The War in Context  
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Israeli interrogators 'in Iraq'
BBC News, July 3, 2004

The US officer at the heart of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal says she has evidence that Israelis helped to interrogate Iraqis at another facility. Brig Gen Janis Karpinski told the BBC she met an Israeli working as an interrogator at a secret intelligence centre in Baghdad. [...]

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she met a man claiming to be Israeli during a visit to an intelligence centre with a senior coalition general.

"I saw an individual there that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an interpreter - he was clearly from the Middle East," she said in the interview. "He said, 'Well, I do some of the interrogation here. I speak Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel.'"

Until a 1999 ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court, Israeli secret service interrogators were allowed to use "moderate force".

The US journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal told the programme his sources confirm the presence of Israeli intelligence agents in Iraq. Seymour Hersh said that one of the Israeli aims was to gain access to detained members of the Iraqi secret intelligence unit, who reportedly specialise in Israeli affairs. [complete article]

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America has sown the seeds of civil war in Iraq
By Sami Ramadani, The Guardian, July 3, 2004

They get their dead in neat caskets draped with a flag; we have to gather and scrape our dead off of the floors and hope the American shrapnel and bullets left enough to make a definite identification." So wrote the author of the weblog Baghdad Burning, as she tried to draw attention to the tragic reality of life in occupied Baghdad.

It is this bereavement and anger among Iraqis - some of it expressed in mortars and homemade bombs - that has forced Bush and Blair to abandon any fanfare and hand over "sovereignty" in a secret bunker guarded by tanks. Not one signal of popular joy greeted the historic event.

In a parallel but equally deceptive move, the US handed over Saddam's legal file but the tyrant is still in US custody. Saddam's defiance in court largely stems from the fact that many of his accusers - including Prime Minister Allawi, a former cadre of Saddam's Ba'ath party, and some of the non-Ba'athist forces represented in the transitional government - were allies of his regime. Many Iraqis feel that the US-appointed transitional government has no moral authority over the man in the dock, both because of their past association with his regime and because they came, in the words of a now common Iraqi saying, "on the backs of American tanks". As one Iraqi observed: "If they give Saddam a fair trial, they will all end up with him in the dock - Kissinger, Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, the two Bushes and Allawi." [complete article]

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Iran: U.S. control of Saddam's trial would ensure cover-up
By Cilina Nasser, Daily Star, July 3, 2004

Americans want former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to stand trial in a US-controlled Iraq rather than before an independent international court to cover up their silence over the former Iraqi dictator's use of chemical weapons against Iran, according to current and former Iranian officials.

In interviews with The Daily Star, Iranians described Saddam as a war criminal who committed atrocities beyond the borders of his country. Therefore, they argued, states harmed by his regime, such as Iran and Kuwait, should be able to file charges at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

But this option would embarrass the United States, said Mohammed Sadeq al-Husseini, an adviser to former Culture Minister Ayatollah Mohajerani.

"Americans handed over Saddam to an interim government, which they themselves have appointed to make sure the Iraqi court trying him would not examine any US involvement in his war against Iran," Husseini said from Tehran.

"They are concerned that an international tribunal could expose close US relations with Iraq when Saddam was bombing Iran with chemical weapons," he added. [complete article]

Iran's Rafsanjani accuses US of censorship, urges public trial for Saddam
Agence France Presse (via Iranmania), July 3, 2004

Influential former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Friday the trial of Saddam Hussein should be totally public and denounced the fact that the Iran-Iraq war was not among the main charges against the ousted Iraqi leader.

"Saddam's trial must be completely public. It is necessary to let Saddam express himself, that the Americans express themselves, that we ourselves can express ourselves and that people say what they have to say," Rafsanjani told Friday prayers carried by state radio.

"Saddam's extraordinary crimes must be exposed but from the first words pronounced by Saddam the Americans imposed censorship and broadcast only what they wanted," he said, branding it "shame for the United States".

Rafsanjani, head of Iran's top political arbitration body and still one of Iran's most powerful figures, condemned the absence from the main charges of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war in which one million people died. [complete article]

See also, The charges against Saddam (NZ Herald).

Sounds of silence
By Pamela McClintock, Variety (via Yahoo), June 30, 2004

U.S. news networks agreed to let the American military censor out certain images of Saddam Hussein's court hearing Thursday in Baghdad, one in a bizarre series of events surrounding coverage of the session.

American and Iraqi officials did not want any footage shown of Iraqi guards or court personnel, and they asked broadcast and cable news nets to honor this request.

But the situation took an unexpected turn even before the hearing began, when U.S. officials ordered CNN and Al-Jazeera, the pool camera crews, to disconnect their audio equipment. Officials said it was the wish of the Iraqi judge.

Following the hearing, the CNN footage was taken to the convention center, where a CBS News employee transmitted the footage after it was viewed and okayed by two military censors.

As the silent footage of Hussein began to air on U.S. networks around 8:30 a.m. ET, CBS News anchor Dan Rather explained that the tapes had been "taken to another location, edited, and what you're seeing is in effect a censored version" of what happened in court earlier today. [complete article]

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Al Jazeera: Out-foxing Fox
By Nicholas D. Kristoff, New York Times, July 3, 2004

If President Bush wants to rescue his Iraqi adventure, here's a suggestion: Spend less time with C.I.A. sycophants like George Tenet and more time watching Al Jazeera television.

The Bush administration's central intelligence failure was not that it failed to tap enough telephones. Rather, it didn't bother to understand the mind-set in Iraq or the larger Arab world -- and it still doesn't.

The transfer of sovereignty is a useful moment to look back at what went so wrong in Iraq. As I see it, the root problem was hubris born in a Washington echo chamber, and a resulting conviction that Iraqis would welcome us with flowers.

When I visited Iraq in the run-up to the war, I met another foreigner by the pool of the Rasheed Hotel, where we hoped our conversation couldn't be bugged, and we spoke of our bafflement. Senior U.S. officials seemed genuinely convinced that our invading troops would be hailed as heroes, while ordinary Iraqis often talked about fighting U.S. troops with guns, grenades and suicide bombs. Iraqis typically hated Saddam, but also hated the idea of an invasion. [complete article]

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Sadr calls on followers to resist continued troop presence
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 2, 2004

Rebellious Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr warned Friday that the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq had not ended with the recent handover of limited political powers to an interim government and called on his followers to continue resisting the large presence of foreign troops in the country.

"I want to draw your attention to the fact there was no transferring of authority," Jabir Khafaji, a top Sadr lieutenant, read from a letter during Friday prayers at a mosque in the southern city of Kufa where Sadr commonly preaches. "What has changed is the name only."

Khafaji also demanded that the new Iraqi government defer to the Shiite religious leadership based in the neighboring holy city of Najaf. He asserted that the Mahdi Army, Sadr's black-clad militia recently decimated in two months of battle with U.S. forces, is "the army of Iraq."

"I ask the Iraqis to keep rejecting the occupation and call for independence," Khafaji said. [complete article]

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Iran is in strong position to steer Iraq's political future
By Edward Wong, New York Times, July 3, 2004

With the chaos of the occupation and now the loosening of American control here, Iran has moved into its best position in decades to influence the political shape of Iraq, Western and Iraqi officials say.

Already, the Iranian government has quietly strengthened its presence in Iraq by providing financial backing to a range of popular Shiite Muslim groups and by flooding the country with intelligence agents, the officials say.

Movement across the 900-mile border is much freer than under the rule of Saddam Hussein, as evidenced by the droves of Iranian pilgrims flocking to the Shiite holy cities of southern Iraq and the daily smuggling of goods and people.

Most worrisome to American officials are Iran's close ties to powerful Shiite clerics like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who was born in Iran, and Moktada al-Sadr, who led a fierce rebellion against American forces for nearly three months this spring. American officials believe that Iran might have partly financed Mr. Sadr's movement. [complete article]

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A lowdown on the facts behind the allegations in 'Fahrenheit 9/11'
By Sumana Chatterjee and David Goldstein, Knight Ridder, July 2, 2004

Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been called many things: incendiary, thought-provoking, satirical, propaganda.

But is it true?

That's a question millions of viewers are asking as the film enters its second week of distribution. This weekend, the number of screens showing the film doubled, from 868 to 1,725. More than 6 million people had seen the film by Wednesday, and millions more will watch it in the next few days.

Political commentators already have weighed in. Detractors of President Bush have praised the film for its scathing view of the way he's handled the war on terrorism. Supporters of the president say Moore has used the facts selectively to distort the record.

A close viewing of the film and a review of the record provide a more nuanced picture. Many of the details Moore uses to slam Bush are true. Others are partially true and open to interpretation. Some are clearly false. [complete article]

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Alas, Michael Moore is an unguided missile
By Simon Jenkins, The Times, July 2, 2004

Michael Moore's blockbuster, Fahrenheit 9/11, is the worst good film I have seen. Opening in Britain after breaking box-office records in America, it ranks among the most savage and sensational antiwar movies. Though I agree with its thrust, the depiction of George Bush over Iraq is flawed. Don't miss it, but turn off your brain first.

Then go quietly home and read a slim volume from two conservative historians, Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke. America Alone tells how a small group of neoconservatives contrived to take the greatest nation on Earth to war and kill thousands of people. Their anger is coldly controlled, and far more effective. How much better the Right does outrage than the Left. [complete article]

See also, Reagan aide slams neo-con policies. America Alone, by Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, is available here.

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Undeterred, insurgents keep up deadly attacks across Iraq
By Edward Wong, New York Times, July 2, 2004

A new swell of insurgent violence in Iraq rolled into Baghdad on Friday, as a car bomb explosion and a rocket attack on a hotel used by foreigners paralyzed the city center.

On Thursday, deadly attacks hit in the northern city of Mosul and to the west near Falluja, showing that the insurgency was still robust and its anger still raging despite the formal transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on Monday and the formal beginning of Iraqi legal proceedings against Saddam Hussein.

In the heart of the capital, a boobytrapped bus exploded next to a mosque in Firdos Square, where in April 2003 a towering statue of Mr. Hussein was pulled down by American troops as they took the city. [complete article]

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U.S. will override Baghdad in war on terrorism
By Rory McCarthy, The Guardian, July 1, 2004

American commanders will risk launching high-profile military actions at targets in Iraq even if they go directly against the wishes of the new Iraqi government, a senior US general said yesterday.

Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, the second most senior American officer in Iraq and the force's tactical operations commander, said the US military was prepared to risk provoking "friction" with the new government in strikes against "professional terrorists".

His frank admission, just two days after sovereignty was handed back to the Iraqis, cuts to the heart of a likely source of significant political disagreement between the fledgling government and the US military in the near future. [complete article]

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Ex-occupation aide sees no dent in 'Saddamists'
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 2, 2004

More than a year of intensive efforts by the American military and the Central Intelligence Agency to destroy the insurgency in Iraq has failed to reduce the number of "hard-core Saddamists" seeking to destroy the interim Iraqi government, a former senior official of the just-dissolved American-led occupation authority said in an interview on Thursday.

The senior official, speaking with a small group of reporters near the White House, said he was repeatedly "disappointed we haven't had better insight into the command and control of the insurgents."

The official was touching on one of the continuing mysteries of the insurgency: how has a relatively small rebel force organized, and how can it be broken? In recent days, other officials have offered varying assessments on this question. Last Friday, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, speaking at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "Someone's giving general orders, and other people are following them. I think that's clear."

But Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a few minutes later that "whether it's a central nervous system or some other form of coordination" was an open question and that "the intelligence community, as far as I know, will not tell you, will not give you an answer, because they can't give me an answer." [complete article]

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Saddam fights back in court
By John Simpson, BBC News, July 1, 2004

The moment when Saddam Hussein's handcuffs and chains were heard clanking outside the courtroom was almost unbearably dramatic. Yet when he entered, the effect the new government here had hoped to make was unexpectedly undermined.

True, Saddam Hussein looked older and diminished and somehow haunted, yet there was plenty of his old imperious manner, and that was not at all what the government had wanted. The last image the Iraqi people had of him was when he was captured in December - filthy, dishevelled and utterly humiliated.

The judge on Thursday banned the sound of Saddam Hussein's voice on television - but that merely gave the impression he was being gagged. And then some of the sound was made available anyway.

The timing of it all meant the pictures aired on American breakfast television, and that spread suspicions here that it was really all about helping US President George W Bush in the opinion polls. [complete article]

Media blocked from Saddam hearing
By Claire Cozens, The Guardian, July 1, 2004

Much of the world's press has been excluded from Saddam Hussein's court appearance today following an extraordinary decision by the Iraqi judge hearing the case to allow just one western newspaper to attend.

John Burns of the New York Times will be the only journalist from the western print media to witness today's historic hearing, which is being held in top secret - with even the judge's identity remaining confidential.

Bizarrely, his copy will not be made available to other newspapers under the usual pooling arrangements.

Instead, Burns plans to hold a press conference in Baghdad immediately after the hearing where newspaper correspondents from around the world will be given the chance to ask questions. [complete article]

Court drama or circus - a nation is hooked
By James Meek and Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 2, 2004

In a barber's in Karada yesterday, in the centre of the Iraqi capital, the big old pink padded leather chairs were twisted around away from the mirrors towards the TV poking out of the corner by the window. Haircuts and shaves were suspended as necks craned and a dozen pairs of brown eyes blinked and stared at Saddam Hussein as Iraqis had never seen him before: bearded, in the dock, a prisoner, yet still very much recognisable. [complete article]

Comment -- The New York Times', John Burns, neglects to mention in his own report on the court proceedings, that he was the only print journalist present. As a skilled performer in media theater Burns was perhaps too engrossed with the demands of his own performance to take note of the absence of his colleagues. The indignity of a fallen leader being compelled to wear "a cheap store-bought jacket" -- such were the details that captured Burn's attention. Many Iraqis viewing the proceedings on TV, on the other hand, paid less attention to the cut of Saddam's jacket than the fact that he was even wearing a jacket and was not shackled and confined inside a cage throughout the proceedings. No doubt a number of American officials thought it important that Iraqis and the rest of the world should see that hoods and cloaks are not the only attire available to American-held prisoners.

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Moore's public service
By Paul Krugman, New York Times, July 2, 2004

Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore.

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job. [complete article]

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Huntington's logic isn't Europe's
By Chris Patten, Daily Star, July 2, 2004

Europe's recent history of gas chambers and gulags, our "Christian" heritage of flagrant or more discreet anti-Semitism, do not entitle us to address the Islamic world as though we dwell on a higher plane, custodians of a superior set of moral values. It is sometimes forgotten that three quarters of the 1.2 billion Muslims live beyond the countries of the Arab League, in, for example, the democracies of Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Asian Muslim societies have their share of problems, not least dealing with pockets of extremism, but it is ludicrous to generalize about an Islamic anger engulfing countries from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean.

In 2002, the Arab Thought Foundation commissioned a survey of attitudes in eight countries - Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The results confirmed other similar surveys, for example by the Pew Research Center. Like Americans or Europeans, Arabs are most concerned about matters of personal security, fulfillment and satisfaction. They do not hate Western values, democracy, freedom, education - but they cannot stand policies pursued by the West that are perceived as hypocritical and contrary to these values. [complete article]

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Kerry Campaign releases Middle East policy seemingly drafted in Tel Aviv
Electronic Intifada, July 2, 2004

Kerry's Middle East Policy is a dangerous journey mapped out on a carbon copy of Israel's view of the conflict. After the Bush Administration's similar position and laissez faire approach to gross Israeli violations of human rights, Palestinians can expect few changes to the present misery.

The Forward, a Jewish weekly newspaper published in New York, reported on June 25th that: Kerry's campaign is building national and state Jewish leadership teams "comprised of prominent national and local leaders in our communities," Kerry's senior adviser on Middle East and Jewish affairs, Jay Footlik, writes in a letter to supporters. The groups will act as surrogates for the campaign at local events and debates. Attached to Footlik's letter is a document titled "John Kerry: Strengthening Israel's Security and Bolstering the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship," which Footlik asks recipients to e-mail "to friends and neighbors, to synagogues, federations, youth groups, sisterhood and brotherhood groups, study groups, to your personal and professional networks." [complete article including the Kerry Campaign document on US-Israeli relations]

Comment -- This document includes the line: John Kerry understands that anti-Semitism masked in anti-Israel rhetoric is a dangerous trend threatening both Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

The contrived association between opposition to the policies of the Sharon government, anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism, is a new McCarthyism whose sole purpose is to silence Israel's critics. It stifles meaningful debate on Middle East policy inside the United States and on this issue isolates the US from the rest of the world. Blind loyalty -- wherever it is directed -- threatens democracy.

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Don't call it a wall
By Ran HaCohen,, June 30, 2004

A year ago, I urged readers to forget about President Bush's "Road Map to Peace" – on which so much attention was wasted at the time, by now a dead letter – and concentrate on the real map of Palestine, radically changed by the construction of Israel's Apartheid Wall, which was virtually ignored by the international media. A year has passed, and the silence has been broken: thanks to the work of several conscientious journalists, thanks to Palestinian efforts culminating in referring the Wall to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which is due to decide on its legality soon, and – last but not least – thanks to thousands of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists, of Ta'ayush, Gush Shalom and many other groups, whose daily non-violent demonstrations are dispersed with ruthless brutality by the Israeli army. The Wall is now on the agenda, and it should be. But is it a Wall at all?

The term has been disputed from the outset: "the Apartheid Wall" is the Palestinian name for what official Israel calls "Separation Fence" of "Security Fence". I preferred the Palestinian term: a fence sounded like a ludicrous euphemism for 8 meter (26 ft.) high concrete walls with a 100 meter (328 ft.) wide "security strip" just to start with. At present, the surveillance arsenal includes not only patrols and cameras, but even remote-control machine guns are being developed, which, as the Israeli media proudly report, will enable gentle female soldiers to shoot at "suspicious movements" (i.e. human beings) from behind a monitor in an air-conditioned office miles away. For the industry of killing, the sky is the limit. [complete article]

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Separation spells racism
By Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram, July 1, 2004

Israel is pressing ahead with the construction of the separation wall, now filling in the last remaining gap between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Among the permanent changes to the geographical features of the land that this will effect will be the closure of the historic road between the two cities.

Some of us have tried to ignore the relationship between Israeli actions -- the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank and the unilateral disengagement from Gaza -- and their motives. Or, when we float the term "Israeli demographic considerations", we do so as though it is a neutral term or a perfectly natural reason for Israel to want to separate itself from the Palestinians. Moreover, some of us have yielded to the temptation to threaten Israel with the Palestinian birthrate, as though the wombs of Palestinian women are weapons or as though the Arab birthrate is, indeed, a "danger". In fact, "demographic motives", here, is synonymous with racism, and for us to give it credence, internalize it and brandish it as a threat is to accept the racism and normalize it. [complete article]

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Thwarted Hamas turns from bombs to politics
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 2, 2004

Israel's defence minister, General Shaul Mofaz, told the cabinet on Sunday that two years of assaults on West Bank towns, with the assassination of Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders, mass arrests, severe restrictions on movement, and now construction of the much-criticised "anti-terror fence", have forced Palestinian armed groups to retreat.

Israeli officials say the attacks have been curbed despite Hamas's vow of a bloody revenge for the killings of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in March and his successor as leader of the Islamic resistance movement, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, a fortnight later. During the past two years, virtually the entire original leadership of Hamas in Gaza has been killed.

Hamas does not disagree with the Israeli assessment.

"Israel's security measures are very tight," said Sami Abu Zuhri, its spokesman in Gaza. "It is true we have tried and failed. It is very difficult to launch operations."

The effectiveness of the Israeli pursuit has forced the entire Hamas leadership in Gaza into hiding, with meetings arranged only through intermediaries. [complete article]

See also, Going nowhere (Al-Ahram).

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U.S. sidles up to well-oiled autocracy
By Nick Paton Walsh, The Guardian, July 2, 2004

[Azerbaijan's] President Aliyev junior launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition immediately after his election [in October, 2003], arresting hundreds and torturing many, according to human rights activists. Yet this month, with pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq undermining Washington's ability to criticise similar practices elsewhere, the Pentagon forged ahead with plans to increase its presence in the Caspian state.

US officials cite the important strategic and logistical role that the key state in the Caucasus, on the border with Iran, can play in the "war on terror". They are also open about the need to protect the £2bn oil pipeline set to carry a million barrels of Caspian oil daily to Turkey and the American market by late next year.

Washington is increasing to 50 the number of military advisers who are training Azerbaijani troops, while doubling its annual military aid package next year to nearly £13m. One European diplomat said the US was developing a "permanent military presence by stealth". [complete article]

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The rough guide to Baghdad
By Christian Parenti, The Nation, July 19, 2004

A young white South African pilot leans in the cockpit doorway of a small NGO-chartered prop plane and gives his ten passengers the pre-flight pep talk: "At 10,000 above Baghdad International Airport, we will begin our descent in a spiral dive. This avoids surface-to-air missiles and ground fire, we hope. But don't worry, the maneuver is well within the technical capacities of the machine. Enjoy the flight to Baghdad."

The flight is fine--but the dive is fast, steep and scary.

Since April most roads into the capital of Iraq have been closed by sporadic combat and marauding gangs of looters. Westerners are special targets. Some elements in the resistance are said to pay $20,000 a head for hostages. The only truly open road is the heavily patrolled route north through Kurdistan to Turkey or Iran.

So now journalists fly in. It's the "safe" way to reach this politically diseased metropolis, which after fourteen months of US occupation and alleged reconstruction is tormented by a fever of violence, social breakdown, administrative anarchy and economic decline. The crisis now seems to feed on itself in an epidemiological fashion, with symptoms reinforcing root causes in a downward spiral. Lack of security--the central issue--means lack of electricity, which means no work, which means more violence, and so on. In response, Iraqis either cling to a blind faith that America will sort things out, or they turn to tradition, self-organization, Islam and armed resistance. [complete article]

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Underclass of workers created in Iraq
By Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, July 1, 2004

The war in Iraq has been a windfall for [Halliburton subsidiary] Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., the company that has a multibillion-dollar contract to provide support services for U.S. troops. Its profits have come thanks to the hard work of people like Dharmapalan Ajayakumar, who until last month served as a kitchen helper at a military base.

But Ajayakumar, 29, a former carpenter's assistant from this coastal town [Kollam, in the state of Kerala, India], was not there by choice.

He said he was tricked into going to Iraq by a recruiting agent who told him the job was in Kuwait. Moreover, he said, the company skimped on expenses by not providing him and other workers with adequate drinking water, food, health care or security for part of their time in the war zone.

"I cursed my fate -- not having a feeling my life was secure, knowing I could not go back, and being treated like a kind of animal," said Ajayakumar, who worked for less than $7 a day.

Working alongside Americans trying to rebuild Iraq are an estimated tens of thousands of foreign contractors without whom the reconstruction could not function. Many toil for wages that are one-tenth -- or less -- of what U.S. workers might demand, saving millions of taxpayer dollars. [complete article]

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Hostage broadcasts spark backlash among Iraqis
By Doug Struck and Karl Vick, Washington Post, July 1, 2004

The videotape of a bound and blindfolded U.S. Marine held hostage in Iraq has produced a backlash of revulsion among Iraqis.

"This is a terrible thing," said Ali Hashim, 33, a shoe salesman in downtown Baghdad. "Hostage-taking, beheading . . . it's not our tradition. We have a tradition of hospitality. This hurts the image of the Iraqi people."

Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 24, a Lebanese American, is the latest of a succession of hostages shown on videotapes sent to Arab broadcasters by underground groups opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq. Hassoun was listed as missing, reportedly after leaving his post, but now has been classified by the U.S. military as "captured." [complete article]

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The resistance campaign is Iraq's real war of liberation
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian, July 1, 2004

Faced with the record of over 1,200 civilians killed in Iraq in the last three months, more than 1,000 Iraqi policemen in the past year and nearly 1,000 occupying troops over the same period, Colin Powell pleaded last week that the US had "underestimated" the scale of the insurgency. The Bush solution is to put a new face on the occupation, while maintaining a strategic grip on the country from more than a dozen bases - hence the handover to a puppet administration, brought forward by a year by the intensity of the armed resistance. The idea is Iraqisation: get someone else to do the dirty work and the dying while Americans pull the strings. It has long been the way of imperial powers and was Britain's approach when it last ruled Iraq in the 1920s. Allawi and his fellow ministers are ready to play their part, threatening to impose martial law and behead those who fight them. But whether it will be any more successful than, say, Vietnamisation in the 1970s seems unlikely.

What is not in doubt is that the resistance has decisively changed the balance of power in Iraq and beyond. The anti-occupation guerrillas are routinely damned as terrorists, Ba'athist remnants, Islamist fanatics or mindless insurgents without a political programme. In a recantation of his support for the war this week, the liberal writer Michael Ignatieff called them "hateful". But it has become ever clearer that they are in fact a classic resistance movement with widespread support waging an increasingly successful guerrilla war against the occupying armies. Their tactics are overwhelmingly in line with those of resistance campaigns throughout modern history, targeting both the occupiers themselves and the local police and military working for them. Where that has not been the case - for example, in atrocities against civilians, such as the Karbala bombing in March - the attacks have been associated with the al-Qaida-linked group around the Jordanian Zarqawi, whose real role is the subject of much speculation among Iraqis. [complete article]

Comment -- To those of us who always saw the war in Iraq as an expression of American imperialism, it's easy to fall into the trap of seeing the Iraqi resistance as an anti-imperialist, liberation movement. Nevertheless, that the insurgency is widespread does not necessarily make it a movement. Insurgents appear unified around the common cause of driving out American and other foreign forces, but if they succeed in that ambition their own conflicting agendas will immediately come to the fore. What then could be said about the political will of the Iraqi people (as opposed to the goals of individual militias, tribal leaders, ethnic or religious groups) is far from clear. What can be assumed in such a situation -- as can be assumed now -- is that the vast majority of people have ambitions no larger than the desire to resume their daily lives without the fear of being blown up, kidnapped, shot or arrested.

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Al-Qaeda spells out Iraq attack strategy in handbook: report
Agence France Presse (via Yahoo), July 1, 2004

Al-Qaeda reportedly planned to target Spain as the weakest link of the coalition in Iraq to force its troop pullout, according to a document from the terror network. [...]

A lengthy chapter of the document focuses on "the main allies of the United States in their aggression against Iraq: Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain, as well as some Arab countries."

But most of the chapter is about Spain, considering that the pullout of Spanish troops would "constitute a pressure on the British (military) presence that (Prime Minister) Tony Blair would not be able to bear."

"It will not take long for pawns to fall, but the headpiece (US) still has to be knocked down," it said.

It called for striking US forces in Iraq on a daily basis in order to force them "to disperse on the territory, weaken their efficiency and strike the morale of the soldiers." [complete article]

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The secret history of Anonymous
By Jason Vest, Boston Phoenix, June 30, 2004

Ever since the Guardian of London revealed almost two weeks ago that "Anonymous," the author of the soon-to-be-published Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (Brassey's, Inc.), is a CIA figure "centrally involved in the hunt for Bin Laden," the American press has been playing catch-up -- yet in a strangely coy sort of way. [...]

A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all -- and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix's view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant -- a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous's name in both intelligence and journalistic circles.

When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix last week, Anonymous declined to do either, and said, "I've given my word I'm not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word." His publisher, Brassey's, likewise declined to comment. Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer -- and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics. [complete article]

See also, Los Angeles Times interview with "Mike."

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Mental disorders are common for Iraq veterans, study finds
By Jonathan Bor, Baltimore Sun, July 1, 2004

Echoing Vietnam and other wars, combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan has triggered symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder among many troops returning home.

Researchers reporting in a medical journal today found that 15 percent to 17 percent of the combat troops who served in Iraq suffered from at least one of the three disorders - yet few sought help because they feared being stigmatized.

A somewhat lower proportion, 11.2 percent, reported symptoms of mental distress after serving in Afghanistan, but most also kept their problems secret.

"The message is that there is still a very large stigma in the military, as well as in civilian life, from seeking mental health care," said Lt. Col. Carl A. Castro of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, who was one of the investigators. [complete article]

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Despite rumors, Washington insiders say forget about draft revival
By Sumana Chatterjee, Knight Ridder, June 30, 2004

Ignore all those Internet rumors: Despite the U.S. military's desperate need for more troops, there's no chance that the Bush administration or Congress will resurrect the draft, short of a new Pearl Harbor.

It's just too unpopular politically. Moreover, military experts say that conscription would hurt the quality and morale of the armed forces.

Instead, the Pentagon is examining other options, such as calling up more members of the National Guard and reserves, extending tours of active duty, shifting manpower within divisions and moving troops from Europe and Asia to meet the urgent needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the Army announced Wednesday that it would call up 5,600 former active-duty personnel for another round of service. [complete article]

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Afghan election likely to be delayed again
Associated Press (via MSNBC), July 1, 2004

Historic Afghan elections scheduled for September will be delayed because of wrangling among officials and political parties, a senior government official said Thursday.

Farooq Wardak, a senior member of the country's election management body, said the group would not be able to reach a decision by Friday, the deadline for setting a vote in September.

President Hamid Karzai had earlier insisted there should be no fresh delay in the country's first post-Taliban vote, already put back from June because of violence and tough logistics.

But a spokesman for the United Nations, which shares power in Afghanistan's electoral management body, suggested a delay was likely. [complete article]

See also, 2 bombings seen as part of new drive by Taliban (NYT)

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By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, June 30, 2004

Iraqis don't grow bananas, but why should that keep the Bush administration from treating Iraq like a banana republic? The overwhelming invasion, the ill-conceived occupation, the obliviousness to what's thought of as native culture, and the tendency to trust only those folks who know how to talk and act (and make us think they think) like us -- hey, that's the way we've been coming and going in the fever ports of Central America and the Caribbean for well over a century.

So, too, the handover of paper sovereignty yesterday, which took place ahead of schedule and in semi-secrecy, as if departing pro-consul Paul "Jerry" Bremer was embarrassed by what he'd done for the last year, or afraid for his life, or both. "Let freedom reign!" President Bush wrote in the margins of Condoleezza Rice's handwritten note about the handover. But is this any way to treat a great, sovereign nation?

Left in charge as prime minister is a smooth-talking former Baathist, Ayad Allawi, groomed in exile by the Central Intelligence Agency since the early 1990s. Unlike his erstwhile rival, Ahmad Chalabi (who was groomed by the Defense Department, but always remained a bit too much the wily oriental gentleman for American public tastes), Allawi comes across as more of a regular guy, maybe even a potential golfing partner. He understands what the Americans want, and as long as we're behind him with our troops and our billions, he may be able to get it. But let's not pretend he's a nascent democrat, even if he manages to hold some cosmetic elections. [complete article]

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Iraq is worse off than before the war began, GAO reports
By Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder, June 29, 2004

In a few key areas - electricity, the judicial system and overall security - the Iraq that America handed back to its residents Monday is worse off than before the war began last year, according to calculations in a new General Accounting Office report released Tuesday.

The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation. [complete article]

See the report, Rebuilding Iraq (PDF format).

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U.S. transfers one-tenth of legal authority over Saddam
By John F. Burns, New York Times, June 30, 2004

Iraq's interim government took legal, but not physical, custody of Saddam Hussein and 11 of his top associates from the United States today, according to a statement from the prime minister, Iyad Allawi.

The government will file charges against Mr. Hussein and the 11 others on Thursday in a special Iraqi court set up to try members of the ousted government on charges of crimes against humanity. [complete article]

See also interview with Saddam's lawyer.

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Angry Kurdish leaders demand federal state
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, June 30, 2004

Kurdish officials warned yesterday that the unity of Iraq could be at stake if the country's permanent constitution fails to enshrine Kurdish demands for a federal state.

"If Iraq is not federal and democratic, then unity cannot be built," Omar Fattah, the prime minister of the Kurdish regional government in Sulaim-aniya, told the Guardian. "The Kurds' status in the constitution will be absolutely crucial to our decades-long struggle for self-determination," said Mr Fattah, who filled the post left vacant by Barham Salih, Iraq's new deputy prime minister.

Mr Fattah's comments came as Iraq's Kurds, who have benefited from 13 years of de facto self-rule, greeted Monday's transfer of sovereignty in Baghdad with suspicion. "This is the only bit of Iraq that works, and that is because we are different," said another Kurdish official. "On paper we may be part of the country, but we have our own language, our own government, and look after our own security. What has changed with the transfer? The real battle lies ahead over our permanent status." [complete article]

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Turkish-Israeli tensions
By Omer Taspinar, Daily Times, June 29, 2004

When the United States invaded Iraq no one thought the collateral damage would also include the Turkish-Israeli alliance. Yet, this now seems increasingly to be the case.

At the heart of the problem is the Kurdish question in Northern Iraq. The Turkish and Israeli approach to Iraqi Kurds differs sharply. Where Turkey perceives in the Kurdish cause a potential threat to Iraq's -- as well as its own -- national integrity, Tel Aviv sees the Kurds as a regional ally. Sympathy for the Kurdish cause is not a new development in Israel. As a suppressed non-Arab minority that has several times taken up arms against the Ba'athist regime in Iraq, Kurds have often received support from Israel. The logic behind such Israeli assistance to Kurds is easy to understand: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Today, the stakes in Iraq are considerably higher for Tel Aviv. The Saddam regime is gone but no one knows what will replace it. Israel would hate to see a fundamentalist Shia regime in Iraq with strong ties to Iran. If this scenario becomes a reality, Tel Aviv will have few options against the Shia axis. Using the Kurdish card will be one of the most sensible alternatives. Kurds would probably be happy to play along. Faced with a Shia-dominated religious regime in Baghdad, they would have no incentive to stay loyal to the Iraqi centre. By following their nationalist instincts Kurds may very well take the risk and pursue their dream of independence. [complete article]

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Chalabi, shunted to sidelines, shares his playbook for Iraq
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, June 30, 2004

Ahmed Chalabi smiled contentedly at the thought. L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator who ran Iraq like a viceroy for more than a year, was reduced to a hasty exit with a stealthy helicopter ride to the airport, seen off without fanfare by no one higher-ranking than a deputy prime minister.

"Bremer put his hand in his pocket and went to the airport ignominiously," Chalabi chortled Tuesday, the day after Bremer's departure. "And Dan Senor with him," he added, referring to Bremer's spokesman, who had denigrated Chalabi on television.

In essence, Chalabi was saying, Bremer is now gone, Senor is now gone and Ahmed Chalabi is not. [complete article]

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Reality intrudes on promises in rebuilding of Iraq
By James Glanz and Erik Eckholm, New York Times, June 30, 2004

The four big smokestacks at the Doura power plant in Baghdad have always served as subversive truth-tellers. No matter what Saddam Hussein's propagandists said about electricity supplies, people knew they could get a better idea of the coming day's power by counting how many stacks at Doura were spewing smoke.

Mr. Hussein is vanquished and a new Iraqi government has just gained formal sovereignty, but those smokestacks remain potent markers -- not only of sporadic electricity service but of the agonizingly slow pace of Iraq's promised economic renewal.

More than a year into an aid effort that American officials likened to the Marshall Plan, occupation authorities acknowledge that fewer than 140 of 2,300 promised construction projects are under way. Only three months after L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator who departed Monday, pledged that 50,000 Iraqis would find jobs at construction sites before the formal transfer of sovereignty, fewer than 20,000 local workers are employed. [complete article]

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Military plans to call up soldiers who left service
By Thom Shanker, New York Times, June 30, 2004

Amid Congressional concerns that the military is stretched too thin, the Army is preparing to take advantage of a rarely used wartime program that allows it to recall soldiers who have left the service and did not join the reserves. Pentagon officials said Tuesday that 5,600 former soldiers were going to be called up for yearlong tours, mostly assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decision was immediately cited by members of Congress as more evidence that the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and, more broadly, for the global campaign against terrorism, have left the Army unable to fulfill all its missions. Likewise, the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry quickly issued a statement Tuesday labeling the decision troubling news.

Proposals to expand the Army already are being debated in Congress, where some lawmakers have described the large reserve mobilizations and other unusual steps to fill the rosters in Iraq and Afghanistan as an unofficial draft. [complete article]

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Abductions in Iraq reflect new strategy, U.S. says
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, June 30, 2004

About 90 foreign hostages have been abducted in recent months -- with about 60 since the April 8 abduction of three Japanese civilians, which U.S. officials mark as the turning point.

Various groups have claimed responsibility for the seizures. Followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian extremist, this month claimed the abduction and execution of American Nicholas Berg and South Korean Kim Sun Il; another cell appears to be responsible for the kidnapping of Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a U.S. Marine not seen since June 19 and whose status was changed yesterday from missing to captured.

But as with the hostage abductions in Lebanon from 1982 to 1991, U.S. officials believe there are links among most of the abductors. "We have the impression now that there's a loose amalgamation where people can get picked up for any of a number of reasons and then enter an amorphous system that leads them to be handed off from one group to another and then they're evaluated for their value," said a senior counterterrorism official familiar with the Iraq kidnappings. [complete article]

Web amplifies message of primitive executions
By Lynn Smith, Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2004

The first time she felt numb. The second time she cried. Lillian Glass, a Beverly Hills psychologist, was stunned at the barbarity of terrorists beheading their hostages, right there on her computer screen. Equally surprising was how easily she found the video online.

"You can't imagine anything worse," she says. "Right now, they're coming into your home. It's like they're using technology as a vehicle for war."

Ritual beheading is as primitive as war gets. But 21st century technology is making the grisly details of such killings visible to millions around the world.

In what has become a war of images, the slayings of businessman Nicholas Berg, engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. and South Korean interpreter Kim Sun Il have been publicized through both conventional media channels and the raw, unfiltered chambers of the Internet.

It is impossible to say how many people have watched the videos over the Internet. But "Nick Berg" was the second most popular search request on Google in May, following "American Idol." Last week, the most popular search was for "Paul Johnson." [complete article]

Abducted marine had reportedly deserted
By Jeffrey Gettleman and Nick Madigan, New York Times, June 30, 2004

The American marine who is being threatened by his kidnappers with beheading had deserted the military because he was emotionally traumatized, and was abducted by his captors while trying to make his way home to his native Lebanon, a Marine officer said Tuesday.

The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he believed that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was betrayed by Iraqis he befriended on his base and ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists.

The officer said Corporal Hassoun, a 24-year-old Marine linguist who was born in Lebanon, was shaken up after he saw one of his sergeants blown apart by a mortar shell.

"It was very disturbing to him," the officer said. "He wanted to go home and quit the game, but since he was relatively early in his deployment, that was not going to happen anytime soon. So he talked to some folks on base he befriended, because they were all fellow Muslims, and they helped sneak him off. Once off, instead of helping him get home, they turned him over to the bad guys." [complete article]

Comment -- It's likely that we will soon learn whether the captors of Marine Corporal Hassoun have any political sophistication or whether, like so many of their jihadist comrades, they are enslaved by the appeal of bloody icons. They could whisk him out of Iraq and then instead of shooting him, shoot another video -- he expresses his gratitude for having been "liberated" and they extend an offer of safe passage to other would-be deserters.

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Home rule
By Nir Rosen, The New Yorker, June 28, 2004

The American withdrawal was a controversial experiment in Iraqi autonomy. Falluja was the only city in Iraq that was surrendered to a local military force with strong connections to the previous regime. This was, essentially, a reversal of the policy that had been in effect since the previous April, when U.S. Army troops arrived in Falluja, two weeks after they took Baghdad, thirty-five miles to the east. But Falluja was a far different place now than it had been a year ago. In the first few months after Saddam's government fell, the city had been fairly stable internally. Religious and tribal leaders had appointed their own civil management council before the Americans arrived. Falluja did not suffer from looting, and government buildings were protected. Tight tribal bonds helped maintain order. Early in the occupation, however, a demonstration protesting the Americans' takeover of a school building had turned bloody, and a cycle of attacks and retaliation began, with the resistance increasing in sophistication. Local fighters were joined by rogue mujahideen and jihadis from other Arab countries, and, as in the rest of Iraq, the violence and disorder spiralled out of control. [complete article]

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Attack Iran, U.S. chief ordered British
By Michael Smith, The Telegraph, June 30, 2004

America's military commander in Iraq ordered British troops to prepare a full-scale ground offensive against Iranian forces that had crossed the border and grabbed disputed territory, a senior officer has disclosed.

An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.

"If we had attacked the Iranian positions, all hell would have broken loose," a defence source said yesterday.

"We would have had the Iranians to our front and the Iraqi insurgents picking us off at the rear." [complete article]

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A near miss for key rights
By Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Time, June 29, 2004

Winston Churchill once said there is nothing that concentrates the mind like being shot at and missed. For civil libertarians, the rulings this week against the Bush administration and some of its anti-terrorism practices certainly served to concentrate the mind. However, as relieved as many citizens are that basic due process rights were protected, we dodged this bullet by a hair's breadth -- and the system seemed to triumph only by default.

At issue in three cases decided Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court were the rights of those who have been held without charge in the war against terrorism.

In one case, the president is holding hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba while denying them access to the federal courts or counsel. In two other cases, U.S. citizens -- Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla -- have been held in isolation and only recently allowed access to counsel. As established by the court Monday, the president cannot deny to either the Guantanamo detainees or citizens such as Hamdi and Padilla some semblance of habeas corpus, the right to answer the charges against them.

That this right was even at question is an example of a system at risk. The first failure came from the executive branch. Because the president swore to uphold the Constitution, it was his solemn duty to protect all citizens not just from outside threats but internal threats to their life and liberties. Yet against near universal criticism from constitutional scholars, President Bush insisted that as commander in chief he had absolute authority over citizens in the war on terrorism.

The second failure was legislative. The framers created Congress as a check on presidential power. This time out, however, the Senate and the House quickly demonstrated that they were absent without constitutional leave in the war on terror. [complete article]

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Detainees may be moved off Cuba base
By John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2004

Senior Bush administration officials are considering moving hundreds of detainees from a facility in Cuba to prisons within the United States in response to Supreme Court rulings this week that granted military prisoners access to U.S. courts, officials said Tuesday.

As attorneys for detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began preparing the first of hundreds of expected lawsuits demanding that the government justify the detentions, administration officials acknowledged that they were unprepared for a rebuke in two landmark Supreme Court decisions that rejected the military's treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism.

Now, after being handed the losses, the administration has been left to scramble to develop a strategy for granting hearings to detainees without having to cope with an unwieldy series of lawsuits throughout the nation.

"They didn't really have a specific plan for what to do, case by case, if we lost," a senior Department of Defense official said on condition of anonymity. "The Justice Department didn't have a plan. State didn't have a plan. This wasn't a unilateral mistake on Department of Defense's part. It's astounding to me that these cases have been pending for so long and nobody came up with a contingency plan." [complete article]

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Israel court orders barrier shift
BBC News, June 30, 2004

Israel's High Court has ordered changes to the route of the West Bank barrier, saying it is hurting Palestinians. It said the route around Jerusalem must be changed to reduce hardships, even if that meant less security for Israel.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Jerusalem says the ruling sets a precedent for other legal disputes about the barrier. Israel says the barrier is necessary to keep out suicide bombers; Palestinians call it a land grab that divides people from their families, jobs and schools.

The decision comes before a non-binding ruling by the UN's top court on the legality of the controversial network of fences and walls, planned to extend for 640km (400 miles) through occupied territory. The International Court of Justice was asked to examine the issue last December amid mounting international concern and has said it will release its findings on 9 July. [complete article]

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The Jewish divide on Israel
By Esther Kaplan, The Nation, July 12, 2004

For a glimpse of how Israel plays out in an American election year, recall the day in September when then-Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean told reporters he would like to see the United States take an "even-handed" approach to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Thirty-four Congressional Democrats responded by sending Dean a harsh letter questioning whether he shared their "unequivocal support for Israel's right to exist," and anonymous e-mails inundated Jewish listservs, accusing him of abandoning Israel. Dean promptly appeared on CNN to defend Israel's assassinations of Palestinian militants.

Or consider the day in February when John Kerry sat down in New York to discuss issues with a group of Jewish leaders hand-selected by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and one of the few liberals invited, said she had her hand in the air, ready to ask questions about civil rights, poverty and the erosion of the church/state divide, but she was avoided by the facilitators, and the meeting shaped up as a single-agenda affair. "The central issue, no matter how they came at it, was, 'Are you going to be there for Israel in these difficult times?'" Rosenthal recalls. "It was, 'We're putting you on notice that this is our number-one concern.'" Kerry took his cue. During the meeting, he backed off from earlier statements that he'd send Jimmy Carter (seen by the right as pro-Palestinian) to the region to jump-start negotiations, and six weeks later, when George W. Bush, in an agreement with Ariel Sharon, accepted Jewish settlements as permanent and renounced Palestinian refugees' right of return, Kerry immediately endorsed it. [complete article]

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Palestinians starve under occupation
By Laila El-Haddad, Aljazeera, June 29, 2004

At the entrance to the Ard al-Insan clinic in Gaza, also known as the Palestinian Benevolent Association, Iman Jilawi was pleading with programme director Itimad Ghabil.

Her daughter had just been released from the hospital after intestinal surgery, she said, and she did not have the money to pay for a change of the dressing, let alone for her taxi ride home. She was here, though, for another reason: in addition to being ill, her daughter was severely malnourished. And she was not alone. [complete article]

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Ten minutes from normal?
By Richard Ben Cramer interviewed by Dave Gilson, Mother Jones, June 28, 2004

Richard Ben Cramer grew up believing in Israel as a "land without people for a people with no land." A self-described "ham on rye" American Jew, his understanding of Israel remained largely superficial until he went there as a correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1977. He spent the next seven years reporting on the Middle East, winning a Pulitzer Prize. Along the way, he found that his identification with Israel and its people could coexist with his deepening sympathy for Palestinians and their cause.

In 2002, he went back to Israel, only to find a country much different from the one he'd lived in. His new book, How Israel Lost, collects his wry observations and lamentations about a place he no longer recognizes. [...]

Richard Ben Cramer: If I had to sum up what I knew about this place 20 years ago, I would have called it a nice little socialist country with one problem. Its problem, of course, being its relations with the Arabs inside the country and in the neighboring states. But now that one problem has eaten up the rest of the society. The conflict has become the reason for being for Israel. And it's not such a little place anymore, with the policies of annexation and settlement. It's not a socialist country at all anymore. When Israel cast itself as America's little buddy during the Reagan years, it changed over to a very hard-edged capitalistic economy. And it's not such a nice little country anymore. I'm not just talking about the not-nice effect of a suicide bomb on a bus or the equally not-nice effect of a missile fired from a gunship into a Palestinian neighborhood. I'm talking about the society at large. You can't ask two generations of your men to go into the territories and act as the brutal kings of everything they survey and then expect them to come home and live in lamb-like gentleness. In every sphere of society there are things that started in the territories. Now they've drifted back into the society: the repression of other opinions, the tendency to brutality, the resort to force. All of these have come back to harm Israeli society. And there's the hopelessness, which may be the worst effect still. [complete article]

Read a long excerpt from How Israel Lost.

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How Arafat was tarred by faulty Israeli intelligence
By David Hirst, Daily Star, June 30, 2004

On publishing his memoirs, former US President Bill Clinton told The Guardian that Yasser Arafat was responsible for the failure of the Camp David conference of July 2000, because, unlike then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was ready for "enormous concessions," the Palestinian president couldn't "make the final jump from revolutionary to statesman."

There is one reason why, even if Clinton believes that to be the case, he should not, even now, publicly proclaim it. Camp David was essentially Barak's brainchild. Desperate for a breakthrough in the moribund peace process, he conceived the fantastic gambit of telescoping the still-unaccomplished "interim phases" of the Oslo Accords and "final-status" issues into one grand, climactic conclave that would "end the 100-year conflict." Arafat was deeply reluctant to attend. And Clinton only persuaded him to do so by pledging that he would not blame him for an inglorious outcome. [complete article]

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America's missed photo opportunity
By Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, June 29, 2004

"I don't know what they were thinking -- they didn't tell anybody," said Abdul Kader Kharobi, an assignment editor at al-Arabiya [the Arabic-language channel that says it has the largest viewership in Iraq], a few hours after the transfer at 10:26 a.m. local time. There was no frustration in his voice, just disgust and a lot of weary irony. The Americans have been all but incompetent in manufacturing images, he said, and yet what does it matter? After Abu Ghraib, and after what he believes was a sham investigation into the March 18 killing of two al-Arabiya journalists in Baghdad by U.S. soldiers, who believes the Americans anyway?

Kharobi first learned that the transfer might happen early from statements by the Iraqi interior minister, who was in Turkey for the NATO summit. But, he said, despite the best efforts of one of his reporters to get more information out of members of the Iraqi delegation, no one offered anything specific. It seemed like a rumor, or confusion.

Ten minutes later, he learned that the transfer was already a done deal. And so the event that might have produced the most public, ceremonial moment in the birth of a new country was a private, invitation-only event. A war of images, of toppled statues and looted museums, of captured Americans and mangled children, a war whose ending was marked with a premature victory celebration on an aircraft carrier more than a year ago, was given another ambiguous marker. Iraqis were once again nominally in charge of their country, but al-Arabiya, for the moment, had no way of proving it to its viewers. [...]

Later, it was announced that Bremer had left, but it took time to get images of the man (whose "reign" was widely criticized by Arab media as a failure) touching terra firma in Iraq for the last time in his trademark boots and suit. Richard Nixon, skulking out of Washington after his resignation, looked more exultant. [complete article]

See also, A grand mission ends quietly (WP)

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All eyes on the man who stepped into Iraqi inferno
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, June 30, 2004

Pity Iyad Allawi. To win acceptance as Iraq's new prime minister he must succeed where American military might has failed, where US economic power and technical know-how are struggling. The nation of people that sends men to the moon has deferred to one that can't confidently flick a light switch.

To set out his Everest of problems is too daunting - but if he cannot impose security he too will fail.

Under the noses of 150,000 US-led troops who came armed to the teeth and who assumed absolute authority for themselves, the insurgency has become more brutal, bolder and bloodier. Yet, if Allawi does not dispatch them, there will be no reconstruction and no oil revenue. No elections and no democracy. [complete article]

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Shiite tribes gather for war on Falluja
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, June 28, 2004

Falluja is the Iraqi nut that seemingly cannot be cracked.

The death and subsequent butchery of four American security contractors in its main street at the end of March provoked a siege by the US marines that became a battle in which more than 800 died. But in the end the Americans agreed to withdraw - with none of their demands met.

Washington threw up its hands and said Iraq's new interim government could fix Falluja. But even before he formally takes control at midnight on Wednesday, the Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, is confronted with another declaration of war on Falluja - this time from the massed Shiite tribes of southern Iraq.

At a council of war after Friday prayers at Baghdad's Baratha mosque, the sheiks - or chiefs - of more than 40 of the tribes issued a declaration: they would destroy Falluja, along with neighbouring Ramadi, unless the insurgency leaders they hold responsible for the Shiite deaths are handed over to them - for execution. [complete article]

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The dawn of a new Iraq - or a return to secrecy and killing?
By James Meek, The Guardian, June 29, 2004

Something happened in Baghdad yesterday, but what exactly? What we know is that somewhere in Saddam Hussein's sprawling former cantonment on the banks of the Tigris, behind silver miles of new razor wire, behind high concrete barriers stronger than most medieval fortifications, behind sandbags, five security checks, US armoured vehicles, US armoured soldiers, special forces of various countries and private security guards, behind secrecy and a fear of killing so intense that none save a handful of people knew it had happened until after it was over, an American bureaucrat handed a piece of paper to an Iraqi judge, jumped on a helicopter and left the country. [complete article]

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Iraqis have lived this lie before
By Haifa Zangana, The Guardian, June 29, 2004

In Iraq, we have an expression: same donkey, different saddle. Iraq's long-heralded interim government has now formally assumed sovereignty. Official labels and tags have duly changed. The US administrator will now be an ambassador, while Sheikh Ghazi al Yawar and Iyad Allawi, US-appointed members of the former governing council, are to be known as president and prime minister.

To formalise the change, the UN has already issued a resolution under which "multinational forces" will replace "US-led forces". On the issue of control over US troops, the message is clear: the US forces are there to stay only because "Iraqi people" has asked them to. But which Iraqi people? Do they mean the new administration headed by the CIA's Iyad Allawi? And why does all this sound strangely familiar?

In Iraq we don't just read history at school - we carry it within ourselves. It's no wonder, then, that we view what is happening in Iraq now of "liberation-mandate-nominal sovereignty" as a replay of what took place in the 1920s and afterwards. [complete article]

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U.S. has leverage, but wants to show Iraqis are in charge
By Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, June 29, 2004

Iraq was officially made sovereign yesterday, but how sovereign is still in dispute.

Iraq will have all the formal powers of a sovereign state: the ability to appoint and dismiss ministers; to allocate budgets; to conduct negotiations with foreign countries. But it is not clear what will happen if the Americans disagree with Iraqi decisions. Even though the United States has the leverage of troops and billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts, Iraqi complaints of American interference could embarrass an administration eager to prove to the world that Iraqis are now in charge.

A host of issues remain outstanding. Despite an agreement to consult on military matters, Iraq and the United States lack a formal accord governing the status of foreign forces and are relying on an American occupation directive covering several important matters.

American officials continue to hold Iraqi prisoners, among them Saddam Hussein, although the new Iraqi government has said it will take custody of him soon. How many other prisoners will be handed over is not clear.

And although Iraqi officials and legal scholars say that Iraq has the right to change the occupation-era rules, American military officials say that some of those governing military matters are binding. It is also not clear how Iraqi leaders would rescind other orders if they want to, since Iraq has no formal legislature. [complete article]

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The players in Iraq's new sovereignty
By Tony Karon,, June 28, 2004

[The challenge for the interim government]: Establish independence from the U.S. in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis and the region; isolate the Sunni insurgents by giving as many former Baathist types as possible a stake in the new Iraq, and send them after the foreign jihadists; draw the skeptical Shi'ites closer by going all-out to organize elections and make sure that Moqtada Sadr's group is participating; keep the Kurds on board; develop a common understanding between Iran, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. over the terms of a new Iraqi political arrangement. A tall order, to be sure, but the alternatives are ghastly. [complete article]

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A guide to the memos on torture
New York Times

The New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have disclosed memorandums that show a pattern in which Bush administration lawyers set about devising arguments to avoid constraints against mistreatment and torture of detainees. Administration officials responded by releasing hundreds of pages of previously classified documents related to the development of a policy on detainees. (Links to the memos along with explanatory notes.) [complete article]

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Imperial amnesia
By John B. Judis, Foreign Policy, July/August, 2004

On October 18, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush landed in Manila as part of a six-nation Asian tour. The presidential airplane, Air Force One, was shepherded into Philippine airspace by F-15 fighter jets due to security concerns over a possible terrorist attack. Bush's speech to the Philippine Congress was delayed by what one reporter described as "undulating throngs of protestors that lined his motorcade route past shantytowns and rows of shacks." Outside the Philippine House of Representatives, several thousand more demonstrators greeted Bush, and several Philippine legislators staged a walkout during his 20-minute address.

In that speech, Bush credited the United States for transforming the Philippines into a democracy. "America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people," said Bush. "Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule." He drew an analogy between the United States' attempt to create democracy in the Philippines and its effort to create a democratic Middle East through the invasion and occupation of Iraq. "Democracy always has skeptics," the president said. "Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. These doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia."

As many Philippine commentators remarked afterward, Bush's rendition of Philippine-American history bore little relation to fact. True, the U.S. Navy ousted Spain from the Philippines in the Spanish-American War of 1898. But instead of creating a Philippine democracy, the McKinley administration, its confidence inflated by victory in that "splendid little war," annexed the country and installed a colonial administrator. The United States then waged a brutal war against the same Philippine independence movement it encouraged to fight against Spain. The war dragged on for 14 years. Before it ended, about 120,000 U.S. troops were deployed, more than 4,000 were killed, and more than 200,000 Filipino civilians and soldiers were killed. Resentment lingered a century later during Bush's visit. [complete article]

This article is an excerpt from the The Folly of Empire by John B. Judis, available here.

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Josh Marshall's teaser on the Niger documents
By Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memeo, June 28, 2004

Let me ... offer a hypothetical that might help make sense of all this [-- today's Financial Times stunning new claims about alleged sales of uranium from Niger to Iraq.]

Let's say that certain individuals or organizations are responsible for some rather unfortunate misdeeds. And let's further postulate that such hypothetical individuals or organizations find out that some folks are on to them, that a story is in the works -- perhaps more than one -- and that it's coming right at them. Those individuals or organizations -- as shorthand, let's call them 'the bad actors' -- might well start trying to fight back, trying to gin up an alternative storyline to exculpate themselves and inculpate others. If that story made its way into the news, at a minimum, it might help the bad actors muddy the waters for when the real story comes out. You can see how such a regrettable turn of events might come to pass.

This is of course only a hypothetical. But I thought it might provide a clarifying context.

So read the FT article. But also keep your ears open. It is, I'm quite confident, not the last word you'll hear on this story. [complete article]

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'Embedded patriots'
By William Greider, The Nation, June 24, 2004

The most intriguing story in Washington these days is a subterranean conflict that reporters cannot cover because some of them are involved. A potent guerrilla insurgency has formed in and around the Bush presidency--a revolt of old pros in government who strike from the shadows with devastating effect. They tell the truth. They explode big lies. They provide documentary evidence that undermines popular confidence in the Commander in Chief. They prod the media and the political community to ask penetrating questions of the Bush regime. Doubtless, these anonymous sources act from a mixture of motives--some noble, some self-interested--but in present circumstances one might think of them as "embedded patriots." [complete article]

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Now, being a Yankee isn't dandy
By Clayton Collins, Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2004

After 14 years of regular travel to Brazil, Andrew Odell was thunderstruck by what he found there on a trip last month. "I have never run into such a consensus view on US politics," says the contract negotiator and partner at Bryan Cave, a New York law firm. "People condemn the US [for its Middle East policy], and are frightened by the US."

In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, America's troubled world standing is beginning to color its business relationships abroad. So far, the practical impact seems minimal. Many executives, including Mr. Odell, see their foreign counterparts distinguishing politics from business - especially when a cheap dollar makes American goods and services attractive overseas.

On the other hand, perceptions count. In what many view as an era of bold political unilateralism by the United States, negotiators working cross-border deals for US firms in Latin America, Europe, and Asia now find themselves facing a precipitous shift in their homeland's image abroad. And they're struggling with whether and how to adjust to it. [complete article]

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Justices affirm legal rights of 'enemy combatants'
By Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, June 29, 2004

Declaring that "a state of war is not a blank check for the president," the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that those deemed enemy combatants by the Bush administration, both in the United States and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, must be given the ability to challenge their detention before a judge or other "neutral decision-maker."

Although divided in its rationale, the court was decisive in rejecting the administration's core legal argument that the executive branch has the last word in imposing open-ended detention on citizens and noncitizens alike. The justices' language was occasionally passionate, reflecting their awareness of the historic nature of this confrontation between executive and judicial authority.

Eight justices, all but Justice Clarence Thomas, said the two-year-long detention of an American citizen, Yaser Esam Hamdi, had either been invalid from the beginning or had become so, for constitutional or statutory reasons. The controlling opinion, by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said that Mr. Hamdi's detention was permissible if designation as an enemy combatant proved to be correct, but that his inability so far to appear before a judge, challenge the government's evidence, and tell his side of the story had deprived him of his constitutional right to due process. [complete article]

Read the court's opinions, Rasul vs. Bush, Hamdi vs Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld vs. Padilla

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U.S. transfers political authority in Iraq
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Mike Allen, Washington Post, June 28, 2004

The United States transferred political authority to an interim Iraqi government in a five-minute surprise ceremony on Monday morning that was conducted two days before the planned June 30 handover date because of security concerns.

At the hastily arranged ceremony, held inside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer handed over a blue portfolio containing a signed document conveying political authority to the chief judge of Iraq's highest court.

Several hours later, members of Iraq's new government took oaths of office, with each stepping forward to place a hand on the Quran.

"Before us is a challenge and a burden and we ask God almighty to give us the patience and guide us to take this country whose people deserves all goodness," said President Ghazi Yawar after taking his oath. "May God protect Iraq and its citizens." [complete article]

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Iraq occupation erodes Bush doctrine
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, June 28, 2004

The occupation of Iraq has increasingly undermined, and in some cases discredited, the core tenets of President Bush's foreign policy, according to a wide range of Republican and Democratic analysts and U.S. officials.

When the war began 15 months ago, the president's Iraq policy rested on four broad principles: The United States should act preemptively to prevent strikes on U.S. targets. Washington should be willing to act unilaterally, alone or with a select coalition, when the United Nations or allies balk. Iraq was the next cornerstone in the global war on terrorism. And Baghdad's transformation into a new democracy would spark regionwide change.

But these central planks of Bush doctrine have been tainted by spiraling violence, limited reconstruction, failure to find weapons of mass destruction or prove Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, and mounting Arab disillusionment with U.S. leadership. [complete article]

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Bush tours through the deserted streets of Europe
By Alec Russell, The Telegraph, June 28, 2004

From Co Clare's cliffs to the Anatolian plain; from medieval battlements to Ottoman minarets; from the slate grey Atlantic to the Golden Horn; from armoured cars on deserted streets to, er, armoured cars on deserted streets.

President George W Bush took in the full East-West sweep of Europe this weekend, travelling from the mouth of the Shannon to the Bosphorus via Ankara in less than 24 hours. He also appeared to have fostered a rare unanimity on the streets of two of Europe's geographical extremes.

Hours after anti-Bush Irish demonstrators outwitted the Garda and delayed the president's plans, Turkish police in Ankara clashed with protesters trying to break through a barricade outside Mr Bush's hotel.

The only difference was the colour of the armoured cars: in Ireland they were khaki; in Ankara and Istanbul they were black.

Otherwise the impression from the motorcade was the same: anti-Bush graffiti, lines of armed policemen, roadblocks, and emptied roads. [complete article]

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The undeclared oil war
By Paul Roberts, Washington Post, June 28, 2004

In the United States and Europe, new demand for electricity is outpacing the new supply of power and natural gas and raising the specter of more rolling blackouts. In the "emerging" economies, such as Brazil, India and especially China, energy demand is rising so fast it may double by 2020. And this only hints at the energy crisis facing the developing world, where nearly 2 billion people -- a third of the world's population -- have almost no access to electricity or liquid fuels and are thus condemned to a medieval existence that breeds despair, resentment and, ultimately, conflict.

In other words, we are on the cusp of a new kind of war -- between those who have enough energy and those who do not but are increasingly willing to go out and get it. While nations have always competed for oil, it seems more and more likely that the race for a piece of the last big reserves of oil and natural gas will be the dominant geopolitical theme of the 21st century.

Already we can see the outlines. China and Japan are scrapping over Siberia. In the Caspian Sea region, European, Russian, Chinese and American governments and oil companies are battling for a stake in the big oil fields of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. In Africa, the United States is building a network of military bases and diplomatic missions whose main goal is to protect American access to oilfields in volatile places such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and tiny Sao Tome -- and, as important, to deny that access to China and other thirsty superpowers. [complete article]

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Diplomats honored for dissent
By Peter Slevin, Washington Post, June 28, 2004

Budapest is a long way from Baghdad, but in May 2003, a U.S. Foreign Service officer in the Hungarian capital became convinced that American policy in Iraq was going awry. And he spoke up.

In a cable routed through the State Department's "dissent channel," Keith W. Mines argued a case -- long rejected by the White House -- that the United Nations should be given control over Iraq's political transition.

"There is no value in imposing an American lead if the American lead would be less effective than a U.N. Special Representative," Mines wrote. "At some point, it would seem that the reasons for going it alone in Iraq would be overshadowed by the need to create a viable Iraqi state."

For his willingness to challenge the Bush administration's conventional wisdom, Mines collected an award for "constructive dissent" from the State Department's professional association last week. The citation called his ideas "prescient" and noted that "some have, belatedly, been adopted."

Accepting a plaque, Mines said he hoped U.S. authorities had learned some lessons from the troubled Iraq occupation. Speaking to a knowing audience in the department's elegant diplomatic reception rooms, he said issues in Iraq are "too important to allow ideology to trump experience or imagination to trump reality." [complete article]

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Making torture legal
By Anthony Lewis, New York Review of Books, July 15, 2004

The issues raised by the Bush administration's legal assertions in its "war on terror" are so numerous and so troubling that one hardly knows where to begin discussing them. The torture and death of prisoners, the end result of cool legal abstractions, have a powerful claim on our national conscience. They are described in horrifying detail in a report published recently by Human Rights Watch, "The Road to Abu Ghraib." But equally disturbing, in its way, is the administration's constitutional argument that presidential power is unconstrained by law.

President Bush and his administration have used the September 11 attacks again and again as an argument for expanded executive power. A signal example is the claim that the President can designate any American citizen as an "enemy combatant" and have him or her imprisoned in soli-tary confinement, indefinitely, without trial or access to counsel. That is the claim now before the Supreme Court in the cases of José Padilla and Yasser Hamdi.

The assertion in the various legal memoranda that the President can order the torture of prisoners despite statutes and treaties forbidding it was another reach for presidential hegemony. The basic premise of the American constitutional system is that those who hold power are subject to the law. As John Adams first said, the United States is meant to be a government of laws, not men. For that Bush's lawyers seem ready to substitute something like the divine right of kings. [complete article]

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The best Goebbels of all?
By Frank Rich, New York Times, June 27, 2004

In this fierce propaganda battle over the war on terrorism, the administration has been battling longer and harder than Michael Moore. And in John Ashcroft it has an even bigger camera hog in the starring role -- no mean feat. [...]

His creative gifts were in particular evidence in that televised pre-Memorial Day warning that al Qaeda would hit us hard by the year's end. Flanked by the F.B.I. director and photos of seven wanted terrorists, he enlisted us all as junior G-men — "be aware of your surroundings, remain vigilant" — even as he sowed the seeds of hopelessness that would bind us to him with fear. "Unfortunately, we currently do not know what form the threat may take," he said. "And that is why it is so important that we locate the seven individuals."

Mr. Ashcroft's show looked plausible enough when it led the evening newscasts. Only on further examination did it prove to have more slanted evidence than "Fahrenheit 9/11." The seven individuals he had asked us to help track down are not believed to be in the United States, other officials soon told The New York Times. [complete article]

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"Arabs have family, Americans have work"
By Diana Abu-Jaber, Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2004

My father's Bedouin sensibility was deeply traditional, frequently to the point of rigidity. He worked hard to instill in us his notions of propriety and modesty. At the dinner table, he lectured us on how we must protect the weak, share with others, never gloat and preserve our integrity. Without a sense of justice and honor, he said, people are little more than animals.

I rolled my eyes and dreamed of the day I could go off and be a "normal American."

But as I grew older, I began to appreciate the "normal Arab" world too. When we returned to the Middle East to visit my father's relatives, I saw how extended families lived together, parents adding rooms and apartments to their houses to accommodate spouses, children, widowed aunts. There were no homeless, no lonely elderly, no dispossessed. This reality was a powerful echo of my father's motto, repeated over and over when I was a child: "The family is absolutely sacred." [complete article]

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Billions of revenue from oil 'missing'
By Stephen Bates and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, June 28, 2004

A Christian charity has accused the coalition authority in Iraq of failing to account for up to $20bn (nearly £11bn) of oil revenues which should have been spent on relief and reconstruction projects.

At the same time, the Liberal Democrats are demanding an investigation into the way the US-led administration in Baghdad has handled Iraq's oil revenues. The coalition is obliged to pay all oil revenues into the Development Fund for Iraq, but according to Liberal Democrat figures, the fund could be short by as much as $3.7bn.

Sir Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said yesterday: "This apparent discrepancy requires full investigation".

Christian Aid, in a report today, claims that the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority, which hands over power to an interim administration in Iraq this week, is in flagrant breach of the UN security council resolution which gave it control of the country's oil revenues. [complete article]

See Christian Aid's report, Fueling suspicion: The coalition and Iraq's oil billions (PDF format).

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Evidence of Niger uranium trade 'years before war'
By Mark Huband, Financial Times, June 27, 2004

Until now, the only evidence of Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium from Niger had turned out to be a forgery. In October 2002, documents were handed to the US embassy in Rome that appeared to be correspondence between Niger and Iraqi officials.

When the US State Department later passed the documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, they were found to be fake. US officials have subsequently distanced themselves from the entire notion that Iraq was seeking buy uranium from Niger.

However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq. [complete article]

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Iraq group issues threat to behead a missing marine
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, June 28, 2004

A militant Iraqi group threatened Sunday night to behead an American marine it said it had abducted from a military base unless the United States released all Iraqi prisoners, according to a video broadcast on the Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera.

The video shows a man identified as Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun sitting on the ground in desert-patterned camouflage fatigues, with a thick blindfold over his eyes and a long, curved sword held over his head.

Marine officials said Sunday night that Corporal Hassoun, who is of Lebanese descent, had been missing since June 21. [complete article]

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In anger, ordinary Iraqis are joining the insurgency
By Edward Wong, New York Times, June 28 2004

At a teahouse in this palm-lined city, jobless men sit on wooden benches talking about killing American soldiers.

"Tell us one benefit they've given us since they've come here," Falah, a 23-year-old man in a shabby checkered shirt, said to an Iraqi reporter.

He boasted about driving a friend to stage attacks on American patrols. The two wait in a farm field by the main road. When the Humvees roll by, his friend fires a rocket-propelled grenade, Falah said. The two hit the ground. The soldiers open fire, but the Iraqis lie still until the patrol leaves.

"I really didn't ask my friend whether they have a boss or not and whether they organize their work or not," he said. "I really don't care as long as I can take part and drive the Americans out of our country. We are all resistance."

As Falah spoke, about a dozen men gathered around him. They nodded vigorously. This was Sunni-dominated Baquba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, where the resistance burns as fiercely as anywhere in Iraq. [complete article]

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Meet the new jihad
By Michael Ware, Time, June 27, 2004

The safe house lies on the outskirts of Fallujah in a neighborhood where no Americans have ventured. Inside, a group of Arab sheiks has gathered to discuss the jihad they and their followers are waging against the U.S. The men wear white robes and long beards and greet each other solemnly. They are all Iraqi, but their beliefs are those of the strict Wahhabi strain of Islam repressed under Saddam Hussein. Unlike most Iraqi sitting rooms, this one has no pictures adorning its walls or a television or radio nestled in a corner. Such luxuries are forbidden, just as they were under the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the back of the room are a few men from Saudi Arabia, who stand silently as one of the sheiks, the group's leader, addresses me in Arabic and stilted English. The war in Iraq, he says, is one of liberation, not just of a country but of Muslim lands, Muslim people, Islam itself. There is no room for negotiation with the enemy, no common ground. What he and his men offer is endless, righteous resistance. "Maybe this war will take a long time," he says. "Maybe this is a world war." [complete article]

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Yes to bin Laden rhetoric; no to Al Qaeda violence
By Nawaf Obaid, International Herald Tribune, June 28, 2004

Last year, I directed the first independent poll in Saudi Arabia. We conducted our survey - with the help of 75 researchers - in all of the kingdom's 13 provinces between July and November of 2003. The results, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points, are based on a total of 15,452 responses, 62 percent men and 38 percent women. We were interested in Saudi perspectives on political reform, the religious establishment, women's empowerment and terrorism.

Several months after Sept. 11, a survey taken by Gallup asked many questions about Saudi perceptions of America and terrorism, but it was closely monitored by the Saudi government and sensitive topics were avoided. In contrast, we were given absolute freedom in creating our survey. In fact, even the most controversial questions were asked, including: "Would you support Osama bin Laden as leader of the Arabian Peninsula?" Sixteen other questions spanned the most pressing issues currently facing Saudi Arabia.

While only 4.7 percent of respondents supported a bin Laden presidency, 48.7 percent had a positive opinion of his rhetoric. How do we reconcile these contradictory responses? As one interviewee from a conservative southern province told our team, "When we hear bin Laden railing against the West, pointing out the corruption and incompetence of the Arab governments and the suffering of the Palestinians, it is like being transported to a dream." But he went on, "when we see the images of innocent people murdered for this ideology, it's as if we've entered a nightmare." [complete article]

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Pakistan's prime minister resigns
By Anwar Iqbal, UPI, June 26, 2004

Pakistan's ruling party nominated Saturday a new interim prime minister, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, hours after the resignation of the incumbent premier.

Hussain heads the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party, which also announced in Islamabad that Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz will be elected the new regular prime minister in three months.

Aziz was a senior official at the City Bank in the United States before he went to Pakistan to become the finance minister three years ago.

"Pakistan facing a lot of challenges. We need to work together to move ahead and prosper," said Aziz while accepting his nomination as the prime ministerial candidate of the ruling party.

He is a personal friend of U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitiz. Since he also has headed City Bank's operations in Saudi Arabia, Aziz also enjoys good relations with the Saudi monarchy. [complete article]

See also, Musharraf's hand stronger after prime minister quits (CSM)

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U.N. asks Israel to go nuclear-free
BBC News, June 27, 2004

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, says Israel should start discussions on ridding the Middle East of nuclear weapons. He said such dialogue would help reduce frustration in the region about "what is seen to be a widespread imbalance".

Mr ElBaradei is scheduled to travel to Israel next month to discuss making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. He said everyone knew that Israel had a nuclear capability - even if Israel has always refused to admit it.

"We need... to rid the Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction," he told reporters on a visit to Russia. "Israel agrees with that, but they say it has to be... after peace agreements. "My proposal is may be we need to start to have a parallel dialogue on security at the same time when we're working on the peace process." [complete article]

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Your time is up, George
By Will Hutton, The Observer, June 27, 2004

For my entire journalistic life, the most salient political and cultural fact has been the rise of the American right. It is not just that America has been governed by Republican presidents or by Bill Clinton within the penumbra of the conservative intellectual and cultural ascendancy; it's that the conservative victory in the battle of ideas in the US has had a spill-over affect on the rest of the West.

It is no accident, for example, that the election of Ronald Reagan launched a fivefold increase in the numbers held in American prisons or that the profound growth of inequality also began with him. Whether it's criminal justice or tax policy, Britain and the industrialised West have been profoundly affected by the retreat of American liberalism. [complete article]

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Democracy's chance
By Nick Cohen, The Observer, June 27, 2004

Later this week, possibly tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on whether Guantanamo Bay can remain beyond the rule of law. Credulous viewers of Fahrenheit 9/11 - who leave the cinema believing America is under the control of oil executives and Saudi royals who bought the Bush family and stole the 2000 election with the connivance of Supreme Court judges - may be shocked by the verdict. Lawyers for the detainees are convinced they will win and that the court will deliver a verdict which will humiliate the Bush and Blair administrations. (Assuming, that is, they have the intellectual capacity to be shocked by discordant information.)

Predicting the decisions of judges is a dangerous game, and it's foolhardy for journalists to try to report tomorrow's news today, although that never stops us having a punt. Lawyers are often in a fantasy world when they wait for a verdict. Even in private, they rarely admit their client is as guilty as Crippen and is going to be sent down. Civil liberties lawyers in particular have to have an optimistic disposition. If they didn't, the repeated triumphs of experience over hope would be too much for them.

None the less, from the moment the Supreme Court stunned the Bush administration by agreeing to hear the Guantanamo appeal, the US Centre for Constitutional Rights, which brought the case, and the civil liberties law firms and pressure groups which have been supporting it, have been remarkably cheerful. Their confidence springs from the enormity of what Bush has done. [complete article]

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Aides say memo backed coercion for Qaeda cases
By David Johnston and James Risen, New York Times, June 27, 2004

An August 2002 memo by the Justice Department that concluded interrogators could use extreme techniques on detainees in the war on terror helped provide an after-the-fact legal basis for harsh procedures used by the C.I.A. on high-level leaders of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

The legal memo was prepared after an internal debate within the government about the methods used to extract information from Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden's top aides, after his capture in April 2002, the officials said. The memo provided a legal foundation for coercive techniques used later against other high-ranking detainees, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to be the chief architect of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, who was captured in early 2003.

The full text of the memo was made public by the White House on Tuesday without explanation about why it was written or whether its standards were applied. Until now, it has not been clear that the memo was written in response to the C.I.A.'s efforts to extract information from high-ranking Qaeda suspects, and was unrelated to questions about handling detainees at Guantánamo Bay or in Iraq.

The memo suggested that the president could authorize a wide array of coercive interrogation methods in the campaign against terrorism without violating international treaties or the federal torture law. It did not specify any particular procedures but suggested there were few limits short of causing the death of a prisoner. The methods used on Mr. Zubaydah and other senior Qaeda operatives stirred controversy in government counterterrorism circles and concern over whether C.I.A. employees might be held liable for violating the federal torture law. [complete article]

CIA puts harsh tactics on hold
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, June 27, 2004

The CIA has suspended the use of extraordinary interrogation techniques approved by the White House pending a review by Justice Department and other administration lawyers, intelligence officials said.

The "enhanced interrogation techniques," as the CIA calls them, include feigned drowning and refusal of pain medication for injuries. The tactics have been used to elicit intelligence from al Qaeda leaders such as Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Current and former CIA officers aware of the recent decision said the suspension reflects the CIA's fears of being accused of unsanctioned and illegal activities, as it was in the 1970s. The decision applies to CIA detention facilities, such as those around the world where the agency is interrogating al Qaeda leaders and their supporters, but not military prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere. [complete article]

The logic of torture
By Tom Malinowski, Washington Post, June 25, 2004

Stress and duress interrogation techniques were invented in the dungeons of the world's most brutal regimes for only one purpose -- to cause pain, distress and humiliation, without physical scars. When Bush administration officials and military commanders told soldiers to use methods designed for that purpose, while still treating detainees "humanely," they were being naive at best and dishonest at worst. They should have known that once the purpose of inflicting pain is legitimized, those charged with the care and interrogation of prisoners will take it to its logical conclusion. [complete article]

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U.S. edicts curb power of Iraq's leadership
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, June 27, 2004

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.

Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.

Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution. [complete article]

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Clashes engulf center of Baqubah
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, June 27, 2004

Heavy fighting engulfed downtown Baqubah on Saturday as U.S. troops and black-clad insurgents clashed intermittently in palm groves, traffic circles and major avenues only days before a fledgling Iraqi government is scheduled to assume political authority after 15 months of occupation.

Following the coordinated attacks that ripped through six cities on Thursday and killed more than 100 Iraqis, U.S. military commanders said they expected more strikes as insurgents tried to disrupt the transfer of power on Wednesday. Those predictions proved true before 8 a.m. when insurgents operating in small groups peppered government buildings with rocket-propelled grenades and rifle fire. [complete article]

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New Iraqi police fight US troops who trained them
By Damien McElroy, The Telegraph, June 27, 2004

With american fighter jets and helicopters buzzing the skies overhead, an officer in Iraq's new police force approaches a group of fighters on Fallujah's front lines with an urgent call to arms.

"I need a man who can use an RPG," says Omar, who wears the uniform of a first lieutenant. Four hands shoot up and a cry rings out: "We are ready." He chooses a young man, Bilal, and they drive to an underpass on the outskirts of the city.

There, on Highway One, an American Humvee is driving east. Bilal aims and fires his rocket propelled grenade, turning the vehicle into a smoking, twisted, metal carcass. The fate of its occupants is unknown.

First Lt Omar is sworn to uphold the law and fight the insurgency that threatens Iraq's evolution into a free and democratic state. Instead, he is exploiting his knowledge of US tactics to help the rebel cause in Fallujah. [complete article]

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A legacy of fear
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, June 27, 2004

These days, Suad Jabar Kamil, a housewife in her fifties, hides a pistol in her kitchen and her son, a former colonel in the disbanded Iraqi army, is teaching her how to use it. She seldom leaves her house to go out into the streets of Yarmuk, the middle class neighbourhood in Baghdad where she lives, and only answers the door to people she knows.

Whatever freedoms the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein brought to Iraqis, freedom from fear is not one of them. Even those members of the Kamil family who are better off financially than they were before the invasion say the extra money is outweighed by the pervasive insecurity of life. [complete article]

See also, Promises, promises: the true cost of freedom for the people (The Independent).

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New Iraq PM promises amnesty for insurgents
By Patrick Cockburn and Raymond Whitaker, The Independent, June 27, 2004

Days before he is installed as Iraq's interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi has expressed understanding for Iraqis who have acted against the US-led occupation "out of a sense of desperation", and says that he plans to offer them an amnesty.

Writing exclusively in this newspaper just ahead of the official handover of sovereignty to his administration on Wednesday, Dr Allawi seeks to establish some distance between himself and his backers, Tony Blair and George Bush. He implicitly criticises the US decision to disband the Iraqi army immediately after the war, warns that Iraqi democracy "should not be a replica of an imported model from the US, Britain, or ... any other country", and stresses that the world must carry out its pledges of economic help.

The most startling departure, however, is the interim Prime Minister's comment that his government "will make a clear distinction between those Iraqis who have acted against the occupation out of a sense of desperation, and those foreign terrorist fundamentalists and criminals whose sole objective is to kill and maim innocent people and to see Iraq fail". [complete article]

Read Iyad Allawi's commentary, Give us back our dignity.

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Taliban kill 16 Afghans carrying voter cards
By Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters, June 27, 2004

Taliban guerrillas kidnapped and then killed 16 people in an Afghan province after finding them with voter registration cards for the country's September elections, officials said on Sunday.

The killings on Friday night in the province of Zabul were the most serious attack yet on the elections, which the Taliban and allied Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt.

News of the violence came a day after a bomb killed two young women, one a student, working to register voters for the U.N.-Afghan electoral body in the eastern city of Jalalabad. [complete article]

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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

This terrorist is bad enough on his own
By Peter Bergen, New York Times, June 26, 2004 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. [...] "The central question the administration has failed to answer is: Was there guidance or direction from the Al Qaeda leadership to Zarqawi?" Mr. Cressey, the former counterterrorism official, told me. "The evidence presented so far is there was not." At a briefing on June 17, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seemed to agree with that assessment, saying of Mr. Zarqawi that "someone could legitimately say he's not Al Qaeda." Mr. Zarqawi's connections to Saddam Hussein are equally tenuous. After fleeing Afghanistan, he probably spent as much time living in Iran as in Iraq. What Mr. Cheney described as the "poisons factory" Mr. Zarqawi ran was actually in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, an area protected by American jets since 1991. Mr. Rumsfeld had more control than Saddam Hussein over that part of Iraq.

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.

'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."

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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