in war on terrorism
By Richard Morin and Dan Balz, Washington Post, June 22, 2004

Public anxiety over mounting casualties in Iraq and the doubts about long-term consequences of the war continue to rise and have helped to erase President Bush's once-formidable advantage over Sen. John F. Kerry on who is best able to deal with terrorist threats, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Exactly half the country now approves of the way Bush is managing the U.S. war on terrorism, down 13 points since April, according to the poll. Barely two months ago, Bush comfortably led Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 21 percentage points when voters were asked which man they trusted to deal with the terrorist threat. Today the country is evenly divided, with 48 percent preferring Kerry and 47 percent favoring Bush.

With less than 10 days to go before the United States turns over governing power to a new government in Iraq, the survey shows that Americans are coming to a mixed judgment about the costs and benefits of the war. Campaign advisers to both Bush and Kerry believe voters' conclusions about Bush and Iraq will play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the November election. [complete article]

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Intelligence experts cast doubt on ties between Iraq, al-Qaida
By Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, June 21, 2004

Defenders of President Bush's charges that Saddam Hussein worked with al-Qaida have been citing what they say is new evidence that could help substantiate one of the administration's main justifications for invading Iraq.

They say the evidence is the name of a paramilitary officer in captured documents that appears identical to that of an Iraqi who met two Sept. 11 hijackers in Malaysia nearly two years before the attacks in New York and Washington.

But U.S. officials told Knight Ridder on Monday that U.S. intelligence experts were highly skeptical that the Iraqi officer had any connection to al-Qaida. [complete article]

See also, Al Qaeda link to Iraq may be confusion over names (WP).

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PROMISES UNKEPT: The U.S. occupation of Iraq

Part One: Mistakes loom large as handover nears
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, June 20, 2004

The American occupation of Iraq will formally end this month having failed to fulfill many of its goals and stated promises intended to transform the country into a stable democracy, according to a detailed examination drawing upon interviews with senior U.S. and Iraqi officials and internal documents of the occupation authority.

The ambitious, 15-month undertaking stumbled because of a series of mistakes that began with an inadequate commitment of resources and was aggravated by a misunderstanding of Iraqi politics, religion and society in occupied Iraq, these participants said.

"We blatantly failed to get it right," said Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who served as an adviser to the occupation authority. "When you look at the record, it's impossible to escape the conclusion that we squandered an unprecedented opportunity." [complete article]

Part Two: An educator learns the hard way
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, June 21, 2004

John Agresto arrived here nine months ago with two suitcases, a feather pillow and a suffusion of optimism. He didn't know much about Iraq, but he felt certain the American occupation, and his mission to oversee the country's university system, would be a success.

"Like everyone else in America, I saw the images of people cheering as Saddam Hussein's statue was pulled down. I saw people hitting pictures of him with their shoes," said Agresto, the former president of St. John's College in New Mexico. "Once you see that, you can't help but say, 'Okay. This is going to work.' "

But the Iraq he encountered was different from what he had expected. Visits to the universities he was trying to rebuild and the faculty he wanted to invigorate were more and more dangerous, and infrequent. His Iraqi staff was threatened by insurgents. His evenings were disrupted by mortar attacks on the occupation authority's Baghdad headquarters. [complete article]

Part Three: Death stalks an experiment in democracy
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, June 22, 2004

New political institutions to replace Saddam Hussein's Baath Party dictatorship are among the chief legacies of the U.S. occupation. Every city and province has a local council. New mayors, provincial governors and national cabinet ministers have been chosen. The Shiite Muslim majority, shut out of power in Hussein's government, is widely represented, as are religious minorities and women. Hundreds of political parties have formed, and thousands of people have participated in seminars on democracy.

But Iraqis criticize the local councils and the interim national government as illegitimate because their members were not elected. The country's top Shiite cleric has repudiated the interim constitution drafted by the U.S.-appointed Governing Council. In several recent meetings about the country's political future, Iraqis who favor a Western-style democracy have been drowned out by calls for a system governed by Islamic law.

The cabinet, appointed by a U.N. envoy three weeks ago, has had little time to prepare to govern. Local councils, whose authority had been restricted for months by U.S. military commanders, are also stepping into uncharted areas, uncertain about their responsibilities and powers under a system whose inauguration is a week away.

Yet these uncertainties are overshadowed by the imminent threat of violence. Local council members who once welcomed constituents into their homes now keep armed guards at the front gate. Leaders of the national government travel in armored vehicles and work inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, an area off-limits to ordinary Iraqis. Many foreign contractors hired by the U.S. government to promote democracy have either relocated to Kuwait or hunkered down in protected compounds. [complete article]

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Top commanders can be questioned in prison abuse case
By Edward Wong, New York Times, June 22, 2004

A military judge ruled Monday that the top American commanders involved in the Iraq war will have to submit to questioning by lawyers for two servicemen charged in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case. The defense lawyers said they would show that the most senior military and civilian officials approved interrogation methods that violated the Geneva Conventions.

Among those who could be questioned are Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of the United States Central Command; Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, commander of American ground troops in Iraq; and Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, who is to oversee daily military operations.

The judge, Col. James Pohl, also called Abu Ghraib a "crime scene" and ordered the government to "take all steps possible" to preserve the prison, 15 miles west of Baghdad. That command, issued during a pretrial hearing, seemed to override an earlier pledge by President Bush to raze the prison. [complete article]

U.S. rules on prisoners seen as a back and forth of mixed messages to G.I.'s
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, June 22, 2004

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration's new rules governing treatment of foreign prisoners have been contradictory and have sent mixed messages to American soldiers, according to military personnel and documents.

Six investigations are under way into abuses of detainees; none are expected to produce any conclusions soon. A close review of recently disclosed documents and interviews with soldiers, officers and government officials find a broader pattern of misconduct and knowledge about it stretching into the middle chain of command. But there is no clear evidence to date that the highest military or civilian leaders ordered or authorized the mistreatment of prisoners at American-run prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Still, the ever-shifting rules, in which lists of accepted interrogation tactics were widened drastically before being reined in over 17 crucial months, helped foster a climate in which abuse could flourish. [complete article]

Flurry of suicide attempts at Guantanamo
By Matt Kelley, Associated Press (via Seattle Post-Intelligencer), June 22, 2004

Three months after a get-tough general took command of the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects, prisoners began a flurry of suicide attempts.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller took over as commander at Guantanamo in November 2002 after interrogators criticized his predecessor for being too solicitous for the detainees' welfare.

Between January and March 2003, 14 prisoners at Guantanamo tried to kill themselves. That's more than 40 percent of the 34 suicide attempts by 21 inmates since the prison was opened in January 2002.

Miller is now in charge of all military-run U.S. prisons in Iraq, a job he took after news broke of beatings and sexual humiliations last fall at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. [complete article]

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Noonday in the shade
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, June 22, 2004

In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon — a cyanide bomb — big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building.

Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. Jose Padilla, the accused "dirty bomber," didn't have any bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

Incidentally, if Mr. Ashcroft's intention was to keep the case low-profile, the media have been highly cooperative. To this day, the Noonday conspiracy has received little national coverage. [complete article]

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Democracy isn't working
By Martin Jacques, The Guardian, June 22, 2004

However implausibly, President Bush continues to reiterate his commitment to the early introduction of democracy in Iraq. Indeed, the idea of democratic reform in the Arab world has been central to the Anglo-American position on Iraq. There should be nothing surprising in that. Democracy has become the universal calling card of the west, the mantra that is chanted at every country that falls short (when politically convenient, of course), the ubiquitous solution to the problems of countries that are not democratic.

The boast about democracy is largely a product of the last half-century, following the defeat of fascism. Before that, a large slice of Europe remained mired in dictatorship, often of an extremely brutal and distasteful kind. The idea of democracy as a western virtue was blooded during the cold-war struggle against communism, though its use remained highly selective: those many dictatorships that sided with the west were happily awarded membership of the "free world"; "freedom" took precedence over democracy, regimes as inimical to democracy as apartheid South Africa, Diem's South Vietnam and Franco's Spain were welcomed into the fold. Following the collapse of communism, however, "free markets and democracy" became for the first time - at least in principle - the universal prescription for each and every country. [complete article]

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Iran to prosecute British sailors - Iranian TV
By Paul Hughes, Reuters, June 22, 2004

Iran will prosecute eight British naval personnel seized in its waters, state television said on Tuesday, turning what seemed a minor border incident into a serious diplomatic spat.

The British government immediately demanded an explanation from Tehran of the television report. British officials have had neither access to the men, detained on Monday with their three boats, nor told where they are being held. [...]

Iranian officials have neither confirmed nor denied the al Alam report on prosecuting the Britons. Political analysts doubt Iran will press charges.

"There is nothing in Iran's interests to go prosecuting these people," said Ali Ansari, Middle East expert at University of Exeter, who pointed out that Britain, unlike the United States, has tried to engage with Iran's leaders in recent years.

"I think there'll be a couple of high-level contacts ... There'll be a bit of diplomatic toing-and-froing, then they'll be released ... in a matter of days," he said. [complete article]

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Shooting death angers Iraqi family
By Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe, June 21, 2004

American soldiers stormed into Sajid Kadhum Bouri al-Bawi's house three hours after midnight on May 17, breaking two doors and rousing the dozen children who live there.

An hour later, family members recalled, the soldiers led a hooded man from the house and told the family they were arresting Bawi. Only after the soldiers left with what appeared to be a prisoner did Bawi's brother find his bloodied body, shot five times and stuffed behind a refrigerator underneath a pile of mattresses.

The US Army is investigating the shooting, and admits that Bawi was shot and killed by an American when, according to the soldiers involved, he tried to seize a soldier's weapon.

Bawi's slaying during the kind of routine night raid that is the military's bread-and-butter counterinsurgency tactic raises questions about the control and supervision of soldiers on those raids, and the reliability of the local informants whose tips are often behind the arrest lists. [complete article]

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Contractors afraid of losing immunity after handover
By Joshua Chaffin, Financial Times, June 21, 2004

US contractors in Iraq are becoming concerned that the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 could jeopardise their business operations.

For months, the Bush administration has hailed the handover as a defining moment in the reconstruction of a stable and democratic Iraq.

But contractors fear a new Iraqi government could strip them of their immunity to local law, which would drive up their insurance costs and possibly push some to abandon the country.

There are an estimated 20,000 foreign contract workers, ranging from security guards to electricity industry technicians, in Iraq and Kuwait, making them one of the largest forces engaged in the country's reconstruction. [complete article]

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U.N. slams U.S. over spending Iraq funds
By Gareth Smyth and Thomas Catan, Financial Times, June 21, 2004

United Nations-mandated auditors have sharply criticised the US occupation authority for the way it has spent more than $11bn in Iraqi oil revenues and say they have faced "resistance" from coalition officials.

In an interim report, obtained by the Financial Times, KPMG says the Development Fund for Iraq, which is managed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and channels oil revenue into reconstruction projects, is "open to fraudulent acts". [...]

Some of KPMG's most damning criticisms were of the State Organisation for Marketing Oil, responsible for the sale of Iraq's most crucial asset. Oil sales, which go into the US-controlled fund, have topped $10bn since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Somo's only record of barter transactions was "an independent database, derived from verbal confirmations gained by Somo staff", the report found. [complete article]

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Senate backs ban on photos of G.I. coffins
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times, June 22, 2004

The Bush administration's policy of barring news photographs of the flag-covered coffins of service members killed in Iraq won the backing of the Republican-controlled Senate on Monday, when lawmakers defeated a Democratic measure to instruct the Pentagon to allow pictures.

The 54-to-39 vote came after little formal debate, with 7 Democrats joining 47 Republicans to defeat the provision.

Two Republicans, Senators Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, voted in favor of permitting news photographers to have access to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where coffins containing the war dead from Iraq arrive. [complete article]

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Ex-policeman is new al-Qaida chief in Saudi Arabia
By Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, June 22, 2004

A former sergeant in the Saudi security forces has been appointed head of al-Qaida in the kingdom after the death of Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin, the previous leader, in a gun battle on Friday.

Paying tribute to Muqrin for "having prepared sincere men from among the combatants to succeed him and carry on the jihad", an internet statement signed by "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula" named the terror group's new commander as Salih al-Oufi.

Oufi, 38, was allegedly among the 19 militants who started a wave of attacks just over a year ago with the bombing of housing compounds in Riyadh that left 35 people dead.

He is believed to be a cousin of Majed Moqed, one of five hijackers aboard the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11 2001. [complete article]

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Ranks breaking over North Korea
By Robert Marquand and Donald Kirk, Christian Science Monitor, June 22, 2004

Since confronting the Kim Jong Il regime with evidence of a secret uranium nuclear program two years ago, the White House has demanded a "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of all nuclear activity in North Korea. Known by the acronym "CVID," and hewed to by the Bush team closely for a year of multiparty talks, the US position requires a full-scale retreat by Pyongyang before it can expect to receive loans, aid, and security guarantees.

Yet Wednesday, as the next round of six-nation talks on Korea's nuclear crisis commences in Beijing, Chinese and South Korean delegates are expected to break ranks, join forces, and politely challenge the practicality of American insistence on CVID.

As the states closest to North Korea both geographically and diplomatically, China and South Korea will ask the US to rethink what one high-level source in Beijing calls an "unrealistic" position. Both Beijing and Seoul are even prepared to discuss allowing Kim Jong Il to pursue a nuclear-energy program that is "peaceful," sources say. [complete article]

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Israel looks to the Kurds
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, June 21, 2004

Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel's view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel's clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports.

Asked to comment, Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said, "The story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it's untrue." Kurdish officials declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the State Department.

However, a senior C.I.A. official acknowledged in an interview last week that the Israelis were indeed operating in Kurdistan. He told me that the Israelis felt that they had little choice: "They think they have to be there." Asked whether the Israelis had sought approval from Washington, the official laughed and said, "Do you know anybody who can tell the Israelis what to do? They're always going to do what is in their best interest." The C.I.A. official added that the Israeli presence was widely known in the American intelligence community. [complete article]

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Iraq government considers using emergency rule
By Dexter Filkins and Somini Segupta, New York Times, June 21, 2004

Faced with violent resistance even before it has assumed power, Iraq's newly appointed government is considering imposing a state of emergency that could involve curfews and a ban on public demonstrations, Iraqi officials said Sunday.

In his first news briefing here, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi offered no details of what emergency rule might include, only that a committee of cabinet members had been appointed to consider the issue.

Dr. Allawi, who worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency in opposing Saddam Hussein's government in the 1990's, said he would consider "human rights principles and international law," but made clear that he intended to act quickly and forcefully against the insurgency, using extraordinary methods if necessary.

"We will do all we can to strike against enemy forces aiming at harming our country, and we will not stand by with our hands tied," Dr. Allawi said. "The Iraqi people are determined to establish a democratic government that provides freedom and equal rights for all its citizens. We are prepared to fight and, if necessary, die for the cause." [complete article]

See also, Iraq might welcome a strongman (LA Times).

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U.S. said to overstate value of Guantanamo detainees
By Jim Golden and Don Van Natta Jr.,

For nearly two and a half years, American officials have maintained that locked within the steel-mesh cells of the military prison here are some of the world's most dangerous terrorists -- "the worst of a very bad lot," Vice President Dick Cheney has called them.

The officials say information gleaned from the detainees has exposed terrorist cells, thwarted planned attacks and revealed vital intelligence about Al Qaeda. The secrets they hold and the threats they pose justify holding them indefinitely without charge, Bush administration officials have said.

But as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legal status of the 595 men imprisoned here, an examination by The New York Times has found that government and military officials have repeatedly exaggerated both the danger the detainees posed and the intelligence they have provided. [complete article]

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Lawyer wants Bush on witness stand over Iraq abuse
Reuters, June 21, 2004

A lawyer defending a U.S. soldier charged with abusing prisoners in Iraq says he will seek to put U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld on the witness stand.

Bush and Rumsfeld sidestepped the Geneva Convention in their "war on terror", civilian defence counsel Paul Bergrin said on Monday.

His client, Sergeant Javal Davis, was instructed on a daily basis to soften up Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence, Bergrin said.

"Bush gave a speech declaring his war on terror and said the Geneva Convention no longer applied," he told reporters after an impassioned address in the court room.

He accused Rumsfeld and other top U.S. officials of trying to redefine the definitions of abuse and torture in a campaign aimed at influencing lawyers at the Department of Justice. [complete article]

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U.S. holding prisoners in more than two dozen secret detention facilities worldwide, new report says
Human Rights First, June 17, 2004

A new report from Human Rights First (the new name of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) outlines the scope of the global network of U.S. detention facilities holding suspects in the "war on terror." The report lists more than two dozen facilities that have been reported by Human Rights First sources and the media; at least half of these operate in total secrecy.

In addition to listing known detention facilities – including prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Force Base, and Abu Ghraib – the report, "Ending Secret Detentions" provides an accounting of U.S. military detention facilities reported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, and aboard U.S. ships at sea (see attached list).

"The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation," said Deborah Pearlstein, the Director of Human Rights First's U.S. Law and Security Program. "The United States government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law." [complete article]

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Sharon's Palestinian 'state' - in the eyes of the beholder
By Akiva Eldar, Daily Star, June 21, 2004

In winter 2001, shortly before Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak in elections for prime minister, I had the opportunity to personally hear Sharon's vision of a Palestinian state.

Sharon removed a large map of Israel from a corner cabinet in his modest Likud headquarters office in Tel Aviv and pointed to the areas he proposed to annex to Israel. Moving from north to south, the pointer in his hand went from the Ariel bloc deep in the West Bank to greater Jerusalem, and from there to the Etzion bloc and Hebron. Then the pointer hovered over the Jordan Valley, from Bet Shean to the Dead Sea. These regions, Sharon explained, were vital to Israel's security. They could not be conceded even in return for the best of peace agreements.

I asked Sharon if he knew any Palestinian who would accept a state made up of three enclaves bereft of territorial contiguity. He replied that that problem had preoccupied Mahmoud Abbas when he examined the very same map during one of his visits to Sharon's Sycamore Ranch. "I told him," Sharon related, "that there are places where we drive underneath Palestinian territory, such as the tunnel road to the Etzion bloc. We can implement the same arrangement - tunnels or bridges - in other places as well."

In the course of time, following US President George W. Bush's presentation of his vision of a Palestinian state, Sharon, who by then had become prime minister, termed this idea (which in private conversations he used to compare to the "Bantustan" model of apartheid South Africa) "transportation contiguity." Such semantic exercises serve Sharon in bridging the gap between his aspiration that Israel hold on to at least half the West Bank, the international consensus that the Palestinians deserve an independent state, and Israel's demographic interests. [complete article]

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Changing fortunes lead Soviet Jews from Israel to Russia
CBC News, June 20, 2004

Slowly but surely, the synagogues of Moscow are filling up again. In the late 1980s and early 1990s close to one million Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel. The Soviet Union was collapsing, Russia was in economic and social chaos and anti-Semitism was rampant.

"When they left they were cursing this country saying, 'My feet will never set foot on this soil again,' such hatred and unhappiness. But we must admit things have changed," said Berl Lazar, Russia's chief rabbi.

The Russian economy that was on the verge of collapse is now booming, while the Israeli economy is sinking under the weight of the intefadeh.

Israelis live in a state of siege. And in spite of bloody exceptions, such as the recent Moscow subway bombing, Russians feel their security problems are confined to faraway Chechnya. Moreover, says Rabbi Lazar, anti-Semitism in Russia is declining. [complete article]

Meanwhile, neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer declares, Israel's intifada victory.

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U.S. workers in Saudi Arabia weigh leaving after terrorist attacks
By Dave Montgomery, Knight Ridder, June 21, 2004

In 1989, Lawrence Elkins answered a full-page ad in a Texas newspaper inviting Americans to work in Saudi Arabia. With $4 in his pocket and few other prospects, he answered the ad.

Fifteen years later, Elkins, a strapping 235-pound former college football player, is on his way out of the desert kingdom. His Saudi boss called him into the office last week and told him to leave - not because of his job performance, said Elkins, but because of his nationality. His employers at a Saudi water agency said that as an American they couldn't guarantee his safety.

Throughout Saudi Arabia, the beheading of American defense worker Paul Johnson and the deaths of other expatriates in recent terrorist attacks has jolted thousands of Americans who form an integral part of the country's economic fabric. And the elimination of the al-Qaida leader responsible for Johnson's death has done little to ease their fears. [complete article]

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Al Qaeda terror riles Saudi public
By Faiza Saleh Ambah, Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2004

The kidnapping and beheading of American Paul Johnson Jr. marks a turning point in Saudi public opinion against his Al Qaeda slayers.

Celebrations broke out at the news Friday night that Abdelaziz al-Miqrin, the man responsible for Johnson's death, had been killed. It was the first time in the kingdom's 13-month fight against terrorism that ordinary citizens expressed spontaneous joy at security forces' success.

"Whatever their disagreements with the United States, however much they are against US support for Israel or the war in Iraq, Saudis feel that Americans and foreigners in general should be able to feel safe in the kingdom," says Turki al-Dakheel, who hosts a show on the Al Arabiya network. [complete article]

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Evangelical leaders reexamine principles
By Larry B. Stammer, Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2004

The National Assn. of Evangelicals is circulating a draft of a groundbreaking framework for political action that strongly endorses social and economic justice and warns against close alignment with any political party.

Steeped in biblical morality and evangelical scholarship, the framework for public engagement could change how the estimated 30 million evangelicals in this country are viewed by liberals and conservatives alike.

It affirms a religiously based commitment to government protections for the poor, the sick and disabled, including fair wages, healthcare, nutrition and education. It declares that Christians have a "sacred responsibility" to protect the environment.

But it also hews closely to a traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of families, opposition to homosexual marriage and "social evils" such as alcohol, drugs, abortion and the use of human embryos for stem-cell research. It reaffirms a commitment to religious freedom at home and abroad.

In the midst of a presidential election year, war and terrorism, the framework says Christians in their devotion to country "must be careful to avoid the excesses of nationalism." In domestic politics, evangelicals "must guard against over-identifying Christian social goals with a single political party, lest nonbelievers think that Christian faith is essentially political in nature." [complete article]

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Who was really in charge?
By Daniel Klaidman and Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, June 28, 2004

America was under attack, and somebody had to make a decision. Dick Cheney, huddled in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center under the White House, had just urged the traveling George W. Bush not to return to Washington. The president had left Florida aboard Air Force One at 9:55 a.m. on 9/11 "with no destination at take-off," as last week's 9-11 Commission report noted. Nor had Bush given any known instructions on how to respond to the attacks. Now Cheney faced another huge decision on a morning in which every minute seemed monumental. The two airliners had already crashed into the Twin Towers, another into the Pentagon. Combat air patrols were aloft, and a military aide was asking for shoot-down authority, telling Cheney that a fourth plane was "80 miles out" from Washington. Cheney didn't flinch, the report said. "In about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing," he gave the order to shoot it down, telling others the president had "signed off on the concept" during a brief phone chat. When the plane was 60 miles out, Cheney was again informed and again he ordered: take it out.

Then Joshua Bolten, after what he described in testimony as "a quiet moment," spoke up. Bolten, the White House deputy chief of staff, asked the veep to get back in touch with the president to "confirm the engage order." Bolten was clearly subordinate to Cheney, but "he had not heard any prior conversation on the subject with the president," the 9/11 report notes. Nor did the real-time notes taken by two others in the room, Cheney's chief of staff, "Scooter" LibbyÂ?who is known for his meticulous record-keepingÂ?or Cheney's wife, Lynne, reflect that such a phone call between Bush and Cheney occurred or that such a major decision as shooting down a U.S. airliner was discussed. Bush and Cheney later testified the president gave the order. And national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and a military aide said they remembered a call, but gave few specifics. The report concluded "there is no documentary evidence for this call."

Did Dick Cheney follow proper procedures in ordering the shoot-down of U.S. airliners on 9/11? [complete article]

Comment -- Many Americans will be tempted to think that in an unprecedenteded situation such as the 9/11 attacks, following "proper procedures" was less important than acting decisively. A president who could remain immobile for seven minutes while he knew that the nation was under attack, appeared, at least at that time, to be hesitant to take charge. The question is, in another unprecedented situation is there any limit to the authority the vice-president might claim as his own, disregarding his constitutional powers?

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9/11 panel's findings vault Bush credibility to campaign forefront
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, June 20, 2004

The White House's swift and sustained reaction last week to the preliminary findings of the Sept. 11, 2001, commission showed the potential threat the 10-member panel poses to President Bush's reelection prospects.

After the commission staff released its findings Wednesday that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda -- challenging an assertion Bush and Vice President Cheney have made for the past two years -- Bush declared again that there was, in fact, a relationship.

Democratic and Republican strategists agree that many details of the controversy do not pose a grave threat to Bush's reelection chances.

The significance, rather, is whether Bush's Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), can use the commission's findings to split the Iraq war from the war on terrorism in the public's mind, and, more broadly, raise doubts about Bush's credibility and competence by building on the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and the miscalculations about the Iraqi resistance. [complete article]

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Report faults U.S. action on nuclear proliferation
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, June 21, 2004

Within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush highlighted the menace posed by weapons of mass destruction, declaring: "We will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes and terrorists to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

That promise led to designations, such as the "axis of evil" for Iraq, Iran and North Korea; to steps, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, which allows the United States to search ships for weapons material; and to war with Iraq, based on the belief that Saddam Hussein's government was sitting on a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and working toward an atomic bomb.

But according to a critical report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, it has not helped secure vulnerable nuclear facilities, criminalized the transfer of weapons technology or meted out punishments for countries that renege on their commitment to remain nuclear-free. [complete article]

The complete report, "Universal Compliance", is available here

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Conspiracy threat to anti-nuke treaty
By Rob Edwards, New Scientist, June 17, 2004

The US and UK governments will this week be accused of conspiring to break the international agreement to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The claim will be backed by detailed evidence of the large-scale collaboration by the two countries to develop their nuclear arsenals, an activity that the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) is specifically designed to prevent.

The claim comes from the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), a think tank based in London and Washington DC. Although the UK and the US cooperated on nuclear matters throughout the Cold War, the extent of their collaboration since then has never been documented. [complete article]

U.S.-U.K. nuclear weapons collaboration under the Mutual Defence Agreement: Shining a torch on the darker recesses of the 'special relationship'

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A hammer falls on Iraq's piggy bank in the fading days
By Andrew Cockburn, Los Angeles Times, une 20, 2004

Now that Iraqi insurgents have discovered precisely where to aim their body blows at oil export facilities, Iraq is going to need all the money it can find. So it seems a pity that in its final days, the U.S.-dominated Coalition Provision Authority has gone on a shopping spree, gaily spending the hoard of Iraqi cash it controls.

Like everyone else in Iraq, the insurgents have long recognized that oil, almost the country's only revenue resource, is the key to power. Since the beginning of the occupation, there have been no less than 125 sabotage attacks against oil pipelines. Until recently, most were in the northern oil fields, where little production goes for export, but lately, attacks have shifted to the southern fields, whence come 85% of Iraqi exports. Such gloomy realities appear to have little effect inside the CPA, where, reportedly, an "end of school" atmosphere has taken hold. This was most vividly expressed at a meeting last month at which it was decided to hand out almost $2 billion in Iraqi assets -- not American dollars but Iraqi money over which the U.S. authorities have assumed responsibility -- to a host of "deserving" causes. [complete article]

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The re-Baathification of Falluja
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, June 20, 2004

Falluja, a city of 300,000, sits on a desert shelf alongside the Euphrates River, 35 miles west of Baghdad. It is laid out in a grid: thousands of flat-roofed homes, one after another, all built from the same crumbly, monochromatic brick, the color of the earth and the dust and the sky here when it's windy. The Iraqis call Falluja the City of Mosques, and from a distance all you can see are dozens of minarets poking the sky like tiny needles. It is a traditional place, where many restaurants have their own prayer rooms or mini-mosques tucked away in the back. Some women here wear deep blue traditional tribal tattoos on their faces. The city has no nightclubs, no bars, no movie theaters. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, Falluja was home to many high-ranking army and Republican Guard officers. But it was always a difficult place to rule, even for Hussein, a volatile mix of rival sheiks and imams and military men, controlled by half a dozen powerful families, including the Zoba, the Halabsa, the Jumaila, the Muhammada, the Albu Esa and the Albu Hatim.

The Americans have had an even harder time taming the city. Falluja lies at the heart of the so-called Sunni Triangle, where opposition to the occupation has been the fiercest. During the U.S.-led invasion last year, Falluja put up virtually no resistance. But on April 28, 2003, a demonstration to mark Hussein's birthday turned unruly, and U.S. soldiers opened fire, killing 15 people. The city was soon a hotbed of rebellion, with frequent mortar, car-bomb and rocket-propelled-grenade attacks on American convoys and American helicopters -- and many U.S. casualties. When soldiers rolled through town and tossed candy out the windows of their Humvees, the children of Falluja threw it back. They said it was poison. [complete article]

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Kurds advancing to reclaim land in northern Iraq
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, June 20, 2004

Thousands of ethnic Kurds are pushing into lands formerly held by Iraqi Arabs, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee to ramshackle refugee camps and transforming the demographic and political map of northern Iraq.

The Kurds are returning to lands from which they were expelled by the armies of Saddam Hussein and his predecessors in the Baath Party, who ordered thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed and sent waves of Iraqi Arabs north to fill the area with supporters.

The new movement, which began with the fall of Mr. Hussein, appears to have quickened this spring amid confusion about American policy, along with political pressure by Kurdish leaders to resettle the areas formerly held by Arabs. It is happening at a moment when Kurds are threatening to withdraw from the national government if they are not confident of having sufficient autonomy. [complete article]

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Iraq is a hub for terrorism, however you define it
By Edward Wong, New York Times, June 20, 2004

A superpower invaded an impoverished Islamic nation. Guerrillas responded with AK-47's and rocket-propelled grenades. A generation of warriors was born, eager to wage jihad.

That was Afghanistan in the 1980's. It became a breeding ground for terrorists - most infamously Osama bin Laden - who exported their deadly skills throughout the world. In Iraq, some of the same conditions that nurtured terrorism in the mountains of Afghanistan have emerged in the power vacuum created by the American occupation, Iraqis and terrorism experts say.

"Unfortunately Iraq has become a cause celebre for radical jihadists the way that Afghanistan did a decade and a half ago," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corporation. "You've got a lot of the same conditions that allowed Afghanistan to become a hub for terrorists." [complete article]

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Why Osama backs Bush
By Simon Henderson, The Independent, June 20, 2004

Picture the scene: in November, as polls close across the United States, an anxious Osama bin Laden awaits the first predictions of the result. If President Bush loses, will the world's most famous terrorist claim victory? No. He will more likely be despondent. Bin Laden sees his struggle with the US in apocalyptic terms.

The US is the supporter of the House of Saud, the Saudi royal family, which Bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida followers regard as both politically and religiously corrupt.

It is hard to work out whether Bin Laden either grossly overestimates his own strength or is cannily playing his limited hand as part of some grand scheme. After so many setbacks, much of his strength is the continuing perception that he is a Lenin-like figure, seeing only progress in chaos.

The world vision of John Kerry, Bush's challenger, as much as it can be discerned, does not involve the apocalypse. If international diplomacy in 2005 switches to trying to understand militant Islam, Bin Laden will have to work harder to find new recruits. Kerry's world will still be anathema to al-Qa'ida but the global nature of the problem may appear to diminish for a while. By this analysis there is a curious coincidence between what is good for Bin Laden and what is good for George Bush. The President's strategists probably consider another attack on the US as beneficial to his chances. Equally, capturing or killing Bin Laden might be perceived as ending the "War on Terror" and allowing for a change in domestic political preferences. [complete article]

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The Saudi trap
By Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, June 28, 2004

The images of a beheaded Paul Johnson are gruesome, but for Saudi Arabia, it has been more than a year of grim images. It started on May 12, 2003, when three cars packed with bombs exploded in a residential compound in Riyadh, killing 35 people and wounding 200. Since then, there have been at least 20 terror attacks or clashes between Saudi police and Islamic militants. Most brazenly, four gunmen entered a residential compound for oil-industry workers in Khobar last month and killed 22 people. Does this turmoil mark the beginning of a civil war in Saudi Arabia? Could jihadis get control of the most powerful oil-producing nation and use its vital resource as a weapon against the modern world they so despise?

In search of answers, I traveled through Saudi Arabia last month, talking to princes, preachers, businessmen and dissidents. Many of the Saudis I met were defensive about the country's problems, angry with American foreign policy and enraged about the "demonizing" of Saudi Arabia. "Let me be honest: 9/11 meant nothing in Saudi Arabia," a young writer, Mshari Al-Thaydi, told me. "Some didn't believe that any Saudis were involved in it; others thought it was a conspiracy or was deserved because of America's support for Israel or whatever." But the more recent attacks -- particularly the May 12 bombings -- shook people out of their complacency. "May 12 was our 9/11," said Al-Thaydi. "Since then Saudis have had to recognize that Al Qaeda is not a fantasy. It is here." [complete article]

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Arab and Muslim world wants to be friends with us -- just not our government
By Larry Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 20, 2004

President Bush has answered the question "Why do they hate us?" by saying that "they" hate us because we are a democracy, that "they hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."

It seems like it never occurred to the president that Osama bin Laden and his supporters hate us because of our foreign policy in the Middle East -- our first Persian Gulf War with Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the second Persian Gulf war and for what is seen as our blind support for Israel.

But judging from a recent trip to Lebanon and Syria, two countries that have been identified as harboring terrorists, that is exactly why we are hated. [complete article]

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Two different lives, but one violent end
By Raymond Whitaker, The Independent, June 20, 2004

You meet many expatriates like Paul Johnson in the tougher parts of the world - middle-aged, somewhat overweight Westerners from utterly ordinary backgrounds whose technical skills have taken them abroad in search of an income and lifestyle they could never have aspired to at home. Right down to his Seventies-style moustache, the 49-year-old American electronics engineer fitted the stereotype.

Like other expats whose first union, to a woman from his own country, fell apart, he had married a foreigner the second time around. Often the second wife is a local woman, but that was never likely in Saudi Arabia, where foreigners live segregated lives in residential compounds. Instead Thanom Johnson came from Thailand, where the couple were using their savings to build a house.

Men like Paul Johnson used to take it for granted that they could travel to wherever their skills were in demand, and that their presence benefited the host country as well as themselves. But this presumption is being violently challenged by al-Qa'ida and its affiliates as they seek out symbols of the hated West to attack. The campaign is particularly virulent in Saudi Arabia, the location of the holiest places in Islam as well as the birthplace of Osama bin Laden and 11 of the 15 hijackers who struck New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. [complete article]

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Missile strike by U.S. kills 22 civilians in Iraq
By Patrick Cockburn and Raymond Whitaker, The Independent, June 20, 2004

US air forces fired two missiles into a residential area of the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah yesterday, killing 22 people and sparking a bitter row just 10 days before the country is supposed to come under Iraqi control.

Angry local people said at least five children and three women were among the dead, and that the Americans had sought to maximise casualties by firing a second missile at people trying to rescue victims. According to a US military spokesman in Baghdad, the target was a known hideout of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qa'ida-linked militant who is the Americans' most wanted man in Iraq.

The dispute highlighted the problems likely to be thrown up by what the occupation authorities call the transfer of power to a sovereign Iraqi government on 30 June. The interim government expects to be consulted on major military operations, but it is uncertain whether US officers would clear air strikes with Iraqi ministers. If they gave the go-ahead and there were serious civilian casualties, then many Iraqis would see their government as a US puppet. [complete article]

See also, Iraq's Allawi welcomes U.S. strike that killed 22 (Reuters) and Allawi reorganizes forces to fight terror (AP).

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

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.

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.

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

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.

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).

In 'Control Room,' the splitting image of war coverage
By Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, June 16, 2004
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. "Control Room," which will be shown for the first time locally tonight at the American Film Institute's Silverdocs festival in Silver Spring, is one of several new documentaries that question the traditional media's self-censorship and objectivity. As with Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" (which opens nationally June 25) and James Miller's "Death in Gaza" (being screened at the festival Saturday), Noujaim's movie has become a conduit for images of war and conflict that do not easily make it to American television screens. Noujaim's film doesn't linger over them, but in telling her story she shows scenes of American soldiers shouting obscenities and striking Iraqi prisoners, graphic footage of civilian wounded and bitter harangues from Iraqis who have lost homes or family members during the war. These images have been the stock in trade of al-Jazeera's coverage, not only in the Iraq war but throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They have helped make al-Jazeera synonymous with "anti-American" among the network's critics, including many in the Bush administration. By bringing them to a larger American public that doesn't watch al-Jazeera, Noujaim's documentary asks a question that has been gathering enormous momentum since the emergence of photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison: Why haven't we seen this?

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. 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.

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

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.
See details, Public Opinion in Iraq: First Poll Following Abu Ghraib Revelations

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.

A tortured debate
By Michael Hirsh, John Barry and Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek, June 21, 2004
... 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. Last week the White House dismissed news accounts of one such memo, an explosive August 2002 brief from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel disclosed by The Washington Post. The memo, drafted by former OLC lawyer John Yoo, has been widely criticized for seeming to flout conventions against torture. It defends most interrogation methods short of severe, intentionally inflicted pain and permanent damage. White House officials told reporters that such abstract legal reasoning was insignificant and did not reflect the president's orders. But Newsweek has learned that Yoo's August 2002 memo was prompted by CIA questions about what to do with a top Qaeda captive, Abu Zubaydah, who had turned uncooperative. And it was drafted after White House meetings convened by George W. Bush's chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, along with Defense Department general counsel William Haynes and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's counsel, who discussed specific interrogation techniques, says a source familiar with the discussions. Among the methods they found acceptable: "water-boarding," or dripping water into a wet cloth over a suspect's face, which can feel like drowning; and threatening to bring in more-brutal interrogators from other nations.

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

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