|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
Neo-conservatism and the American future
By Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, Open Democracy, July 7, 2004
The neo-conservatives' demise has been predicted before. The post-cold war era of the 1990s, when Norman Podhoretz pronounced that neo-conservatism no longer existed as a distinctive phenomenon, was one such moment. John Judis in Foreign Affairs even described the neo-con journey as "a transition from Trotskyism to anachronism."
These predictions proved premature – but although "neo-conservatism" returned to the political lexicon after the Republican victory in 2000, this has proved more journalistic shorthand than shaping category of understanding. Now, if the term and the policies it has been used to connote are once more losing their potency, what exactly will be removed from American foreign-policy thinking?
The three chief tenets of neo-conservative ideology are:
-- the human condition is a choice between good and evil, and the true measure of political character is to be found in the willingness by the former (themselves) to confront the latter
-- the fundamental determinant of the relationship between states rests on military power and the willingness to use it
-- the Middle East and global Islam is the prime theatre for American overseas interests.
In making these tenets active, neo-conservatives:
-- see international issues in morally absolutist categories; they are convinced that they alone hold the moral high ground and argue that disagreement effectively offers comfort to the enemy
-- emphasise the unipolar nature of American power and are prepared to exercise the military option as the first rather than last policy choice; they repudiate the received "lessons of Vietnam", believing they undermine American willingness to use force - and rather embrace the "lessons of Munich", believing they establish the virtues of pre-emptive military action
-- disdain conventional diplomatic agencies such as the state department and country-specific, pragmatic analysis because they dilute and confuse the ideological clarity of their policies
-- eschew multilateral institutions and treaties while drawing comfort from international criticism, believing that it confirms American virtue [...]
The current neo-conservative moment may be passing, like a comet that streaks through the skies at regular intervals before disappearing into space. The result, in the short- to medium-term, may be a more familiar, collegial and substantive, American foreign policy. This will provide opportunities for the United States's allies not just to agree with American policy but to influence it for the better.
But as comets return, so will the neo-conservatives' themes - especially the preference for unilateral military power as the option of first resort. Neo-conservatism offers a recurrently powerful ideological booster-rocket in support of America's military pre-eminence. If another "perfect storm" on the 9/11 model recurs, where fear and confusion suspend the political process, the American response is likely to be predominantly military rather than political, diplomatic or economic - irrespective of the party affiliation of the White House incumbent. [complete article]
THE CIA MADE HIM DO IT?
'A global intelligence failure': report damns pretext for war
By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, July 10, 2004
Claims made by President George Bush and others that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal were based on flawed and faulty intelligence, a scathing Congressional report confirmed yesterday. But the report utterly failed to address the issue of whether the administration had manipulated intelligence for its own political ends. [...]
The report appears to be greatly at odds with the views of several former intelligence analysts who believe that intelligence was "cherry picked" and skewed to make the case for war and that caveats inserted by analysts about the lack of solid intelligence about Saddam's capabilities were ignored for political reasons. Much of this skewed intelligence was gathered by a specially formed team within the Pentagon and the former analysts believe that putting the blame on the regular intelligence community amounted to a "whitewash".
Greg Thielmann, a former analyst with the State Department's Intelligence Bureau, said intelligence provided by his organisation was routinely ignored by the administration because it did not fit with its preconceived ideas about what weapons Saddam possessed. "I call it faith-based intelligence gathering," Mr Thielmann previously told The Independent about the way facts were collated. "Analysts want to maintain relationships. Tenet spoke to the President six days a week [for his daily intelligence briefing]. If he went and said, 'Mr President, you have misrepresented what my analysts said', how long would he keep going to the White House?" [complete article]
Comment -- It's reasonable to assume that the White House will draw satisfaction from the Senate Intelligence Committee's report, confident that the issue of intelligence manipulation has been put off -- at least until after the election. Nevertheless, the report's findings demand that the President be confronted with a simple question: If in March 2003 you had known what you know now, would you have still led this country to war? To answer "yes" would be tantamount to saying that the use of intelligence -- whatever it might have indicated -- was a bogus justification for war. Moreover, it would demand that this administration declare for the first time, without equivocation, what was truly driving their urgent demands to strike Iraq. To answer "no" would lead to an admission that the war was a mistake -- an admission that would surely require Bush to withdraw from the presidential election. No doubt the President would be reluctant to give a direct response, but his unwillingness to answer this question should not prevent it from being raised.
As rationales for war erode, issue of blame looms large
By Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, July 10, 2004
Yesterday's report by the Senate intelligence committee left in shreds two of the Bush administration's main rationales for the war in Iraq: that Iraq had illicit weapons and that it cooperated with al Qaeda.
The conclusions are not earthshaking by themselves. Although President Bush and Vice President Cheney have not abandoned either rationale, both were already tattered after similar doubts were voiced over many months by U.S. weapons inspectors in Iraq, the commission probing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, CIA officials and others.
The larger question is whether voters will blame the White House for these two massive mistakes. Though officially agnostic on the White House role in using Iraq intelligence (that will come in a later report), the committee gives ammunition both to Bush and Democratic opponent John F. Kerry. [complete article]
Plame's input is cited on Niger mission
By Susan Schmidt, Washington Post, July 10, 2004
Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly.
Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House.
Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report. [complete article]
Meet Iraq's new strongman
By Tony Karon, Time.com, July 7, 2004
Unlike the neoconservative ideologues at the Pentagon who imagined Iraq as the beachhead of liberal democracy in the Middle East -- an idea that remains a mainstay of President Bush's speeches, if not his policies -- State Department and CIA types have long been skeptical of the idea that democracy in Iraq as envisaged by the neocons is possible. It's a view bluntly stated by retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, President Bush's former envoy to the Middle East, who savaged the neo-con view of postwar Iraq in a recent speech to defense analysts: "When you look at a country that has never known democracy, that has been in the condition it's been in, that has the natural fault lines that it has, and the issues it has, and to look at the task of reconstructing this country, not only reconstructing it, but the idea of creating Jeffersonian democracy almost overnight, is almost ridiculous." And Britain's top man in Baghdad, Sir Jeremy Greenstock was equally blunt in a recent speech in London: "There is never going to be a Western style democracy in Iraq."
If not democracy, then what? The reason the CIA had Allawi on its payroll in the first place during the 1990s was that he was the point man for efforts to have Saddam Hussein overthrown by his own generals. The idea was to get rid of the Butcher of Baghdad while keeping the rump of his regime in place to stop Iraq splintering into dangerous shards. A kind of Baathism without Saddam, in other words, its premise being that holding Iraq together required a strongman regime, but that such a strongman ought to be a relatively enlightened, pro-Western modernizer rather than an erratic sociopath like Saddam and his sons. In other words, a regime more like the one in Egypt, whose authoritarianism is more predictable: You're tortured only if the secret police suspect you're aligned with a banned (although very popular) Islamist political organization, as opposed to in Saddam's Iraq where you could be tortured to death because the leader's son wanted to rape your wife. There's no question it's an improvement, but lets not kid ourselves that it heralds any kind of sea-change in the politics of the Middle East -- nor, for that matter, that it's particularly stable in the long run. [complete article]
Senate report blasts intelligence agencies' flaws
By William Branigin, Washington Post, July 9, 2004
In a hard-hitting report released today, the U.S. Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence described a massive intelligence failure by the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies in failing to accurately assess Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before last year's U.S. invasion. [...]
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the committee's vice chairman, called the assessments of Iraq before the 2003 war "one of the most devastating intelligence failures in the history of the nation."
He said in the same news conference, "We in Congress would not have authorized that war with 75 votes if we knew what we know now." While the government "didn't connect the dots" in analyzing clues before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said, "in Iraq we were even more culpable, because the dots themselves never existed."
As a result of the intelligence failures, he said, "our credibility is diminished, our standing in the world has never been lower" and "we have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world." Rockefeller added, "As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before." [complete article]
Read the Report on the U.S. Intelligence Commmunity's Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq (521-page document - PDF format) and its conclusions (30-page document - PDF format).
Pentagon reportedly aimed to hold detainees in secret
By John Hendren and Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2004
Despite pledging yearly reviews for all prisoners held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Pentagon officials tentatively agreed during a high-level meeting last month to deny that process to some detainees and to keep their existence secret "for intelligence reasons," senior defense officials said Thursday.
Under the proposal, some prisoners would in effect be kept off public records and away from the scrutiny of lawyers and judges.
The meeting on the Guantanamo reviews occurred months after U.S. officials came under harsh criticism by investigators and human rights observers for practices involving "ghost" detainees in Iraq who were kept hidden from inspectors for intelligence purposes. [complete article]
Pentagon says Bush records of service were destroyed
By Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, July 9, 2004
Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.
It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.
The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.
The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him. [complete article]
Reinventing Islam in Europe: a profile of Tariq Ramadan
By Rosemary Bechler, Open Democracy, July 6, 2004
Who is Tariq Ramadan? The question that French intellectuals and media outlets have been asking with accumulating force in the past two years is getting serious. In December 2003, Le Monde offered part of the answer: even as a Swiss national, he is the central figure of Islam in France today. A month later, Serge Raffy in Le Nouvel Observateur posed the matter in provocative terms: is he a brilliant, young philosophy lecturer who cites the Koran and Nietzsche's or Heidegger's critiques of western rationalism with equal mastery, while drawing crowds of young immigrants in Paris and New York; or the undercover heir to the Muslim Brotherhood, the "Trojan horse of jihad in Europe", an arch dissimulator whose suave exterior hides an anti–Semitic core?
It's not just the French and European press that can't make up their minds about Ramadan. Mohamed Sid–Ahmed in Egypt's Al–Ahram asks why this young intellectual is granted so much importance. His answer is that the controversy around Ramadan – from accusations of anti–Semitism by French intellectuals to the parallel critique from within Islam that he is soft on Israel – stem from the essential duality of his Swiss–Egyptian point of origin and intellectual project: "the issue goes beyond Ramadan as an individual. It has its origins in the undeniable duality between the Islam to which Ramadan assigns himself and the western, Judeo–Christian environment in which he was brought up". [complete article]
The lie that killed my son
By Emma Brockes, The Guardian, july 8, 2004
Two years ago, if you had asked Lila Lipscomb what she stood for, she would have referred you to the flag in her garden and her four grown-up children. Her priorities were, in descending order of importance, family, faith, country and a place where all three met, what she might have called "service": two of her children were in the military and she worked in the public sector, at an employment agency designed to get people off welfare. She is, as she puts it, "an extremely strong woman. And I've raised my daughters to understand that they come from a long line of strong, independent women. So the men in our lives have to be very unique. Hence Pops."
Pops is her husband, Howard, a car-factory worker. He has accompanied Lipscomb to London today by way of moral support and sits across from her in the hotel suite, eyes brimming. What she is saying is not easy for either of them. Lipscomb describes an event that changed their lives and forced a seismic shift in their political perceptions; a shift that she hopes millions of her fellow Americans will be making between now and election time in November. To her surprise, and the surprise of all who know her, Lipscomb is becoming a figurehead in the fight to oust George Bush.
It is two weeks since Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's polemic on the war in Iraq, was released in America, and in that time Lipscomb's voice has emerged as the film's most powerful. As with any project generated by Moore, the film will be loved and loathed in equal measure, but whatever one thinks of him, it is hard to resist the testimony of 50-year-old Lipscomb, a mother from Flint, Michigan, who still flies a flag in her garden, but is down to three children and a handful of ruptured assumptions where other certainties used to be. [complete article]
Kerry would keep U.S. troops in Iraq far longer than Bush
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 9, 2004
Here's a dinner-party talking point that can run and run, certainly until November and, if the Democrats win the US presidency, for several months beyond. Would John Kerry, far from quickly bringing US troops home, keep them in Iraq even longer than George Bush?
My answer, regrettably, is yes - which means that the Democratic convention in Boston later this month will be a sad affair for the people of Iraq, where polls consistently show a majority in favour of early withdrawal. [complete article]
In place of gunfire, a rain of rocks
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 9, 2004
In the context of Iraq's continuing violence, it is perhaps a measure of progress that U.S. soldiers working in a slum on Baghdad's barren eastern edge are feeling the sting of stones more often than bullets. Only weeks ago, U.S. soldiers were fighting -- and, in some cases, dying -- to put down an armed Shiite uprising on the same streets.
But the daily rock fights between U.S. soldiers and ordinary Iraqis, many of them children, highlight the mutual antipathy that has built up since the handover of political power to an Iraqi government. Although often-intense fighting continues in some regions, the U.S. military occupation of Sadr City, as observed in four days on patrol with a U.S. Army unit, has evolved into a grinding daily confrontation between frustrated American soldiers and a desperate population. [complete article]
U.N. court to rule 'against Israel'
BBC News, July 9, 2004
The International Court of Justice in The Hague is understood to have decided that Israel's West Bank barrier is illegal and should be removed.
The court has now started reading out its ruling. Leaked reports say it will call on the United Nations to consider what action is required.
Israel insists the barrier is needed to keep out West Bank militants. The Palestinians consider it a land grab.
The court's decision is not binding, but can serve as a basis for UN action.
The ICJ began issuing its ruling at 1300GMT, in a reading expected to take more than two hours. [complete article]
In advance of its official release, the International Court of Justice ruling, "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" can be read here (PDF format).
Israel: ICJ fence ruling fails to address Palestinian terror
Haaretz, July 9, 2004
In a response to the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the West Bank separation fence, Israel said Friday that the court had failed to address the issue of "Palestinian terror" in determining that the barrier is illegal.
"It fails to address the essence of the problem and the very reason for building the fence - Palestinian terror," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a news briefing Friday.
The key to resolving the conflict in the Middle East won't be found in The Hague or in Manhattan, but in Ramallah or Gaza, where terror originates, the spokesman said. [complete article]
'Democratic' racism -- part one
By Jonathan Cook, Al-Ahram, July 8, 2004
An Israeli Knesset committee is currently formulating a constitution for Israel -- the first such attempt in its 56 years. The task was abandoned early in the state's history, after the country's founding fathers feared that giving a precise definition to the state's character would tear apart the fragile consensus between secular and religious Jews and that a Bill of Rights would enshrine in law rights it wanted to deny the Palestinians. Instead, the founding document of the state, the Declaration of Independence, made a promise: that Israel would "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex". [...]
Let us consider Israel's track record in fostering democracy. We will not test its record in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, where a military regime rules over a disenfranchised and occupied population of some 3.5 million people. Rather, let us restrict the judgement to its record in governing the population within its own borders, and in particular the one million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. How have they fared in what the Knesset wishes to call a Jewish and democratic state? [complete article]
Palestinians talk of scrapping call for state
By Cynthia Johnston, Reuters, July 8, 2004
The Democratic State of Israel-Palestine?
That is the vision of a small but growing number of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs debating whether to end decades of demanding an independent Palestinian state and to push instead for one homeland for Arabs and Jews.
The chances of ever getting Israeli acceptance are as good as nil. Most vehemently oppose a "bi-national" state because a higher Arab birth rate would kill Israel's character as a Jewish state.
But the idea has started rumbling among Palestinians, especially intellectuals who argue that Israeli policies make a viable state impossible and who think it could be time for a shift in strategy. [complete article]
Israeli outposts still growing
By Ben Lynfield, Christian Science Monitor, July 9, 2004
It has receded from memory amid mutual bloodletting and plans for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, but about a year ago there was a Middle East peace process named the road map.
As steps towards peace, the Israeli outpost of Givat HaTamar and dozens of other outposts established during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's tenure without formal government authorization were to be removed from West Bank hilltops.
But with the road map moribund and international attention focusing on a possible Gaza pullout, Givat HaTamar and other West Bank outposts are steadily becoming permanent communities, fixtures on a future map of Israel that is to include wide swaths of occupied territory that Palestinians envision as the heartland of their future state. [complete article]
Israeli interrogators in Iraq - An exclusive report
Jane's Foreign Report, July 7, 2004
At least one aspect of the occupation of Iraq was well planned by Washington. The USA needed help conducting mass interrogations of Arabic-speaking detainees. Foreign Report can now reveal that, to make up for this shortfall, the USA employed Israeli security service (Shin Bet) experts to help their US counterparts 'break' their captives.
The USA could have approached other friendly regimes in the Middle East, such as Egypt or Jordan, which have vast experience interrogating Muslim fundamentalists. The Israelis may be brilliant linguists, but they cannot match Arabs speaking their own language. But there is a significant difference between the Egyptian and Jordanian interrogation techniques and those of the Israelis. For the Egyptian and Jordanian secret services, physical torture is an essential part of interrogation and a key element in breaking the prisoner's will and making them co-operative.
In the past, Shin Bet would use torture when it interrogated prisoners. But 20 years ago, an Israeli government committee investigated the security service's practices and the use of torture was subsequently banned, forcing Shin Bet to adopt a variety of techniques that did not cause physical damage. These new methods are much more palatable to US sensibilities. They also brought faster and more convincing results. [complete article]
See also, U.S. says Israel not involved in Iraq interrogations
In charge, Iraqis crack down hard
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 2004
The announcement Wednesday of a new national security law is the most dramatic in a string of recent moves by Iraqi officials, both local and national, to get tough on crime and insurgents. It illustrates the new interim government's priorities - and underscores the use of hard-line practices often avoided by US soldiers and the now-defunct US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
In Baghdad, for example, the police and interior ministry are now conducting large-scale sweeps throughout the city to capture alleged criminals; in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf, local officials have imposed a 7 p.m. evening curfew to deal with insurgents; local judges have reinstated the death penalty that the US occupation had suspended; and the Interior Ministry says it will soon begin removing tens of thousands of squatters from government buildings.
Iraqi public opinion is broadly supportive of almost any measure that could bring the situation in Iraq under control. "The US never did anything to stop the gangs,'' says Mohammed Hassan, a fruit vendor in Baghdad's tough Bettawain neighborhood, where Iraqi forces arrested over 150 alleged criminals last week. "I'll support [Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi if he keeps it up."
Dealing with crime, or socially sensitive issues like squatters, was largely avoided by the US occupation, a practice dating back to the failure to control looting in the wake of the invasion. The declaration of an emergency under the new security law would allow Prime Minister Allawi to temporarily set aside many of the protections in an Iraqi Bill of Rights that CPA head Paul Bremer touted as one of the major achievements of his tenure. [complete article]
Iraq insurgency larger than thought
Jim Krane, Associated Press (via Yahoo), July 8, 2004
The Iraq insurgency is far larger than the 5,000 guerrillas previously thought to be at its core, U.S. military officials say, and it's being led by well-armed Iraqi Sunnis angry at being pushed from power alongside Saddam Hussein.
Although U.S. military analysts disagree over the exact size, dozens of regional cells, often led by tribal sheiks and inspired by Sunni Muslim imams, can call upon part-time fighters to boost forces to as high as 20,000 -- an estimate reflected in the insurgency's continued strength after U.S. forces killed as many as 4,000 in April alone. [complete article]
Senate Iraq report said to skirt White House use of intelligence
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, July 8, 2004
A bipartisan Senate report to be issued Friday that is highly critical of prewar intelligence on Iraq will sidestep the question of how the Bush administration used that information to make the case for war, Congressional officials said Wednesday.
But Democrats are maneuvering to raise the issue in separate statements. Under a deal reached this year between Republicans and Democrats, the Bush administration's role will not be addressed until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes a further stage of its inquiry, but probably not until after the November election. As a result, said the officials, both Democratic and Republican, the committee's initial, unanimous report will focus solely on misjudgments by intelligence agencies, not the White House, in the assessments about Iraq, illicit weapons and Al Qaeda that the administration used as a rationale for the war.
The effect may be to provide an opening for President Bush and his allies to deflect responsibility for what now appear to be exaggerated prewar assessments about the threat posed by Iraq, by portraying them as the fault of the Central Intelligence Agency and its departing chief, George J. Tenet, rather than Mr. Bush and his top aides. [complete article]
Pentagon sets hearings for 595 detainees
By John Mintz, Washington Post, July 8, 2004
The Pentagon announced last night it will quickly hold hearings for all 595 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison as it scrambles to respond to the Supreme Court ruling last week that the government was jailing terrorism suspects without due process.
The new hearings are designed to determine whether the 595 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, meet the definition of "enemy combatants," as President Bush and the U.S. military have said for more than two years. The administration has used the enemy combatant designation to argue that the detainees do not warrant some protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions.
Since the prison for alleged terrorists opened in early 2002, some human rights activists have said that the government was obligated under international law to hold these hearings. But the government refused, saying the detainees did not deserve such rights because they are terrorists who wore no soldier's uniform and violated the laws of war by killing civilians. [complete article]
See also The Supreme Court, the detainees, and the "war on terrorism" (FindLaw).
Pentagon classifying 'impulse' criticized
By Shaun Waterman, UPI (via Washington Times), July 8, 2004
A government watchdog agency has asked the Pentagon to explain why parts of a memo about the interrogation of detainees in the war on terror were once classified.
William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, said the classification was part of a disturbing trend, what he called a "bureaucratic impulse" for officials to "almost reflexively reach out to the classification system." [complete article]
Israel links nuclear-free zone to peace talks
Associated Press (via NYT), July 8, 2004
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is ready to discuss a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East as part of future peace talks, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Thursday.
But Mohammed ElBaradei, wrapping up a three-day trip to Israel, failed to make progress in loosening the country's taboo on disclosing its own nuclear-weapons capabilities.
"The prime minister affirmed to me that Israeli policy continues to be that in the context of peace in the Middle East, Israel will be looking forward to the establishment of a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East," ElBaradei said after a meeting with Sharon.
Israeli officials stressed that arms-control talks are far off. Sharon linked the talks to progress in the "road map," an internationally backed plan for peace between Israelis and the Palestinians that has been stalled since its inception a year ago. [complete article]
ElBaradei: Pakistani gave nuclear know-how to 20 nations, firms
By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz, July 8, 2004
Israel must take the spread of nuclear technology into account and remember that terror is getting more sophisticated: Other countries could get nuclear weapons, and the ordinary deterrence that worked in the past may not be effective any more. Israel must therefore think about a different regional security concept and lend a hand to it.
The above was the key message in an interview granted to Haaretz by Mohammed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, during his brief visit to Israel. [complete article]
Militants make unprecedented push to gain a voice in Palestinian affairs
By Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, July 8, 2004
The armed wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement has called for a comprehensive campaign against corruption in the Palestinian Authority, recommending that Arafat relinquish some of his powers and that militant groups -- including Islamic organizations -- be granted a formal governing voice, according to a report obtained by The Washington Post.
The proposal presented to senior Palestinian officials by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the first formal attempt by an armed resistance group to seek a political role in the Palestinian Authority since the current uprising against Israel began nearly four years ago.
The 10-page document calls for the expulsion and prosecution of government officials involved in corruption, a wholesale purge of relatives and cronies of senior officials from government payrolls and a halt to the practice of government officials monopolizing sectors of the Palestinian economy to line "their private pockets." [complete article]
It's not always about you
By Gwynne Dyer, Toronto Star, July 6, 2004
...the 9/11 attacks were not aimed at American values, which are of no interest to the Islamists one way or another. They were an operation that was broadly intended to raise the profile of the Islamists in the Muslim world, but they had the further quite specific goal of luring the United States into invading Muslim countries.
The true goal of the Islamists is to come to power in Muslim countries, and their problem until recently was that they could not win over enough local people to make their revolutions happen. Getting the U.S. to march into the Muslim world in pursuit of the terrorists was a potentially promising stratagem, since an invasion should produce endless images of American soldiers killing and humiliating Muslims. That might finally push enough people into the arms of the Islamists to get their stalled revolutions off the ground. [complete article]
Expert's terror profile doesn't fit stereotypes
By Robert S. Boyd, Associated Press (via MyrtleBeachOnline), July 4, 2004
Most Americans have a false idea of the shadowy, worldwide terrorist network led by Al Qaeda, according to a former CIA operative who collected the life histories of almost 400 members of the deadly movement.
The stereotype that these terrorists are poor, desperate, single young men from Third World countries, vulnerable to brainwashing, is wrong, Dr. Marc Sageman told an international terrorism conference in Washington last week.
Most Arab terrorists he studied were well-educated, married men from middle- or upper-class families, in their mid-20s and psychologically stable, said Sageman, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Many of them knew several languages and traveled widely. [complete article]
See also, Dispelling myths about terrorism and terrorists: A review of Marc Sageman's Understanding Terror Networks (FindLaw) and listen to an interview of Sageman on NPR.
Talking peace and Kashmir -- warily, under a nuclear shadow
By Praful Bidwai, Foreign Policy in Focus, July 6, 2004
Six years after they blasted their way into the Global Nuclear Club and dangerously heightened their mutual rivalry even further, India and Pakistan have begun a wide-ranging bilateral dialogue to resolve disputes and normalize relations. Since the new United Progressive Alliance government led by Manmohan Singh was sworn in six weeks ago, Indian and Pakistani officials have held two rounds of talks.
Most important of all, India and Pakistan have begun talking bilaterally and substantively about Kashmir -- for the first time ever. On June 27 and 28, they exchanged views and preliminary proposals on the issue "in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, and with the objective of taking the process [of dialogue] forward," as their communique put it. They say they are committed to finding a "peaceful negotiated final settlement" to the Kashmir problem. [complete article]
Pakistan for Bush
By John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman and Massoud Ansari, The New Republic, July 7, 2004
The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets [HVT's] off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. [...]
...an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TNR that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. [complete article]
Problems accessing The New Republic web site? Read the article here.
Iraq approves law allowing martial rule
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, July 7, 2004
Iraq's interim government has approved a national security law that will give Prime Minister Ayad Allawi broad powers of martial rule in troubled areas, including direct command of army, police and intelligence units, a senior Iraqi government official said Tuesday.
Although the law will give Allawi new latitude to combat insurgents, the prime minister had sought even tougher measures, some of which were stripped out of early drafts because of objections from other members of the interim government and from foreign governments, said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The law will restrict the prime minister's power by requiring any declaration of emergency rule to have the consent of the country's president and its two vice presidents, as well as a majority of the 32-member cabinet. Iraq's highest court also will be able to overturn Allawi's martial law declarations.
Even so, the new law will allow Allawi to deploy Iraq's army to fight insurgents. When the country's old army was disbanded and a new army created, L. Paul Bremer, then the U.S. administrator of Iraq, issued a decree preventing the army from being used for domestic security. But Bremer lifted that restriction in a final order issued before he departed Iraq on June 28, the day political authority was transferred to the interim government. [complete article]
9/11 panelists rebut Cheney on information
By Philip Shenon, New York Times, July 7, 2004
The leaders of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks on Tuesday disputed Vice President Dick Cheney's suggestion that he probably had access to more intelligence than the commission did about possible ties between the Qaeda terrorist network and Iraq.
In a one-sentence statement, the panel's chairman and vice chairman said that "after examining available transcripts of the vice president's public remarks, the 9/11 commission believes it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9/11 attacks."
A report issued by the commission's staff last month found that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and the terrorist network, a finding that appeared to undermine a justification cited by President Bush and Mr. Cheney for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein. [complete article]
Pentagon deputy's probes in Iraq weren't authorized, officials say
By T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2004
A senior Defense Department official conducted unauthorized investigations of Iraq reconstruction efforts and used their results to push for lucrative contracts for friends and their business clients, according to current and former Pentagon officials and documents.
John A. "Jack" Shaw, deputy undersecretary for international technology security, represented himself as an agent of the Pentagon's inspector general in conducting the investigations, sources said.
In one case, Shaw disguised himself as an employee of Halliburton Co. and gained access to a port in southern Iraq after he was denied entry by the U.S. military, the sources said.
In that investigation, Shaw found problems with operations at the port of Umm al Qasr, Pentagon sources said. In another, he criticized a competition sponsored by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to award cellphone licenses in Iraq.
In both cases, Shaw urged government officials to fix the alleged problems by directing multimillion-dollar contracts to companies linked to his friends, without competitive bidding, according to the Pentagon sources and documents. [complete article]
In Iraq, daunting tasks await
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 7, 2004
The symbolic handovers -- of political power and Saddam Hussein -- are over. Now the real challenges begin in Iraq. Baghdad's new interim government, the United States and the United Nations have only seven months to stabilize Iraq, accelerate reconstruction and hold the country's first democratic elections.
This next stage -- the second of Iraq's three-stage transition -- could prove to be even tougher than the 14-month occupation, U.S. and U.N. officials predict.
"We won't achieve it all. I don't think we can pacify the country in seven months," said a senior State Department official who insisted on anonymity. "On reconstruction, we'll certainly see change, but the scope is huge and the better timeline is really two years from now.
"Where you will see the most progress is in the electoral process . . . and achieving security remains the $64 million question. I can't say it will be fully addressed with any degree of confidence." [complete article]
Sunni resistance to U.S. presence hardens
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, July 7, 2004
The violent insurgency against U.S. occupation has slackened noticeably in the week since formal political authority was turned over to an Iraqi government. But according to Iraqi and U.S. sources, the bloodshed is far from over.
The insurgency is likely to persist as long as U.S. soldiers remain visible in Iraq, they said, because it cuts across several irreducible currents in the country's long-dominant Sunni Muslim minority. These include nationalism and Arab pride, local and transnational Islamic fundamentalism, and tribal loyalties cultivated by ousted president Saddam Hussein.
"If you don't remove the causes, you will never get rid of the resistance," said Saleh Mutlak, a onetime Hussein official who helped negotiate the ragged truce protecting Fallujah, the embattled city 35 miles west of Baghdad that is his family home and the insurgency's main stronghold. [complete article]
Zarqawi told 'leave Iraq or die'
BBC News, July 6, 2004
A group of armed, masked men have issued a public warning to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to leave Iraq on pain of death.
A previously unknown group, calling itself the Salvation Movement, accused him of murdering innocent Iraqis and defiling the Muslim religion.
The men said unless he left immediately he would be hunted down and killed. [complete article]
Blair says Iraq WMDs may never be found
By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, July 7, 2004
Tony Blair admitted for the first time yesterday that weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, but he refused to apologise for the invasion and would not admit that the absence of stockpiles undermined his case for war.
His remarks, in front of the liaison committee of select committee chairmen, come ahead of the Butler inquiry report into the flawed intelligence prior to the war. They follow a similar admission by the former chief British political representative in Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Until now Mr Blair has simply said, most recently on the Frost programme in January, that he did not know if weapons of mass destruction would be found.
Asked about the absence of stockpiles, he said: "I have to accept that we have not found them and that we may not find them." [complete article]
Kurds anxious over Iraq's future
By Jim Muir, BBC News, July 6, 2004
Recent years have brought the northern Iraqi Kurds increasing prosperity as well as relative stability and security.
Since the overthrow of the Baathist regime last year, there is practically full employment and a building boom in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Small wonder that an apparently large majority of ordinary Iraqi Kurds would strongly favour outright independence, though that is a dirty word both in Baghdad and among Iraq's neighbours - especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, all of which have their own Kurdish minorities. [complete article]
U.S. soldiers laughed at drowning
By Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press (via Newsday), July 6, 2004
The 19-year-old Iraqi's swimming skills were no match for the Tigris. "Marwan, save me!" Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun screamed to his cousin, himself struggling to stay afloat. The teenager drowned; his cousin made it to shore. "I could hear them laughing," Marwan Fadel Hassoun said, recalling how U.S. soldiers pushed the young men into the river. "They were behaving like they were watching a comedy on stage."
The U.S. military said last week that three soldiers, now back in their base at Fort Carson, Colo., have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 3 drowning of an Iraqi detainee. A fourth soldier faces charges of pushing a second man, who survived, into the same river.
The military identified the victims only as Mr. Fadel and Mr. Fadhil. The four soldiers face between 5 1/2 years and 26 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all charges. [complete article]
ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR STRATEGY
Iran in Israel's bombsights?
By Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times, July 5, 2004
As the Bush administration concludes it cannot risk Iranian retaliation against a fragile Iraq under U.S. occupation, Israel is dusting off contingency plans to take out Iran's nuclear installations. [...]
The Europeans still believe political, economic and trade sanctions will eventually bring Iran into compliance. The Bush administration is on the horns of a painful dilemma. How can it claim Iran has no right to nuclear weapons when Israel not only possesses both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, but has several hundred in its arsenal? Pre-empting Iran would also undermine the administration's last shred of credibility as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.
After all the blue-smoke-and-mirrors "intelligence" that justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq 15 months ago, CIA evidence of an Iranian nuclear bomb would have to be incontrovertible. This sets the bar impossibly high. Hence Israel's conclusion it is on its own. Bombs away? Not yet, but they've rehearsed it. [complete article]
Israel urged to join talks on creating nuclear-free region
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, July 6, 2004
Israel will today be urged to agree to talks on a nuclear-free Middle East even if she continues to withhold confirmation about her own arsenal of unconventional weapons.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will use a rare meeting here with senior Israeli politicians and officials, including the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to suggest Israel's policy of nuclear "ambiguity" need not be a bar to wide-ranging strategic talks on regional security.
The visit by Mr ElBaradei, the Egyptian head of the UN's anti-proliferation agency, his first in six years, will throw a fresh and to Israel unwelcome spotlight on her nuclear arsenal. But he has no plans to hector the government on its refusal to confirm or deny it has nuclear weapons. [complete article]
See also, Strategic Israel: The arsenal of an undeclared nuclear power (MSNBC).
Mixing prophecy and politics
By Jane Lampman, Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 2004
Christian Zionists, an Evangelical subset whose ranks are estimated at 20 million in the US, have in the past two decades poured millions of dollars of donations into Israel, formed a tight alliance with the Likud and other Israeli politicians seeking an expanded "Greater Israel," and mobilized grass-roots efforts to get the US to adopt a similar policy.
Christian Zionist leaders today have access to the White House and strong support within Congress, including the backing of the two most recent majority leaders in the House of Representatives.
For many Jews, the enthusiastic support of these evangelical Christians is welcome at a time of terrorism and rising anti-Semitism. Several Israeli leaders have called them "the best friends Israel has."
But other Jews and Christians have begun speaking against the alliance, which they see as a dangerous mix of religion and politics that is harmful to Israel and endangers prospects for peace with the Palestinians. [complete article]
Fears of far-right plot to kill Sharon
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 7, 2004
Israel's intelligence service has warned of growing concern for Ariel Sharon's safety as the far-right gives increasing support to violent resistance to his plan to remove Jewish settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
The Shin Bet has increased protection for the prime minister after threats by extremists to defend the settlements by force, and religious rulings by some rabbis justifying violence.
Amid echoes of the assassination of the then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin nine years ago, Mr Sharon told parliament he was disturbed by the warnings. [complete article]
No date set for Afghan national elections
By Amir Shah, Associated Press (via Washington Times), July 7, 2004
Afghan and U.N. officials failed yesterday to agree on a date for national elections, further muddying the timetable for the oft-delayed vote designed to anchor Afghanistan's recovery from decades of war.
A vote for president looks likely in late September or October, despite a string of attacks on election workers and voters that have been blamed on Taliban militants.
But Afghan officials say worries about logistics and intimidation by warlords could yet push the election of a 249-seat parliament -- a far more difficult vote to organize -- into next year. [complete article]
A chilling Iraqi terror tape
By Michael Ware, Time, July 4, 2004
Jihad leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist and the most wanted man in Iraq, this weekend released a telling window into his organization, Attawhid wal Jihad, or Unity and Jihad. In a slickly produced hour-long video Zarqawi lays bare the milieu of his suicide bombers, their safehouses, their rituals and their targeting guidelines. Given directly to TIME, the video is a bold, menacing statement of the group's intent and capability. The subtext of this disturbing tape is that for the U.S. this is likely to be a long, drawn out fight in Iraq against a committed, well-organized enemy. [complete article]
See also, The rise of a networking terrorist (The Australian).
Iraq magnet to militants in Europe
Agence France Presse (via The Australian), July 6, 2004
The US-led occupation of Iraq had boosted recruitment to Islamist groups in Europe and was a "black hole" pulling in militants from across the Middle East, France's top anti-terrorist judge warned yesterday.
Jean-Louis Bruguiere also said Southeast Asia remained under serious threat of attack from Islamist movements despite police successes in capturing suspects from Jemaah Islamiah and other groups with links to al-Qa'ida.
"In Southeast Asia there are real potential worries, even if today everything seems calm and under control," he said, singling out Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines.
There was so far no evidence of an organised network in Europe smuggling militants into Iraq to fight US forces there, Mr Bruguiere said, but he warned that groups linked to al-Qa'ida were making full use of the instability as a propaganda tool.
"Jihad is above all about taking up arms and fighting the infidel, and Iraq is getting to the point where it can play this role. Increasingly it will wield a power of attraction for groups in the region ... It is a kind of black hole, drawing them in," he said. At 61, Mr Bruguiere is France's most experienced man in the fight against terrorism. He has a 20-year track record as investigating magistrate that includes judicial triumphs over the far Left, the Irish Republican Army, "superterrorist" Carlos the Jackal, Libya and -- in the mid-1990s -- the first manifestations of Islamic militancy. [complete article]
Musharraf sees iron curtain between West, Muslims
By Peter Starck, Reuters, July 5, 2004
An iron curtain is descending between the West and the Muslim world, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf warned on Monday.
Political injustices, poverty and illiteracy are fueling religious fundamentalism and terrorism, he said in a speech while on a visit to Sweden, urging rich countries to help Muslim nations with investment and socio-economic reforms.
Most of Pakistan's 150 million people are Muslims, and a third of them live in poverty.
Many people in the Islamic world "feel deprived, hopeless, powerless" and could be "indoctrinated by distorted views of Islam," Musharraf said.
"A new iron curtain seems to be falling," he said. "This iron curtain somehow is dividing the Muslim world on one side and the West on the other side. This is very dangerous," he told Reuters in an interview after the speech. [complete article]
Group says marine is in 'place of safety'
By Edward Wong, New York Times, July 6, 2004
An Iraqi militant group released a statement on Monday saying that it had taken a United States marine it had earlier threatened with beheading to a "place of safety" after the marine promised to abandon the American forces.
The statement by the group, Islamic Response, which was given to the Arab satellite network Al Jazeera, did not say where the marine, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, had been taken. It indicated only that he had not been killed. The 24-year-old Lebanese-born corporal has been missing since June 20, when he did not report for duty at a marine base near Falluja, 35 miles west of Baghdad. [complete article]
The news from planet Falluja
By Christian Parenti, The Nation, July 5, 2004
Tariq is an upper-middle-class Canadian medical student of Palestinian origin. He is a Muslim, fluent in Arabic and English, very smart, very young, brave and a bit naïve. He is an obsessive computer geek with a tendency toward pedantry on matters technological. Over the past two years he has spent several months in Palestine doing solidarity work.
In late June--against the advice of even a pro-resistance ex-army officer--Tariq went to Falluja, a city under siege and controlled by the mujahedeen. In early May the US Marines had essentially given control of the city to the insurgents. But on June 24 fighting flared up again when US planes bombed several houses and the Marines tried to enter the city. That was the day that Tariq headed to Falluja; his goal was to work in a civilian hospital.
Once in Falluja, he called in periodically over the next few days to myself and two other journalists with whom I share an otherwise empty hotel. After forty-eight hours with no word from him and just as we were about to hit the panic button, Tariq showed up at our hotel looking gaunt, smelling bad, wearing somebody else's clothes and totally freaked out. His description of Falluja, tinged with Stockholm syndrome rationalizations, painted a picture of what can only be described as collective insanity. This is his story: [complete article]
Iraqi government delays amnesty plan after cleric's criticism
By Ken Dilanian, Knight Ridder, July 5, 2004
The interim Iraqi government delayed announcement of an amnesty plan for insurgents Monday while the leader of an extremist Shiite militia sent contradictory signals about whether he will agree to a deal.
For the second time in three days, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's office cancelled a news conference at which he had been expected to detail a plan to pardon low-level militants who have fought U.S. and Iraqi forces over the last year.
The cancellation came as a spokesman for radical cleric Moqtadr Sadr sought to temper a Sadr statement Sunday calling the new interim Iraqi government "illegitimate" and pledging "to continue resisting oppression and occupation to our last drop of blood."
Sadr's spokesman in Baghdad, Mahmoud al-Soudani, appeared at a news conference Monday with a clarification, saying that Sadr remains committed to a ceasefire with U.S. and Iraqi forces. But he also said Sadr rejects what he views as the continued American occupation of Iraq. [complete article]
Iraqi cleric's army girds for uprising
By Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, July 6, 2004
The fragility of Iraq's emerging government was laid bare in the unspeakably bleak slums of Sadr City Sunday, where Shiite militiamen were readying their guns for another al-Mahdi uprising.
With fighters ranging in age from 11 to 71, they may not be the best-equipped army in the neighbourhood. But al-Mahdi militia is nothing if not disciplined. Their fealty belongs wholly to firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. And by all appearances, al-Sadr had just ordered them back to war.
In a dramatic reversal of earlier conciliatory statements and a truce that had held for nearly a month, al-Sadr's weekend message declared the interim government "illegitimate."
"We pledge to the Iraqi people and the world to continue resisting oppression and occupation to our last drop of blood," added the statement, distributed by al-Sadr's office in the holy city of Najaf.
Officers in the al-Mahdi militia's four divisions throughout Iraq began calling their commanders for confirmation and specific marching orders. But they were surprised to learn the war was on hold -- for now. [complete article]
Uneasy allies on patrol in Baghdad
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post, July 6, 2004
After rumbling through Sadr City for much of the morning, a column of six U.S. military vehicles and a flatbed truck carrying Iraqi National Guard soldiers stopped in traffic next to an outdoor market. A child emerged from the roadside stalls, carrying a cardboard poster of Moqtada Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose strident criticism of the U.S. presence in Iraq has whipped up a large following.
On tiptoes, the child handed the poster to the Iraqi soldier manning a machine gun, as U.S. soldiers watched in dismay. The Iraqi soldier, part of a nascent security force trained and funded by the United States, held Sadr's picture aloft for a gathering, cheering mob. The convoy began moving through smoke rising from piles of burning trash on the streets of the Baghdad slum.
"If we took it from them now, this whole place would explode," said Sgt. Adam Brantley, 24, of Gulf Shores, Ala., watching from behind the wheel of a Humvee.
A week after the official handover of political authority from the United States, the Iraqi security forces are asserting, in disconcerting ways, their independence from the American soldiers who continue to serve as their protectors and patrons. Unable to shoulder Iraq's security responsibilities on their own, the Iraqi forces are nonetheless testing the limits of their new relationship with U.S. troops, including openly expressing sympathies for the most resolute enemies of the United States. [complete article]
U.S. response to insurgency called a failure
By Mark Mazzetti, Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2004
Almost a year after acknowledging they were facing a well-armed guerrilla war in Iraq, the Pentagon and commanders in the Middle East are being criticized by some top Bush administration officials, military officers and defense experts who accuse the military of failing to develop a coherent, winning strategy against the insurgency.
Inadequate intelligence, poor assessments of enemy strength, testy relations with U.S. civilian authorities in Baghdad and an inconsistent application of force remain key problems many observers say the military must address before U.S. and Iraqi forces can quell the insurgents.
"It's disappointing that we haven't been able to have better insight into the command and control of the insurgents," said one senior official of the now-dissolved Coalition Provisional Authority, recently returned from Baghdad and speaking on condition of anonymity. "And you've got to have that if you're going to have effective military operations."
It was July 16, 2003, when Army Gen. John Abizaid stood at a Pentagon podium during his first news conference as head of U.S. Central Command and declared -- after weeks of Pentagon denials -- that U.S. troops were fighting a "classic guerrilla-type war" in Iraq.
Now, after a year of violence and hundreds of U.S. combat deaths, some officials and experts are frustrated that a more effective counterinsurgency plan has not materialized and that the hand-over of power to an interim Iraqi government last week was unlikely to significantly improve the security situation. [complete article]
CIA held back Iraqi arms data, U.S. officials say
By James Risen, New York Times, July 6, 2004
The Central Intelligence Agency was told by relatives of Iraqi scientists before the war that Baghdad's programs to develop unconventional weapons had been abandoned, but the C.I.A. failed to give that information to President Bush, even as he publicly warned of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's illicit weapons, according to government officials.
The existence of a secret prewar C.I.A. operation to debrief relatives of Iraqi scientists -- and the agency's failure to give their statements to the president and other policymakers -- has been uncovered by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The panel has been investigating the government's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq's unconventional weapons and plans to release a wide-ranging report this week on the first phase of its inquiry. The report is expected to contain a scathing indictment of the C.I.A. and its leaders for failing to recognize that the evidence they had collected did not justify their assessment that Mr. Hussein had illicit weapons. [complete article]
Afghan man's death at U.S. outpost is investigated
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, July 5, 2004
The American military is investigating the death in November of an Afghan man held in detention at an American military outpost here in southern Afghanistan.
There are now five deaths of Afghans in American detention that the military is investigating.
The family of the dead man, Abdul Wahed, 28, charge that the Afghan commander of security at the base was responsible for his torture and death, and various local authorities back that account. [complete article]
Saudi secret service 'riddled' with al-Qa'ida
The Times (via The Australian, July 6, 2004
Saudi Arabia's intelligence agencies are so infiltrated by al-Qa'ida sympathisers that the kingdom's counter-terrorist campaign is failing and militant operations are spreading into neighbouring states, senior Arab and Western officials have warned.
The main Saudi intelligence organisation responsible for combating al-Qa'ida at the Interior Ministry is riddled with agents linked to the militants, the officials say.
"Their staff is 80 per cent sympathetic to al-Qa'ida," one senior Arab source said.
"All Saudi intelligence agencies are compromised. To fight al-Qa'ida they will need to start from scratch. I'm not hopeful the Saudis will win this one." [complete article]
Exiled Saudi is dissident to some, terrorist to others
By Glenn Frankel, Washington Post, July 6, 2004
The recent wave of violence against foreigners inside Saudi Arabia has enhanced [London-based broadcaster, Saad Faqih's] reputation as a well-informed observer and critic of the forces at work there. Academics, journalists and intelligence analysts beat a path to his home in north London.
Faqih's archenemy, the Saudi government, calls him a terrorist who is conspiring to overthrow the royal family and replace it with a strict Islamic government acceptable to Osama bin Laden. In a dossier shared with officials in Washington and London, the Saudis seek to link Faqih to a long list of suspected terrorists and accuse him of inciting violence.
Now the Saudis have produced a new allegation. They accuse Faqih of taking $1.2 million from an operative of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to help arrange the assassination of Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, Crown Prince Abdullah. The Saudis are pressing British authorities to detain Faqih on suspicion of terrorism and shut down his broadcasts to the kingdom.
Faqih, 45, who was a surgeon in Riyadh before he fled Saudi Arabia a decade ago, denies all the allegations. Increasingly, he inhabits a twilight world where the line between dissident and terrorist sympathizer is blurred beyond recognition. [complete article]
Israeli government deceiving U.S., says ex-general
Associated Press (via Toronto Star), July 5, 2004
In a display likely to increase U.S. displeasure with Israel, an opposition legislator and former general today showed photos of four West Bank outposts he said proves the government is deceiving Washington by expanding the enclaves instead of taking them down.
In new fighting, Israeli troops raided the West Bank city of Nablus and a Gaza refugee camp early Tuesday. Two Palestinians, including a teenager, were killed and at least four soldiers wounded in exchanges of fire, the army and medics said.
The settlement watchdog group Peace Now said it has counted 53 outposts Israel is required to dismantle under the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, or nearly twice the 28 named in a government list handed to the Americans last week.
"There is a clear-cut case of flagrant deception and a breaking of the promise to the Americans," legislator Ephraim Sneh from the Labour party told reporters in displaying the "before" and "after" photos. [complete article]
Comment -- U.S. "displeasure" with Israel is hardly likely to amount to much. There are few if any issues that this administration has been willing to take an unequivocal position on vis-a-vis the settlements, the occupation, the separation wall etc.. The Kerry campaign has done nothing to distinguish itself from the Bush administration when it comes to U.S.-Israeli relations. The U.S. media has little interest in giving the issues any prominence. Sharon knows full well that, yet again, he can thumb his nose at Washington and suffer few if any consequences.
ElBaradei to focus on Israel's nuclear weapons
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian, July 6, 2004
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, arrives in Israel today to urge the government to begin talks about ridding the Middle East of nuclear arms, whether or not it finally admits to manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
Israel has no intention of acknowledging that it has nuclear weapons, or of opening its reactors to international inspection. But the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency chief comes as Israel is increasingly sensitive to pressure for it to be subject to the same standards of international accountability demanded of other countries in the Middle East.
The release from prison of the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu sharpened the focus on Israel's arsenal.
For several months now Dr ElBaradei has publicly prodded the Israelis toward discussions on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.
"I believe in the importance of holding a dialogue on the subject and I don't see a reason why Israel isn't ready to at least start the discussion," he told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz in December.
"My fear is that without such a dialogue there will continue to be incentives for the countries of the region to develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal." [complete article]
High-risk bid to register Afghans
By Gretchen Peters, Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2004
The first RPG explosion sounds like a car backfiring in the distance - a thud, then a gentle plume of smoke. "Gulf One, No Fear Three Papa," barks Capt. Kelley Liztner into his radio, calling for an Afghani governor's vehicle traveling one mile ahead. "Have you been hit?"
The radio crackles: "Yes."
There's another burst, this time closer to the convoy inching through a treacherous boulder-strewn pass.
The attackers had bided their time for this strike, waiting until the group carrying UN and US State Department officials entered a perfect kill zone: There's no place to hide at this crucial moment on an eight-day journey in early June through Taliban country to persuade local tribes to come under the central government umbrella.
In the end, Taliban forces fired 11 rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) at the convoy. Incredibly, no one on either side appears to be injured. For Mohammad Gulab Mangal, the new governor of troubled Paktika province, it's just another battle in the long fight to lure Taliban villagers in from the cold. [complete article]
Did one woman's obsession take America to war?
By Peter Bergen, The Guardian, July 5, 2004
Americans supported the war in Iraq not because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator - they knew that - but because President Bush made the case that Saddam might hand weapons of mass destruction to his terrorist allies to wreak havoc on the United States. In the absence of any evidence for that theory, it's fair to ask: where did the administration's conviction come from? It was at the American Enterprise Institute - a conservative Washington DC thinktank - that the idea took shape that overthrowing Saddam should be a goal. Among those associated with AEI is Richard Perle, a key architect of the president's get-tough-on-Iraq policy, and Paul Wolfowitz, now the number-two official at the Pentagon. But none of the thinkers at AEI was in any real way an expert on Iraq. For that they relied on someone you probably have never heard of: a woman named Laurie Mylroie.
Mylroie has credentials as an expert on the Middle East, national security and, above all, Iraq, having held faculty positions at Harvard and the US Naval War College. During the 1980s she was an apologist for Saddam's regime, but became anti-Saddam around the time of his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In the run-up to that Gulf war, with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Mylroie wrote Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, a well-reviewed bestseller.
It was the first bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993 that launched Mylroie's quixotic quest to prove that Saddam's regime was the chief source of anti-US terrorism. She laid out her case in a 2000 book called Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America. Perle glowingly blurbed the book as "splendid and wholly convincing". Wolfowitz and his then wife, according to Mylroie, "provided crucial support".
Mylroie believes that Saddam was behind every anti-American terrorist incident of note in the past decade, from the levelling of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 to September 11 itself. She is, in short, a cranky conspiracist - but her neoconservative friends believed her theories, bringing her on as a terrorism consultant at the Pentagon. [complete article]
How Chalabi played the press
By Douglas McCollam, Columbia Journalism Review, July/August, 2004
[Entifadh] Qanbar [--spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress's Washington office --] apologized for being late, then ordered a beer and promptly got on his cell phone to Baghdad for an extended conversation in Arabic. I could only pick out a few words, including "Chalabi," "Aras," and "Bremer." The last name was followed by a rough laugh, as if a joke had been told on the other end of the line -- and not a nice one. That impression was confirmed when Qanbar got off the phone and began an extended rant about the failings of Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, who Qanbar maintained was working with the CIA and State Department to crush the INC at the behest of Arab potentates fearing its political rise. With some difficulty, I managed to steer Qanbar's attention to the memo he had sent to Congress, and to a list it contained of 108 news stories that, the INC said, included "product" supplied by its Information Collection Program. "Yes, this memo has become quite famous," he said with a wry smile.
Yes it has. In fact, perhaps no list of reporters has commanded such attention in Washington since Richard Nixon compiled his enemies list more than thirty years ago. In the months since the INC list was made public in a story by Jonathan Landay, senior national correspondent for the Washington bureau of Knight Ridder, it has taken on an almost emblematic quality. Reporters appearing on the list rail against the injustice of their inclusion. Those who didn't make the cut congratulate themselves anew for resisting the lure of the INC and revel in the schadenfreude of watching others' once-envied scoops turn to ashes. What few have done, it would appear, is take the time to read all the stories. [complete article]
Amnesty for Iraqi insurgents
By Rory McCarthy, Suzanne Goldenberg and Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, July 5, 2004
Iraq's new government is expected to announce today an amnesty offer for Iraqi insurgents who have fought against American forces, in a striking attempt to draw a line under the US occupation of the country.
Though the amnesty is aimed at the "footsoldiers" of the insurgency, it will include the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia has fought US troops in the southern Shia cities of Najaf and Kerbala.
Even more controversially, the Iraqi government has indicated that individual gunmen who fought against the US-led coalition would be pardoned, arguing that opposition to the American occupation could be "justified".
"Now we have had sovereignty returned we are prepared to forgive those people who have been misled in order to make a new start," said Sabah Kadhim, spokesman and senior adviser at Iraq's interior ministry. He said the amnesty would not include "real criminals", but it is unclear where the line will be drawn. [complete article]
Militant cleric says he will continue fighting, despite power handover
By Fisnik Abrashi, Associated Press (Boston Globe), July 4, 2004
The militant Shiite cleric whose uprising last April left hundreds dead pledged Sunday to resist "oppression and occupation" and called the new interim Iraqi government "illegitimate."
Muqtada al-Sadr made the declaration in a statement distributed by his office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, where his al-Mahdi militia battled American troops until a cease-fire last month.
"We pledge to the Iraqi people and the world to continue resisting oppression and occupation to our last drop of blood," al-Sadr said. "Resistance is a legitimate right and not a crime to be punished." [complete article]
U.S. funds for Iraq are largely unspent
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, July 4, 2004
The U.S. government has spent 2 percent of an $18.4 billion aid package that Congress approved in October last year after the Bush administration called for a quick infusion of cash into Iraq to finance reconstruction, according to figures released Friday by the White House.
The U.S.-led occupation authorities were much quicker to channel Iraq's own money, expending or earmarking nearly all of $20 billion in a special development fund fed by the country's oil sales, a congressional investigator said.
Only $366 million of the $18.4 billion U.S. aid package had been spent as of June 22, the White House budget office told Congress in a report that offers the first detailed accounting of the massive reconstruction package. [complete article]
Hussein's anti-Kuwait rant strikes a chord with Iraqis
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2004
When Saddam Hussein derided Kuwaitis as "dogs" during his court appearance and defended Iraq's "historical right" over its southern neighbor, he was playing to ordinary Iraqis -- and doing an effective job of it.
In interviews Friday, people talked about his remarks with approval even if they also wanted the former dictator to go on trial for war crimes.
Hussein's tirade during his brief court appearance Thursday tapped into a deep reservoir of Iraqi resentment toward Kuwait -- a tactic that illustrates his understanding of his former subjects.
It also points up one of the trial's difficulties: Iraqis approve of some of the acts for which Hussein is being tried. [complete article]
Pentagon tried to censor Saddam's hearing
By Robert Fisk, The Independent (via Occupation Watch), July 3, 2004
A team of US military officers acted as censors over all coverage of the hearings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen on Thursday, destroying videotape of Saddam in chains and deleting the entire recorded legal submissions of 11 senior members of his former regime.
A US network cameraman who demanded the return of his tapes, which contained audios of the hearings, said he was told by a US officer: "No. They belong to us now. And anyway, we don't trust you guys."
According to American journalists present at the 30-minute hearing of Saddam and 11 former ministers at Baghdad airport, an American admiral in civilian clothes told camera crews that the judge had demanded that there should be no sound recording of the initial hearing. He ordered crews to unplug their sound wires. Several of the six crews present pretended to obey the instruction. "We learnt later," one of them said, "that the judge didn't order us to turn off our sound. The Americans lied--it was they who wanted no sound. The judge wanted sound and pictures." [complete article]
In Mubarak's Egypt, democracy is an idea whose time has not yet come
By David Remnick, The New Yorker, July 5, 2004
A squat, middle-aged lawyer named Montasser al-Zayat has been a public face of radical Islam in Cairo for many years. He is the principal attorney for Gama'a al-Islamiya [Egypt's largest militant organization] and promotes a notion of law very different from that of the relatively secular Egyptian constitution. A sign outside his office door reads, in Arabic, "Only God Rules." He has been jailed four times and counts among his prison friends Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian Jihad leader who is Osama bin Laden's chief ideologist and lieutenant.
"Definitely, the Islamic groups in Egypt are suffering a period of weakness," he told me. "They've been beaten down by prison, attacks, torture, interrogations. Most of the leaders were killed. There are large numbers still in prison. Those who have been released are in search of a future, trying to find a way to combat what the regime has done to them. But the Islamic state of affairs in general is still strong. The people feel endangered, and they are moving toward Islamic groups, more so since the American attacks" in Afghanistan and Iraq. "This sense of a threat to our national security, to our identity, is having a profound effect on people."
In radical circles, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered to be passive, generationally divided, and far too accommodating to the regime. Its demonstrations are invariably orderly, its platform for an Islamic state purposefully vague. But Zayat said he thought that the Brotherhood was the one "dissident" organization in Egypt that had a chance to displace the current regime. "Although I'm not a member of the Muslim Brothers, I believe they are the political future of Egypt," Zayat said. "In the event of true reform and elections, they are trained and competent and ready to take the reins of power." [complete article]
Israeli Bedouins resist pressure to pull up tent stakes in the desert
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2004
Salim abu Medeghem bent to the parched earth and yanked up a crunchy tuft resembling straw -- all that remained of his wheat crop, he said, after Israeli airplanes sprayed herbicide on the contested parcel.
"This is burned," he said. "This is all burned."
Abu Medeghem, 38, vowed to plant again in the fall, even if the Israeli government sent more planes. "This is my land," he said.
The stubbly field is one front in an increasingly tense struggle over land between the Israeli government and thousands of Bedouin Arabs inhabiting a broad desert swath of southern Israel known as the Negev.
The government insists that the Bedouins, who live in dozens of unsanctioned tent villages without running water or electricity, lack legal title to the land and should move to towns it has set up for them. This village, for example, is known to its inhabitants as Araqib but is unacknowledged by Israel.
But the Bedouins, their semi-nomadic ways long behind them, contend that they have occupied the land for decades, before Israel existed, earning ownership rights they have no intention of ceding. They accuse the Israelis of trying to push them aside to make room for Jewish settlers. [complete article]
Their George and ours
By Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times, July 4, 2004
When they first heard the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, New Yorkers were so electrified that they toppled a statue of King George III and had it melted down to make 42,000 bullets for the war. Two hundred twenty-eight years later, you can still get a rush from those opening paragraphs. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." The audacity!
Read a little further to those parts of the declaration we seldom venture into after ninth-grade civics class, and you may feel something other than admiration: an icy chill of recognition. The bulk of the declaration is devoted to a list of charges against George III, several of which bear an eerie relevance to our own time. [complete article]
What's more American than asking questions?
By Michael Moore, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2004
I can't think of a more American thing to do than raise questions -- and demand truthful answers -- when our leader wants to send our sons and daughters off to die in a war.
If we don't do that -- the bare minimum -- for those who offer to defend our country, then we have failed them and ourselves. They offer to die for us, if necessary, so that we can be free. All they ask in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. And with this war, we have broken faith with our troops by sending them off to be killed and maimed for wrong and immoral reasons. [complete article]
Officials detail a detainee deal by 3 countries
By Don Van Natta Jr. and Tim Golden, New York Times, July 4, 2004
American officials agreed to return five terrorism suspects to Saudi Arabia from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last year as part of a secret three-way deal intended to satisfy important allies in the invasion of Iraq, according to senior American and British officials.
Under the arrangement, Saudi officials later released five Britons and two others who had been convicted of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, the officials said. British diplomats said they believed that the men had been tortured by Saudi security police officers into confessing falsely.
Officials involved in the deliberations said the transfer of the Saudis from Guantánamo initially met with objections from officials at the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. Those officials questioned whether some detainees were too dangerous to send back and whether the United States could trust Saudi promises to keep the men imprisoned. [complete article]
Iran prepares complaint against Saddam
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press (via Newsday), July 4, 2004
Iran said Sunday it has prepared a criminal complaint against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for his 1980 invasion of Iran and for using chemical weapons against Iranians during the neighboring nations' eight-year war.
Tehran will file the documents with the Iraqi court where Saddam is standing trial, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. He did not say precisely when the complaint would be lodged.
"One of the crimes Saddam committed was his invasion of Iran and starting the war, killing many Iranian citizens and using chemical weapons in Halabja (within Iraq) and other places (in Iran) during the war," Asefi told reporters.
Iran expects Saddam will face judgment in an open trial for war crimes, Asefi said.
"We have prepared the complaint and Iran will definitely file the complaint with the Iraqi court ," he told a news conference. "We will hand over our documents to the court ... We believe the court has to investigate Saddam's crimes transparently and openly." [complete article]
Saddam paradox divides Iraqis
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, July 4, 2004
In a cafe in the Khadariya district four friends, a cross-section of Baghdad society spanning two generations, sat down on Friday night to talk about the court appearance of Saddam. A fifth man was present, taking notes: The Observer's translator in Baghdad. When Iraqis speak to Iraqis - and not to western journalists - they say different things.
These are men, with one exception, who despise Saddam Hussein, and yet they equally hate the process that is bringing him to trial. Yousef Ali, a 40-year-old agricultural engineer, speaks first. 'I would like to see Saddam get a fair trial with a lawyer,' he says, pointing to the fact that Saddam has so far not had legal representation or even, apparently, access to lawyers. 'I would like to feel that something has changed from the former regime.'
Jamal Hamed, also 40, speaks next. 'I consider it to be totally illegitimate. It is a false tribunal and illegal.' He is a Saddam supporter, but also a deserter from the army, jailed for eight months. 'Whatever he did against the Kuwaitis, he did for a good reason.'
Mohammed Hamza is in his mid-20s. He repairs TVs. 'I felt sorry for him. I cannot explain why. But I felt it was wrong. I felt he should be tried under an elected government and not like this. It felt like a media spectacle - like propaganda. They only showed the parts where he was arrogant or angry.' [complete article]
The case for withdrawal
By David Isenberg, Asia Times, July 3, 2004
Cutting and running is bad. One should stay the course. Unless one is chief civil administrator in Iraq L Paul Bremer, of course, in which case one can hop on a jet plane two days ahead of schedule and start negotiating a book deal.
Nevertheless, despite the enormity of America's political failure in Iraq, just about everyone says that the US military forces, approximately 140,000 at present, must stay to provide security and ensure stability. Even liberals who should know better buy into this argument. For example, the Washington, DC-based Center for American Progress, founded by former Bill Clinton administration officials, issued a paper on June 28 recommending increasing the troop level of the multinational force to improve security.
Well, almost everyone that is. Enter the Cato Institute, a Washington, DC think-tank which advocates libertarian policies. On June 30 it published the book Exiting Iraq: Why the US Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against al-Qaeda. The book, the product of a special task force of 10 foreign policy experts, calls for the expeditious withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. This process, they argue, should begin now that the new Iraqi government has taken power, and end no later than January 31 next year, the time of nationwide elections. [complete article]
Strange bedfellows: 'Imperial America' retreats from Iraq
By Roger Cohen, New York Times, July 4, 2004
In the end, the American proconsul slipped out of Iraq with scarcely a word. L. Paul Bremer III pronounced the country a better place than the one once littered with Saddam Hussein's torture chambers, thanked the officials who had served with him on the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, bestowed power on the new Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, and was gone.
It was a low-key exit reflecting problems that Mr. Bremer, and perhaps any American, could not resolve. Iraqis, in their vast majority, were pleased to be freed of their dictator and were mesmerized by his first appearance in court last week, but they have no wish to be ruled by the United States.
The Age of Empire is passed, and governments throughout the world were uncomfortable with what they saw as the brazen exercise of American authority over a country reduced to vassal status through force of arms. Mr. Bremer, a Christian ruling a Muslim country, could not fail to be a lightning rod to Islamic extremists in Iraq and beyond. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
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.
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".
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."
By Nir Rosen, The New Yorker, June 28, 2004
In the Jolan neighborhood [of Falluja], on the northwest edge of town, near the bridge where the charred bodies of two of the Blackwater security guards were strung up, people were sorting through the rubble of their homes. One man stood in the center of an immense crater while his children played on a pile of bricks that had once made up their house. Several men asked me to photograph the damage, and as I was doing so a white sedan pulled up and two men whose faces were covered with checkered scarves demanded to know who I was. They were worried about spies, they said. Mujahideen paranoia was making it impossible for Western journalists to work in Falluja. I was able to avoid being taken hostage or killed because I speak Arabic and have olive skin and black hair and, when asked, I said that I was Bosnian. I didn’t carry my American passport into Falluja. More important, I was travelling with a Palestinian who had helped the resistance leaders during the fighting. This reassured the men in the white sedan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
See Christian Aid's report, Fueling suspicion: The coalition and Iraq's oil billions (PDF format).
Meet the new jihad
By Michael Ware, Time, June 27, 2004
The insurgents have no intention of laying down their arms. Indeed, the nature of the insurgency in Iraq is fundamentally changing. Time reported last fall that the insurgency was being led by members of the former Baathist regime, who were using guerrilla tactics in an effort to drive out foreign occupiers and reclaim power. But a Time investigation of the insurgency today -- based on meetings with insurgents, tribal leaders, religious clerics and U.S. intelligence officials -- reveals that the militants are turning the resistance into an international jihadist movement. Foreign fighters, once estranged from homegrown guerrilla groups, are now integrated as cells or complete units with Iraqis. Many of Saddam's former secret police and Republican Guard officers, who two years ago were drinking and whoring, no longer dare even smoke cigarettes. They are fighting for Allah, they say, and true jihadis reject such earthly indulgences. Their goal now, say the militants interviewed, is broader than simply forcing the U.S. to leave. They want to transform Iraq into what Afghanistan was in the 1980s: a training ground for young jihadists who will form the next wave of recruits for al-Qaeda and like-minded groups.
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."
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. [...] As of June 14, Bremer had issued 97 legal orders, which are defined by the U.S. occupation authority as "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people" that will remain in force even after the transfer of political authority. An annex to the country's interim constitution requires the approval of a majority of Allawi's ministers, as well as the interim president and two vice presidents, to overturn any of Bremer's edicts. A senior U.S. official in Iraq noted recently that it would "not be easy to reverse" the orders.
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